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 4: Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi)

OVA Week continues!

You can find a quick overview on the form itself below, then the actual review. (This time, the review is actually for an ONA).

Hope you enjoy these posts and as before, 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

Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi) 2017

I do wish Sorcery in the Big City had been a bit longer – it was fun and had some nice, flashy action sequences to perhaps contrast with the moe elements. When I think back on it, I mostly remember it as a feel-good short film that focuses on Christmas and a little on family.

Released back in December of 2017, it’s an ONA from Sanzigen with nice CGI, some at times dazzling lighting and fun character and costume designs too. 

One thing I liked a lot was the fact that while main character Akari has lost her teddy bear, she doesn’t precisely end up being the one to find and rescue the toy (Apple), it ends up being the other way around, for the most part. 

Connected to the above, I also found it nice to see a little tweak on the “bringing toys to life at Christmas” choice, since in this case, that’s the actual source of danger.

I do wonder whether Akari’s partner drifts in and out of racial stereotype territory – as does our MC, perhaps. I hope I’m off-base, but I dunno. It’s also probably not too hard to see lazy cliches about police mixed in with some copaganda elements too. It’s actually a really odd mix.

Elsewhere, the scene-setting is really detailed – if a little quiet at times, but I suppose that’s part of the Christmas fantasy.

I also wanted a little more screen time for the true villain, and also probably more on the post-climax wrap up… but as I mentioned before, it’s a short and the focus on being uplifting was always meant to come first.

3 Stars

OVA Week – Day 3: Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)

Four more days of OVA reviews after this one!

There’s a brief overview on the form itself below, before I get to the actual review.

I hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned before, 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

Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)

Twilight of the Dark Master is a pretty dark OVA released in 1997 US / 1998 JPN, at a time some years after the peak of the direct-to-video format.

Even so, it’s mostly exactly what you might expect from an OVA – extra detail in general, extra detail on the violence and nudity, with some of it gratuitous but here, not exactly falling into the realm of modern shock-horror either.

And there is a story. And some great animation and use of colour and light at times too – not just via the general high-level from many OVAs, but there was one sequence in particular that was pretty compelling. Not because it was the greatest thing in the world, but because it was just really effective.

I think it’s the mix of flicker, of slow-motion, and the use of muted and also selective colour, that brought things together – I wonder how much of it was computer-assisted via layering, possibly? Seems like a lot of work to get everything in place.

The story follows the conventions of a revenge* thriller mixed in with some procedural, magic, horror and cyberpunk aspects too, and has at least a couple of surprises to go with the wide range of genres.

Now, that might sound like a lot going on, and it is, but I enjoyed the mix.

Today, director Akiyuki Shinbo would probably be best known for March Comes In like a Lion. Obviously, something such as a previous work by Akiyuki, The SoulTaker, is a far closer comparison in terms of content, when it comes to Twilight of the Dark Master.

In the end, I’m not sure how much of the visuals I can attribute to Akiyuki Shinbo or storyboard artists, verses manga artist Saki Okuse, but from the composition to lighting to framing, it’s definitely all well-above average for me.

So too, some of the character designs, which have both detail and some range. (Again, I mention this to contrast what seems like one of my more recent pet peeves – anime with characters who all look generally quite similar).

Now, this OVA is most definitely not suitable for the younger viewers out there – although, I doubt Twilight of the Dark Master is on the radar for that age group anyway.

(Or perhaps, on anyone’s radar for the most part).

I must note that for all the things I enjoyed about the OVA, Twilight of the Dark Master suffers a little from its reliance on low-key lighting and some pandering, but maybe more than that – as the ending just wasn’t as strong as the rest of the short film.

Ridiculously, I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is… maybe the shift in scale? It feels too sudden for me. If you’ve seen this one, that might make sense. Or maybe not!

4 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.

Zaion: I Wish You Were Here (Anata ga koko ni Itehoshii)

This is a short sci-fi ONA from 2001 – not so long into the slow rise of CGI in anime, and while it has a few problems for me, I didn’t end up abandoning Zaion.

Zaion: I Wish You Were Here (Anata ga koko ni Itehoshii) 2001

Most aspects were good enough without being outstanding.

Which sounds like not much of a compliment, I know but not every single second has to be outstanding, right? The storyline was the classic ‘save the city’ this time from out of control space-virus mutations, with a small team of human-nano-machine-hybrid soldiers having to bear the brunt of the attacks.

That is, except for Ai, whose psychic powers are the only guarantee of victory.

Sadly, she’s a prisoner of her military & their scientists – and while she develops a relationship with male lead Yuuji, it was just as interesting to see the mother-daughter relationship between her and conflicted scientist Misao, who is her first ally.

I won’t go deep into the story but it plays out as expected, though with a more sombre ending than say a typical action sci-fi.

Despite things that kept me watching, I will say that the CGI is not integrated too well – the age of it is clear, and obviously Gonzo and the industry would improve over the years.

When it comes to the plot, there’s some real problems with the obliviousness of the general population too… but to go back to things I liked, the themes around the futility of war worked for me, and Kenji Kawai’s OST really stood out too.

Not sure I’d recommend Zaion, however, unless you are a fan of the era?

3 Stars

I do like the DVD cover a lot

Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi)

This is a typical OVA in some ways – violence and nudity (or the threat of rape being passed off as ‘comedic’), all predictable things about certain anime genres, some of which have certainly come to tire me after a couple decades.

Puppet Princess (Karakuri no Kimi) 2000

That isn’t to claim Puppet Princess is terrible, or that I think it’s impossible to take on serious themes in anime either, but Puppet Princess feels too casual with its application of that content for me.

I should talk about the story sooner or later – but first, Puppet Princess almost seems bit of a warm up for Karakuri Circus, especially when it comes to the puppetry (which was probably the best aspect of the anime).

An adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita’s one-shot manga, it’s a straightforward but still at times exciting story of vengeance. Rangiku (the Puppet Princess) recruits warrior Manajiri and together they seek and eventually take on Lord Karimata, who murdered her family.

There are a few fun surprises, especially toward the end, and the art and animation works for me, though this 2000 OVA won’t deliver things you might be used to if you favour modern action sequences and techniques.

Is it worth chasing down?

Maybe if you’re a fan of Kazuhiro Fujita or the era of production perhaps, or just if you really love swords and shinobi.

3 Stars

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu)

I end up spoiling the ending to this OVA just below these first pics, and so if Nasu is on your list then maybe read no further! Otherwise, I’m going to mention probably my fav part about this cycling drama, which is something that happens at the end.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu) 2003

Nasu follows pro cyclist Pepe over the course of a single race on the day his older brother marries his ex.

The narrative describes this as Angel having ‘stolen’ Carmen, though she seems perfectly happy – but what I enjoyed was the fact that at the end of the anime Pepe obviously hasn’t forgiven either of them.

Is it petty of him? Warranted maybe?

I can’t decide, because in the OVA I suspect we don’t get the full context (compared to the source material perhaps) but I was sort of pleasantly surprised that there was no use of the ‘forgiveness no matter what’ theme in Nasu.

(And apparently I was so surprised that I’ve got another paragraph about it below, lol.)

It’s possible I expected that trope to appear due to the unwavering support Pepe receives from everyone while he races through the hills outside, and eventually through his hometown, in a compelling race featuring multiple threads. But the theme didn’t show up and I thought that was an interesting move, story-wise.

But getting back to the race itself, it’s not just Pepe vs the other riders, it’s Pepe vs the oppressive heat, vs his own limitations, vs his dream of escape, vs his lingering resentment and even the threat of being fired by his sponsor.

At only 45 minutes long I never felt a lag and throughout the OVA, the art and animation both felt top notch with a nice blend of 2D and subtle CGI to keep things dynamic perhaps – especially once the race hits town.

You’ve probably noticed from the screen caps that there’s a fair Studio Ghibli feel to the colours and character designs, and that might be because Kitarō Kōsaka* directs, and aside from that, his experience really shows in every aspect of the anime.

As a bonus, while knowing nothing about pro cycling prior to watching, I learnt a little during the course of the anime, perhaps enough to better understand a real life race were I to watch one.

Having said that, I don’t think you need to be a cycling fan to enjoy this – it’s a great, short drama with a vibrant setting and tension-filled race…

… and yet, is the cat really called Negro?

4 Stars