Plastic Little

Abstract title, generic anime.

Released in 1994, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 16 Feb 2003 by Scott Morris
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The Japanese have as strange an obsession with Western culture as we do with theirs. Just as we think some words sound terribly impressive in Japanese, so do they with English. This leads to some titles that may sound hip to those Eastern cats but nonsensical to us. Plastic Little certainly falls into this category, but thankfully the plot isn't quite as abstract as the name. Well, by anime standards anyway.

It kicks straight into the action as a scientist (clearly obvious, he wears a white coat) runs away from some military types with a teenage girl, later revealed to be Elysse Nalerov. Our scientist friend and Elysse's father, bundles her into an escape pod muttering something cryptic about her being the only hope of stopping General Gaizel. We aren't kept in the dark about this particular bogeyman for too long, as he enters just as the escape pod starts to make it's way out of the underwater base, allowing Elysse to witness her father's death at the hands of Gaizel. Gaizel is one of the more original character designs in this film, and quite an effective on at that, giving off a fairly good aura of bad-assedness. It's unfortunate that little more is made of this, with him falling into the 'generic - power hungry' category. As this is a short OVA rather than any sort of movie, and it focuses mainly on action scenes the characterisation was always going to suffer. As a consequence, none of the characters in this can rise above the stereotypes they necessarily have to fit into to move the film along at pace rather than have long discussions establishing their personality. Hence we have generic evil (Gaizel), generic doe-eyed innocent (Elysse), and generic spunky teenager (Tita).

Tita is a captain of a Pet Shop Hunter ship, whom we are told trawl the sea looking for rare creatures to capture and sell on. Alrighty then. She wakes up in her hotel, having apparently overslept. As she wander over to find her nifty bullet-proof uniform we are introduced to possibly the main theme of this work; gratuitous nudity. Oddly none of it is sexual, and none of it is even remotely part of the plot, it's merely an auxiliary feature at some points. I'm not entirely sure why this is so. It can't be to target it as a hentai (cartoon porno, if you aren't familiar with the term, and honestly there's no reason you should be) because it doesn't feature in it enough, so it's little more than an odd little talking point. She heads into town to pick up lunch for her crew, where Elysse runs into her, being pursued by more military chaps. Elysse, clearly scared and shocked by her current situation, apologises and runs off. The military chaps do not learn from her mistake and also bump into Tita, yet dispense with the apologising. This irritates Tita enough to help Elysse escape from her would-be captors and take her off to her ship, crewed by equally generic crewmembers. There's Bill Generic-handsome-brave, Bob Generic-randy-teenage-boy, Dave Generic-world-weary-engineer, Alice Generic-concerned-doctor and so forth. Not their actual names, you understand, but as there's little to distinguish them from their stereotype genome I see no need to give them distinguishing names.

Apparently their ship has the same interior decorator as Dr. Who's TARDIS, as the 'bathroom' is more accurately described as 'swimming pool', replete with slides. Tita and Elysse wash of the trials of the day, bumping up the needless cartoon nudity once again. What little characterisation occurs soon after, with Tita declaring she captains the ship in the hope of finding her father, lost at sea in a Pet Shop Hunter ship some years ago. Elysse's father resolved to stop Gaizel from turning his gravity repulsor into a weapon, sabotaging it and locking the controls out with a password that can only be obtained from Elysse's DNA. Tita resolves to help her new friend for no well-defined reason.

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The best form of defence is a strong offence, I've heard, so it makes sense that they decide to launch a full on assault against Gaizel's base of operations. Sort of. And that they do, with Tita and Elysse taking a small craft out to attempt an infiltration while the rest of the crew mount a diversionary assault against quite silly odds. There's little point describing what ensues, essentially they fight and they win, defeating Gaizel along the way. As they celebrate their victory Elysse declares her intention to carry on her father's work.

The action scenes are fairly well but unspectacularly animated, and some of the character design is spiffy. Gaizel looks imposing enough to be a strong villain, and one scene in particular where he holds poor Tita aloft by the throat and empties a clip into her stomach exudes menace. However he's given no personality though, and no motivation for his actions at all. Why does he want this weapon? What's he going to use it for? Is he actually part of the army or some maverick firebrand bent on world domination? If he is part of the army, why are Tita & co so desperate to stop their weapons development when presumably it would be used to defend their country? Without answers to some of these questions it limits your possible involvement with the story. Why should I care if Gaizel has the weapon or not if I've no idea what he's going to do with it?

Plastic Little has some degree of celebrity with the online anime crowd, and I have absolutely no idea why. It's a harmless and reasonably enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes, but with no particular story to back the action up it's a also a shallow way to spend 45 minutes. If you want a more interesting short anime which manages to engage the audience far more, with more sharply defined and interesting characters while still retaining a solid amount of action (and incidentally looking awfully pretty while it's doing it), take a look at Blood: The Last Vampire. If it's cartoon based soft-pornography you're after, take a look in the mirror, sicko, and get a life.

Not a terrible anime feature, but it's too short to be enjoyable. Insert your own knob gag here.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Kinji Yoshimoto
Cast list:
Yuriko Fuchizaki (Tita)
Hekiru Shiina (Elysse)
Hiroshi Iknaka (Gaizel)