Side A – The Ken Kubo plot
The OVA has two parts: 1982 which chronicles Kubo’s descent into the late ‘80s – early ‘90s anime fandom that was brewing in Japan back then, kinda more like an underground movement than what it had become today, inside and outside of Japan and 1985 which chronicled the start of GP to Giant X and into the distant future wherein Kubo and Tanaka finally made “Otakuland”, an 80s anime themed memorial ground/amusement park.
I liked how the setting is patterned after the dying days of the Showa era and into the Heisei era, the glory days of otaku culture in Japan. I also liked how references to real life events such as Comiket, the premiere of Nausicaa to even small details like Newtype magazine and Animage and cosplayers decked in Gundam, Macross, Kamen Rider, Star Wars, Lupin III, Dr. Slump (sadly no Dragon Ball as DB was seen as for normies in JP otaku circles).
Even not so subtle references to DAICON III and IV (anime shorts that GAINAX produced before working on The Wings of Honneamise) were used as examples when Tanaka showed Kubo the intricacies of animation by making him view tapes of DAICON III which had Anno, Yamaga, and Akai, the founding fathers of GAINAX.
Even the little details on the character’s outfits, such as the Amuro Ray inspired wardrobe for Kubo can make you laugh a bit if you’re into 70s and 80s anime like I am although some of them can be a bit lost to any other person who will watch this as the Eagle, Shark, Panther sequence, for instance, is a reference to Sun Vulcan’s transformation sequence and if you’re not into Super Sentai or tokusatsu in general, he or she won’t get the joke.
The art gives off traces of what GAINAX was post Gunbuster and what GAINAX will become once Nadia and Evangelion came into play as traces of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s trademark faces appear on this OVA even though he never worked on this OVA.
Kohei Tanaka’s soundtrack, while not that memorable, has some great pieces on it like that instrumental piece to Tatakae! Otaking reworked into some orchestral accompaniment with a bit of a Gundam 0079-esque opener to a scene where Kubo gives up job hunting and becomes a full blown otaku and the stuff that he composed during the underwater Otakuland segments.
While 1982’s story is grounded in reality, 1985’s is bordering on the absurd territory for me as the mere this is where Kubo and Tanaka became grandiose in their ambitions to be otakings and build Otakuland, weeaboos’ answer to Tokyo Disneyland and don’t even get me started on the ending.
While most of 1985 is still mostly grounded in reality, the ending to this whole love letter to otaku culture starts in the year 2035 wherein Tokyo sinks underwater due to some catastrophe (Third Impact, anyone?) and then Kubo and Tanaka, as old geezers, visit what was once Tokyo Otakuland and then they see the ghosts of their comrades as they fly into space in search of a planet to colonize and make it Otaku Planet.
First off, is this how Kubo and Tanaka died? Being the seniles that they are, they went inside an abandoned amusement park and relieved the past as the launch not-Gunbuster into space? If that’s the case, then that’s a sad way to end your life mate.
Second, how did the rest of the crew even came inside the ship? I mean they are obviously ghosts at this point but with the way GAINAX and Studio Fantasia showed it, they might as well be living bodies and they have found the secret to eternal youth as they retain their youthful bodies, either that or this is just the otakings’ minds playing tricks on them.
As much as soooo far out of this world the ending is, this is the one that stuck out the best in my memory because of the sheer absurdity of it. Bravo, GAINAX.
The animated part, in all of its early 90’s glory, is great. It may not have the all-star voice cast of Dragon Ball Z or the budget to pull of animation as great as those of Gundam 0083, which is also another OVA, but it gave us some great GAINAX artwork, memorable main characters, and even the absurd but satisfying way to end the series makes the animated portion a great experience even if the subtle downgrade of the plot from 1982 to 1985 doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment you’ll get from watching this.