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Hades Project Zeorymer was a run-of-the-mill 80s OVA that faded from whatever prominence it had pretty quickly. With its tough dudes, attractively voluptuous ladies, and giant robots, it was indicative of the sex and violence often associated with titles of the period such as MD Geist and Baoh. That’s why I was surprised to learn that Zeorymer originally actually began in the (in)famous bishoujo/lolicon magazine Lemon People.

To be fair, from what I know of Lemon People, it was unlike a modern adult (18+) manga magazine in that it covered a variety of genres and tried to include plot beyond who’s having sex with who how many times (though don’t be mistaken in thinking it didn’t include that material at all). The Zeorymer manga appears to have been along that vein, utilizing a lolicon aesthetic (which was itself not quite the same as it is today) for its female character designs while having an overall sf/fantasy narrative. It’s not that uncommon in general for character designs to change when adapted from one form to another, but it’s funny to think about the fact that these two characters…

zeorymercouple

…used to look like this:

zeorymercouplemanga

I’m no expert on Zeorymer or Lemon People, so I can’t make any definitive statements, but I think that the change might say something about where the 80s OVA market was at the time, what the people making anime at the time thought would fly better among consumers, and where the limits were in that regard. Along that line of thought, I wonder if this is speaks towards a difference between a hardcore anime fan and a hardcore manga fan of the period, because it’s not just the girls who were drawn differently but characters of both genders.

In any case, enjoy how overpowered Zeorymer is in the Super Robot Wars games.

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.

When you look at the full title of the 1990s OVA Shishunki Bishoujo Gattai Robo Z-Mind: The Battling Days of the “Shitamachi” Virgins, which is a mouthful to say the least, you get a pretty good indication of what’s in store for the 6-episode OVA. Shishunki Bishoujo Gattai Robo” literally means “Beautiful Girls in Puberty Combining Robot,” so in other words, expect pretty teenage girls piloting a big beefy robot, that peanut butter-and-chocolate combination which is at this point something of a staple in anime. And if it isn’t clear that this OVA is targeting robot fans, then note that 1) the vast majority of the robot attacks reference other anime (“Z-Boomerang” and “Z-Tomahawk” for instance), and 2) they even managed to insert a small Reideen cameo of sorts, as shown below.

Z-Mind centers around three Japanese sisters, Ayame, Renge, and Sumire, who pilot a giant robot named Z-Mind created through collaboration between the Japanese and American militaries. Together, they the Orgapiens, aliens with advanced technology who all look like creepy oversized babies. As the main heroine and leader, Ayame differentiates herself from her younger sisters by having a yamato nadeshiko-esque quality to her in contrast to her sisters’ more Western looks and fashion sense, making Ayame a character somewhere in the vein of Shinguuji Sakura from Sakura Wars.

The girls all exhibit strength and courage, and are also responsible for beating back the monsters at the end of the day, but the overall flat characterization in the series means that there isn’t much to discuss about them, other than that the desire to make Ayame more of a traditional beauty than her feistier sisters may say something about the kind of face the series wanted. Ayame is pretty inoffensive in any direction, but she suffers from the same lack of depth as the anime she’s in. Even Ayame’s love interest, a mysterious man from the future in a stylish red jacket named Kouji, is just kind of there until their relationship decides to grow abruptly, so it’s hard to say how much it affects her character.

When I finished each episode of Z-Mind, I would find myself regarding it as decent, but when I asked myself if I wanted to keep watching immediately after, the answer was definitely “no.” While this may have something to do with the fact that each episode exists somewhat independent of the others, in the end there was nothing so thrilling or compelling that I had to see the girls of Z-Mind again as soon as possible.

If I were being a little harsher, I would call the series mediocre, and if I were being a little kinder, I would say that it had potential, but I think the best way to describe Z-Mind is to say that, had it been properly released back in the 1990s in the US, I think it would have been a big hit. It’s short, it’s pretty, and while it’s sparse on characterization and development, it has enough in those categories to spark the imaginations of fans hungry to explore a fantastic world, one which sparks their imaginations and makes them thirsty for possible areas to elaborate. In this sense, I feel it would have garnered a reputation similar to Bubblegum Crisis, though one advantage it has over Bubblegum Crisis is that it actually has a conclusion instead of ending abruptly on a self-contained episode.

For Z-Mind, the character types, art style, and and overall feel of the series all come across as very much a product of their time, and Ayame too is a naturally both a part and a result of that combination. As such, Ayame winds up being a girl full of admirable qualities, but hard to categorize as anything more than a basic outline of a strong, ideal girl. Her character, and her anime, exist as one stop along the path of female heroines in robot shows.

Lucky Star, last year’s anime phenomenon which transformed a small, quiet town into an otaku tourist attraction, returns with a ~40 minute OVA titled Lucky Star Original Visuals and Animation. Fans of Lucky Star, I probably don’t have to tell you to watch this, and non-fans of Lucky Star I’m not sure if I could convince you to watch it, but this OVA is different from the rest.

Lucky Star’s often incorrectly characterized as being otaku in-jokes and little else, and while this OVA is filled with references to anything and everything anime-related it isn’t limited by them. It’s Lucky Star to be certain, but I’d almost describe it as Shinbo-esque. There’s multiple stories contained within this single long episode. They vary in levels of absurdity, some bordering on the surreal, others more down-to-earth, and others pushing the viewer/creator boundary further as one expects Lucky Star would, but with a consistently high level of quality and creativity throughout.

See the world of Lucky Star through the eyes of a lazy dog!

See Kagami in her debut role as Tsunderella!

See Tsukasa…eat meat!

Unlike Zetsubou Sensei, where characters gradually became singularities of their own character designs, pushing the limits of being defined by one’s own basic traits, Lucky Star’s characters remain full of heart and just on the other side of parody, Shiraishi Minoru exception aside. As for Konata, she is by far the main attraction of the Lucky Star OVA with her positive attitude showing what an otaku can be if only he or she had the confidence to be an otaku in public, but the vast majority of the characters make a return. It’s also great hearing Kujira talk to herself constantly throughout the entire episode.

The success of Lucky Star is very evident in this OVA, as it’s clear that a lot of money and effort was put into it, even though you might not expect Lucky Star to need it. It’s really a step above, even by Kyoto Animation standards.

In closing, I hope Misao’s voice actor gets more roles in the future, and that’s not simply because Mizuhara Kaoru sounds incredibly similar to Mizuhashi Kaori.

The official Genshiken anime website has announced that they’re releasing the Genshiken OVAs (which introduced Ogiue to the anime) as a stand-alone box separate from the anime series Kujibiki <3 Unbalance for which they were originally OVAs. This is for the Japanese market. Whether or not America plans to release a stand-alone as well is unknown.

The R2 DVD Box will cost ¥6300 for 3 episodes, or approximately $62.00. It will come with an 8-page booklet, among other goods.

They are also re-releasing the 1st Genshiken series in a similar release.

Both will go on sale June 25th, 2008.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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