Project A-ko

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“Raises some interesting questions regarding the Japanese educational system.”

Project A-ko is one of those odd films that probably could only be done as anime, though as live-action goes, something like Kung Fu Hustle comes close. It centers on three schoolgirls, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko: the first two are rivals for the third’s attention…but despite the lesbian subtext, it’s really not that kind of story. [Though the film was originally intended to be part of the Cream Lemon series, which definitely are those kind of stories] No, it’s far more concerned with A-ko’s superpowers, to which she’s largely oblivious, the gadgetry cooked up by B-ko, thanks to her apparently limitless finances, and C-ko’s ancestry, which turns out to be not of this Earth – and that explains a lot, it has to be said.

This is as much parody as anything else, and what you get from it will, to some extend, depend on what you bring; for example, knowing that Mari, part of B-ko’s gang, is a pig-tailed dead-ringer for Ken from Fist of the North Star, with a squeaky voice. The rest is tongue-in-cheek SF, that revels in excess, particularly in the second-half. This is markedly less successful than the simple love-triangle, culminating in a marvellously destructive brawl between A-ko and B-ko, that starts off in school, then moves into the nearby city, where the pair end up facing an alien invasion. In the words of Monty Python, it’s just “too silly”, toppling over into ludicrous explosions for far too long, that proves rather less entertaining than the more understated irony from before.

The voice-acting (at least in the Japanese version; as usual, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the dub) is solid; B-ko is one of the most tremendously irritating characters you can imagine, but that’s entirely deliberate. Of particular note is the soundtrack, largely by American session musicians, Richie Zito and Joey Carbone, which thereby avoids the usual J-Pop cliches. Okay, largely by replacing them with American cliches, but the result is still pretty cool, in a Giorgio Moroder kinda way; hey, it was made in 1986. The result is solid, if entirely brainless, fun – and how can you not like a film which borrows its title from one of Jackie Chan’s best?

Dir: Katsuhiko Nishijima
Stars (voice): Miki Itoh, Michie Tomizawa, Emi Shinohara, Tessho Genada

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