(Captain's log): Continuing yesterday's post about anime I've been watching recently:
Video Girl Ai
The Specs: Six episodes on one DVD
The concept: Youta is a high school boy who has his heart broken when the girl he loves (Moemi) confesses that she loves his best friend (Takashi), who says he is not interested in her. Youta walks home, crying, but he cries for her and not for himself. He finds a strange video store, and is given a special video tape. When he plays it, a girl comes on the screen and commiserates with him. She promises to help him, and then things get strange. She actually emerges out of the TV screen and lands unconscious on his bed.
Problem is that his videotape player was malfunctioning, and she's changed. For one thing, her boobs are smaller. For another, she's a bit bitchy and a bit crude. She explains that she is a "Video Girl" named Ai, and that she can stay with him until the tape stops running, in approximately 4 weeks.
Ai's job is to help Youta feel better, and perhaps to help him get the girl he wants. But she finds herself falling in love with him, despite the fact that Video Girls cannot fall in love.
General comments: This was an OVA (Original Video Animation, a series created for direct sales on DVD and VHS without being broadcast) and it was made in 1992. The art style is quite different from modern anime. It was based on a very successful manga published between 1990 and 1993, which eventually was collected in 15 volumes. Of those, 13½ were about the character Ai, and the rest were about two other video girls. The OVA is based on the first two volumes.
The good: I was impressed by the way the storyline developed. It didn't turn out anything like I expected it to. Three of the four main characters turned out to be much deeper and more complex than I thought they would be. (I ended up more than a bit contemptuous of the other one; damned if I know what Youta saw in her besides a pretty face and figure.)
The bad: The art style is unfamiliar, but that was OK. The problem was either that the transfer from film to DVD was handled badly, or the film had faded before the transfer. The colors tended to be washed out, and the brightness level and contrast were poor in most of the series. It seems as if it should have looked better than it actually did.
My friend Bill explained to me that the animators hoped they'd be permitted to do more episodes.
The ending: Which is why the ending is completely ambiguous. It's extremely dramatic; I'll give them that. It's also a total surprise, which I obviously don't want to ruin. And it does resolve one major and important question quite conclusively, both for the characters and for the audience.
The problem is the other question. The narration at the end implies the answer is "no". But the visuals playing under the closing credits strongly suggest the answer is actually "yes". So in that sense it's a bit frustrating.
The judgment: I don't consider that to have detracted from my enjoyment of the series. It's a nice look back in time, and it's a very interesting story which does not follow well-worn paths.
The Specs: 24 episodes on 6 DVDs
The concept: "Persocomms", personal computers in android form, have become cheap and plentiful. A hick moves to the big city and sees them everywhere, and by a fluke acquires one of his own, which he names "Chi". He also experiences the way that persocomms changed human social patterns more than any invention since the automobile. What will be the effect on human society if any man and woman can buy Pygmalion's dream for less than $5000, and if most of them do so?
General comments: The series protagonist is Hideki, 18, who grew up on his parents' farm. He wants to attend university in Tokyo but fails the entry exam, so he moves to the city anyway and attends classes at a prep school in hopes of passing the exams the next year.
Hideki is the "man from mars". The series shows us a society which is fundamentally different than our own, and we learn about it as he learns about it.
Persocomms are everywhere, and he wants one, too. But though they are not really all that expensive, they're well beyond the reach of an impoverished would-be college student like Hideki. But when he walks home one night, he notices (well, eventually) a deactivated persocomm in a trashpile, apparently discarded by its previous owner.
He picks it up and carries it home, and eventually figures out how to activate it. "It" is in the shape of a girl with long blonde hair, and he's more than a bit stunned when she starts moving on her own and crawls towards him (nude, I might mention) and peers at his face. But he becomes captivated when she suddenly looks very happy, leaps on him and hugs him enthusiastically.