A-Ko is the protagonist of 1986’s Project A-Ko, which just recently received a remastered Blu-Ray release.
The entire film is a lark. The title itself was sort of a placeholder that referenced Jackie Chan’s Project A (which the film has no resemblance to). It was meant to be an entry in the Cream Lemon hentai anime series until the producers decided that they could reach wider audiences and took out most of the sexy parts. As a result, it feels like a movie that plays by its own rules. Project A-Ko is chaotic, it takes nothing seriously, it has sort beats that seem to be deliberately mocking viewers who expected any of it to make sense… and that’s why I still like it.
The animation is also far, far better than this movie deserves. It’s by APPP, the same company behind the fantastic looking Robot Carnival. There are four movies total. The first looks the most spectacular. The remaining three not looking quite as excellent (though honestly it’s still pretty great, especially compared to the alternate universe OVA followup A-Ko Vs.)… the humor, I thought, remained consistent.
A-Ko’s main rival is B-Ko, a rich girl with a talent for inventing mechas. She will never forgive A-Ko for stealing C-Ko (a third girl) away from her. C-Ko is perhaps intentionally the most irritating character in all of anime.
A-Ko treats C-Ko as more of a little sister. Despite being the same age, C-Ko looks and acts like she’s six years old. Meanwhile B-Ko… well, she seems to have more carnal intentions… at one point wanting to whisk C-Ko away to a romantic getaway in Germany. She’s not alone, though. Everyone that C-Ko meets seems to inappropriately fall in love with her. (There’s also a bit of a subtext that she may really be in love with A-Ko, with the battles being the most passionate she’s ever been. She completely loses interest in C-Ko when it looks like A-Ko might be getting a boyfriend, for example.)
A-Ko is blessed with incredible super strength, but B-Ko possesses the intellect to develop a invulnerable power armor that looks like a bikini.
The two eventually come to blows, with their length Dragon Ball Z battle tearing up the entire school. They’re so fixated on crushing the other that they barely notice that there’s an alien invasion taking place at the same time.
A-Ko must also fight her way through B-Ko’s henchwomen, one of whom (Mari) seems to hail from Fist of the North Star. There are several parody characters in this film. Some are ones that Japanese audiences would get. There’s a character who looks like Captain Harlock, for example. Other times, there are ones that Western audiences might get. They might not recognize a parody of a Japanese thriller, but they will get it when the killer is revealed to be Colonel Harlan Sanders.
Thematically, Project A-ko is close to The Tick and The Venture Brothers. The recurring image of a crashed spaceship (which at one point becomes a theme park) reminds me a lot of the “CHA” on the moon in The Tick. You see it in the background while the characters are involved in some other adventure, and you laugh by how inherently ridiculous it is.
But wait, why is A-Ko super strong in the first place? Is she the person whom these alien invaders are searching for? The movies never explicitly state why. However, we might catch a clue from her parents… who turn out to be Clark Kent and Diana Prince.
This should be no concern to B-Ko, since it turns out her own father is Tony Stark.