Parodies are something that can go right or wrong in any medium, especially animation. However, one of the strengths of animation is that, like in writing, you can go wild with the animation because one isn’t limited by a thing called “reality”.
Animators all around the world inject parody to varying degrees in their work: whether it be call-backs to popular or recognizable things, or entire works that are dedicated to this, they do it. Cartoon Network originals, Bugs Bunny, even Disney, are filled with this.
The Japanese animation industry (a.k.a. anime industry) is filled with this too; the medium is actually very notorious of making countless references and call-backs to things of world pop culture -from locally, but well-known-in-Japan anime series to worldwide phenomena like Star Wars and Aliens, nothing is safe from being parodied in anime.
One of the most critically-acclaimed parodies in Japan was a manga series called Prefectural Earth Defense Force, which was released in 1983 and ran for two years, for four volumes. It was a success, as it contained delicious art, delicious girls, well-illustrated action and genuinely-funny comedy. It also happened to parody a very popular special effects series called Ultra Seven, which made it even more accessible to audiences in Japan.
Back in 1986 (which seems to be a year of release of many popular and famour OVAs and films like Gall Force), an anime studio called Gallop made an OVA based on the manga. Although it is a one-shot OVA, it is by far one of the finest gems of its time and place of origin.
The OVA starts off with a bangin’ opening sequence…I don’t feel like describing. Just watch it.
Excellent shading, great animation, catchy theme. It seems like it’s gonna be a typical, fun sci fi action movie.
Well, it is in the “typical” where one is wrong.
It is not “typical” as there are no aliens, monsters, or any other typical enemy to confront. Rather, the elements are, in the end, much more mundane and down to Earth. The “bad guys” are just stooges, whose only aspect of “normalcy” is them wanting to rule the world, but that’s about it. Seeing them in the OVA makes you wonder if they’ll be actually able to do so.
The heroes themselves, while completely into their own parts, are really just kids playing around. And no, the robot is just for show. It does have, however: cyborgs, super-powers, cute and sexy girls, and a ballin’ soundtrack. It also has Shuichi Ikeda (Char Aznable, Brian J. Mason, Kessler) voicing the main bad guy, and is by far the best performance in the entire OVA.Now, Ikeda is one of the most famous, most profilic and best respected voice actors in the anime industry, right up there with Norio Wakamoto…no, actually, quite higher than Wakamoto, due to his role of Char Aznable in Mobile Suit Gundam. Pretty much every single role he does, whether major (Ulrich Kessler) or minor (Brian J. Mason), he nails them. He can play the gentleman or the ruthless, cold, calculating bastard. And something he excels at as well is comedy, one of the best, if not the, best example being his role as the captain of the alien ship in Project A-Ko, another highly popular product (in this case, a theatrical film) of the same year as Prefectural Earth Defense Force. Ikeda’s performance is charming and it is clear the actor is completely enjoying himself.
The only thing I can think of that is somewhat similar to this is the movie Help! with the Beatles. While watching it, I was reminded of it. I cannot explain why, mainly because Help! didn’t have any cyborgs, although thinking about it, the tone of both this OVA and the Beatles movie seems quite similar.
This OVA was, sadly, only released in the west until the mid-2000s, by A.D. Vision during its last years of existence. The DVD is pretty hard to find online, but it might be out there on the shelves of video stores. Either way, I recommend it. It is one of the true gems of its time.
Have you seen Prefectural Earth Defense Force? What do you think about it? Love it, hate it, indifferent at it?
Comment below, let me know.