This is an additional part to ‘From LaserDisc to DVD; how original video animation paved way for modern consumer culture’ post. It is recommended to read it first for overall understanding. Also, notice that I have started adding links of interest to the right side column for your pleasure
There’s a concept called shit 80’s OVA. At its core this encompasses all 80’s OVAs that are hyper-violent, make no sense whatsoever, most likely have sex scenes for no reason and plot is totally and completely all over the place. I’m talking about series that either take themselves way too seriously, or have been made in the most coke dusted animation studios the 80’s Japan had to offer. Some of you might be very familiar with these OVAs, as they were cheap to license and easy to get hold of when ADV and other companies started their venture into releasing anime, or have followed numerous Internet critics. I’m talking about OVAs like Hon Ran, Angel Cop, The Dog Soldier and Megami Tensei. All of these mentioned are bad shows on their own rights, but all of them are so bad that they’re enjoyable.
A certain movement has taken slight flight in the last seven years of watching shit OVAs for their own value. This began as a spinoff from the shit movie watching that has been rampart for years now (and won’t end until the film industry stops producing this much shit.) Well, it’s not a new phenomena or anything, but for this young sub-culture it’s what we old folks do when the new shows just don’t cut it any more. Anyway, the 80’s offer insane amounts of OVAs unknown to the West (or to Japan) that we need to see. Who knows, there just might be gems upon gems upon gems that the mainstream audience has missed. Like Cosmos Pink Shock!
Finding the film itself is harder than finding its LP
For this post we’ll be visiting few OVAs of varying but low quality. Some of them are just plain boring, but some of them are well animated shit with nice visuals, but otherwise they’re completely bonkers. All of the listed shows are recommended to watch, as they’re all unique and they have an entertaining coda in there, but otherwise they’re just schlock. Let’s start with Hon Ran; Crimson Wolf.
Hon Ran is one of the hidden pieces of garbage that is missed in most lists of shit anime. I mean, the main bad guys are bunch of Great Men of China’s history, like Mao, and the fights consist of flying in imaginary world and using tanks as weaponry. No, not using tanks’ weaponry, but tanks themselves. Hon Ran also houses perhaps the worst sex scene in anime to date, and believe me; I’ve seen some shitloads of animated sex scenes. The story is something about a Hon Ran, or Crimson Warrior, who is destined to rise against evil entities and defeat them. Honestly, I don’t recall much about Hon Ran, but dammit it’s somewhat entertaining in a weird way. Hon Ran’s also just as violent as any stereotypical 80’s OVA, so it’s recommended to have children with you to desensitize them as soon as possible.
Oh, more ultraviolence! Spirit Warrior (or Kujaku Oh) is directed by Rintarou, the man who is partially responsible of such shows as Doomed Megalopolis, X/1999, Harmagedon and the ’69 Moomins. In the series bunch of manly priest warriors first fight atavistic cryptofacists in Tibet, until the series reboots itself completely and the same men then fight some of the famous men of Japan’s history while saving bunch of ladies in distress. Honestly, this is pretty bad, but what Spirit Warrior has going is that it actually has good basis to exist. The comic is pretty decent and the game for the Sega Mega Drive is infamous for being one of the first games where people noticed that there’s both Western and Japanese version on the same cartridge. This kind of brainless violence is always fun to watch.
Now let’s leave the ultaviolence for a moment and let’s concentrate on awesome 80’s America as seen by drug filled 80’s Japanese animators.
The very first thing you might notice about California Crisis is how awesome it looks. This has to be one of the most expensive single episode OVA produced, as the amount of lines and the colours, as well as the general style used has to fetch rather high amount of time, but also love, to produce. I’ve got no idea how much cocaine the staff took while doing this OVA (hint; much less than in Dragon Half) but whatever; California Crisis is hilarious on its own rights. Basically it’s a story about two people going all around California with a space McGuffin while the government or some other highly organized people are chasing them. California Crisis is high on my list because of how insane amounts of shading it has, and how it looks. It’s a joyride and an attack to the senses.
Go Nagai is well remembered as one of the most influential person to the modern Japanese animation culture in general alongside other masters, but I’d argue that this dirty uncle was one of the first people to draw a porn comic for kids. Because, y’know, kids need to be educated on porn! Go Nagai’s Abarashi Family is an old and oddly warmly remembered series from this old bastard, which got an animation adaptation much like his other works.
Much like some other works from Uncle Go, one needs to have certain kind of cold and analytical attitude towards Abarashi Family’s abundance of violence, sex, teasing, sleaze rape and all those things. It’s entertainment as hell, because just sometimes you need to have fun made of these things, and somehow Uncle Go just makes them fun. No, not really, but dammit this much sleaze just has to be fun as hell. Mostly because it’s also completely insane.
On a more light-hearted note, Scramble Wars sort of prototypical cross-over OVA, which took a lot of influences from Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Racers, where the animation studio just took shitloads of their licenses into one super deformed race of complete insanity.
Scramble Wars’ concept was later used in SD Gundam series and some other works, but Scramble Wars can be called as kind of stepping stone in this SD crossovers. It’s fun to watch after Abarashi Family has forced you to take a long, cold and cleansing shower.
80’s schlock OVA had a long lasting effect in both style and direction for better or worse. Certain hyperviolence stuck to the 90’s TV animation and movies and not only because the directors and animators got those jobs, but because the OVAs had such an effect. Their bold and insane effect can still be seen in the modern games, movies and animation in general. The generous amount of blood and gore, the certain stylistic approach that Obari and his masters were engineering and generally an attitude that never really seeped through anywhere else. While shit can always be shit, there’s also shit that’s beautiful to watch and entertaining.
One of the modern OVAs that have spirit of these shit OVAs is Mazinkaiser SKL. While not really shit, there’s unmistakeable amounts of similar elements there that the previously mentioned OVAs has, albeit in more modern form. I mentioned SKL to be the last of its kind in the previous entry to the History of OVA, but it demands repetition; as much as Mazinkaiser SKL is just “decent” it encompasses all the good and bad that the 80’s OVA had to offer, and it stands pretty much all alone in the 2000’s offering on OVAs.
At this point I have to give credit to Dr.Nick. His help on making these synopsis’ was a life saver.
Next time we’ll take a look at bunch of good OVAs from the 80’s, and if we’re lucky I’m going overboard and putting in some 00’s shows as well.