Project A-ko (プロジェクトA子 Purojekuto Eeko?) is an animated movie that led to later releases set in the same series, and spinoff release as well. This parody series references a number of other works of anime from the 1970s and 1980s. The title itself is a reference to a Jackie Chan movie, Project A. Production of the first movie included several artists who would later go on to become popular in their own works, including Kia Asamiya and Atsuko Nakajima. Also noted is the western production of the soundtrack of the first movie, credited to Joey Carbone & Richie Zito. The English language version was produced and released by Central Park Media.
The plot revolves around Eiko (or, "A-ko") Magami, a red-haired teenage girl who just happens to be stronger and faster than anyone else alive. However, A-ko considers herself to be perfectly normal, and worries mostly about getting to school on time. Her best friend is Shiiko (or, "C-ko") Kotobuki, a bubbly, carefree, optimistic blonde. The two girls transfer to Graviton High School and catch the attention of Biko (or, "B-ko") Daitokuji, a brilliant but spoiled-rotten (and possibly psychotic) classmate with a knack for building mecha in no time flat.
B-ko develops an unexpected crush on the innocent C-ko and is determined to get A-ko out of the picture at any cost. Her determination goes from being merely obsessive to homicidal when she realizes that she and A-ko were rivals back in kindergarten. B-ko creates a series of killer mecha to defeat A-ko before the morning bell rings. All of them are destroyed effortlessly by A-ko. In a final attempt at victory, B-ko makes the fight more personal by donning her infamous "Akagiyama-23" battlesuit and challenging A-ko to a duel, devastating the school and much of Graviton City in the process.
Meanwhile, Earth is being threatened by a massive spaceship piloted by a race of female aliens from the Lepton Kingdom of Alpha-Cygni, who have come to Earth to retrieve their long-lost princess; oddly enough, the princess turns out to be none other than C-ko. A battle ensues, but the military defenses of Graviton City are no match for the Alpha-Cygnians and are quickly squelched. Amidst the chaos caused by both the invasion and the A-ko/B-ko fight, C-ko is kidnapped by an alien operative known as "D" and taken aboard the spaceship, where she is placed under custody of the ship's alcoholic Captain Napolipolita.
A-ko and B-ko agree to put aside their differences long enough to rescue C-ko. Using the flight capabilities of the Akagiyama-23, they storm the ship. Once C-ko is located, however, B-ko reneges on their truce and begins attacking A-ko again, damaging the ship's navigation system in the process. The ship flies out of control and begins to disintegrate over Graviton City. The main control deck, with A-ko and Company still inside, crashlands right into Graviton High.
A-ko awakens at home the next morning, where, in the kitchen, it is revealed that her parents are none other than Superman and Wonder Woman. She is escorted by C-ko to school, where they see the remains of the alien spaceship balanced precariously on the military command skyscraper downtown in the distance; they pass a disheveled "D" and Captain along the way. B-ko appears at the school gates, ready to challenge A-ko to yet another fight, when the screen cuts to black.
- A-ko (A子?) (Eiko Magami (摩神 英子 Magami Eiko?))
- A-ko, a red-haired girl who seems to be near invulnerable with magical superhuman speed and strength, is the heroine of the series and lives in Graviton City, Japan. A-ko is usually very friendly, cheerful, and polite and always tries to lead a normal life despite her unusual lineage. However, she does have a fiery temper and is very dangerous when angered. She has a large appetite and a tendency to oversleep on school days. Her constant friend is C-ko Kotobuki, whom she has known since kindergarten. Although A-ko can sometimes be frustrated with her, she truly loves C-ko.
- A-ko's powers are kept in check by the distinctive armbands that she always wears. Without them, her strength is uncontrollable, and she destroys nearly anything she touches (and even things that she doesn't touch).
- In A-ko the Vs. Battle 2: Blue Side, a scene shows that A-ko might have successfully graduated from Graviton High School and assumed a fairly normal position as a secretary in a Japanese Corporation. Her adult destiny is somewhat murky because by that time, the focus of the series had shifted to her alternate-universe self.
- The OAVs "A-Ko the Vs." focus primarily on the exploits of parallel versions of A-ko and B-ko. The two of them are a team of bounty hunters in a galactic civilisation, currently staying on a desert planet and hunting tortoise-like alien monsters when the OAVs open. Though still super strong, A-ko does not have the antagonistic relationship her mainstream counterpart has with B-ko (in fact, she refers to B-ko as being her best and only friend in Grey Side), nor does she share her counterpart's deep affection for C-ko, considering her an annoying and obnoxious brat and being far nastier to her when she first appears than B-ko.
- B-ko (B子?) (Biko Daitokuji (大徳寺 美子 Daitokuji Biko?))
- B-ko Daitokuji is well-known in Graviton High as the daughter of a local industrial tycoon. She is thoroughly spoiled, arrogant, and dismissive of her fellow students. She has no friends, although she employs Ine, Uma, Asa, and Mari as paid subordinates. B-ko is a mechanical genius who can construct or repair virtually anything in extremely brief periods of time. Her obsession with C-ko has obvious undertones of an unrequited and obsessive lesbian love, but she seems to actually be bisexual, given she also develops a powerful crush on Kei Yuki.
- Although seemingly very calm and poised in public and always deferring to her teachers' authority, B-ko has a tremendous temper, which flares up whenever she doesn't get what she wants. Her desire to obtain C-ko's affection from A-ko develops from regular obsession to all-consuming megalomania, and she proves that she is capable of doing anything, even attempted murder, to achieve her goals. Her unhinged rants reveal that despite her superiority complex, she is actually rather insecure and troubled.
- B-ko's ultimate technological triumph is her Akagiyama-23 battlesuit, which — despite its skimpiness — gives her strength and speed on par with the superhuman A-ko. It also allows her to fly and has a variety of heavy weaponry, ranging from missiles to an energy whip. She tends to wear the Akagiyama beneath her normal clothing much of the time, so that she is never caught unprepared for a battle.
- Apart from her technological knowledge, B-ko also appears to have a keen mind for literature and is shown to be able to memorize and quote Japanese poetry with little effort.
- B-ko's alternate dimension counterpart is part of a team of bounty hunters with A-ko. While she often manipulates and takes advantage of her teammate, leading to the two arguing, their relationship is overly friendly and the two are quite loyal to each other. She shares her counterpart's intelligence and aptitude for mecha, but does not have her Akagiyama-23 battlesuit. Like her mainstream counterpart, she forms a close attachment to C-ko, in contrast to her version of A-ko, who mockingly hints that B-ko has a lolita complex.
- C-ko (Shiiko Kotobuki (寿 詩子 Kotobuki Shiiko?))
- C-ko Kotobuki is A-ko's best friend and has depended on her since they met in kindergarten. C-ko can be considered quite childlike. She is described as cute and innocent, tends to be hyperactive, and, in the Japanese version, frequently refers to herself in the third person. C-ko can often be sensitive and immature, and because of this, she has a tendency to cry. Sometimes she can also be selfish and possessive, particularly in regards to A-ko, though whether this is because of unvoiced romantic interest in her friend is unknown. Nevertheless, she is generally a nice, caring, and trusting person, especially towards her friend A-ko, and she usually means well.
- In the first installment of the series, C-ko is revealed to be the Fourth Princess of the Fifth Queen of the Lepton Kingdom of Alpha Cygni, an all-female race of extraterrestrial aliens. She crash-landed on Earth when she was an infant, and the Lepton Kingdom has been searching fervently for her ever since. However, C-ko is fairly uninterested in her unearthly ancestry and wants nothing more than to remain on Earth with A-ko.
- C-ko enjoys cooking, but the food that she prepares is largely inedible and often contains ingredients not meant for human consumption.
- In episode three and four of the main series, we see her having trouble sleeping, usually falling off of the bed after tossing and turning. From episode one to episode three, where we see her face flattened against a toy shop window, indicating that she loves looking at dolls. From episode one and four, we learn she is an avid moviegoer, usually taking A-ko along with her to watch.
- The Vs. version of C-ko is identical to her mainstream counterpart in personality, but is only ten years old and the sole daughter and heir to an incredibly wealthy man.
- Captain Napolipolita
- Napolipolita is a captain in the Alpha Cygnan space navy, who has spent the last sixteen years searching the universe for C-ko. Although she first appears to be a man, it is later revealed that the Alpha Cygnans are an all-female race, some of which resemble males. Although Napolipolita cuts a fine figure, always impeccably dressed with a dramatically-swirling cloak and wraparound sunglasses, her facade quickly shatters when danger arises. During the long sojourn in space, she has become completely addicted to alcohol and unravels when she is unable to get a drink.
- After the events of the first movie, Napolipolita is stranded on Earth, seemingly doomed to never return home to the Lepton Kingdom. She rebuilds her grounded spaceship into a 30,000 room hotel catering to Earthling tastes, giving a brave face to the human population. However, she is miserable and longs only to return home.
- In the final A-ko movie, she misses her only chance to return to her home planet. This was because she stopped to get drunk on the way to the Graviton City High School for Girls, site of the Alpha Cygnan's landing.
- D (Operative DC138621-S113)
- As a spy for the Lepton Kingdom, D has been stationed on earth for a long while, searching for signs of their missing princess. Her long exile comes to fruition when she encounters A-ko and C-ko racing to school one morning. She continues to stalk the pair, despite suffering massive (but accidental) bodily harm whenever they meet.
- Like the Captain, D is in fact a woman, but appears very masculine to Earthling eyes. This confusion is cleared up at the end of the first movie, when she dons a very scant uniform to battle A-ko.
- Although D does try to kill A-ko, she remains fervently loyal to C-ko, even going so far as to sample C-ko's toxic cooking out of respect. However, her main goal is to get C-ko back to the Lepton Kingdom, whether she wants to return or not. During the series, we see her sticking close to Napolipolita, indicating they are close friends as well as fellow soldiers.
- Miss Ayumi (亜弓先生 Ayumi-sensei?)
- Miss Ayumi is a teacher at Graviton High School who has A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko in her class at the same time. This means that she has the task of trying to get C-ko to learn while preventing A-ko and B-ko from murdering each other.
- Later, we learn that Miss Ayumi nurses a secret gloominess in her soul. Her parents are both dead, and she worries that she will never fall in love. This leads to her fateful decision to accept an arranged marriage with Kei.
- Miss Ayumi is also a member of the Volunteer Defense Force, a loose-knit organization of do-gooders who defend the city when the authorities fail. When A-ko and B-ko's brawl sparks a citywide alert in "Cinderella Rhapsody," she immediately dons an outlandish superhero costume and rides a gravity-defying cycle into action. Her skimpy outfit was a holdover from the time when Project A-ko was going to be an adult series.
- Miss Ayumi is modeled after the lead character of the eponymous TV series Creamy Mami, one of several magical girl TV shows that came out during the 80s.
- Miss Ayumi's subject appears to be literature. She loves fireworks displays and is an avid swimmer.
- Hikaru Daitokuji
- B-ko's father, and a billionaire industrialist specializing in heavy machinery and military hardware. When the Alpha Cygnan ship crashlands on earth, he yearns to capture their alien super-technology and learn its secrets for himself. He uses his influence to convince the Japanese military that the hapless aliens are in fact malevolent invaders and engineers a dastardly attack on the helpless ship. When the military forces are repelled by A-ko and B-ko, he resorts to using experimental mecha that he purloined from his daughter, with disastrous consequences. In later chapters, his ambitions of conquest fade, and he pursues more mundane activities, such as playing matchmaker for Miss Ayumi during her proposed marriage with Kei.
- Hikaru and his daughter have an interesting relationship. Although they seemingly have a deep bond, they often find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield. Knowing that B-ko takes no prisoners when on a rampage, Hikaru has to respond with equally brutal force just to avoid being killed by her in one of her many fits of passion. Both father and daughter know their Japanese poetry well, as seen in episode four when they both quote from the same poem by Manyushu. He also has a fascination with Elvis Presley, as seen when he dons an Elvis-style Las Vegas jumpsuit for much of his battle with both his daughter and the Alpha Cygnans.
- It would appear that B-ko's father is based on Marvel Comics' Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man. He looks a bit like Tony, is a rich businessman, and helped B-ko design her powersuit (he even uses a copy of one himself). Others have claimed that he more closely resembles American super-tycoon Ted Turner.
- Mari, Ine, Asa, Ume
- These four girls are B-ko's only friends, although "employees" might be a better term. They spend most of their time doing whatever B-ko orders them to. This can range from reconnaissance work, to piloting B-ko's enormous war machines, to helping her stage commando raids against anyone who dares to cross her. They are apparently not paid well and gripe among themselves that they can only afford to eat ramen noodles most of the time.
- Ume is chubby and wears spectacles. Ine is skinny and buck-toothed. Asa is fairly normal-looking. Mari stands at least eight feet tall with tanned skin and an enormous musculature. She is an obvious parody of Kenshiro from the anime/manga series Fist of the North Star. She looks quite a bit like him, uses a similar fighting style, constantly tatters her clothing when flexing and has many of his mannerisms; however, her speaking voice is a normal female one.
Ume voiced by Megumi Hayashibara (Japanese)
- Kei Yuki
- Kei is a young scion of a wealthy Japanese family but seems to spend most of his time jetting around Graviton City on his motorcycle. He becomes infatutated with C-ko. Little does he know, both A-ko and B-ko are vying for his attention at the same time.
- Kei hardly ever speaks and has an intense fondness for Coke. In the fourth movie, his parents arrange for him to be married to Miss Ayumi, though he remains enraptured with C-ko.
- In the alternate universe series, a brief scene in which Kei pursues a relationship with both A-ko and B-ko, possibly at the same time, is shown, though this is not certain, as the focus of the story shifts back to the Vs. A-ko and B-ko.
- Gail is the leader of a small cell of galactic space pirates in the alternate universe. He is very distinctive-looking, having light blue skin, white hair, and a rather elaborate outfit. He is apparently from a non-human race and has the ability to fire energy blasts from his hands capable of killing others.
- Gail is a sad soul who considers the universe to be an inherently evil place. His faith in life was shattered at a young age. He grew up as an orphan in a church, where a beautiful young nun became his surrogate mother. However, Gail killed her when he found her breaking her vows and sleeping with a man.
- Gail's ultimate goal is to resurrect the long-dead sorceress Xena, who in turn can resurrect a legendary dragon-god, which can annihilate every universe currently in existence. Gail believes that this will give birth to a new, pure universe free of evil. However, he is mistaken in this, as Xena turns out to be more insidious than he suspects. His obsession with purifying the universe slightly relents when he begins to fall in love with B-ko, although this proves to be his downfall when B-ko chooses the life of her friend over the prospect of his love.
- Commander Maruten
- The diminutive Maruten ("ball-head" in Japanese, likely a pun on the English word "Martian") is a galaxy police officer who is assigned to pursue Gail and thwart his plans. He possesses the unusual power to bring people back to life who have recently been killed. Maruten is a self-described "nice guy" who bemoans the fact that girls tend to fall for "bad boys" such as Gail.
- Grash is one of Gail's space pirates. Although a hardened outlaw, he is fairly level-headed and seems to have no interest in cruelty for its own sake—unlike his partner, Liza.
- Liza Chichi
- Liza is Grash's partner-in-crime and is the definite muscle of their operation. An advanced human, she has enough strength and speed to battle A-ko to a stalemate. She has a fierce temper and takes delight in physically dominating others. However, she does have a surprisingly sensitive ego and is devastated when C-ko refers to her as "granny." Her oversexed appearance—-stretch pants, teased hair, and enormous cleavage—-probably contributes to C-ko's misconception about her age.
- Xena is a legendary sorceress who has been dead for hundreds of years. Since her death, the facts of her life have been obscured and she is revered by many people in the universe as a potential savior. Xena's greatest power is her ability to summon a great dragon-god which is capable of destroying not only her universe, but all universes in existence. The tragic truth is that Xena is a psychotic despot and intends only to use her powers to rule others. Xena is briefly returned to life when she inhabits C-ko's body for a short time, but she is defeated by C-ko herself.
Project A-ko was initially planned to be part of the Cream Lemon series of hentai OVAs, but during the production of the series, it was decided to make it into a more mainstream title. The only sequence animated during its Cream Lemon days left in the revised production is B-ko's private bath scene. In a nod to Project A-ko's origins as a Cream Lemon episode, the owner and several working girls from the brothel in the Cream Lemon episode "Pop Chaser" can be seen in one of the classrooms A-ko and B-ko crash through during a fight sequence in the film.
Director Katsuhiko Nishijima took on this project because he was missing some teeth at the time and needed the funding from this film to buy new ones.
Video release in North America
- After releasing Project A-ko on DVD in its original widescreen video format, Central Park Media later released a "Collector's Series" version, which features remastered video and coloring, a large number of A-ko related extras, commentary and interviews by many of the Project A-ko staff, and a free Project A-ko soundtrack CD.
- Central Park Media has released the other Project A-ko OVAs in two DVD collections: Project A-ko: Love and Robots (which contains the OVAs Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group, Cinderella Rhapsody, and Final) and Project A-ko: Uncivil Wars (which contains both the Grey Side and Blue Side of A-ko the Vs).
- In Japan, "-ko" was a common suffix for girl's names, like Hanako, Rumiko, and Yuriko. "Ko" means "child". So A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko literally mean Child-A, Child-B and Child-C. This is a common way to reference extra characters in Japanese contemporary drama. While "A-ko" can be indicative of the common name "Eiko", the central joke behind the names is that the main characters of the series are actually just extras.
- Project A-ko at the Internet Movie Database
- Project A-Ko (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Project A-ko reviews from multiple sites at Meta Anime Review
- Graviton High Project A-ko fansite
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