What Is It?
AIKa R-16 is a three-episode prequel to the 1997 OVA Agent AIKa. Back in the VHS days, Agent AIKa gained a degree of notoriety for it sheer number of panty shots. Female characters were often clad in short, tight dresses, which meant that the white panties would show up often during fight scenes, action scenes, or even when the characters were just standing around doing jack shit. Agent AIKa wasn’t a show that would win awards for its writing, but it was still a fun, if campy action show.
In 2007, some marketing genius must have figured that the world needed another dose of Aika. Only she had to be younger. And less legal. And more naked.
I’ll let that sink in a bit.
AIKa R-16 is set many years before the original Agent Aika OVA. In it, the titular Aika Sumeragi is a 16-year-old high school student, who recently earned her Class C Salvager’s license. In plain English, this means that she can take on jobs excavating treasures from the ocean floor. Like any enterprising treasure huntress, Aika… puts up flyers saying she’ll work for hire. That’s right: she’s not going out to find the lost ruins of a lost civilization. She’s not aiming for the riches that lay under the sea. She’s basically creating a “lost and found” service.
Way to show some ambition, there.
That said, she quickly finds a client in the form of class president and Treasure Hunting Club founder Eri Shinkai. The job? To solve the mystery of a high school girl’s left tit. I kid you not. The job is to solve a mystery embedded in a butterfly insignia that’s tattooed on the left breast of Karen Minamino. For some strange reason.
Truly a masterwork of writing.
Anyway, the club sets out for adventure on Eri’s private yacht, with their advisor in tow. On their first night at sea, the group is attacked. Scantily clad warriors from an unknown group board the ship, and attempt to capture Karen. They are unsuccessful, but the invasion does bring up a number of questions: who exactly is Karen, why are these people after her, and what the hell is she doing with a butterfly tattoo on her chest?
No, really. What the hell is it?
To be blunt: AIKa R-16 is a prequel that nobody asked for. The original Agent AIKa was a cheesy, yet entertaining action series that never took itself seriously. There were copious panty shots, but that was just part and parcel of the show itself, which was so over-the-top that it was absurd. This was a show about a secret agent with a magic bustier that turned her into an amazon warrior, mind you. It was far from being good, let alone great. It embraced that, though, and managed to become somewhat fun and endearing.
With this in mind, AIKa R-16 is an OVA that was dead-set on doing being more extreme than its predecessor. Where AIKa had panties, R-16 has full-blown pubescent nudity. Where Agent AIKa had a female antagonist with a sadistic streak, R-16 wheeled out a full-blown dominatrix. Where Agent Aika… well.. you get the picture.
The result is an experience that tries so hard to be bigger, badder, and more extreme than its forebear, only to fail miserably. It’s a poorly paced, horrifically written show that has little of the character that made the original somewhat enjoyable. The unsettling and skeezy, especially since they make it painfully clear that the characters are no older than sixteen whenever possible. The action sequences are poorly scripted, with the general fight choreography ruined by some weird need to find ways to shove the female characters’ asses into the camera in every cut. Likewise, the humor is tropey, fluffy, and generally unfunny.
And you want me to watch this WHY?
AIKa R-16 is a great series for garnering reactions from the crowd. The combination of shameless fanservice and poor writing are the hallmark of a grade-F, bottom-of-the-barrel blunder. the sheer badness of the series ensures that there will be plenty fo jokes and jeers floating, especially if you, as the host, can warm the crowd up with some of your own cracks.
It’s a fun people study, as there is always at least one person in the crowd who will legitimately like the title for some reason, giving a unique flavor to the general jeering and groans that are generally elicited during a showing.
When and how long should I screen this for?
Aika R-16 is a fantastic title to open a night with. The sheer awfulness of the title is enough to set the general tone for an evening, and gives newcomers an idea of what they’re in for through the night.
Personally, I’d play a showing by ear. Keep an eye on the crowd to see how they’re reacting to the show. Some rooms can make it through an entire episode. Others, you’ll need to abort by the halfway point. It really depends on your audience and the tone of the evening to that point.