Project A-ko: Perfect Edition Blu-ray – Review

I’m here to answer three questions that hang over this release. Is AI Project worth watching for newcomers? If you’ve seen it before, is this edition worth it? Finally, what are the special features that make this the “perfect edition”?

For the uninitiated, AI Project is a 1986 anime film that was very successful in Japan and groundbreaking for the American market. This is not a quaint retro media piece; was formative for early fans of the English language, as one early anime fan was able to (legally) make a tape. It was initially released as a direct-to-video release as part of the Lemon cream erotic series, but the producers must have seen its potential for wider appeal, and it was reworked as a conventional title with a bit of racy content. However, in general, AI Project is a sci-fi comedy filled with impressive action sets, mechanical designs, and physical humor that surprisingly still holds up 30 years later.

The premise of the film is pretty straightforward: super-powered A-ko lives in Graviton City, a place in the near future that has seen a surge in technological development after recovering from a meteorite impact. She and her childhood friend C-ko are new high school students and are always late for class. Crybaby C-ko immediately catches the eye of wealthy queen bee and part-time inventor B-ko, who makes it her mission to defeat A-ko and claim B-ko for her own. In the background, an alien ship approaches Graviton City in search of its missing princess.

Much of the film’s charm stems from its commitment to the bit. If that means five slightly different sequences of A-ko running through a neighborhood and bumping into alien spy D, so be it. Will he ever lose to B-ko in their rapidly escalating matchups? Probably not, but the director Katsuhiko Nishijima (who was only 24 at the time) and the rest of the animation team know how to defy viewer expectations. A build up to a fight is just as likely to end in a quick leg sweep as it is to turn into an all out brawl.

If I had to criticize the queer-charged narrative, it’s that the pacing can be a bit all over the place. There are a few moments where it feels like the story drags on until it finally reaches its explosive climax, but AI Project run in the show. Just when the audience is inclined to groan at yet another “run to school before the bell” sequence, the film shifts with a different kind of fun. My other main complaint is that the joke revealing all aliens are female hasn’t aged well. It’s not malicious, but it does feel dated to a time when “manly women” (and all the baggage that went with them) were a common punch line.

Visually, this is the best. AI Project have you ever (and maybe ever) looked at. There is a great function in Crunchyroll by Paul Chapman that discusses the insane story of how discotheque released this remaster. The condensed version, as told to me by justin sevakisis that the team was manually remastering the film through a new process (mentioned in discotheque releases such as AstroRes) which was released to them from the UK. At the time, the original 35mm film was considered lost. As the restoration process progressed, Robert Woodheadthe founder and owner of AnimeEigo he would become the unsung hero of the launch. Through what was discovered to be a filing error, Woodhead found the original 35mm film elements of AI Project.

The results are fantastic. she had seen the CPM get rid of A-ko in the early years and I was lucky enough to be in the otakon watching last year. Watching it again at home, the cleanup job and color correction are stellar. From A-ko’s hair to giant spaceships, there’s a deeper richness to the tones that create a higher, more pleasurable experience. At the risk of sounding like I’m repeating my praise from discotheque‘s Memories release, it’s worth watching for the animation alone. But it’s the special features that really sell it.

AI ProjectThe unique story of extends to its musical score. The anime features three vocal tracks and a score composed and produced by joey carbone and richie zitto with performances by Anna Livingston, samantha newark, Valerie Stevensonand George Doering. There’s a great 30 minute documentary with Carbone, Zito, Livingston and Newark looking at how they came into the project and their specific places in music history. I’m not a fan of ’80s pop music, so consider how surprised I was to learn that in addition to some great tracks, the creators were very influential on mainstream music. Special features are full of interesting insights like this, whether it’s a behind-the-scenes documentary from the 1980s shot by a Japanese film crew in Los Angeles, or a quick replay of an abandoned CD-Rom game. These are features that are not only nice have but provide full context as to why AI Project has its place as a pivotal part of anime history.

AI Project it’s a good toy. Personally, I recommend watching it with friends over fried chicken for the perfect vibe. Throw it away when the world feels too much and let A-ko’s physical antics brighten up your bad day.