Terrible Winter 1988 VHS Cartoons: Salamander

While we here at Colony Drop recognize the year 1988 as one of the best years for anime, we’ll fully admit that it isn’t without its imperfections. As work continues behind the scenes here at Colony Drop HQ on our top-secret 1988 project, I’ll be taking a look at one of the bad anime titles from 1988.

Truth be told, I actually wasn’t too interested in Salamander, but I promised some of the guys in the Colony Drop IRC channel I would write up a post about it if they could find me a place to download the damned thing. It turns out it’s a rarer title, even with all the piracy options we find at our fingertips on the Internet. Unfortunately, the bastards managed to find it and so here I am.

The three-part Salamander OAV series was based on Konami’s side-scrolling shooting game of the same name (as well as their Gradius series), meaning this is the video game equivalent of all those OAV manga adaptions that flooded the market around the same time. I won’t pretend to have any knowledge of the games that I didn’t gather from glancing over their respective Wikipedia pages, and truth be told, from my limited play experience with them, I think both games are a bit crap.

Coincidentally, it’s easy to tell the Salamander OAV is crap just from watching the opening sequence. If you’ve seen more than a few OAVs from this era, you’ll know that no matter how terrible they were the creators usually went to the effort of making an exciting introduction. Not so in the case of Salamander, which features an opening sequence consisting entirely of one painting. That’s right, no budget-busting action sequences, no character portraits, nothing remotely interesting; just a slow pan over a still image of a dragon.

Also giving away the fact that this cartoon is rubbish is the fact that you’ll go at least fifteen minutes without seeing a proper spaceship. Nor do you see any shooting. Or monsters. Or anything at all vaguely related to the game this was based on, which happens to be a game about spaceships shooting monsters. In fact, judging from the first forty minutes of the first OAV, you could easily believe Salamander was a game about some jerks sitting around the court of some space king talking about stuff that you’re just not that interested in.

I’m kind of at a loss over this bizarre ratio of content, aptly described by a Colony Drop IRC channel member as being similar to hentai anime. It’s the same kind of setup: you’re forced to sit through lots of tedious crap to get to the pay off, except in the case of Salamander, the payoff is a boring fight that isn’t worth sitting through the previous 40 minutes of terrible cartoon for. This formula continues for all three episodes, which raises questions like: Who the hell was buying this, who approved a budget for THREE episodes and what the hell were they thinking?

It’s worth noting that the staff is completely unremarkable, save for the character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto. Unfortunately, the low budget of this OAV doesn’t do much for his designs and you’re really better off watching something like Macross: Do You Remember Love? anyways. Hisayuki Toriumi directs this three-part stinker, who you may remember from another Colony Drop favorite, Lily C.A.T.

I’m amazed I managed to write as much about Salamander as I have, as it’s such a completely unremarkable title. It’s terrible in the kind of way that won’t elicit a response from you, you’ll just sit there bored out of your mind. It’s not ridiculous enough to warrant watching it from the so-bad-it’s-good angle, and you won’t want to show clips of it to your friends for laughs. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming here, even for fans of the games, so there’s no excuse for anyone to watch this dreck. There was plenty of good science fiction action anime released in 1988, go watch those instead.


  1. Spooky. Three days ago I was like, “Man, here’s a listing for that Salamander OAV from’88 OAV. AWO or Colony Drop needs to get in on that and ELIMINATE DOWN”

    ..Not that I was expecting it to be any good, but does the show actually show the battle from the side like in the second-to-last screencap?

  2. So, where did you download it, if I may ask? I know you said not to, but hell, if I can watch 20 minutes of that Godawful Dragonball movie, an Awful OVA should be no problem….

  3. The best aspect of Salamander are the character designs by Mikimoto which as usual are stunning.

  4. They may look crappy today, but Salamander and the preceding Gradius games were all the rage back in the day – “the day” being the early 8-bit era.

    Since the games were all action and no story, perhaps the OAV intended to be some sort of “companion” work, presenting the world and people behind the fight? I wonder.

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