Welcome to 2014, everybody! It’s a new year, which means that we’re soon going to be swimming in a sea of incredible new anime titles. Whether it’s Sword Art Online II, Space Dandy, or Sailor Moon, it looks like there will be something for everybody. Sailor Moon seems to be the current darling in the west, as fans young and old count the days until it hits the airwaves.
Though the excitement for the new Sailor Moon is at a fever pitch, one has to remember that Sailor Moon S began airing in 1994. That’s, quite literally, twenty years ago at this point! That said, though, 1994 was a fantastic year for anime in general. It was a year that gave birth to numerous classics that attract fans today. Because of this, we’ve gone through the list of shows from the year, to select five titles that would be welcome in any fan’s collection. We’ve tried to vary the list, so that it’s not dominated by the big boys. However, we still couldn’t resist putting in our favorites!
DNA² is a 12-episode TV series based on the manga by Masakazu Katsura (Video Girl Ai, Zetman). The series revolves around Junta, high school student with a severe allergy to the fairer sex. The right type of contact causes Junta to go into convulsions. His life is changed one day, though, when a mysterious woman appears before him. The woman, known as Karin, tells Junta a tale of her time, where the earth that is overpopulated to the extreme. The problem was traced back to the “mega playboys,” special individuals gifted with charisma and stamina that are responsible for hundreds of births each. Apparently, Junta’s awkwardness and aversion to females is but a temporary affliction, as he’s destined to become the first mega-playboy to roam the earth.
…I never said these shows were Shakespeare.
Anyway, Karin’s traveled back to scramble Junta’s DNA to ensure he never becomes the Mega Playboy. Doing so would, assuming that she doesn’t disappear in a time paradox, allow her to collect a truly incredible bounty. One that would let her live the easy live, attract a gorgeous husband, and buy a sweet home. To do so, she pulls out her trusty Glock and fires a special bullet into the lad. Unfortunately, Karin used the wrong bullet, and instead brought out the Mega Playboy a few years early.
…Oops. Anyway, Karin needs to find a way to negate the powers of the Mega Playboy, while avoiding his charms herself!
On the surface, DNA² looks like the typical harem show. The trappings are there: Junta, as the mega playboy, amasses a stable of fawning female admirers. In typical harem comedy fashion, Junta can never seal the deal, as he reverts to his dorky form just before any hanky panky can occur. The plot is fairly straight-forward, and many of the twists and turns can be guessed a mile away.
Beneath that, though, DNA² is a charming, well-written show with a lovable cast. It’s a show that uses its sci-fi trappings to create an experience that’s quirky and unique. The humor is genuinely funny, and chemistry between characters is top notch. It’s a series that manages to be more than the sum of its parts, to create a truly fun and engaging experience.
Dirty Pair Flash
Dirty Pair Flash is an update to the 1980s sci-fi classic. The series was an attempt to introduce the Lovely Angels to the ’90s generation, with a new look and a new attitude. Unlike previous iterations, Kei and Yuri aren’t savvy agents, and the destruction that happens around them typically is their fault.
In the first OVA series, which made its debut in February 1994, Kei and Yuri are new agents that inherited the Lovely Angels codename from a pair of legendary agents that fell in the line of duty. Kei is a tomboyish girl who’d rather shoot first and ask questions later.. Yuri, on the other-hand is a fashion-forward lady whose mind is typically focusing on who she’s dating next, rather than the task at hand. The two mix like oil and water, and they’ve both faced countless reprimands and punishments from the WWWA. The two are thrust into their biggest case ever, when a dying man hands Yuri a mysterious card. Even worse, every lowlife in the city wants to get their hands on it! Unbeknownst to the two agents, that card will drag them into a crisis the likes of which the galaxy’s never seen. Ghosts of the past and crises of the now are unearthed, as Kei and Yuri face crazed corporate raiders, diabolical death machines, and the infamous assassin Lady Flair. Will the girls be able to patch their differences to carry out their mission? More important, can he universe withstand the warpath of the Dirty Pair?!
While Dirty Pair Flash was generally seen as a step down from its predecessors, it’s still a strong production that stands well on its own. The first OVA in particular strays greatly from the light-hearted antics that defined the franchise in previous years. However, by doing so, the characters are allowed to grow and evolve into something that, while slightly familiar, are endearing in their own right. The plot, while a bit on the simplistic side, does a good job in building tension, and selling the motivations of the antagonists, even in the constraints of a six-episode OVA. Ther action scenes are well-animated and incredibly fun to watch, while the occasional humor feels like a return to what made Dirty Pair so damn fun to watch to begin with.
You’re Under Arrest! (OVA)
While the You’re Under Arrest! TV series began airing in 1996, its first anime adaptation was a four-episode OVA that was released from September 1994 to November 1995. Actually, the plots of the first four episodes of the TV series actually mirrored those of the OVA series, to the point that AnimEigo used the OVAs in place of these episodes on their release of the TV series.
The series revolves around a pair of members of the Bokuto Police Traffice Division. Miyuki is a veteran of the force, whose sweet demeanor hides her inner gearhead. Natsumi is an impulsive newbie to the department, whose first day is made into a living hell when she’s busted for reckless moped driving by Miyuki. The day grows dimmer for Natsumi, when she realizes that the very girl that busted her is going to be her partner going forward! This odd couple will have to find some way to get along, as their duties seem to attract the most unusual miscreants. Together, the two will have to chase down a custom Mini that’s dead-set on breaking every regulation on the books, a yellow Lancia that’s been stolen for a joyride in at typhoon, and more while dealing with the craziness of life in the office!
You’re Under Arrest is one of the defining OVAs of the early ’90s in the west. It’s a show that, while firmly grounded in reality, is able to poke fun at the eccentricities and of the working world. The cast is simply fantastic, and well-written to the point that one could easily see his own co-workers in somebody like Ken Nakajima, or the adorkable Yoriko. The conversations they share and the jabs they lob each other flow naturally.
Phantom Quest Corp
Phantom Quest Corp is a four-episode horror comedy from Madhouse. The series stars Ayaka Kisaragi, owner and proprietor of a Shinjuku company that aids those in need of help with paranormal matters. Ayaka’s the latest in a long line of Japanese exorcists who, having grown bored with tradition, began the Phantom Quest Corp in her family home. Her arsenal includes countless spiritual weapons, including a lipstick case that converts to a spirit sword, spirit-bomb earrings. Each episode revolves around a particular supernatural menace that Ayaka is hired to face. Whether it’s vampires, or demonic doctors, Ayaka will take any challenge on… for the right price!
If this sounds familiar, it is. Phantom Quest Corp. borrows heavily from hit comedy series Ghost Sweeper Mikami. It was so similar, in fact, that Madhouse was successfully sued on copyright grounds, and forced to discontinue production of the OVA. The victory was awarded with good reason, though. Phantom Quest Corp is essentially GS Mikami, Lite Edition. Everything from the concept, to the characters, and even the episode plots feels like they were ripped from the pages of Reiko Mikami’s exploits, albeit with a less zany delivery.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the show does borrow heavily from Mikami, it’s still able to use the elements in its inspiration to create a truly fun series. Each of the four episode plots is well-written and well-delivered. The sense of humor generally works well, with clever jokes and pun-work that can elicit snickers and snerks when needed. The real highlight to the show, though, is the animation. The show, quite simply, is gorgeous, with attractive character designs and stellar animation. Action scenes are a joy to watch, with slick animation and truly sublime choreography.
Magic Knight Rayearth
Magic Knight Rayearth is a 52-episode shoujo-adventure series based by the manga series of the same name by CLAMP. The series focuses on three eight-grade girls, who are brought together by truly incredible circumstances. Hikaru Shidou, Umi Ryuzaki, and Fuu Hououji are students at three completely different schools, who are transported to the mystical land of Cephiro one day, when their classes are joined together at Tokyo Tower. There, They’re greeted by a mage named Clef, who explains that the girls were summoned to become the legendary Magic Knights. To do so, they must seek out the Rune Gods, who will lend their strength in the fight to save Cephiro. Clef grants the girls a set of armor and magical powers, but his introduction is cut short when henchmen of the nefarious Zagato arrive to destroy the girls. Clef is able to hold the forces off long enough for Hikaru, Umi and Fuu to escape, but he is lost in the battle. Now, alone in the world without a clue on where to go, the three girls soldier on. Their goal is clear, and they must find some way to make it happen, if they wish to return home.
Rayearth is a CLAMP classic. It’s a show that, when it was released, everybody seemed to know and love. The show’s first season is a fairly faithful adaptation of the original manga, and retains much of the charming quirk that the group is known for. The series, which begins as a light-hearted fantasy romp, quickly evolves into a commentary on growing up, and learning the ways of the world. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, are thrown into challenges that range from the typical fantasy battles, to manifestations of their deepest fears. Friends become enemies and vice versa, some characters fall in love, while others die. The issue of death isn’t handled lightly – the tone grows deathly somber on these occasions, as if to offer memoriam to the casualties of the war that the Magic Knights find themselves embroiled in. Speaking of the Magic Knights, the three leads grow and change through the series, to become some of the most likeable heroines in the anime world by the time the ending credits roll. It’s not a feel-good show, though. Rayearth’s ending is possibly one of the most gut-wrenching surprises to be sprung upon a viewer.