Monthly Three: The Backdrop of Iczelion

When the 1990’s rolled, the bubble economy Japan was enjoying the in the 1980’s burst open. The bubble economy is far too large here to go into detail, but long story short, real estate prices were inflated to stupidly high proportions alongside overheated economy activity and other factors. In order to keep inflation in check, Bank of Japan enacted a policy to raise inter-bank lend rates in the late 1980’s, and in late 1991 after fifth monetary tightening, assets had visibly plummeted and this decline would continue throughout the whole 1990’s, and being named as the Lost Decade. This has been later been expanded to 2000’s as well, making the Lost Decades, as Japanese economy growth has not recovered.

This directly affected any and all companies, and safe moves were essential. While reading Comic Lemon People we can see that after the first tightening by the Bank of Japan, there is a change in the stories’ style and content. The 1990’s Lemon People was a pale shadow of its former self, stories being less fantastic and illustration quality harshly dropping, until the magazine was cancelled in 1998.

The animation industry didn’t see truckloads of money and cocaine poured into it. Adventure! Iczer-3 was produced just in the time when the bubble economy burst, and knowing the history of the era we clearly see how it was supposed to be something more than six episode deal. Toshihiro Hirano himself tried to launch Iczer-4 related series off the ground pretty much straight after, but it never went anywhere and stuff got recycled into the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth due to the fact the comic had not yet finished. Sen-Shoujo Iczelion, or Iczer Girl Iczelion, was released in the early 1994 and was seemingly another attempt to create a mainstream television Iczer series.

I have the least background information on Iczelion outside what surrounds it. Much like with Adventure! Iczer-3 I haven’t paid it much attention. I do have the A.D.Vision VHS release sitting on my shelf (it never saw and English language DVD release), but just like with the predecessor series, I have no sourcebooks the or the like to read from. Guess it would be a time to fix that up one of these days and see what was going on in the background. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that neither Adventure! Iczer-3 and Iczer Girl Iczelion were successes enough to carry the torch, leaving this to be the franchise’s last animated piece. It didn’t help that Hirano never finished his damn comics.

On with the show!

The OVA starts with a pan over a wrecked city, with a fight still going on in it. Iczelion is hurt, and is she is soon trapped by the enemy and is killed off in rather visible manner. Then, the planet is destroyed and the opening fanfare rolls in.

This is an effective opener, showcasing that once again we have a competent group of villains, and there is just enough raw violence not to soften things up too much. Just like with Adventure! Iczer-3, there is no horror, bu the atmosphere is really damn nice. It sets the OVA to a good start.

Things don’t let go as we’re presented with the Nagisa of the show, Kai Nagisa. She wants to be a pro wrestler, and that’s awesome. Despite the economy crash, the early 1990’s was pretty damn good era for Joshiprowres. As Nagisa stop to wait a train to pass by, an enemy attacks to her direction, throwing the train towards her instead, and a strange little robot takes her to sub-space.

Unlike the geometric hell in Fight!! Iczer-1, the sub-space in Iczelion is more a distortion, and I approve. The two offer a very different flavour from each other, and this works better here
Unlike the geometric hell in Fight!! Iczer-1, the sub-space in Iczelion is more a distortion, and I approve. The two offer a very different flavour from each other, and this works better here

The mascot of the series introduced itself as Iczel, in English no less. It knows her name, explain the situation and proceeds to the blow Nagisa’s clothes off in order to become her armour just as the enemy arrives.

"Nagisa has become Iczelion"
“Nagisa has become Iczelion”

The armour design in Iczelion is neat. It’s nothing to write home about, but it mixes the Hirano-Iczer look with the Robo designs. Iczel is essentially just a mascot version of Iczer-Robo anyway. It’s a bit on the plain side, especially with the head gear. Orange is a bit weird choice for main character colours, but nothing bad in deviating from the form from time to time.

supplexNagisa is told to fight, in which she proceeds to neck-jab the enemy with a kick, then pulls a back-drop, exploding the enemy in the process.

God, I love this Nagisa.

Iczel of course reprimands her for not using beam attacks, and as the sub-space fades away, she finds herself next to the railroads in her new getup and arguing with Iczel. Nobody else hears the other participant, because of course armours talk to you telepathically. Iczel just flies Nagisa away. Can’t have her identity blown out. Nagisa and Iczel keep bickering about which way to fight, with Iczel not understanding what pro-wrestling is. Then we get the info dump about the forces of good and evil fighting against each other, and how Nagisa needs to be the next Iczelion as Chaos and Cross with their fighting machines called Gears intend to destroy the planet. The info dump is interrupted as Cross enters the scene and we’re given a scene change. Disco dancing time

This scene change serves as the point of showing that Nagisa is not alone. There are more than one Iczelion around with each one of them having their own Iczel as a partner. They’re all coloured coded too and as per super hero team standard, they all carry different types of powers.

Nagisa proceeds to lock Cross down, cracking her arm, but that doesn’t really help much. Shiina Nami, the Black Iczelion, enters the scene to beat Cross up in a very familiar manner.

Hirano seems to employ this pose all the time
Hirano seems to employ this pose all the time

And Black Type Iczel reprimands Nagisa’s Normal Type for screwing things up. Chaos lock Black Iczer into sub-space and throws a Chaos Gear against her so that Cross can beat Nagisa in another sub-space. Nagisa has faith in her wrestling moves for sure, but in this situation where those are not an option, she’s helpless and scared. Cross isn’t getting much fun from beating her up, until Nagisa just forces her and Iczel’s synchronisation off.

Hirano employed the same core dynamic with Iczel and Nagisa as with original Iczer-1 and Nagisa, where the two need to be synchronised in order to work and pull the most power possible. However, this Nagisa does not carry sadness in her heart or wish to revenge anyone, and is instead saved by Silver and Gold Iczelions. Looks like these three Iczelions have fought against Cross before, as they’re on familiar terms with each other, but as Chaos drops by and tells Cross to stop shitting things up as Voids want to fight too.

The episode ends with the three Iczels bantering and laughing, while Nagisa breaks the fourth wall and asks from the audience what’ll happen to her.

Always a Nagisa
I’m not Kenshiro, you know!

The second episode begins with a new Kawai trying to convince Nagisa to join them on their fight against Chaos and Cross’ forces, just as while the other Iczels are trying to convince Normal Type

Iczers
I guess they didn’t want to colour Iczer-1 with gold to keep the darker tone. Y’know, her being the Golden Warrior and all that

to seek out a new partner. I can see the toy potential in these Iczels as characters that could split up to form either their own toys, especially when when they have that becoming-armour-gimmick going on for them. Kawai then proceeds to describe the origin of Iczels as beings created by Iczers to fight malevolent machine life form spawned from Big Gold that were spreading throughout the universe. Thus, allowing humans to combine with an Iczel would grant them the same power the Iczers wield, hence the name Iczelion. Nagisa, of course, won’t have any of that. Their chit chat is interrupted by Void attack, throwing them into sub-space and separating the two. Nagisa’s ass is saved by Gold Iczelion. The Voids are intend on killing Nagisa, but each one of them is stopped by one of the Iczelions. If this was a TV-series, Voids would’ve been the end-series upgrade to Gears.  The same goes for the sub-spaces, as in the first episode they were twisted versions of the local space, but with Voids they return to the original OVA’s weird ones with one resembling a graveyard of sorts.

While the rest of Iczels are fighting the voids, Cross is after Nagisa. We get some nice character development for them during these fights, and one of them grows to giant proportions. Cross is enjoying the whole situation, but just like every Nagisa out there, she grows a pair when someone else is being threatened.

DOWN
It’s time to let Nagimania run wild, brother!

Because we are dealing with Awesome Nagisa, she proceeds to show thumbs down and drop kick Cross. Much like her predecessors, she pulls all the power there is, but unlike any other Nagisa she knows what she needs to do. Namely, grab Cross and back-drop her from the sky and explode Cross’ body. This forces Cross to merge with the giant Void. As Iczelions don’t have access to an Iczer-Robo, all of them do a combo attack that blows the combined giant up, most likely taking a few blocks with it.

SRW entry when?
SRW entry when?

Naturally, just like all sibling villains, Chaos goes all out and throws each and every Battle Gear under his command at the four Iczelions. The show ends in Nagisa telling her friends (and audience) to call her as Iczelion, completing her role as the character she was set up to be.

After the credits we see the four kicking the shit out of the Gears.

Probably the best bit of animation in the two episodes for sure

Iczer Girl Iczelion doesn’t stay its welcome, but it leaves wanting for more. However, it’s really nothing special overall. It doesn’t really fail at anything, but it doesn’t outshine anything either. It establishes characters that are not wholly archetypical and its main band is rather diverse. Not many magical girl shows have an adult stage dancer as one of its main characters next to schoolgirls.

The first episode establish how the series has stepped further away from the core of the original Iczer OVA, but that’s to be expected. It didn’t really have any good points to continue, and Hirano worked his ass off to expand on it and retcon things the best he could. Iczelion OVA doesn’t expand on how it’s linked to the rest of the franchise too much, but its radio drama does, but as an alternative world take of sorts. The animation quality is not terribly impressive, but for a 1990’s OVA it’s slightly above standard. Lines are well-defined and colours are reasonably rich. The music is pretty damn nice, even when it sounds relatively generic. There are some nice pieces spread across.

Nothing of original Iczer-1 remains in Iczelion, and around this time Rei Aran had rolled out his own remake in Lemon People. It’s a very enjoyable piece as a side story for sure, and I admit that I prefer this over Adventure! Iczer-3 any day. The whole pro-wrestling thing is just a bonus. Overall, it’s a very nice, short  1990’s OVA that does its thing well enough. It had some potential to become a full-fledged series, but that would’ve required some overhauling in some bits.

It seems that the series didn’t sell all that well overall and you can still pick up US VHS tapes shrink wrapped for ten bucks or so. In Japan it got the usual OVA treatment with VHS and LD release, a novelisation and was expanded with the aforementioned radio drama, but sales across the board were low in Japan too.003_004_Iczelion

Iczer as a franchise never had true long standing staying power, and was always going to be a cult classic. Trying to force it into a mould it was never intended to conform into wasn’t successful. A franchise that started as a sexploitation comic about a space catgirl was most likely what defined Rei Aran to an extent, thou I’ve seen some signs that Patlazer-3 was originally his work of recognition. Iczer-1 just trumped over it with the OVA.

I don’t see the Iczer series having a new entry or a reboot any time soon, but we’re well past the time when it would’ve been relevant. The originals were production of their time, and the two sequels teetered out, lacking the punch the original had. Maybe, just maybe, if the upcoming Blu-Ray release sells reasonably well, something interesting could come forth.

With this, we’re done with the animated Iczer entries. We’ll see what I’ll cook up next month’s theme.

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