Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group (1987)

ProjectA-ko2_1Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group [プロジェクトA子2 大徳寺財閥の陰謀] (1987)

Starring Miki Ito, Emi Shinohara, Michie Tomizawa, Tessho Genda, Shuichi Ikeda, Asami Mukaidono, Daisuke Gori, Sayuri Ikemoto, Yoshitada Ohtsuka

Directed by Yuji Moriyama

 


With the success of Project A-ko, it should come as no surprise that a sequel was quickly put out. What is a bit surprising is that instead of a full theatrical film, all the sequels to Project A-ko were much shorter, direct-to-video releases. As a result, Project A-ko 2 suffers from a pretty big downgrade in quality. The animation is nowhere near as good, and the music lacks that memorable charm of the first film. This also adds up to some less satisfying action as well.

With Katsuhiko Nishijima stepping down as director, it might be tempting to blame Yuji Moriyama who took his place. I do think Nishijima did a better job; Moriyama tends to linger over the jokes a little too long, and he doesn’t have quite the flair for exciting action scenes. But Moriyama is certainly no stranger to the franchise. He was character designer, animation director, and one of three screenwriters for the first film, so he didn’t just pop up out of nowhere with no idea what to do.

ProjectA-ko2_2I don’t think this film is a bad one, though. In fact, I was laughing harder through this one than the first. Mostly that’s because I am less familiar with the sequels than the original, so I wasn’t anticipating as many of the jokes this time around. But it’s also because the humor is still spot on even if the pacing could have been better, and the jokes are the real reason to watch A-ko in the first place. So while I can’t say that Project A-ko 2 is as good a film as the original, it’s still pretty damn fun.

Perhaps its biggest weakness is the sluggish plot that lacks any sort of urgency. The story starts off three weeks after the first film, and not much has changed. A-ko is still running late and dragging C-ko through town at high velocity. B-ko still hatches ludicrous plans to win C-ko’s heart. C-ko still makes nausea-inducing lunches. D is still spying on them and getting run over in the process. It mixes up the actual events enough that they don’t feel stale, which is quite a feat really, but just rehashing the previous film isn’t enough to make the story compelling. Since the main conflict of the first film has been relegated to the status quo, there’s not much crisis to get invested in. And since everyone is also going on summer vacation, the film’s plot goes from slow to standing still.

ProjectA-ko2_4Fortunately, the film does introduce new elements and steer the story away from a simple retread. The aliens have remodeled their crashed spaceship into a shopping mall in order to make money to repair the ship, but this is still a pretty laid back dilemma. And since it’s all you get for the first half of the film, it’s a far less engrossing film than before. It takes half the film to get to the actual conflict, which is that a whole bunch of government agents from all over the world want to sneak aboard the crashed alien space ship to steal its technology.

This is where B-ko’s father shows up, and he actually has a real name! It’s Hikari Daitokuji though the subtitles mistakenly call him Teru Daitokuji, which made it a real bitch trying to find him in the film’s credits. (By the way, the alien captain finally gets a name, too: Napolipolita!) Mr. Daitokuji is unsurprisingly the owner of the Daitokuji financial group, and his plot is to fund and supply a military takeover of the alien ship, so finally the movie can get started.

ProjectA-ko2_5A lot of the film’s fun comes from B-ko’s dad, who is even more flamboyantly maniacal than B-ko. I can’t say that he holds up the film all by himself, because there are a lot of other great characters doing their jobs as comedic foils admirably, but as the only new character and being such a stand-out personality he sure as hell is the most memorable.

The other thing to mention here is the action at the end of the film. It’s nowhere near the focus of the film the way it was in the original, and it shows. There are a few brief moments where it shines, but for the most part it doesn’t have that epic level of excitement that the first film did. But since it isn’t the main focus it’s not that disappointing either. It’s mostly there as a framework for more humor, and as such it functions just fine.

So while there are things to gripe about in Project A-ko 2, they don’t get in the way of what really matters to the film. In the end, it’s still A-ko with all of the irreverent silliness and facial contortions that made it so entertaining in the first place. It’s still well worth checking out for fans of comedy anime.

If you want to track it down on video in North America, you may need to look for it in Project A-ko: Love & Robots, which is a collection of the second, third, and fourth A-ko films in one package.

 

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