Del Power X
Truly anime, as a media, has some strange experiences to share. And this example definitely counts as one of them. Cute schoolgirl, wrestling mecha and a barrel of in-jokes (which of course I don't get) and some nice subtle humor. There's also lots of comments from the sub-titlers, which are quite entertaining. They also say it took them 7 years to locate the tape, and the title contains an `in memoriam' to a fan. It's a nice touch, so i'll reproduce the text here to work with their desires.
Dedicated to the memory of John Fong. In the 1980's John was one of the earliest collectors of anime in America and the one who excitedly dragged us into a room to see the latest thing he'd gotten ahold of....whether we wanted to or not. Del Power X was one of the titles that came to use after his sudden death from an aneurysm in 1989. John, if only there were a way to let you know....your enthusiasm will never be forgotten by your friends.
The movie opens with an attack helicopter flying through the skies of Tokyo. But, despite the armament it's not going to a fight, instead its making a delivery. And thus cute schoolgirl Manami gets a shock, and we get some fan-service, as a huge crate is dropped on the road outside her house. In doing so it manages to cause a young male student from the same school, who is riding his motorcycle to school, to come to a rather sudden stop. So, from manami's point of view some good comes of it. It also partly breaks open, revealing the arm of a mecha.
Yep, it seems that Manami's got a trademark `insane mecha designer' for a grandpa. And, lucky girl that she is, he's built his ultimate suit just for her. Although she also inherits an ongoing feud between her grandfather and one of his most twisted students. And that student, now the self proclaimed `number one mad scientist', with his various allies, intends to prove that his mecha is superior by trashing the `del power X' mecha. And he intends to do this regardless of who's wearing it.
It's certainly cute and watchable. And while it has some real strengths it's not quite `crazy' enough to make it as a simple comedy. Which makes it a sort of weird experience to watch. It also looks like it was meant to be a pilot (they advertise episode 2 during the show) but it doesn't seem to have worked as such.
On the positive side the characters are plenty cute, even though the story is relatively basic and the interaction quite simple. Still, there's some nice dialog and character animation. In addition a lot of visual jokes hidden in the background. I also assume there's many, many anime in-jokes and references. However given the age of this tape while I could sense that an in-joke was occurring much of the humor or relevance was sadly lost.
The most positive aspect of it, however, is the mecha humor. There's a long sequence where the two designers are running the mecha to Manami's school. And along the way they verbally spar, engage in minor competitions (such as vaulting cars) and generally terrify the normal drivers. It's quite novel and good fun, with jokes like stopping for gas or a cop telling off one mecha for not stopping in time for the red light. Likewise once we get to the mecha fight, which takes up the second half of the show, they do a wonderful job of having manami's mecha act in a very `female' way. She's not a trained fighter and the mecha copies all her movements. Thus every `feminine' animated trait and pose is applied to the mecha, and it's strangely effective.
The disadvantage is that the story is a touch too simple while the humor's pretty subtle and understated rather than an over the top laughfest. As such while the show is entertaining i'm not sure it's strong enough to be truly memorable. And while the mecha fighting is okay it's all done in a `wrestling' style, which is moderately entertaining, but not too impressive or exciting. I know that at some point, probably about this time, American pro-wrestling was very trendy in Japan and I suspect this design choice feeds off that interest. However it hasn't necessarily aged that well. Still, if you want to see wrestling mecha perhaps you'll hold a different opinion.
The animation is pretty old now, but it's actually quite well done. The color is quite subdued and the characters somewhat simplified but it actually looks quite good. And while the mecha are surprisingly detailed they still move quite well and have some nice action sequences, which is somewhat unusual. They still use various techniques, including semi-still frame and the nature of some of the wrestling moves, to reduce the amount of motion but it's done well and doesn't interfere with viewing. The voices are good fun but not particularly energetic and the music wasn't particularly remarkable.
Hm, not only isn't there one at my regular sources i'm not sure that one exists anywhere on the net. Clearly this is not a title that set the world on fire.