OVA Week – Day 7: Dragon’s Heaven

Welcome to the final post for OVA Week.

There will be another OVA Week, perhaps next month – but so far, I’ve still got to find a few titles to include in the seven new reviews. At present, I’m hoping to feature suggestions of Getter Robo, Vampire Princess Miyu and Darkstalkers 🙂

Hope you’ve enjoyed this feature and if you have a suggestion, I’m still keen to hear ’em.


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Dragon’s Heaven (1988)

Two things about the Dragon’s Heaven OVA stand out most, I think – first being the live-action, scale-model opening, and the second being the Moebius-influenced style of manga artist Makoto Kobayashi, upon whose work this OVA is based.

As usual, I can’t discuss the quality of this anime as an adaptation, but the story is a straight-forward war story told very quickly, with a lot of action and attention paid to the robots.

What caught my eye most was definitely visual style, with the anime’s designs right after. That isn’t to say that the characters don’t work, but with only 20-odd minutes of animation, the time is mostly spent on scene-setting and battles. There are a few passages devoted to dialogue, ones that function beyond exposition, but for the most part I think Dragon’s Heaven excels at the visuals. (As many OVAs can).

Above, I do mention “battles” but they’re usually a little short – you could say that some are pretty much explosions because the ‘dragon’s fire’ that main characters Shaian and Ikuuru use is really mammoth stuff.

Speaking of Ikuuru, she reminded me of a more snarky Nausicaa in some ways, but like her partner, she doesn’t have a character arc or a whole lot of impact beyond the confines of the plot.

While the detail and care that has gone into the models at the beginning of the OVA is very clear, I don’t know if Dragon’s Heaven would have suffered without it. On the other hand, that’s part of what’s so fun about the era – creators seemed more able to just try stuff out.

And finally, it’s interesting to have a largely non-human cast, and both hero Shaian and villain Elmedain have designs that seem unlike a lot of other robot-focused anime, but I think you might be disappointed if you seek this OVA out hoping for a multi-faceted story.

Instead, I think it’s worth seeing at least once anyway – just for the art design and animation alone, and I definitely add this to my list of anime where I wish there had been more.

4 Stars

OVA Week – Day 6: Open the Door (Tobira wo Akete)

Day 6 already!

So, if you’re new to ‘OVA Week’ here at the heap, basically speaking, I’ve got some dot points on the OVA form itself, and then the review.

Hope you enjoy these and again, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Open the Door (Tobira wo Akete) 1986

In the past, portal fantasy/isekai anime didn’t always use video games as the medium or impetus for the main characters to leave their home world, and this time around it’s more of a summoning actually… a small fact that’s probably most important toward the end of the film. 

Open the Door is a full-length release but it doesn’t quite evoke the word ‘epic’, despite having the lead characters raise an army and despite including both a fair bit of travel and several battles. It’s not quite as ‘fun’ as an adventure-film either.

Nor is it full of angst, precisely.

It really has a tone that I’m struggling to describe. And I don’t want to suggest that the movie comes across as being so little of any one genre or mood that it actually ends up evoking none of them, either.

Nor do I want to say that things are rushed, though the anime could have been expanded into a short series with little trouble, I reckon.

What I do think Open the Door features is an interesting combination of sword & sorcery and a mix of shoujo/josei aspects, not limited to the leads being college students.

Here’s the premise from MAL:

In modern day Tokyo, three university students, Negishi Miyako (Neko-chan), Saiki Haruka, and Yamagishi Keiichiro, have magical powers that make them feel like outcasts. They come together one night and are transported to another world. They open a massive door and Neko finds that she is the Princess Neryulla, who must defeat the evil Duran III to free her people.

Having the main characters be university-aged seems like a hallmark of some older anime, and it was nice to see Neko operate in a pretty confident and competent manner, compared to her potentially being clumsy or merely a damsel, while at the same the story doesn’t show her as a rash hot-head either.

Especially welcome perhaps, considering how easily she takes to her new role of saviour in an unfamiliar world – or also how skillfully she deals with the advances of Saiki the ‘player’.

But before I get to some spoilers, I want to cover some dot-points:

  • Of the supporting cast, coming in closer to the ‘hot-head’ archetype is Dimida, who was definitely one of my favs
  • As was shapeshifter Keiichiro, who had a fun Wizard of Oz kinda design, too
  • I did enjoy the vague ‘He-Man’ feel to some designs of the supporting cast
  • Around the mid-point or so, there’s a reflection scene where Neko is smoking a cigarette in the fantasy world, and for me it worked really well to remind us that she’s from our world. Not a huge thing, just something effective that I liked
  • And finally, I have to mention that there is an actual pillow fight in this film – I reckon it’s meant to function as a ‘girls-bonding’ moment but it’s possibly just an excuse to animate feathers 😀

All right, time for a spoiler before I wrap up this review.

I mentioned the summoning aspect to Tobira wo Akete earlier, which is sort of how Neko and co all end up in the fantasy world.

This is revealed during the villain’s monologue, where the audience also learns the motivation for his action – and it’s basically boredom. Which just seems a little flat to me – I mean, “I was so bored that I tried to start a new war” doesn’t really impress 😀

More, it doesn’t make too much sense – for instance, if Duran was so hard-up for war and death, he could have gone around colonising other parts of his world, could have started plenty of conflicts at home, instead of spending 500 years searching for a physic girl from another world to use as a pawn.

… but all that aside, I still enjoyed this OVA/feature film and while the budget/animation isn’t on the scale or quality of a similar text (in terms of genre and era), like say Arion, it’s still above plenty of average TV series from the decade in terms of visuals.

Maybe not a gripping storyline, but the characters stood out enough for me to say I enjoyed it and most fantasy fans probably would too, along with fans of the era and overall 1980s aesthetic.

3.5 Stars

OVA Week – Day 5: Riding Bean

The week of OVA reviews is slowly winding down – but it isn’t over yet 😀

As with all previous posts, I’ve included a quick overview on the form itself, before posting the actual review.

Hope you enjoy these and as I mention each time, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Riding Bean (1989) is a direct precursor to Sonoda Kenichi’s Gunsmith Cats and that is clear in so many details, of course – from names to cars and themes etc, but the differences are probably more interesting.

Of course, there’s still loli crap present. It could be argued that Semmerling reveals the true depths of a villain’s depravity but part of me just doesn’t buy that motive on the part of the film – it feels like a cry for attention for being ‘out there’, especially within the context of the rest of the OVA.

Still, if you enjoyed Gunsmith Cats for the car chases and shooting, then Riding Bean will deliver.

Here’s a bit of the plot from Wikipedia:

The anime follows one day in the life of Bean Bandit and Rally Vincent, as they find that they have been framed for the kidnapping of Chelsea Grimwood, the daughter of Mr. Grimwood, President of the Grimwood Company.

The ‘case’ that Bean and blonde-Rally are trying to solve has a good share of twists and surprises, and a satisfyingly big (but over-the-top) finish. Bean’s car itself has more than a few surprises, so if you’ve never seen this OVA, keep an eye on the “souped-up custom-designed car ‘The Buff’ (based on a Ford RS-200)”.

One other thing that caught my eye was the hyperbolic cop, Lt. Percy, who functions as perhaps the perfect caricature/parody of an 80s action-hero cop… or, some real life police officers.

And it might not have been intended as a parody at all, which would be disappointing, in fact. (His wrecking-ball-approach to everything he does could be read as biting satire at the least).

Having said all that, I’m glad I’ve finally seen Riding Bean now but I don’t think it’s one of my favs and I prefer Gunsmith Cats overall.

3 Stars

OVA Week – Day 2: Scoopers

Onward – six days left of OVA reviews!

As before, I’m starting with a brief overview on the form itself, before jumping into the actual review and will follow this format for each of the seven posts.

Hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned a few posts back, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Scoopers (1987)

Monkey Punch obviously created more than his Lupin stories, though I think in works like Scoopers (or Cinderella Boy for another example), some similarities in design and tone are front-and-centre.

To an extent, there’s even a little of a cyberpunk-Lupin feel to this short film. Maybe even a touch of Jurassic Park – well, if only in terms of a key setting, perhaps. But I’m jumping around a bit, so here’s a brief note on the plot instead:

A plucky reporter and her android cameraman/bodyguard try to save the world from a madman with vast, vast technological resources. Simple enough, right? Again, not a problem for me.

Leads Yoko & Beat make a good pair and their adversary Mr X is certainly doing his best to be the ‘menacing gentleman’ type but for me, his wide variety of henchmen actually do better.

Admittedly, Mr X really does throw all kinds of stumbling blocks the way of the heroes, from helicopters, androids and hallucinations, Greek gods/mythical creatures and evil super computers too. And while a sense of fun holds everything together, I think the mix could easily irritate some viewers.

Not me however, but I will add that Yoko was, for all her toughness, prone to cries and shrieks a fair bit. It’s also unclear to my why Beat has been programmed to perform occasional acts of sexual harassment but here we are, I guess.

Is this OVA worth seeking out? Probably if you’re a big fan of Monkey Punch (or Lupin, I guess) or more likely, as I often seem to say, if you’re a fan of the era. Because it is 100% the 1980s from top to bottom!

Otherwise, Scoopers might not bring you a whole heap of enjoyment.

3 Stars

OVA Week – Day 1: Relic Armour Legaciam

Here we go – seven days of OVA reviews!

I thought I’d start with a brief overview on the form itself, before jumping into the actual review (and will probably follow this format for each of the seven posts).

Hope you enjoy these, and as I mentioned a while ago, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Relic Armour Legaciam (1987)

At the very end of this OVA I saw a message from the production company that was something like “see you again” and it made me a little sad. Because there was no ‘again’, at least not yet, and it’s been thirty-five years already.

And I absolutely would have watched another installment!

Relic Armour Legaciam actually ends on a really good story beat on the other hand. Even with only 50 minutes to tell the tale and set up the world and characters, the anime does the job. I was quickly invested in the team’s struggle to remain free, as the story soon slipped into the chase/hide portion of the plot.

At the same time, the bigger mysteries of the deadly heatwave and strange tower were set up nicely, with some back-story provided too. It was definitely enough to have me keen to learn more about the people involved with the first, seemingly disastrous expedition to the tower too.

Of course, antagonist Felmis has plans to stop the heroes, and after a pretty fun mech battle, Alcia and co are able to head for the tower… at which point the film finishes, sadly.

Before I finish, I want to add that I really liked the designs, especially of the Legaciam itself, and the Han Solo feel courtesy of Zeno was nice too. It was cool to hear voice acting that was rough and boisterous for the kids also, though I don’t know how I’d go with an entire film of them talking.

Does this stand out amongst the many, many OVAs out there?

Or even the many mecha OVAs from the 1980s? I doubt I could say, since I just haven’t seen enough of either. Probably your enjoyment (or lack of) this one will hinge upon your tolerance for unfinished stories* and classic anime.

3 Stars

*Typically one of my least favourite things… but not here, as it turns out.

OVA Week – Coming Soon

Soon (perhaps in the coming weeks) I want to do a week of posts just on OVAs.

This obviously means that the 1980s and 1990s will feature heavily, though I guess I could just as easily do ONAs too… but for now, at least, I’ll stick with those two decades.

I haven’t chosen each anime yet, but I’m trying to decide mostly between doing 5 days and 7 days – I might not have enough material for 7 posts 😀

Any predictions or suggestions for me while you wait?

Abandoned #14 (The Black Cauldron)

This is perhaps a tweak on my usual ‘abandoned’ post, as it’s a DNF for a rewatch.

A fair few years ago I saw this film and I went in with high expectations, but they were not met. Despite the title, the movie is not actually an adaptation of the second book of Prydian by Lloyd Alexander, but a watered-down combination of Book 1 and 2.

And while undergoing the Disneyfication process, the story also loses the sense of dread and struggle clear in the book.

The Black Cauldron (1985)

(It is however, quite interesting to see how Gurgi reminds me of Gollum, and also very specifically Gollum in the 2003 Jackson trilogy).

Anyway, a large part of what I didn’t enjoy back then and now, was not its failures as an adaptation, but that the story seemed to lack some of its own tension, perhaps adding to a feeling that the characters were somehow ‘flat’.

Not a film from any of Disney’s various peaks – but things still do look great, animation-wise.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989 [Collaboration with Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews]

it’s been a little while since I hosted a collaboration here, so I was really happy that Scott was up for working with me on Kiki’s Delivery Service – the famous Studio Ghibli adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s book (and top-grossing film in Japan for 1989).

If you’ve not had the chance to see this film, I hope we’re able to make you at the very least, curious enough to check it out!

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989

Ashley: Hey! Excited to start this collab, especially as it had definitely been a while since I’d seen Kiki’s Delivery Service and last time we worked together was on a mecha show, so this should be a fun contrast. 

How long has it been for you? I wondered if you noticed different things about the movie this time around?

Scott: Hey Ashley! I’m excited too. It’s been way too long since the last time and I think this one will be a fun one to discuss.

Honestly, it’s been way too long for me. Over a decade and half I think. Ever since my high school marching band days when we watched films on these nice buses that have tv screens that we could watch movies from. Kiki was a staple for that.

To be honest, I can’t say that I really noticed anything particularly different. The screen I watched it on was small and with the length of time, it’s like watching Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time.

How about you?

A: Cool, what a contrast from the bus tv and environment to a more controlled one at home 🙂

It’s been a few years for me and this time around I was reminded just how key Joe Hisaishi’s music is to the overall Studio Ghibli feel for me, how it really adds to the whimsy (or the drama in some of the flying scenes) but also the scene-setting. 

I had also forgotten that Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma and her voice (and characterization) is obviously quite different to Phil Hartman’s, whom I had become really accustomed to. It’s an interesting contrast, especially in terms of their respective personalities in the original vs the dub – Hartman’s Jiji has a fair bit of that classic Disney sidekick comic-relief that’s not present in the Japanese release. I definitely love his performance but it was fun to see another side to Jiji.

S: Oh yeah, I agree with that feeling. The big question I have is if Joe Hisaishi didn’t do the OST for it, is it really a Ghibli film? I mean probably, but it wouldn’t feel the same.

I feel like there are always some localization changes like that in English versions of Ghibli films. Like, Princess Mononoke had a prologue narration while the Japanese version didn’t or how Spirited Away had San say “oh, it’s a bathhouse”, because that’s not a thing in the United States. So I suppose that going with that choice made sense for this film for western audiences.

So this film. Kiki is quite a film isn’t it?

A: Yes! I love coming of age films and so Kiki… automatically ticks a lot of boxes for me. 

I also really like how much dramatic tension there is in seemingly small stakes, such as those that come from delivering items, retrieving items or making the switch with Jiji etc, which is contrasted with the emotional beats of her quest for acceptance, self-discovery and of course, the bigger, action-based stuff in the latter half of the film.

S: I love them too, honestly. A well done coming of age story are some of my favorite things. So relatable and can be applied to so many scenarios to keep it fresh and interesting.

As for digging into details, there are so many of them in the story that just add so much extra fluff into it for me too. So many good little bits of micro attention that just makes the film a lot better then the viewer would first expect. I feel like that coincides with Kiki establishing herself because every moment is a little bit of tension.

A: I feel the same with those small details, like the work on the pastries or the slow warming of Osono’s Husband toward Kiki, or the stunning backgrounds, especially when it comes to the buildings. I feel like it’d be easy to do a whole post just on the scenery 😀

If you had to pick a high point for that tension around Kiki’s growth, what would it be do you reckon?

S: Exactly and there are just so many little bits like that to make the world feel so organic. Just like the bus driver given the time to actually close the door because he drives off. So many small things like that which add up and make the experience just so grounded.

Oh, the moment of tension? I feel like its centered around Kiki’s relationship with Tombo hits a whole point. Probably where she questions her magic. Very much where all the tension in the staying in that city suddenly explodes. I could be wrong about that though…

A: Same again! In fact, the questioning of her magic always made me a bit sad. The crushing, somewhat comparatively dull adult world pushing its way in? 

Maybe that’s a little negative of me – Kiki certainly finds plenty of fulfillment doing things adults do as well. Her sense of purpose and confidence from her independence, which is earned through all those non-magical things.

S: Isn’t questioning her magic so relatable though? She’s a little too early in her own life to think that was though. Especially comparing herself to her mom. Maybe she is growing up too fast by doing the usual witch tradition.

Yeah, I think her finding out she doesn’t need her magic to be around people or just live is a good way to carry this story. I think that her magic coming back from that understanding feels completely natural because of it.

A: It really is, definitely – and it suits the overall uplifting tone of the film too, huh?

So before we finish, I wanted to ask what or whether anything didn’t work so well for you?

S: I feel boring in saying in saying that I don’t have much against it? In some cases I just felt a bit rushed at some times? Some scenes didn’t have as much room to breathe as they could? That’s about it for me.

I really don’t have much to say against it. What about you?

A: For me I thought I was going to say that the film was a touch long… and yet, is that even true? Do I even have any actual criticisms – I don’t think I do, either 😀

It really feels like the Studio Ghibli team firing on all cylinders, creating a really fantastic adaptation, and visually, nailing the match of theme to visuals, of character to expression etc. So I’m like you – loved it, can’t really find anything to complain about!

And finally, huge thanks to Scott for joining me for another collaboration 🙂

Goku Midnight Eye

As I’ve mentioned here ad nauseam by now, science-fiction, futuristic, cyberpunk stories tend to be among my favs and so I expected to enjoy Goku Midnight Eye. In the end, it’s not my fav cyberpunk release but it still has plenty of the things you’d want from the genre.

Goku Midnight Eye (1989)

So too, if what you want is that the cross-pollination between US cinema and anime, with an undertone of ‘action-movie-from-the-1980s’ clear in both episodes.

Episode one was probably my fav of the pair, probably due to it being an origin story where we see how Goku gets his magical eye, an eye that can hack into any computer in the world.

Almost a year later comes episode two, which features a somewhat overpowered Goku. He still faces threats, and while his super-extending staff is almost comical, there’s maybe a tongue-in-cheek feel to everything that keeps this and the previous episode entertaining.

If I did read the tone of the OVA correctly, I do wonder how much of that is due to Buichi Terasawa’s manga – who is also responsible for Space Adventure Cobra, where the film adaptation is somewhat similar in tone but in a less grimy way, I guess.

And despite great direction from Yoshiaki Kawajiri there are a few tired clichés, especially when it comes to women characters, who seem to have only two options: femme fatale or eye candy (so very much noir-influenced). One character especially is noteworthy for her role as world-building element.   

Ultimately, I would have watched more Goku (if any had been made) because I do like lone detective stories but I don’t know how to rate this.

(It’s a product of its time for sure, maybe of the OVA-era too… and something about that stripper-motorbike hybrid struck me as the kind of element that you could write an entire post on, but I’ll save it for now).

I can say that Goku is not aimed at kids, at least.

But if you want that mix of action, violence, nudity, oddity and futuristic tech from a bygone era of anime, then Goku’s your man.

Abandoned #10 (Lupin III Part 4, Space Adventure Cobra, Cannon Busters, Space Dandy & The Future Diary)

While I procrastinate/struggle to finish my Perfect Blue review I thought I’d whip up another of my ‘Abandoned’ posts 😀

Standard disclaimer as usual: not ruling out one day returning to any of these… one day, someday etc etc

Lupin III Part 4

This one is probably not deserving of being in the list – just feel like I need to finish Part 2 and Part 3 before I start the Italian Adventure.

Space Adventure Cobra (1980s series)

I was enjoying the tweaking of ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’ in the first episode, but maybe I actually spent too long comparing the series to the film, which seemed stronger overall.

One day I reckon I’ll finish this.

Cannon Busters

I wanted to like Cannon Busters more than I did but I think I only reached episode 3.

The setting and characters, the premise, even the very vague Trigun-feel to some aspects, all of those things should have been something I’d enjoy but I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what didn’t work for me.

Another case of my own expectations getting in the way? It might have been the writing itself actually… I’m still thinking about it now.

Space Dandy

I didn’t actually finish episode one here. I was thinking of a single word to describe why I didn’t keep going, and maybe it’s because Space Dandy struck me as ‘juvenile’.

Usually, I really enjoy parodies and I’ve loved every other work by Shinichirō Watanabe that I’ve seen, and so I really feel like I ought to give this another try in the future.

The Future Diary

The concept really caught my attention – different people having access to their own or other folks’ futures but only seeing ahead for a few minutes at a time.

It seemed like a great way to keep a lid on the naturally occurring difficulties with time travel stories but by the end of the first episode I realised the structure was probably going to be a ‘plot-fodder’ one, with a heap of disposable characters.

(And by ‘plot-fodder’ I’m doing a silly opposite of ‘plot-armour’ :D).