Agent Aika

aika post

Agent Aika opens with a leisurely tour of the waters that are now covering Saitama. This Japanese city—along with 95% of the world’s land—was submerged after a worldwide disaster twenty years ago. Salvaging work to recover valuable goods and data from these abandoned areas has become a booming profession.

An attractive fighter and submarine pilot, Aika Sumeragi, and her spunky megane partner, Rion Aida, pursue salvaging work at the K2 Corporation that’s headed by Rion’s father, Gozo Aida. Rion is frustrated with her father’s overly generous business practices that have lost profits for the company. Through Aika’s intervention, they agree to a shady business proposition to collect data on a new energy source being developed called Lagu. Unbeknownst to them, Rudolf and Neena Hagen, siblings who were contracted by the military to research Lagu, also have a vested interest in this energy source, and they’re willing to kill to obtain it for themselves.

The fanservice, which—let’s be honest—is the whole point of this series, is brash by the more restrained standards of modern anime. I often see people today complaining about small bits of service that pale in comparison to what this series defiantly shovels into your face. Gratuity aside, I couldn’t help but appreciate the inventiveness of the choreography and shot compositions. The fight scenes are practically balletic in their staging, accented by service that isn’t confined to comedic or sexual situations. The camera itself turns the viewer into a voyeur, giving you a sleazy first-person view of the “action.”

The non-service cinematography was also done well. By episode five, the series starts to demonstrate an impressive play on perspective and depth of field as typically seen in live action crime thrillers.

For a series that likely started as an excuse to fill the screen with panty shots, the animation is surprisingly detailed. The characters are proportionally realistic, and, for an ecchi anime, the premise is appropriately simple. With the support of an eccentric array of characters, my interest was sustained outside of the service.

Agent Aika was clearly a labor of love, something that the creators believed in, and wanted to see for themselves. Many of the people producing anime nowadays—and media internationally in general—don’t seem to have this kind of passion. They simply paint by the numbers laid forth by focus groups, steering clear of anything that could be considered too weird, offensive, or unprofitable. Agent Aika on the other hand didn’t give a damn. It did what it wanted to do, how it wanted to do it, and it did it with style.

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Robot on the Road

tumblr_nvkw4ni72M1r3rdh2o1_1280Hiroyuki Okiura, the director and master animator responsible for some of the most beautiful and hyper realistic scenes in anime, has apparently turned to the dark side. After working on such classics like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, and Paprika, Okiura has written and directed what could be arguably classified as an ecchi anime.

With the exception of Bakemonogatari, Prison School, and a handful of other titles, ecchi anime are often produced with tight budgets, have average or below average art and animation, and their stories are rarely good enough to warrant a rating over a 6. While the story in Robot on the Road is about a low 7, the art and animation are exceptional, and are the main redeeming value of this 10 minute short.

Character designs are crisp and clean, similar to those used in A Letter to Momo, which was also written and directed by Okiura. Moreover, as is the case with much of Okiura’s work, the art and animation quality is often so good that it looks rotoscoped. When the female protagonist gestures quickly or jumps, not a motion in her hair or breasts is overlooked. When the camera cuts to a close-up of her underwear, every detail is drawn out for maximum awkwardness.

The fanservice and gags are propelled by the antics of a perverted, cowboy hat wearing robot. The female protagonist spots him hitchhiking on the side of the road, and she picks him up because—hey, why not? Very little that follow makes much sense outside of ecchi comedy logic, but it’s probably not meant to since it is a comedy afterall.

You can watch Robot on the Road on animatorexpo.com. An option for English subtitles is available on the page. NSFW: contains nudity.