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.