Sometimes, it really feels like Satoshi Urushihara’s designs were everywhere in the 1990s. Looking back, they weren’t, because his production history only shows a handful of titles that exhibit his distinctive look, but he still seemed to contribute an awful lot to that 90s “look” as we all remember it. Plastic Little, a 1994 OAV he directed with Kinji Yoshimoto may be his most famous — and it’s complete smut. Boring, yet incredibly well-produced smut.
If you’ve ever wondered what a sleazy, fanservice-focused OAV looks like when it has a decent budget and a co-director who was a key animator on Akira, the answer is pretty damn good. In fact, Plastic Little almost manages to trick you into thinking that you’re watching something worthwhile, until five minutes in when you’re slapped in the face with stupid anime storytelling and an extraneous bath scene.
Meet Tita, the 17-year-old captain of the Cha Cha Maru, a pet shop hunter ship (it’s never explained what this means). She’s lazy and really embarrassed about her smallish breasts! (Stop us if we’re going too fast for you.) The Cha Cha Maru’s crew is a motley assortment of uninteresting anime cliches who enjoy complaining about Tita, but don’t seem nearly as concerned as they should be when she drags home a quiet stranger who’s wanted by the military. Tita naturally chose to save this stranger, who we later find is named Elysse, for no real reason — but hey, we’ve got a get a plot started somehow, right? It turns out Elysse’s father was a military scientist who discovered his research was being used for evil, and following a couple of run-ins with soldiers, Tita decides the Cha Cha Maru should take on the military and make sure they can’t misuse Elysse’s father’s invention.
The whole thing really falls apart half way through, when characters start making choices devoid of any logic or reason, and we’re suddenly expected to care about characters that are about as deep as the acetate they’re animated on. But that’s okay, because this is just an excuse to show off some jugs, right? Well, aside from some excessive breast bouncing — ADV’s DVD release included a “Jiggle Counter” that counted 49 jiggles throughout the course of the 45 minute OAV (hey, if they’d kept coming up with innovative ideas like that, they might still be in business) — and a few extended bare-breast scenes in the bath and the infirmary, there actually isn’t a whole lot of smut to speak of. What little there is, though, is extremely well crafted. You can tell that Urushihara and the rest of the staff cared a lot more about the knockers than they did any other aspect of Plastic Little.
As bland and uninspired as it is, the most innovative part might be an underwater bloody nose gag. I’m sure that one fucking killed in video rooms across the U.S. during the ‘94-’95 con seasons.
Plastic Little is exceptionally well animated for a stupid, one-shot OAV, to the point where you’ll likely question why so much time, money and effort was wasted on such an uninspired piece of video. The characters don’t just have multiple levels of shading, they have gradient shading! The mechanical designs are intricately detailed, and the design work in general is interesting, if a bit unoriginal. There’s a brief scene of a ship flying that is so smooth it looks almost like CG, to the point where I had to rewind and rewatch it just to make sure that it wasn’t.
I would have liked to have seen more action, as much of the stellar animation is wasted on boring scenes. In fact, Plastic Little becomes so dull in the second half, I suspect it was green-lit based solely on a brief premise the staff realized they couldn’t deliver on late in production. There are hints of potential in the first few scenes, suggestions of an interesting sci-fi world that leaves you wanting a bit more explanation, but nothing is done with it, and the OAV probably doesn’t offer up as much fanservice as guys who buy videos for fanservice would like, either. And yet Plastic Little was somehow graced with those amazing production values. It’s that beautiful girl who you soon discover is about as shallow as a wading pool and nearly as exciting — a good analogy for any of the show’s female characters.
If Plastic Little deserves any sort of place in the history books (and I’m not necessarily saying that it does), it would be for the attention and effort poured into animating its breasts. That might be enough for Urushihara to hang his hat on, but twenty years later it isn’t enough.
This OVA is your typical product of the 80s: gorgeous production values tied together by someone who’s more of an artist than a storyteller (which is more than certainly Urushihara’s case). The problem with that, however, is that is was made on 1994, well into the so-called Lost Decade.
Satoshi Urushihara’s handwork has been one of my favorites ever since I got into this Japtoon business. Sean might say his boob-drawing talent isn’t enough to keep him afloat over to this day. Yet he is, to this day, the cover artist for that smut rag called Comic Tenma. His talent goes little beyond well-crafted T&A: Front Innocent, another OVA of his direction, proves that quite well.
To be honest with you -considering that Adobe didn’t affect his style as badly as some other artists- it’s irrelevant that he can’t write for shit. We can always use more of that art style and animation style these days, as long as he’s coupled to a competent writer.
PS: it is nice to see some real updates after all these months. Thanks, guys.
You didn’t mention that it is based on the same-titled comic drawn and co-written by Urushihara.
Anyway, what redeems Plastic Little is the shading. You won’t get such excellent animation anymore in today’s Japanese animation. That’s what counts.
Correction: The comic is the sequel of the cartoon.
In 1994 this sort of harsh criticism would be merited, but if something like Plastic Little came out today I’d almost see it as a voice from heaven. You’ve seen Queen’s Blade, right? Queen’s Blade makes Plastic Little look like Angel’s Egg.
As for why this bizarrely well animated OVA seems to exist in a total vacuum, they probably though it was generate enough sales to fund a second part, a third part, as needed, much like Bubblegum Crisis. It didn’t, possibly because it didn’t cost enough. I’m sure sales were good, but it premiered on American VHS for something like $30, and JP LD for, I think, 円6800. If they could have charged Giant Robo money maybe they could have kept it running longer and the story would have developed more. Just a theory.
I’m still waiting for the conclusion of Mighty Space Miners.
PS to SignOfZeta: I believing you.
But.. but.. I like the way Satoshi Urushihara draws boobs. :D Anyway I’ve never seen this one, but I have read some of it’s manga sequel. It’s not much better. Satoshi definitely uses his stories more for an excuse to draw boobs than anything else. Another would be Lemnear. The manga was awful. The OAV, however, was actually pretty good (minus the terrible audio and dubbing on the DVD). I think it was because the people doing the anime must have drawn some inspiration from the Heavy Metal movie. They even changed Lemnear’s outfit from blue to red.
This one really is bizzare, no doubt it looks great, but the story just…. jesus whats going on with it like.
Infact Im unsure how they managed to cram so much into 45 minutes. Taking into account that 15 minutes of it’s focused purely on breasts.
All in all, it’s a bit of a shame cus it looks like it could be good but nah avoid it.
Funny that SignofZeta should mention Queen’s Blade here, Urushihara did key animation on at least the first series, if not the second in the ED credits. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since I saw Front Innocent, and no amount of sameface and same boobs will sway me of swooning over his designs. There’s also a pretty dull OVA based off the Growlanser games, specifically IV, where of course our man main does his magic for the characters. If he does designs in an anime, I’m all on board no matter what it is. I wish the several of manga he worked on would get some OVAs, there’s all full of gratuitous nudity and useless clothing, his specialty.
Im a 90’s anime geek rediscovering the medium I love these retro reviews.
Id really like to see something on Mega Zone 23.
I just discovered Mega Zone in all its 80’s space-punk weirdness and brand fetishism but I’d love to read a more critical breakdown of the who why and what.