This Week: Key the Metal Idol, Denpa Teki na Kanojo, Mysterious Girlfriend X: Mysterious Summer Festival, and Cybernetics Guardian.
Key the Metal Idol
A series I saw boxes of all the time in Suncoast Video’s and so forth during the late ‘90’s and up through the dissolution of all those mall video stores in my area. I heard nice things about it, but never checked it out; the boxes were always in stock, so it was something I always figured I’d be able to get around to later. I ran into the opening a few weeks back though and it just clicked so well with all my cybernetic / android / ’80’s loving sensibilities (despite it being a 90’s show), so I finally ensured it got into my living room safe and sound.
As someone with no nostalgic connection to it, I thought the animation and background paintings hold up extremely well. Most scenes occur at night or in dark spaces, which the cel animation really shines in with its rich gradients and shadows. It’s also a very interesting series to view nearly twenty years after it started, given the present existence of Vocaloids as modern “metal idols”, so it feels pertinent still in much of its subject matter.
It’s generally paced well for the most part, but I must say episode 14 grinds everything to a screeching halt. Episodes 14 and 15 are each 90+ minutes, and the former is entirely an exposition dump. While the data was unquestionably important, it took me out of the experience for a while. Episode 15 does pick everything back up to the pace of the other episodes though, which was a relief for the closer.
Denpa Teki na Kanojo
This is an OVA that very much understands its own running time.
There is extremely little extraneous content here regarding what it chooses to put on screen. It understands how to foreshadow and reveal information to the viewer in consecutive onion layers, rather than banking on a singular big reveal or two. The sound design helps guide the mood, as the musical background contains light piano and guitar tracks with deep drums (and is entirely delicious in its own right), but it does not become the mood. It knows when to have music on, and more importantly, it knows when to have it off. It understands how to be visceral without unintentionally glorifying.
The actual plots themselves risk dancing right off the edge with how close it gets to being too over the top or coincidental, in serious danger at points of shattering the audiences willing suspension of disbelief. But, as a narrative execution device, it manages to produce a very surprising amount of tension in the limited time it has and maintains an eye for scene timing and other production mechanics that I really found myself appreciating as I was watching it. This wouldn’t work as a TV show or as a film, and it knows it, and I enjoyed its frankness with that.
Mysterious Girlfriend X: Mysterious Summer Festival (Nazo no Kanojo X: Nazo no Natsu Matsuri)
Folks who sometimes read what I write here are probably aware I rather liked Mysterious Girlfriend X, and it’s likely handed me the biggest case of opinion whiplash of the last several years given how much I ruthlessly mocked it with friends before seeing it a few months ago. So I was more than happy to watch this OVA, while hoping it didn’t derail the previous formula.
I think this could be a reasonable little demo episode for folks who were intrigued by the show but put off by the drool concept in the franchise synopsis, as it’s very minimal here. It has many of the same elements that made me enjoy the TV show (great sound and art design, sense of hesitant tension, interactions between the leads that feel appropriately awkward while still moving forwards, Urabe’s excellent and unique voice actress, etc), and presents the “carnival/festival episode” as befits this series.
The fox spirits did concern me at least a little though, as this is a series that I feel worked for me because it very closely follows a well regarded fashion rule: You can have one completely off the wall crazy part of an outfit (like a wild dress shirt, or in this case, the drool), but everything else should be very anchored to hold it together and play it off seriously. I give it a pass because supernatural mischief and the magic and mysticism of the carnival is a big part of the cultural tradition, but I’d be concerned if more of that sort of thing popped up in a potential sequel series to the TV show (I haven’t read the manga to find out myself).
Koichi Ohata directed ‘80s and ‘90’s OVA’s like M.D. Geist and this piece of work are a guilty pleasure of mine to pop in every now and again. They’re the audio-visual equivalent of watching a kid violently play with action figures while yelling out disjointed lines over a cacophony of sound effects. You’re pretty sure there’s a grand story somewhere in the head of the one playing, but the outsider sure isn’t seeing any of that vision.
Characters have vague approximations of motivations and dialogue at best, transitions are wild, etc. This is one of those classic Dangerous Japanese Cartoons From The Back Of The Video Rental Store parents used to get so freaked out about, but to be honest it’s actually the tamest compared to his other works of the era like the aforementioned M.D. Geist, or especially Genocyber, so it generally lacks even on that front.
I put it in because the dub amuses me in that ultra-cheap late ‘80s / early ’90s fashion, and the main cyber-beast-demon-armor has a rich flowing mane with a point where over the top hair metal plays when he fights.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.