This Week in Anime
Project A-Ko

by Andy Pfeiffer & Michelle Liu,

The new streaming service RetroCrush launched last month with a host of beloved classic titles, including the original toast-eating-perpetually-late-school-girl A-ko! Project A-Ko first debuted in 1986 and cemented itself as an anime classic, eventually spawning an American comic book. How does the sci-fi misadventures hold up over 30 years later?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Andy
Ya know Micchy, with everything going on in the world right now I can't help but long for a time when things seemed better. Times where I didn't have to worry about loved ones getting sick, when I had to make excuses to avoid social activities, and, of course, the times when every anime girl shoved toast in their mouth.
Micchy
Those were truly simpler times.

Well, a burger, but what are toast and burgers but not different types of sandwich?
Let's not get into that because we'll end up on Poptart vs Ravioli and then this whole column will get axed. Instead, let's focus on the simple. Like, what does it take to make a good anime? Do you need to bother with detailed story, lore, and layers of motivation? Or can you name some characters A, B, and C, throw in some explosions, and call it a day?
ooh ooh, I got this one!

Project A-Ko - one of the titles on the new streaming service RetroCrush - can be boiled down to "A-ko saves her wife from various threats amid flashy explosions," and that's not at all a bad thing. (Okay, they're not really married, but they might as well be imo.)
Look they're just high schoolers, and I'm sure once they graduate the first thing they'll do is get hitched. Granted B-ko is totally gonna show up drunk and ruin the ceremony with a giant robot or something but if it's anything like this it'll be a lot of fun to watch.
I mean if we're talking characters who are most likely to crash the wedding while completely blasted, we also have this one:

Oh, that's the commander of some alien space force who's here to capture a lost princess or something, but that's hardly important compared to those dope ass triangle sunglasses. Like they're so lame it's cool again. The '80s, man.
The alien captain has some very strong Harlock vibes going on, and that's kind of exactly Project A-Ko's goal. It's a film that oozes what the animators found cool and fun in the most indulgent way. Someone on the team had a lot of fun drawing this spaceship

Another got to draw their dream robot.

It's really neat that the movie, and its references, still hold up in 2020 when it's so clearly an approach of throwing everything at the wall.
Put in 2020 terms, Project A-Ko is what would happen if you transplanted Asakusa from Eizouken into the '80s. It's an "everything is happening so much" kind of movie where none of it's really cohesive, but it has so much energy that the disconnect becomes part of its charm. Do I care that B-ko suddenly becomes a Symphogear in the last act? Not really, because look at this dork with her stupid attack names:
It's very much everything, but that doesn't mean it's confusing. It manages to keep things simple enough that all the ludicrous stuff fits. B-ko wants to steal C-ko from A-ko and being a stuffy rich person, she doesn't understand that no matter how many minions or mechas you use relationships just don't work that way. Bless her heart for going full Satsuki Kiryuin to get on A-ko's level though.
do appreciate how her motivation comes down to having strong gay feelings for the obnoxious dweeb. She might be an elegant socialite, but she's also a dumbass lesbian who keeps trying to get her romantic rival out of the picture even as she gets owned at every opportunity. You do you, girl.
It's actually pretty great that there's a big interstellar conflict also going on that gets absolutely wrecked by petty lesbian conflict. Is this a metaphor for how in the moment high school drama feels more important than anything else in the world? Probably not! But it's a good excuse to throw some Macross missiles on the screen and also pull a really well executed twist. A-ko's ridiculous power level isn't explained from the start, but we do get this goober constantly spying on her on the way to school.
D is a very competent villain who only takes like three concussions to learn not to stand directly in A-ko's way when she's going full Sonic the Hedgehog.
It's a very good running gag.
Did you seriously just

I prefer punching gags, thank you very much.
Anyways, all this builds to D finally learning how to stand on a sidewalk, and finally relaying to superiors that YES, WE HAVE FOUND THE SPACE PRINCESS, and while your brain goes "Oh ok, that explains why A-ko can punch through robots," the movie is like, "haha you idiot it's the screech gremlin," and even knowing it's coming decades later damn is it an effective fake out.
It's such a good twist! Just as you think you know where the movie's going, it pulls the rug out from under you. Plus it gives C-ko an opportunity to terrorize the rest of the cast. Not many can handle her raw dumbass power!
Turns out you can crash the system by putting it into annoyance overload though.
Don't worry, she hasn't been brainwashed or anything; she's just sleepy.

C-ko's pretty much a proto-Mako Mankanshoku - some of her jokes (haha she's so bad at cooking) are a little worn at this point, but for the most part she remains begrudgingly charming some 30-odd years later.
You're not wrong, but I still find C-ko very annoying and love the hell out of Mako. But hey, C-ko is meant to be annoying so they did a real good job there! While she's somehow replenishing her tears by sleeping with her eyes open, A-ko and C-ko are forced to team up and it's time for yet another reveal.
Unfortunately it's not that A-ko and B-ko are okay with a menage a trois. Honestly, I don't know how to feel about the invaders' bikini reveal.

It's not so much that the masculine-coded characters are suddenly revealed to be women (maybe? I guess?), though that is its own can of worms, but there had to be a better way of communicating the twist than having D strut out in a bikini. As is, it's a bizarrely tasteless maybe-joke that doesn't quite sit well with me. But your mileage may vary.
"All the aliens are WOMEN!" probably felt like a shocker in the 80s, but we're in the world of Love Lives and gacha games where everyone being girls is the norm, and the purposeful masculine figures before the reveal felt dated the first time I saw Project A-Ko. Honestly it's a shame because an earlier Kenshiro joke already communicated what they were going for here, but at least had the excuse of being a silly reference. This one doesn't really add much, but like a lot of the rest of the movie doesn't mean much in the end either. Their ship blows up, C-ko is rescued, and the daily cycle of B-ko vs A-ko will continue.
Also A-ko's dad might be Superman, but we'll never really know.
and her mom might be Wonder Woman, but then how would she be a Japanese schoolgirl?
Shh don't question it, just pay attention to the girls who punch good.
The real power couple.
You betcha.

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