This Week: Wild Cardz
The box cover may say “From the Director of New Cutey Honey!,” but I think it’d be funnier if it said “From the Producers of Vampire Hunter D!”
Wild Cardz (JaJa Uma! Quartet)
I want you to take a nice bath in that title. Breathe in that “z” at the end. Let those extreme 1990’s emotions flow through you.
I can’t really blame those at Central Park Media and anyone else involved in the titling process either way, given that the original title is on the more insulting side of the spectrum, “jaja uma” being a term that while it may literally mean “restive horse” does also see colloquial use akin to how English speakers may use a word like “shrew” when referring to a woman. William Shakespeare might be able to get away with it, but we’re nowhere close to his level of penmanship here and it’s not exactly how you want to position your little two episode anime OVA.
So this is one of those productions that gives us an all female crime fighting team lineup with special powers and the roughest of surrounding themes to tie them all together. In this case, we have the Card Kingdom and its special forces protectors of the Crown Knights, where each of the girls is themed and named after a suite from a normal pack of playing cards. They fight a villainous man of some sort named Red Lobster at the start, which serves as our team introductions part, but otherwise the rest of this is dedicated to them fighting off giant automated chess pieces rampaging across the plains and making a beeline for the Card Kingdom. We even have a suave eloquently voiced male guy in a mask that maybe one of the team members rather fancies.
On the plus side, the general design and animation itself is better than it should be. The colors are bright and pretty well coordinated to not be garish with so much activity flying around, and characters reliably stay on model. It helps that everyone has a rather “elastic” feel to them, where they can snap from exaggerated expressions to normality to super deformed arm waving shenanigans and still look like no corners were being outrageously cut. It’s surprisingly courteous in that respect, and double surprisingly there is actually very little in the way of the kind of fanservice one may expect from a borderline idol fighting style OVA like this.
Outside of one shot from behind where a character has their clothes destroyed in the finale, it feels more like it wants to be a pilot for a simple enough action comedy television show. The theme itself, with playing cards and board game pieces, probably could have been interesting enough as a morning kids show in that respect, right down to things like police cars retaining that more comedic ladybug style ovular shape over anything more realistic.
Where it falls apart is that this is the sort of “pilot” that acts more like an arc from several episodes into a series. Characters exist, such as our primary villainous ones, and they have a working knowledge of each other and the heroines, and they seem to have a history but we do not know from where or how. It doesn’t help that a large chunk of the dialogue consists lots of action phrases shouted by the leading ladies, so we don’t even really get much characterization from them either. They are just sort of going through the motions, Action Happens, battles are had, and we are fighting ninjas on chess pieces with explosive trick shot playing cards.
One of the antagonist characters in this piece, Chee Chuu Kai, is a Chinese stereotype with a really harsh voice on the English track. Which is to say, that rather particular variety of dialogue where they yell in short broken sentences with exaggerated behavior, with a rather nasally performance to boot. Our primary heroine of the Crown Knights has a series of exchanges with him where they retort things like “Me Drive!,” “Me Beat You Up!,” and “Listen you eggroll!” It’s clearly all trying to be played for outrageous slapstick effect, but I did certainly perk up a few times during those arguments were I basically went “Did they really just say that?”
The even stranger thing about this OVA is one of the English voice actresses was Apollo Smile. As in “The Live Action Anime Girl” of ‘90’s science fiction and anime convention circuit fame where she would wear spandex suits, perform martial arts, and sing her own songs. The Sci-Fi Channel (back when it was still called that) had her as a host for a full blown Anime Week broadcasting event once, back in 1998. Wild Cardz is probably the best actual anime performance she has, as her other two are from Voltage Fighters: Gowcaizer and Battle Arena Toshinden. She was Ulala in the Space Channel 5 games Sega put out though, so that is easily the biggest voice acting role of hers I’m most familiar with.
Even more curiously interesting, is that as far as I have been able to glean from coverage and writing of Wild Cardz elsewhere, it may well be the first simultaneous same day home video release of an anime production in both Japan and the United States. This seems to definitely be the case on the DVD front, though things are a bit murkier on the VHS side. It may fully hold true there are well, as it does seem to be the kind of thing was really wanted to position itself to have a whole larger series made out of it and it did have the Apollo Smile connection. I merely have fewer resources at my disposal for that level of obscure fact checking on a little release like this for this random internet writing thing I do.
The two episodes of Wild Cardz are largely forgettable with some above average production work for what level of content they really had to work with here. I only watched it because of the little weird trivia factoids I knew about it over the years. With Space Dandy airing soon with its English language simuldub release, the historical novelty of this was a bit too much for me to put off any longer. But I’d only watch it if things like this scratch some oddball trivia niche of yours.
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.