A-Ko has superhuman strength for some reason. One day, she transfers to Graviton High School with her long-time friend C-Ko, who is whiny and can’t cook. Once there, C-Ko catches the eye of B-Ko, who desperately want to make C-Ko her friend. B-Ko then challenges A-Ko to a series of increasingly violent fights, until aliens invade and interrupt everything.
Project A-Ko is a parody movie. The plot, such as it is, exists merely to move from one parody to the other. As a result, it feels a little disjointed and repetitive. A-Ko wakes up late, runs down a spy named ‘D,’ and fights B-Ko outside the school four or five times; but the running gags are effective, and there’s enough escalation and variation in each repetition to keep your interest.
The characters are no deeper than the plot. An interview with the producer, Yuji Moriyama, said that the characters were based on blood type fortune telling (similar to horoscopes here, it is believed that a person’s blood type can indicate their disposition) and that’s about as far as they’re developed. But again, this isn’t a plot movie, it’s a parody movie, and the characters, such as they are, are suitable tools.
The movie was made in 1986, and the titles it parodies are from that time. Fist of the North Star, Star Wars, Macross, and Captain Herlock are the most notable reference; but the whole things is a survey of 80s anime cliches, from school girls, to robot suits, super powers, implied lesbianism, alien princesses, and occasional nudity.
Project A-Ko was one of the title responsible for creating the anime fan market in North America. it came out around the same time as VHS, and was subtitled illegally by fans in America and passed around. It was soon available on every college campus in the country.
I think the fact that it was a parody is what led to its success here. It was a collection of everything that made anime unique from anything America was producing at the time. The people here wouldn’t know what was being parodied, but they appreciated it on another level, as a collection of weirdness from another country.
Project A-Ko was one of the first anime titles to be released in America, by CPM (actually, Robert Woodhead, the president of Animeigo said that he was offered the title as their first license, but passed on it in favor of Madox-1).
Parodies are products of their time, the things they reference are forgotten. I first bought Project A-Ko on subtitled VHS nearly two decades ago, so I have a nostalgic connection to it; but I’m not sure how it would play to today’s audience. But if you’re a fan of 80’s anime and its conventions, Project A-Ko is a great reminder of what made them fun.
It’s long been rumored that the original masters for Project A-Ko were lost; Eastern Star used a laserdisc as a source for its release, and digitally remastered it. The colors are more vibrant than CPM’s old DVD, but there’ still a lack of sharpness. Ironically, many of the older titles, like Fist of the North Star, and Macross that are parodied in the movie look better on their respective DVDs.
There’s a large number of extras. Interviews, behind the scenes, a commentary track, music videos, etc.
I would be hesitant to recommend this to random people on the street; but for fans of Project A-Ko, or of this vintage of anime, this is a fine presentation of the film.