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 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

Casshan: Robot Hunter (OVA)

Compared to the 2008 series (Casshern Sins), in some aspects the Robot Hunter OVA feels like more of a somewhat faithful remake of the 1973 original than a full re-imagining, even with the narrative re-ordering here. (However, that’s not to claim that this version makes zero updates or alterations either).

Casshan: Robot Hunter (Robotto Hantā Kyashān) 1993

In other ways it’s very different.

I won’t do heaps of comparative notes here, as I plan to save that for a future post, but the tone of this OVA had an interesting balance between mournful, hopeful and dystopian, whereas I think of Casshern Sins as almost despairing in a way.

As is often the case with stories people write about the future, technology is a bitterly duel-edged sword, appearing as both a tool of violence, of oppression and liberation.

It’s a fairly dystopian society shown in the OVA but as I mentioned, the resistance plot does offer hope and progress toward the eventual showdown between Casshan and Braiking Boss / Black King.

Elsewhere, the music* stood out for me, at times being more symphonic than I was expecting from a 1990s OVA. (Maybe that’s a little dismissive of me, and I mean to note that I enjoyed it as much as the perhaps more to-be-expected rock).

And on the note of OVAs, this is anime, and so it will of course feature an obligatory shower scene featuring Luna – not unlike a typical film from just about any other medium, for that matter. 

Anyway, one thing I appreciated was that this OVA does tell a full story – just be sure to steer clear of the Harmony Gold, cut-down film-length version. The proper Robot Hunter is four short OVAs and is roughly 20 mins longer all told.

Ideally, I’d spend a bit more time on the differences, but basically if you’ve not heard of Harmony Gold, they’re known for making cuts, changing scripts and generally aiming to change anime to be more kid-friendly.

Getting back to Casshan, if you’ve seen any iteration of these characters and were hoping that the classic acrobatic attacks are still here – they are, and they usually look fairy good, everything does generally speaking, but some of the fire effects do seem a bit old-fashioned.

But hey, this is around 30 years ago now.

I will quickly mention two more comparative things, such as the direct visual quotes that I recognised from the first episode of the 1973 series, (see further below) and the way that Braiking Boss’ name was changed in the subs which was interesting.

But again, I’d like to save more of that for the comparison post!

So, is this OVA worth seeking out?

Maybe for Casshern-completionists or for fans of the era (say, where the OVA schedule offered a bit more time to add extra detail to the frames etc), or if maybe you like the classics. Or at least, updates on classics 🙂

4 Stars

*Michiru Ōshima, also known for (among many other things) FMA.

And here we go – an example of one of the shots that references the original 🙂