The first movie in the series, Project A-ko is most definitely the best. The pacing, plot, characters, music, humor and action blend perfectly to make an enjoyable and memorable anime experience. Basically a spoof of other genres of anime, the movie is nonetheless enjoyable by a newcomer to anime. The visual humor works on many levels, from the obvious slapstick, to the parody of various styles to the subtle and hidden references and in-jokes. One can enjoy this movie on face value as a raucous romp with a serious streak of weirdness, or with an inspecting eye, looking to pick out any concealed gems of mirth.
A-ko is a teenage schoolgirl, best friends with C-ko. The two have transferred to a new school, and the movie begins on the morning of their first day there. All is normal this morning, as A-ko has overslept, C-ko greets her at her door, and a frantic rush at supersonic speeds up the hill, through trees and into living rooms takes place. Normal? This IS normal for Graviton City, the girl’s hometown.
The viewer is exposed to one fantastic event after another – A-ko’s super-human speed and strength, B-ko’s phenomenal engineering ability, C-ko’s incessant wailing and toxic cooking – and is expected to accept them as “normal”! This is the way of this movie, and unless you plan to knot your mind in trying to define it rationally and logically, it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride.
And what a ride it is! When the girls are introduced to their new classmates, one of the girls in the class, B-ko, becomes immediately infatuated with C-ko. B-ko is the spoiled but brilliant daughter of a very wealthy businessman and she is used to getting her way. When she learns that she has encountered A-ko and C-ko before, an old grudge resurfaces and she challenges A-ko to a fight. B-ko is no match for A-ko’s super powers, and B-ko is humiliated. Not about to be out done B-ko creates bigger and more powerful robots to battle A-ko. When these prove failures, B-ko makes the fight a lot more personal.
While this is going on, a mind-bendingly huge alien spaceship heads towards earth looking for their lost princess. Their spy has been watching A-ko and C-ko closely, and been suffering greatly in the process. When the invading alien forces and the duelling A-ko and B-ko meet, destruction of biblical proportions ensues and the chaos is unparalleled.
This movie may seem a little odd to the uninitiated, but if you are able to put all expectations aside and just enjoy the show for what it is, it will be a very rewarding experience. Repeated viewings are absolutely necessary to fully appreciate the humour (as will occasional use of the pause button!), and a broad knowledge of anime helps, but isn’t necessary.
I thoroughly recommend Project A-ko to the seasoned anime fan and as a perfect introduction to the anime newcomer. It is a wonderfully twisted movie with an enduring appeal.