Obscure Anime: Project A-Ko

Project A-Ko is the Spinal Tap of anime; a feature-length sendup that is as reverent as it is cutting, which in the process somehow manages to create its very own genre.

Originally released in 1986, the film parodies some of anime’s most sacred cornerstones, from Macross to Fist Of The North Star, and the end result is a ludicrous, laugh-out-loud 84 minutes that attempts to squeeze as much entertainment as it can into its running time. The film was also notable for being among the first wave of landmark releases from the UK’s then-fledgeling Manga Video in the early 1990s.

Project A-Ko

The film uses one of anime’s most ubiquitous tropes, Japanese schoolgirls, as its foundation. The film’s two protagonists, A-ko Magami and C-ko Kotobuki are best friends who are transferred to an all-girls high school where they cross paths with the antagonistic, jealous B-Ko Daitokuji, who is determined to undo their friendship at all costs.

So far, so normal, only there are a few extra factors to take into account, namely that A-Ko has superhuman speed and strength and C-Ko is the unwitting princess of a race of aliens intent on invading the Earth so they can reclaim their monarch. Said invasion coincides, somewhat inconveniently, with a massive fist fight between A-Ko and B-Ko as they compete for C-Ko’s affections. Pandemonium promptly ensues.

Project A-Ko

Project A-Ko never lets logic or storytelling get in the way of spectacle, as exemplified by this clip in which C-Ko, confronted by a fellow pupil with a striking resemblance to the hero of a certain seminal martial arts manga and anime from the 1980s, mistakes aggressive body language for a riveting game of Rock Paper Scissors;

The film’s comedic moments are brilliant but what truly makes Project A-Ko stand out are its action sequences, which are some of the best and most over-the-top seen in the medium. One of the movie’s stand-out set pieces is the epic brawl between A-Ko and B-Ko, as the embittered rivals manage to destroy their high school while laying waste to each other;

The success of the film meant its makers could spin it out into a mini-franchise of sorts and three more films followed, along with a spin-off not connected to the original series continuity. Each has its moments and are worth checking out if you’re curious but none of them come close to the joyful chaos and invention of the 1986 original.

The film’s relatively short running time means it would be self-defeating to post too many clips from it here. As with so much anime these days, the entire thing is available to watch on the internet and an English-subtitled version with decent resolution can be found over at YouTube and we luckily managed to track it down for you:

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