Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration

These posts were originally posted as a Monthly Three, as well as Iczer-1’s 30th anniversary celebration series. They are now here collected for easier access. This post covers introduction to the history and the Original Video Animations the franchise has seen.


Rei Aran

If one doesn’t find much sources about Hariken Ryu in English (his career with Godzilla gives him a lot of leverage over other of his contemporaries, Aran Rei is barely recognized in any degree. While Aran is known as one of many people who made up the best era of Comic Lemon People, and thus one of those who influenced then-current Japanese popular culture, and to that extension modern Japanese pop-culture, his name is all but lost in the Western front. He was at his most active in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, having an influence over stylistic sensibilities as well as contributing to the OVA scene.

Born in 1960, Aran’s first published work was Fairies of the Star in Comic Lemon People #6, 1982. Whether or not he had released doujinshis before this is unknown. The one work he seemed to like the most and kept working on  between 1983 and 1993 is Galaxy Police Patrizer-3. If any of his works, it is this one that shows how Aran refined his self-taught skills within one decade to a whole new level.

Above you can see the original 1984 collected release compared to the 1992 reprint with completely new cover. While at a glance the two seem to be from two different people, there are numerous spots where you can see Aran’s style, e.g. comparison between hair and eyes. Monica’s design also shows how Aran ultimately moved himself away from the asymmetrical designs, and were dropped during the decade’s change.

Aran has numerous works under his belt, of which almost all are unfinished due to the workload he gathered unto himself. This seems to be a typical problem for comic creators of the time, something Hideo Azuma suffered as well and illustrated his misadventures in Disappearance Diary, which also won the 10th Osamu Tezuka Cultural Award. I recommend looking it up, it’s a damn good read. You can see an exhaustive list of Aran’s works here, and an archived version here. Both are, of course, in Japanese.

Because of the fact most of his works are essentially unfinished, including his very first publication, very few of them have been collected into books, Fight! Iczer-1 and Galaxy Police Patrizer-3 being the most published, Iczer-1 because of its cult status and Patrizer-3 because of its length.

I would also like note that Rei Aran’s mechanical designs were absolutely fantastic. While some of them look like they were designed in the 1980’s, others look ageless pieces that would work well in modern era as well. This applies very much to his space ship designs.

While Fight!! Iczer-1 is based on Aran’s original work, it was largely revised and revamped by the animation staff. The only time Aran’s character designs would shine on the screen would be in Makyou Gaiden Le Deus, a 1987 OVA. For whatever reason, the UK VHS release renamed the flick as Ladius. It’s nothing worth mentioning as an OVA, but it’s a nice watch with some beer and friends. It’s a show that could be easily shoved into a Super Robot Wars game with ancient civilisations and magical mechas, like The Vision of Escaflowne or Break Blade.

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Le Deus was in the time when Aran’s style showed the most 80’s hairpuffs you’ll ever see, they were just a bit toned down

1983 was supposed to be the year Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to see its animation, but never came to be. This was also the year Fight! Iczer-1 was first time published in #21 of Comic Lemon People, which had a cover design by Rei Aran himself.

The answer to the question why was Iczer-1 chosen to be animated over any other work in the magazine at the time is one that’s most likely completely lost in time. Aran was a popular name at the time, and Iczer-1 hit that certain sensibility of the time with its 80’s as hell designs, somewhat outlandish story and very short lenght. It seemed to be the perfect thing to adapt, even when Toshiki Hirano essentially redesigned and rewrote it from the ground up.

Some of these changes were for the better, and some changes axed or combined characters. Cobalt, for example, was originally a male character, but would serve in same role as Sepia’s lover.

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Top Left: Nyan, also known as Iczer-1, design with leg warmers. Top Right: Nagisa. Bottom Left: Sepia. Bottom Right: Cobalt being the man he is
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Top Left: Sir Silver, an axed character. Top Right: Sister Violet, got the axe. These two characters were combined into Sir Violet in the OVA. Middle; Doctor Brown, got axed completely. Bottom Right: Soldier and enemy mecha design. Bottom Left: original Iczer Robo

Aran had a tendency to redesign some of his characters in his works. Nyan perhaps shows this the best. For sake of comparison, here’s a small gallery comparing Iczer-1 ‘s designs, starting with the original from the comic and ending with Aran’s 1990’s remake, THE ICZER ONE.

Aran’s original, Hirano’s OVA redesign, Aran’s redesigns, Adventure! Iczer-3 redesign, THE ICZER ONE redesign.

Notice that smiling face on Nagisa’s hair. That is actually a laughing pumping head, something he used his own avatar of sorts.

He also smoked
He also smoked at the time

I have to mention that it is a bit sad to see Aran’s name associated with just Iczer-1 franchise, but the fact is most of his works never penetrated the mass market in that way, and to the same extension, neither did the original Fight! Iczer-1. I can’t help but to wonder whether or not Aran is bitter towards the Iczer-1 OVA’s success. After all, Iczer-1 is his production originally.

Nowadays Aran’s works are very rare to see in magazines. 2010 seems to be the last time he had a work published in an anthology piece called Hinnyuu ga Kiru! The story’s name is Courage of Lemon, and looks much like his 1990’s style. It is very short, only eight pages long, and lacks the vision his works carried earlier, resorting in sexploitation only.

Personally, I’ve grown to like the man’s work. While some of them are bizarrely hardcore, others are wonderfully detailed and interesting. While action scenes are unsophisticated and lack the same sort of impact as e.g. Gekisatsu! Uchuuken‘s,  Aran’s visuals are very clear and stylistic. The immense amount of evolution he went through within one decade is impressive, but it seems the style he ended up with took more time and work than previously, and further undermined action from his comics. Aran shined with science fiction and fantasy, and the rest of his works tend to run a bit short. The sheer amount of uncollected comics is stupidly insane, and I’m afraid we’ll never see a book of any sorts due to the amount of different companies having their rights.

But for now, we can at least take solace in the fact that Iczer-1 will be remembered out of all his works the best, for better or worse.

Next week, Iczer-1 DVD vs BD comparison

As an end note, I should probably point out that Iczer comes from the word ikusa, or 戦. The u is silent. It stands for battle or war, essentially making Iczer-1 Battle-er or War-Er One. People keep pestering me with this, despite this being one of the clear-cut things about the franchise.

Introduction to Fight! Iczer-1

In 1983, the first chapter of Rei Aran’s Fight!! Iczer-1 was printed in adult comic magazine Lemon People. It ran two whole chapters and was a rather short and self-contained story. Despite the original Iczer-1 having so little time to get an audience, Aran kept illustrating the main characters Nyan and Nagisa in the magazine’s covers, despite them having no further adventures.

It can't get much more 80's than this
It can’t get much more 80’s than this. Here’s how you can tell the difference when people are referring to the comic or the OVA; the comic has one exclamation, the OVA has two.

The two-chapter story follows a strange alien catgirl falling from sky and saving Nagisa from being violated. This catgirl takes liking to Nagisa, and when an alien presence begins to invade Earth, the catgirl takes Nagisa into a cover with a grim look on her face. The second chapter begins where the first one ends, with Iczer-1, the catgirl, teleporting her and Nagisa into a giant mecha called Iczer Robo. They proceed to fight the alien invader, defeating an opposing pilot called Sepia.

During the early to mid 80’s the Original Video Animation was getting wind under its wings, but was still relatively small. With Lemon People becoming a pop-cultural phenomena in Japan, an OVA based production was set into motion. Cream Lemon was that series, and much like the comic, its stories ranged from fantasy to science fiction, handling comedy and horror alike with good splash of erotic thrown in there. 1984 saw first three episodes; Be My Baby, Escalation and Superdimensional SF Legend Rall. Out of these three Be My Baby is remembered as part of the Ami series, and the titular character Ami would appear in many later episodes of the series. Escalation can be seen as good example of girls-in-catholic-boarding school stories, and a series like Maria Is Watching Over Us clearly have taken cues from Escalation.

In that same year Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to become a TV-series and it got even a radiodrama LP. This LP and various ads in the Lemon People magazine show how the series would’ve been toned back in sexual content, and that would’ve done only good. Not that the comic was overt with this content as it concentrated more on referential comedy. For whatever reason, the deal fell through and the series never came to be.

Gekisatsu! Uchuuken's animation model was used in this cover
Lien Yun, the protagonist of Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, had her animation model used on this cover

In 1985, Fight!! Iczer-1 OVA was released and it is this what Iczer-1 is remembered by. Toshihiro Hirano handled directing and writing, adapting Aran’s original two-chapter work into a normal length episode. While the basic structure is the same between the OVA and Aran’s work, all characters and their looks were revamped from ground up. Iczer-1 was no longer a space catgirl, but a space elf of sorts. Her hair was changed from green to blonde yellow, and her painfully 80’s outfit was replaced with a bit more sensible pink leotard with pieces of armour. She also got a new origin, and now she acted like a toughened up warrior rather than a catgirl that could only speak trough telepathy. Iczer Robo went through a complete redesign as well, thou Nagisa stayed mostly the same. Similar changes happened more or less all around.

A full composite shot of OVA Iczer-1
A full composite shot of OVA Iczer-1

Despite all this, Aran kept illustrating Iczer-1 covers for Lemon People and even illustrated a continuation comic in full colour for Lemon People Special – Fight!! Iczer-! in 1986 during the production of the second act. Aran’s Nya/Iczer-1 would later incorporate similar elements from Hirano’s version, making it a bit more timeless design than the leg warmer design from the original comic.

This blue and metal armour would be the definitive look for the Arai's original Iczer-1
This blue and metal armour would be the definitive look for the Aran’s original Iczer-1 until the retelling of THE ICZER ONE

The OVA was a success, and was essentially the first Lemon People derivative animation that wasn’t porn. It can be said that this greenlighted further similar animation productions, like Project A-ko, which was actually supposed to be a full on adult production, and ultimately paved way to Lemon Angel, one of the first semi-modern late night animation shows in Japan. All this, of course, was because the bubble economy allowed this to happen, and from 1985 to 1991 the OVA boom became larger than ever with incredibly amounts of LaserDiscs and VHS prints made for the Japanese market in relative numbers. Money, cocaine and mushrooms flowed rather freely and there is a very good reason some people automatically relate beautiful animation and shit story with the OVAs. This is because OVAs were free of television and theatrical restrictions. Megazone 23, released the same year as Fight!! Iczer-1, was supposed to be a television series first, but ended up being released as an OVA and so got few more adult themes and scenes included, thou they build some character and flow naturally with the story.

Arai's version of Iczer Robo being summoned to fight Iczer-0
Aran’s version of Iczer Robo being summoned to fight Iczer-0  Lemon People – Fight!! Iczer-One Special, also found in Minna Genki kai!!, a collection of other Aran’s works

The second episode of the OVA, Fight!! Iczer-1 Act II; Iczer Sigma’s Challenge was released a year later in 1986. Because the first act exhausted the little original material Rei Aran had done, Hirano wrote completely new continuation for the story and introducing Iczer-2 to oppose Iczer-1 in the same level. Iczer-2 is more or less a direct evil clone, having same skills and powers, but much like all evil clones, lacks the spiritual side of things. The animation quality changed a little bit, not enough to be noted outside scenes where Iczer Robo was introduced. This is due to presence of fan favourite Masami Obari, who is known to paint and animate mechanics with his more or less unique way. According to Obari, Hirano told him to paint Iczer Robo more like a hero robot, thou this results Iczer Robo looking nothing like in the first part. It could even be argued that Iczer Robo looks less a hero now, but that’s to individual opinion.

Iczer Robo from episode 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The design ultimately changed between all three episodes
Iczer Robo from episode 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The design ultimately changed between all three episodes. It starts with a sleek and feminine look, and then gradually changes into angular and masculine one. Original Iczer Robo is one if the first organic mechas to boot, and the first episode look is still relatively unique

The second episode explores further into the invading alien force, the Cthulhu, or  Cutowolf as the official romanisation by the Japanese goes, and how they terrorise humans by warping space and time, dimensional barriers and morphing humans into monsters. It can be argued that the second episode is a more balanced piece, allowing Nagisa to grow as a character rather than be dragged around by Iczer-1. The second part ends with a cliffhanger, Iczer-1 and determined Nagisa facing Iczer Sigma. That fight would have to wait until next year.

Lemon People Iczer-1 Special teasing Act II's Iczer-2 and Iczer Sigma
Lemon People Iczer-1 Special teasing Act II’s Iczer-2 and Iczer Sigma

The final and third part, simply subtitled Act III: Concluding Volume, was released in 1987. It begins with a recap of the previous two parts. Modern audience that watches all the acts back-to-back will find this a bit jarring. At the time, this was a good move to make, as by that time some of the staff had become relatively well known and more people could pick the third part up without seeing the previous two, that were not in production any more at the time. There would be new releases later down the line, of course.

The third chapter is more disjointed, as it tries to explain what happened to the Cthulhu, the origin of Iczer-1 and the main antagonist Big Gold. However, Hirano fails to deliver on these accounts, making it a more an open question what really happened rather than. In Iczer-1 Mediamix Special, the origin story was told far more clearly as follows;

ICZER-ONE is an embodiment of “conscience,” which is originated the two wills when CUTOWOLF made a contact with an alien. BIG GOLD is an embodiment of “desire” and dominates the center of CUTOWOLF fortress. As both are born from the mind of CUTOWOLF SIR VIOLET, they are destined to contradict each other. BIG GOLD has produced his man, ICZER-TWO in order to knock down ICZER-ONE who is much superior in his fighting ability.

-ICZER-ONE MEDIAMIX SPECIAL, p.2

Even thou the book claims Iczer-2 to be a man, she certainly is a woman. The third episode suffers somewhat from the pacing, as it tries to establish all this information, showing an army of modified Cthulhu who look similar to the other warriors as well as juggle between action and why Iczer-1 needs a partner to synchronise with. What happens during the ending is rather strange, as Big Gold seems to be defeated by merging with Iczer-1, who becomes an overpowered goddess, restoring Earth and reversing time, fixing the damage Big Gold had caused. No Earthling remembers anything, and the final scenes of the OVA ends with familiar scene where Nagisa saw Iczer-1 in the first part.

Hirano would continue to work with Iczer-1, producing a prequel comic Golden Warrior Iczer-1, produced a novelisation on the OVA and even illustrated a side-story comic Iczer Legend, that took place in a different timeline. A sequel OVA, Adventure! Iczer-3 was produced in 1990, which also got a cassette adaptation that continued from the novelisation of Iczer-1. The novelisation of Iczer-3 met the same demise as most of Hirano’s Iczer related productions, as in they never materialised or were finished. While Adventure! Iczer-3 has more time to go over with the characters and story, it stripped all the gore and horror elements the predecessor was known for. The animation wasn’t anything special and the overall deal had practically no impact on the popular culture. In 1994 another sequel was produced, Iczer Girl Iczelion. Here the two episode OVA had absolutely no impact as none of the characters returned, opting to use a new version of Nagisa and sentient robots that form power armours around their users.

1994 also saw Rei Aran’s return to the franchise, where he began to illustrate his take on the larger Iczer-1 mythos with THE ICZER-ONE. This remake comic was serialised in Lemon People much like the original one and incorporated many elements seen in the OVA, but sticking far more to the core of Aran’s original piece. The series stays as one of the more elusive entries in the series, as it has not been collected anywhere, most likely due to its unfinished nature. Lemon People folded in 1998, ending the pop culture defining magazine’s run in a relatively high note with an illustration collecting all the most important pieces it had brought forwards throughout the years. Both Aran’s and Hirano’s versions of Iczer-1 appears on it. As it is NSFW, you’ll have to use this link. A sharp eyed reader will also notice Lien Yun doing a kick there and Zeorymer looming in the background.

By 1994, Arai's style had come a long way
By 1994, Aran’s style had come a long way
Arai's reimagining is far more smoother than his original work, wearing an armour that uses elements from various incarnation thus far. If a future adaptation of Iczer-1 were to happen, I would definitively want to see this one animated
Aran’s reimagining is far more smoother than his original work, wearing an armour that uses elements from various incarnation thus far. If a future adaptation of Iczer-1 were to happen, I would definitively want to see this one animated. Scan from Lemon People #192, July 1995

So, what’s the deal? Why did it became a cult classic?

Iczer-1 OVA was a relatively high budget production for its time, comparatively speaking. The story it tells may be simple and rather clumsily told in the third act, yet it grabs you and keep you with it. This is thanks to  the detailed animation and heavy use of black accents. The music may not be Oscar worthy, but there are more than few tunes that you will hum to yourself. Iczer-2’s theme is one of those pieces I find myself whistling, outside singing the three vocal songs out loud. Iczer-1 is still relatively unique in series and being one of the few shows that toy with the idea of direct erotica, but ultimately decides to keep it with the bodily horror. Still, the first act is the shining example in the OVA series, as it keeps strings together the best and allows the latter parts to build on top of it. The atmosphere and presence has stark contrasts with each other, and if the viewer is swayed along the story, there are few moments that you will find slightly terrifying. The characters themselves are clear personas, and while the short runtime of the acts do not allow much character development, Nagisa’s character goes through a full cycle while Iczer-1 herself finds understanding rather than keeping with the single minded fighting she’s been doing.

From all this, it is not hard to see why Iczer-1 is remembered by its 1985 OVA. It’s the one that was the biggest hit. Rei  Aran hasn’t returned to the franchise afterwards, Hirano hasn’t attempted to revitalise the animation side either after his Iczer-4 series got cancelled very early in production. Some of the Iczer-4 elements were incorporated into Magic Knight Rayearth TV adaptation in form of Nova, which has overall met with criticism. Both Fight!! Iczer-1 and Adventure! Iczer-3 appeared in Super Robot Wars L for the Nintendo DS.

In the West, or more precisely in the US, Iczer-1 was a massive cult hit. Hirano’s Golden Warrior Iczer-1 got a translation with interviews and Iczer-3 got English language comic. When Evangelion was a new thing, a reviewer mentioned how it was certainly a good television series, but couldn’t hold up against a classic like Iczer-1.

My first set of Laserdiscs were Fight!! Iczer-1, and to some extent it was also my first real foray into OVAs and step into the deeper Japanese pop culture. Nowadays Iczer-1 is readily available on DVD from your Amazon store. The quality on the DVD is on par of the 1991 Laserdisc releases, which is actually pretty damn good, and the price hasn’t been going up too much.

Whether or not there will be another Iczer-1 production is an open question, but the chances are low. Iczer-1 is a product of its time and I’m saying that as a good thing. Most of the time it doesn’t really hold back, and early on it is rough and direct. Perhaps a digitally remastered Blu-Ray release would be in place, if possible.

For a short two-chapter comic, Iczer-1 has come a long way. I hope this little trek into the franchise has brought some new information to you as well as made you interested enough to check it out.


Fight!! Iczer-1

Seeing how Japan’s still buzzing about Iczer-1‘s 30th anniversary with the upcoming Blu-Ray release and TV Kanagawa’s censored broadcast last Sunday, the theme for this month might as well be the Iczer series. I went through the conception of the franchise in the 30th anniversary post last year and then some, so may have some repetition. This will be spoiler country.

The original Rei Aran’s Fight!! Iczer-1 comic was a thirty page, two chapter story. Very tidy, very neat, very different from the OVA. It is by far the most exploitative version out of them all, with Aran’s THE ICZER ONE following in suit in the 90’s. Nevertheless, certain elements exist in the original comic that would appear in the comic, and other elements would be completely revised for the better or worse.

The first episode of the OVA is essentially retelling of the comic, having the same basic structure; showcase enemy base, moving to Nagisa having normal, then getting attacked and saved by Nyan/Iczer-1, ending with them two fighting against invading enemy.

The two versions are superficially similar when described that way. Of course, reading and watching the two is night and day, just like Nyan’s and Iczer-1’s designs.

Nyan is one of the most stereotypical 80's character design you'll see in your life
Nyan is one of the most stereotypical 80’s character design you’ll see in your life, thou OVA Iczer-1’s hot pink screams the same

I recommend you to look up a book called Robots and pretty girls Best Works Selection – Lemon People 1982-1986 as it has the original two-parter in it among other Lemon People goodies. I intend to go deeper into the original comic at a later date.

TV Kanagawa’s censorship brought up a comment that struck with me. It was something along the lines of How can anyone call this representative of Cream Lemon? It’s a good question, which also shows how the original OVA, or the first episode at least, stands apart from the rest of the OVA crowd. Much like Megazone 23, Fight!! Iczer-1 was one of the first successful OVAs, and both balanced between themes you couldn’t depict on television without troubles. Unlike Cream Lemon, which was porn through and through, Iczer-1 and Project A-ko were projects that were deemed to have a very different nature to them, A-ko seeing even further changes and removal of all sexual themes outside girl love.

Iczer-1‘s edge is that it was one of the first of its kind in many ways for home release anime, or Japanimation as it was called at the time in the West. It had Cronenberg-esque body horror with Lovecraftian themes, it’s music was excellent, animation quality was a thing to behold and it hold you in its grip. It was serious enough with some rare moments of comedy and was handled superbly. It’s main mechas were one of the earliest cyborg-like hybrids, containing an organic being inside while clad in armour mechanics.

Let’s get into the first OVA.

The very first scene in the whole franchise is about a man running down the street as if he was being chased by something. He stops, and sees a silhouette of a golden-haired woman standing above him. His face becomes distorted, until it breaks apart and a red creature rips through his skin, only to be killed by a beam from the woman.

It’s an effective first scene.

After a short girl on girl love and establishing the invading enemy, the show continues from here to follow our second heroine and her morning routines.

I'm betting she was watching porn
I’m betting she was watching porn. Note that the newspaper reads Fight!! Iczer-1 in Japanese

Nagisa passes Iczer-1 on her way to school, where she’s just leaning to a tree. Nagisa doesn’t give two damns about her, thinking Iczer-1 is just some sort of cosplay deviant. At school she’s blanking out, until she sees a ball constantly bouncing up and down, with no one bouncing it. The ball flies towards her, breaking the glass and dropping her into a sub-space. Then, she sees her friend’s skin complex getting worse.

Most of the body horror has a very Japanese flavour to it
Just add few tentacles and a mouth extending from there, trying to eat her

One of the main elements that keeps you on your toes in the first episode is that you barely know what’s happening. Much like how Demon in Devilman are able to posses human bodies, the Cthulhu in Iczer-1 take over a human host. They moult out of the human, ripping its flesh apart and sprinkling blood everywhere to show themselves for full mobility, and it seems they can take that shape back to some extent. It’s not just living things these Cthulhu can possess, but at least two houses are taken over as well. The scene above has a blue gradient to it, as the horror element adds another layer to it with sub-space, a space where the Cthulhu can freely travel to and from. It starts as a very abstract space at first, but then become a generic battlescape later on.

Nagisa’s being attacked, but the golden-haired woman saves Nagisa first with pure intimidation, then from falling to her death when her turned classmates ditch her from the roof. She runs from her saviour, only to be captured into the sub-space once again.

Nagisa offers some slapstick with her reactions
Nagisa offers some slapstick with her reactions

In sub-space, Iczer-1 kills the Cthulhu and returns Nagisa home. Sir Violet, the leader of Cthulhu has a discussion scene with a the mysterious golden child in a sphere. What makes this scene effective is that everything looks organic and there is a constant heartbeat in the background.

Nagisa has a nice, normal night while Iczer-1 looks after her. Well, her last normal night, as in the morning during her family’s normal morning routines both of them moult. Even the house is being possessed, and Iczer-1 is fighting a Void, a high-class enemy trooper, inside sub-space. She manages to beat the Void just in time to stab the house and kill whatever spirit is being possessing it.

Enemy plans move onward as Cobalt, one of the characters we’ve seen from the enemy side before, is being dispatched.

GGGAAAAAYYYYY

Cobalt and Sepia are directly lifted from the original comic, as is Cobalt’s demise. Cobalt walks around the city in her Delos Theta and taking down the military’s super weapons without any hassle. She takes it all in good humour, laughing at how weak humans are. Nagisa, who still doesn’t want to fight, turns her head around a bit, and is dragged into the fight by a summoning.

ICZER ROBO KENZAN

Iczer-1 doesn’t understand why Nagisa wouldn’t want to fight. She is her partner, and she’s facing their enemy. After they’re getting their collective asses handed down to them, Iczer-1 pushes Nagisa even further, making her recall her recent parents death she still hasn’t dealt with. With that she only seeks to kill everybody around. With Iczer Robo’s Get the Hell out of Here! -beam. Delos Theta is still functional after this, but is severely hurt. Nagisa, not Iczer-1, walks Iczer Robo next to it and punches through the cockpit, crushing Cobalt. The episode ends in Nagisa crying her eyes out in Iczer-1’s arms.

The first episode alone has a death count of Nagisa's classmates and her parents, alongside loads of townspeople
The first episode alone has a death count of Nagisa’s classmates and her parents, alongside loads of townspeople

Second episode is all new material, starting with Cthulhu dropping their invasion pyramid Nova in the middle of city. Nagisa’s still in Iczer Robo and wanting out, and the invasion spreads to military bases.

Accompanied by a lovely sound of cracking skulls
Accompanied by a lovely sound of cracking skulls

However, one thing the OVA does right and garners a special mention is that it keeps the antagonists human. Cobalt, the pilot of Delos Theta that Nagisa and Iczer-1 defeated at the end of episode one, is lying dead in what essentially is an open coffin. We never see her face, or the lack of her head, but we don’t need to. We see the horror the cannon fodder enemies do in order to understand how shitty the situation is, but with moments like this we don’t need to see to what a character reacts. Sepia’s shocked expression is enough.

Sepia sees Cobalt
And if that’s not enough, seeing her lover all crushed up makes her vow revenge, even thou we already know how emotionally soft she is. She’s more like Nagisa in that regard

We return to Nagisa’s, with Iczer-1 giving her a bracelet that protects her and gives her access to Iczer Beam. While she dallies around, Iczer-1 fights a Void, one of the Cthulhu’s higher level peons, inside a sub-space that looks like a desert instead of something a Russian expressionists would paint. Meanwhile, Iczer-2 is prepared to be born.

Nagisa has found a safe place with a little girl and her mother, all the while Iczer-1 now fights in another sub-space that looks proper, but then is thrown into Japanese painting with a ninja. All this happening while the military fights against its own troops as well as against the fortress Nova.

There is a serious feeling of hopelessness about, Iczer-1 fighting to her best, humans essentially losing the war and now the little girl’s, Sayoko’s mother is being taken over.

dun
And oh, the house is possessed as well

Nagisa’s ring protect her and whoever is close to her for sure, but even it has its limitations. She manages to save Sayoko, but her mother is dead deal. At least Iczer-1 manages to defeat the second Void, but is then confronted by Iczer-2.

Iczer-2
Sometimes I whistle her theme while walking in the snow

 Iczer-1 and the main villain Big Gold are two sides of the same coin. The two share the same origin, whereas Iczer-2 has no such connection. She is built from the same basic blocks as her elder sister, but much more powerful. In straight up 1-to-1 fight, she would dominate with her power, but she is less experienced. Still, Iczer-1 is tired from fighting two Voids and while she is getting her ass handed to her, Nagisa is trying to protect Sayoko from possessed townspeople. She ultimately realises why Iczer-1 chose her as her partner and wishes for power to protect Sayoko, which summons Iczer Robo and devastates all the possessed people.

Iczer-2 takes this like a good sport she is, summons her own robot Iczer Sigma with Sepia as her partner and the fight is on! Well, in the third episode, the second episode ends in this screen.

end2
The ending song for the second episode is NEVER RUNAWAY

The third episode was produced later than the first two, as OVAs were usually produced in batches of two in the 1980’s.  It starts with retreading how Sir Violet was wondering through space, until she met with Big Gold. There is a clear change in animation and slight tweaking character designs, but the mechas are completely redesigned. Masami Obari had his hands all over this, and it shows.

There is much less horror elements in the third episode to the point of essentially having none. Sure, Cthulhus tentacles make an entry, but most of the episode is just mulling over events that happened, what it means to fight, why they fight and the occasional action scene.  Iczer-2 loses the opening fight and understands that Nagisa is Iczer-1’s power source while the mankind fights a losing fight. It’s nothing new, and retreads what the first two episode was about in far more menacing way.

As such, the tonal shift from the two first episodes is completely intended. It goes from that depressive horror to a more introspective view and the horror of the situation is in lesser focus. What matters is what is the relationship between Iczer-1 and Nagisa. Nagisa finds her will to fight, and like all heroes of new century, she carries a great sorrow in her hear. Iczer-1 being a war machine, she doesn’t really get this. She loves a lot of things, but she’s all about killing Chtulhu.

It’s not until Nagisa is kidnapped and Iczer-1 fights to the point of exhaustion we get some sort of answer and a resolution to this. Iczer Robo essentially sacrifices itself to bring Iczer-1 to Nagisa inside the Nova fortress, where the she is forced to kill brainwashed Nagisa. This is the point where Iczer-1 realises what is that sorrow Nagisa was carrying. With her soul resonating with Nagisa’s, she pulls out one of the more iconic scenes from the OVA.

If filling up the room with all-destroying golden light wasn't enough, Iczer-1 one-shot kills high ranking enemy
If filling up the room with all-destroying golden light wasn’t enough, Iczer-1 one-shot kills high-ranking enemy

What synchro does did in Iczer Robo was that it powered the Robo up. For Nagisa, she could face her fears and fight, and for an artificial being like Iczer-1, full synchro allows her to see the world through all the emotions and push herself beyond.

Iczer-1’s and her little sisters fight after this is very short and to the point.

killed

What follows after is that Iczer-1 flies to Big Gold, trades some words, accepts him/her/it as a part of herself, fusing each other and then returning everything to normal somehow, time travel or godly powers.

The third episode is also a full forty something minutes compared to first two’s 25min, and it drags itself. The first two episodes hold reins very tightly, but the third episode’s mangled plot resolution gives an unsatisfactory ending. It has a different tone and can’t really exist as a standalone piece. The first episode however is perfect as a standalone piece, and I appoint this to the fact that it was based on something. The original comic lacked any sort of horror element, and it’s a far more comedic romp overall, concentrating on how silly a psychic alien catgirl in heat was with some slightly serious things happening when aliens invade.

I doubt this post conveys how much I really dig the original OVA, despite third episode being slightly weaker overall. I’m sure you get the atmosphere this three parter has. What Fight!! Iczer-1 did to the direct-to-home and OVAs at the time can’t be underestimated. It did what you couldn’t do on television, and became a massive cult hit.

Sadly, its direct sequel, Adventure! Iczer-3 would essentially abandon and tone everything down. I need a week to go through that piece, haven’t seen it in years.


Adventure! Iczer-3

Adventure! Iczer-3, or as the old U.S. Manga Corps release renamed it, Iczer Reborn, takes me back with its old subtitle style and the use of M.D. Geist as their mascot character. Outside that, I feel that this series is just so damn unnecessary. It’s been a long time since I watched this, so maybe now I can reassess Adventure! Iczer-3 and give it a bit more credit.

It’s a six episode OVA, so unlike with Fight!! Iczer-1, I try to keep from going into details all that much. The information I have on the genesis of Iczer-3 is lacking, but that’s mostly due to personal choice. Why?, you may ask and the answer to that would be because Adventure! Iczer-3 lacks almost everything that made Fight!! Iczer-1 a cult classic. It’s even lacking those two exclamation marks. The sound novel version would have that.

The show starts with an exposition fight between Iczer-1 and Neos Gold. Neos is a creature created by Big Bold’s core terminal, but how and when is not expanded on. What we know is that Iczer-1 is now on a planetary system busting in power levels and sports a redesigned armour. We never learn where her reality/time altering powers went after the end of the first OVA, but that’s the least of the show’s problems. It’s main problem is that it changes how the ending of the Fight!! Iczer-1 ended. Neos Gold refers Big Gold as being destroyed, but maybe that’s just Evil Alien propaganda working for you. As a side note, Neos Gold looks a lot like a random Lucifer Hawk from Silent Möbius when it comes to design. Maybe it’s just the design sensibilities of the time.

Maybe the opening shows some of the problems I have with the series.

The opening contains a lot of spoilers, basically showcasing all the minions, the return of Iczer-2, Atros and the return of a Nagisa. Sir Violet has also been replaced with Sister Grey. It feels and looks like a TV-animation opening instead of something out of an OVA. It sets a very different to tone series to the point of effectively abandoning the atmosphere of original OVA. Granted, let’s just allow it stand on its own. Despite that, the four minions look like something straight out of Sailor Moon, despite Iczer-3 bring older.

The show is set years after the death of Big Gold, and the humanity has moved further into stars. We had super technology already in the original, and now we’re even further out there. We see a spaceship being destroyed near Saturn’s orbit. Humanity has a space station on Moon, where Nagisa’s granddaughter, Nagisa, lives. In a surprising move, Neos Gold just announces her invasion intentions, and then proceeds to take over satellite weapons and shoots the shit out of Earth’s defence forces bases around the world with them while spreading alien insects. Alien invaders are pretty competent in Iczer series, but Neos Gold just ends up being petty and lets the lot of them live out of spite for Iczer-1.

The moonbase is soon after razed over, but unlike with Iczer-1’s body horror, Iczer-3 opts for straight up bloody massacre, but that’s pretty much it. Neos Gold then sets up a base on Earth, and the wounded Iczer-1 curses her. Sister Gray, a new character recommends sending Iczer-3 to Earth.

IN tank

Iczers are artificial life forms, and there’s no reason to raise them. Iczer-2 was developed and built in matter of days, or overnight, the original OVA really doesn’t give any timeframe, but it is fast. It’s sort of twisted to make Iczer-3 this sort of little brat in size and looks, but aesthetics for the series mattered more for sure than making sense.

The moonbase is still being screwed over and Iczer-3 comes in just in time to save everybody. When she announces her name, Nagisa thinks she knows the name Iczer, which she shouldn’t.

The concept of child soldier who takes war and fighting as literal child’s play is a good one. Her introduction seemingly hits the right beats, her not giving a damn about anything, wrecking the place while going on a killing spree. However, it lacks any punch to it. As with the opening, all of it feels very TV-safe. Maybe if body horror had come back and Nagisa with her crew would’ve witnessed her slaying their old possessed friends while laughing manically as blood sprayed everywhere. That’s the whole show really, not bad in itself, just very, very safe in its execution and not doing anything special.

It doesn’t really help Iczer-3’s voice actor was a Joshiprowres (Japanese female professional wrestling) named Cutie Suzuki. She was relatively popular in the early 1990’s and even has a Mega Drive game after her. It’s not very good. Iczer-3’s voice does grow on you, but in the end it just doesn’t cut it. Not to say the second episode has its moments character. Iczer-3 goes around destroying those satellite weapons, and accidentally punches one in the wrong place and causes it to shoot towards the battleship Queen Fuji Nagisa’s in, causing it to entry the atmosphere in the wrong angle and into wrong place.

Speaking of Nagisa, almost all characters have these Seed-mode/rape eyes that are completely blank
Speaking of Nagisa, almost all characters have these Seed-mode/rape eyes that are completely blank. Nagisa’s friend on the right is named Kawai, btw

We get some body horror in the second episode with the surviving people finding cocooned humans in the empty city they crash landed. Alien insects were using them as breeding caskets, but it’s very TV-safe again and less than explicit. The body looks something like from the Moomins. Another good moment for Iczer-3 is when she is sleeping next to one of the surviving soldiers, Rob, without any care in the world. The scene would’ve been nicer, if it wasn’t just exposition and plot convenience.

Much like everything else in Iczer-3, the episodes follow how a TV-series would pace its shows. Nothing really stands out from the animation or the like, though the new Iczer-Robo is reasonably well animated despite being a complex design.

It's a mix of Obari's and original Iczer Robos's design with a healthy dash of late bubble economy flavour
It’s a mix of Obari’s and original Iczer Robos’s design with a healthy dash of late bubble economy flavour

Monster of the Week is killed with a renamed Get the Hell Out of Here! beam. I have to give it to them that they kept Nagisa nude in the new Robo, and despite her sitting inside a metal harness, it’s has influences from Aran’s cockpit design. The episode ends with Nagisa collapsing from powering Iczerio Bomber too many times.

If Adventure! Iczer-3 was a TV-show, we’d now spend about fifteen episodes adventuring around the globe and beating up MOTWs, but this being the middle point of the OVA, we’re introduced the the Rival character Atros being produced from energies from Iczerio Bomber. Before that we of course need a fever dream to explain how Nagisa remembers the name Iczer in form of a flashback. It’s really hamfisted, blame it on genetic memory or something.

Meanwhile Iczer-3 is running with animals and finds a stadium that was set up for her to fight against this week’s monster. No, seriously. Of course, she gets her ass handed to her, because this week it’s Nagisa’s turn to realise things while everyone else tells her not to. The whole battle ships arrives to the scene, and of course the enemies attack Nagisa & co., giving Iczer-3 a reason to fight better and goes toe-to-toe against the Boss of the MOTW.

Notice that swords the Iczers use are now just beams of energy, instead of lightsabres. I like this, but them being just sticks of light seems lazy
Notice that swords the Iczers use are now just beams of energy, instead of lightsabres. I like this, but them being just sticks of light seems lazy

Of course, Iczer-3 is almost winning, until the Boss’ pet sacrifices herself, giving the bad guy some humanity to her. Every thing’s fine and the Boss, Bigro, is now having a change of heart, which means Neos Gold kills her and her pet. Straight after we’ve introduced to Atros, the only real doppelgänger in the franchise.

Iczer-3 even commments YOU LOOK JUST LIKE ME
Iczer-3 even comments YOU LOOK JUST LIKE ME

At this point you may have noticed that the series, by its third episode, has set into a pre-established formula. Similar things would pop up later in Toshihiro Hirano’s TV works, and it feels like this OVA was supposed to be a TV-show originally, but for whatever reason it was turned into 6-episode OVA. Another reason is that this doesn’t look or feel like an OVA. There’s nothing explicit, nothing that stands out, no violence going over the top and even the animation quality is on-par with the higher budget shows of the time. Anyway, on to the next episode.

Atros is more mature than Iczer-3, further showing that Iczers can be pre-programmed with more mature disposition towards life. She’s the smug bastard for the time being to Iczer-3’s naivety. Turns out Nagisa just throws exposition out after their fight, mentioning how Iczers are born of something called Iczerio. A type of energy? Nobody knows, because this is the first time in the series and proceeds to function has a plot device from thereon. Nagisa’s kindness throws Atros into spastic headache like with all evil clones that really are good guys.

Atros’ self-confidence is lacking with the newfound confusion over what or who she is, and Neos Gold scolds her for that. She’s fallen into generic evil mastermind stature by now, and the last Boss of the four Heavenly Kings has what people can only call as Anime Hair.

Golem, go get a haircut
Golem, go get a haircut

This episode really is just all about exposition on the origin of Iczers, going how the Cthulhu have advanced technology, what’ the source of their power and the like. Rob shows some data screens on Iczer-3 and Nagisa really wants to ride him.

Queen Fuji arrives in Japan, we probably skipped about fifteen episodes of this was a 2 cours series. Queen Fuji and Golem do some fighting, before Iczer-3 meddles and gets her ass handed to her while Neos Gold laughs with her next plan.

GUESS WHO'S BACK
This might be an interesting surprise if they hadn’t spoiled her in the opening or in the case of the DVD

Something had happened between episodes 4 and 5 in the production, as the quality jumps here and there in regards of the animation. This is very apparent in the fight between Golem and Iczer-3, and these two episodes feel very stretched. They could’ve shaved some off from both ends to shove them into one piece. Atros makes Golem retreat and tries to make Iczer-3 fight, citing that they are made to fight and that’s what weapons do.

This shows that the Iczer-3 we saw in the first episode, the fight-happy child, isn’t there any more. Her characterisation is an inconsistent, but can be attributed to her character growth, but neither writing or the voice actor really makes this clear. Nagisa’s face doesn’t really do any favours, and despite her trying to turn her side. Just like all confused evil clones, she runs away.

Iczer-2 is reintroduced in a very dull way, just pointing her Hyper Sword towards Golem. She’s not a copy or a clone, but a full-blown resurrection. her armour has a very slight update to it with new racing stripes and bigger, unsymmetrical shoulder armours. The light up pieces on her chest armour has been redesigned as well. She also got new boots!

Nagisa is also having those flashback dreams about the death Iczer-2. There’s a pretty damn neat moment right after, where Iczer-2 walks on-board Queen Fuji in the dark, just to greet Nagisa, and just proceeds to shoot a laser to Iczer-3’s forehead, throwing her on the ground. The two take it outside, just as Neos Gold’s deformed Macross Cannon defences begin to shoot around. While Queen Fuji is fighting Golem and Iczer-3 is fighting against Iczer-2, it’s Atros who picks up Nagisa.

fight

The fight between Iczers is really damn nice, showcasing that while their power is comparable, Iczer-3 takes like a game while Iczer-2 is a seasoned veteran. In the end, she doesn’t play with the kid, first beam-gut punching her to the ground and the shooting a beam stright through her when Iczer-3 gets up. In the meanwhile, Atros has come to terms who she is and goes against Golem’s fabulous hair.

Iczer-2 doesn’t understand why an Iczer like the third one would be made, but we all know why; to become more human to experience life outside war. Atros didn’t really deal with Golem, and as she tries to kill both Iczers, Iczer-2 just blows her up. The episode ends in Iczer-1 getting back to the field after her fight in the first episode opener. She also flies faster than light, because we see her flying into our galaxy from incredibly far away.

The last episode sets clear that Iczer-2 has changed somewhat from her origin. She was always under Big Gold’s commands in the original, yet here she claims not to be anyone’s soldier. She just wants Iczer-1 dead. Atros’ character development is filled with her resurrecting Iczer-3 and changing sides completely. It’s not a bad moment at all, and is one of the better warm moments.

Y’know what’s been lacking in this series thus far? Sub-space, which makes its glorious return when Iczer-1 arrives to the orbit and gets challenged by Iczer-2 straight away. While the two fight, Queen Fuji makes approach towards Neos Gold’s defences. They manage to break through the defence parameters with difficulties, and I doubt I need to mention who sacrifices herself to make that happen. That’s what evil clones turned good are for.

Iczer-1 is well handled overall with her fight. When she becomes focused again, it’s clear that the difference that existed between her and Iczer-2 in the end of the original OVA is still there. She avoids, parries and moves from Iczer-2’s attacks and showcases her compassion, and ultimately, refuses to kill Iczer-2 again. If the animation quality was higher end here, this would be a crowning moment.

Why am I getting Rayearth vibes?
Why am I getting Rayearth vibes?

Neos Gold comes out with her upgraded body, and Iczer-3 just can’t touch her. The final battle starts with Iczer-1 and 3 fighting against her while Queen Fuji just sits there doing nothing. Just as Neos is going to kill the smallest Iczer, Iczer-2 steps in to save her and changes her sides. This shot also releases Iczerion, which allows the summoning of Iczer Robo once more. However, Neos can’t be killed here as she is using Earth itself to resurrect her form, a thing she does to spite Iczer-1 further.

So what to do? Combine all the Iczers’ power lift her from Earth and the blow the Neos to pieces with that combined power. Despite that, wounded Neos tries to escape, but Iczer-3 just uses her Iczer Bomb to tackle her body to bits.

Too bad the final death looks something like out of Sailor Moon
Too bad the final death looks something like out of Sailor Moon

Earth is saved and Iczers are going to return to space to destroy all the evil Big Gold has spread across space. Except, y’know, the entity known as Big Gold is part of Iczer-1, but that’s just one of the retcons. While Iczer-1 and 3 return to Cthulhu, Iczer-2 goes on her own path. Her story is yet to be told.

With this watch, I reassessed what sort of show Izcer-3 is. It doesn’t have the charm or the atmosphere of the original, nor even the characterisation outside key scenes. Nagisa Kasumi is the granddaughter of the original Nagisa, but she couldn’t have those memories from her granny due to how the original OVA ended. There are little retcons like this in Adventure! Iczer-3. It also overstays its welcome just a bit too long at times, but it keeps things more cohesive and together than its predecessor. This is a guess, but it would seem like Icer-3 was supposed to be a TV-show originally, as Hirano had some troubles to get other Iczer related TV-shows off the ground, namely Iczer-4. You can check Rayerth‘s 2nd season for some of the designs he was going to use, and Nova is essentially just a refurbished Iczer-4. She even uses the same swords made out of light.

Fight!! Iczer-1 was something with an attitude, whereas Adventure! Iczer-3 lacks anything that would make it stand out. It established what a mainstream Iczer series would be like, but a mainstream Iczer series wouldn’t work because it would lack the edge. Someone described Iczer-1 as an OVA that was about horrific invading aliens and space lesbians. It’s not too far from the truth.

Iczer-3 is a fun watch, much more entertaining than what I want it to give credit for, and it’s a feel good series even if the Earth is completely fucked in the end. It’s not exactly what I’d call a successor due to how different it is, but maybe it didn’t really need to be. Deep Space 9 was a step away from the spirit of the original Star Trek and TNG, and that wasn’t a bad thin in itself, and I tend to view Iczer-3 the same way. I may not prefer it over the original OVA, but I am glad it exists to entertain those who like more than I.

Both OVAs appeared in Super Robot Wars L, and the way they handled the two series was simple; they were alternative universes to each other, which negated any problems between the two products. Honestly, that’s what I tend to think too.

Adventure! Iczer-3 wasn’t the last animated Iczer piece, however.

cassette drama iczer-3There was also an audio drama for Iczer-3, but that’s a whole another can-o-worms in another continuity. Maybe I’ll open this up a bit when the Fight!! Iczer-1 BD releases


Iczer Girl 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 overstay 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.


Fight!! Iczer-1 DVD-BD image quality comparison

Looking at how well recent OVA BD remasters have gone through, Megazone 23 being absolutely beautiful, it was more or less just the question of time when Fight!! Iczer-1 would see its conversion. There were some fears about upscales, but gladly what we got is the definitive version of the series.

This is pretty much just a gallery post. The versions used here are Media Blasters’ Anime Works release from 2005 and the recent BD release. It would seem that whatever source Media Blasters’ is pretty bad, ranking below any of the Japanese Laserdisc releases. If we’re completely honest, the DVD is probably the worst release, on par with the VHS release. This remaster really something the series required, looking and sounding absolutely bomb. Whether or not it will see a Western release is an open question, but I would hope so. The Japanese release came with a memorial booklet and two CDs containing the series’ soundtrack.

I tried to match the frames as much as possible for direct comparison between the two releases available. Notable differences between the two is slightly corrected aspect ratio, corrected and stronger colours instead of washed out visuals, better clarity and numerous other little things. You can even see the scratches and smudges on the individual cells that just stack on top of each other. More information has been retained on-screen, and what looks like tracking errors on the top and bottom of the screen are completely non-existent in the BD. You can see that some of the DVD screenshots have what looks like black framing.

Click for larger versions, BD screenshots may take a moment to load.

If I were to review this release, it’d be Worth getting if you like it. Whether or not Adventure! Iczer-3 gets this sort of digital remaster is an open question, though I have to admit I’d like to see the whole series remastered. Even Rei Aran’s comics.

One thought on “Fight! Iczer-1 series celebration

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