The A-Ko series is a pretty well known one. It all started with a single A.P.P.P film and spread into a whole slew of spin-offs. Including this OVA, which was produced by Studio Fantasia. That’s right, the studio that worked on Fire Emblem. This is a franchise I’ve known about for a long time, but have never watched anything related to. So, let’s take a look at A-Ko the Versus and see if I’ve been missing anything.
We open with a young heiress, C-ko, celebrating her 10th birthday. Unfortunately for her, the festivities don’t really get started as she’s kidnapped by a pair of ruffians. Because an incredibly wealthy man can’t afford enough security to stop two people. Meanwhile, A-ko & B-ko are running around a desert planet hunting giant sand turtles. Unbeknownst to them, the baddies are above, driving C-ko when their ship has plot-driven engine trouble. This results in C-ko falling out and, by sheer coincidence, falling on top of A-ko’s giant backpack. Thus bringing our heroines into conflict with the kidnappers.
The biggest issue with the series is B-ko’s spontaneous romance with the main antagonist. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this thing comes out of nowhere, contributes nothing of value and is really bloody stupid. The entire point of it seems to be to try and humanise him but it doesn’t work. At all. A big part of the issue is that this is a work that’s at its best when the characters are being over the top and goofy. It works when it’s embracing those more absurd elements and leaning towards a silver age comic aesthetic. Trying to have a bitter-sweet romance with dramatic elements just isn’t its forte and that’s very readily apparent.
Hat being said, the series is pretty enjoyable when it’s embracing its goofier elements. It’s not one of the most uproariously funny anime ever made but it can be quite good. A lot of the strongest moments come down to the dynamic betwixt A-ko & B-ko. These two have that type of relationship where they’re friends but neither will ever admit to it. So, they act insulting towards one another and the resulting back and forth is really funny.
The characters are pretty basic. A-ko is the strong, hot-headed one. B-ko is the smart, calculating one. C-ko is the silly child character. For the comedic bits, that works perfectly fine. They play off of one another well and there are plenty of possibilities to explore. The issue is that those more serious moments don’t work with characters that basic and under-developed. There’s also the antagonist who they try to play up as sympathetic but he never actually comes across as such. Honestly, they’d probably have been better off just going full evil for the evils, watch him be thwarted in a ludicrous fashion.
The artwork is pretty decidedly late 80s early 90s with all the usual hallmarks thereof. Motion line heavy action sequences, exaggerated comedic proportions and expressions, facial expressions that can be really awkward, recycled footage. It doesn’t look bad but it’s also not something you’re ever going to hold up as a visual triumph.
The OVA does have some strong actors. Our main trio are voiced by Itou Miki, Shinohara Emi & Tomizawa Michie. Yes, they were all also cast in Sailor Moon and two of them as major characters (Jupiter & Mars.) Their performances here aren’t on that level, but they’re still good. The music, by Kawai Kenji & Tanaka Kouhei, is pretty good as well.
There isn’t any, really. If you wanted to you could say A-ko & B-ko’s bickering is reminiscent of an old married couple, I guess. But I don’t think they ever came across as anything more than old friends who just interact largely through friendly spats.
A-ko the Versus is an OVA that’s a bit confused over what it wants to be. Which is a shame since it shines when it fully embraces the comedic aspects and just falls flat when it tries to be more subdued and serious. The result is that it isn’t as strong as it could have been if the writers had just committed. It’s still an okay piece but I can’t call it good. My final rating stands at a 6/10. Next week I’m looking at New Game.