What Is It?
The Humanoid is a 47-minute OVA from Kaname Productions. The feature was directed by Shin’ichi Masaki and features Masao Nakajima. In the west, the title was released by Central Park Media under their U.S. Manga Corps label.
You know, like all great titles of the day.
Anyway, The Humanoid is a tale of political strife, space travel, and sexy Heavy Metal-inspired robots. So, basically, it’s Star Wars.1
The film is set on the distant planet of Lazeria, where humanity is at constant odds with an alien race known as the Megalosians. Megalosian Governor Proud wants to set things right among his kind. He plans to do so by bringing the princess of his people back to Lazeria so that the can ascend to the throne. Obviously, the good Governor expects a reward, because it’s not welfare if you’re not rich.
Anyway, Proud’s been spending unmatched sums of money to send crews to excavate the planet’s ruins in hopes of understanding the technology contained within. The ultimate goal, though, is to find the ruins of the Iksaon, an interstellar ship that crashed on the planet’s surface ages ago. With it, the Lazerians could bring their princess back in style (in addition to a few pony kegs and, since this is the ’80s, a ton of cocaine)
On the other side of the planet, the humans live under the guidance of Dr. Watson who, when not being humiliated and teased by a group of attractive young women, spends much of his time building shapely robots. His prized creation is the film’s titular Humanoid. Antoinette is basically a sexed-up version of Johnny Five from Short Circuit. Much like Johnny, she’s alive! She can think, learn, and feel!
And, because why not, a pair of supply ship pilots, Alan and Eric, are preparing to land on Laeria. Eric is engaged to Dr. Watson’s daughter, while Alan is married to his coffee addiction.
The three groups’ tales collide when Governor Proud sends his minions to retrieve the ruins of the Iczeon. While Eric and Alan are able to escape, thanks to Antoinette, Dr. Watson and his prodding female companions are captured. It turns out that Watson’s been protecting the one artifact that would activate the Iczeon, and it’s now up to Antoinette, Eric, and Alan to save them.
1: This is a joke. Please don’t kill me.
No, really. What the hell is it?
Honestly? After seeing the Humanoid about a dozen times over, I still don’t know!
Joking aside, The Humanoid follows the norm for ’80s OVAs. It’s self-contained, it’s decently animated, and it’s plot makes zero goddamn sense.
So, basically, it follows in the footsteps of Dallos, Birth: Between Two Worlds, and Amon Saga. Where many of these features had some distinguishing feature, like a famous character designer or composer, though, The Humanoid was directed by a person who would be doomed to Episode Director roles until 2001, and features music from the guy that did sound effects in Sword Art Online.
Not much of a confidence booster, is it?
The production values are craptacular, the coloring is sloppy, and the scenes seem to shift from light to dark at random. The dialogue is beyond terrible, and tends to veer into the realm of “stilted and campy” more often than not. To top things off, the character designs are hilariously awful. Alan, for example, is an African-American character who has a Lando Calrissian hairdo and a moustache that would make Lionel Ritchie blush.
For many years, The Humanoid was a mainstay in the tiny anime sections of rental shops like Blockbuster and Major Video, as well as local mom and pop outlets. The tape beamed with the radiance of the ’80s with its stark red and black cover contrasted with a glamour shot of Antoinette. And yet, as many fans of the age probably remember, it was the only anime title that would never get rented out.
Perhaps our own senses kicked in and told us to grab Dirty Pair, Slayers, or CLAMP School. Or, perhaps, the shining body of Antoinette seemed too old for our tastes. Whatever it was, we all dodged a collective bullet back then!
And you want me to watch this WHY?
There are two reasons to watch The Humanoid: The coffee dialogue and the climactic final scene.
The coffee dialogue is genuinely funny. At the most inopportune moments, characters start to wax philosophically about coffee. It’s often completely inopportune for the scene at hand, and highlights just how outlandish the OVA as a whole can be.
Thankfully, Central Park Media collected the more memorable of these snippets into a single bonus feature, to spare those who want the funny, but don’t want to tolerate the other 45 minutes of torture:
The film’s climax, on the other hand, is simply incredible. The five-minute scene is exactly what every viewer is waiting for from the moment Antoinette enters the scene. After a short, awkward bonding sequence with Eric, Antoinette finds herself completely enamored with the mulleted space jockey. So, when the malevolent Governor Proud kidnaps him, she knows she has one choice: She’s going to save her new guy-friend, or die trying, dammit!
And, to be frank, she does. She blazes into the scene, as “Power of Love”, a rockin‘ 1980s power ballad, blares through the audio. It’s short, but it’s oh so awesome!
When and how long should I screen this for?
Honestly, there’s no bad time to bring out The Humanoid. It’s a flick that’s just so off the wall, so oddball, that it will garner a great reaction. Whether it’s an early night warm up or a grand finale, the title just works.
As for how long, I’d suggest keeping the run time as limited as possible. Show the Coffee feature and a few extra coffee scenes, show the climax, and maybe show a few of the more awkward bits of dialogue, but don’t let the run time exceed 20 minutes. Any more, and the members of your audience will be bored out of their skulls.