Agent Aika is one of those shows that makes this reviewer despair for the hope of anime. Now don't misunderstand me--if you read reviews of Agent Aika on a variety of sites, you will find some who love this series of 7 OVAs following the adventures of one Aika and her sidekick Rion. I'm not one of them, however, because what's wrong with Agent Aika is what keeps anime from going mainstream. It's the type of show that high school boys and freshman dormies watch when nobody around is old enough to get into the backroom of the video store and pick up the nasty stuff. Although I will give the show credit for making a stab at containing an actual plot, it is too perverse and fetish-oriented for the average person's tastes, despite a relative lack of actual sexuality on display. If you've never heard of fan service before, loyal reader, you'll know what it is by the end of this article--although it has many characters, fan service is the star of Agent Aika. Unfortunately, fun is not.
Aika is an underwater scavenger in a not-too-distant future where 90% of the earth has been flooded. Her employer wants his business to be completely above board, but times are tough and the competition knows no such ethics. Aika willingly volunteers for a possibly dangerous assignment to retrieve a new source of power known as lago. If she can get her hands on lago and the data surrounding its use, she can help her company get out of the red and repay some personal debts from her past. With the help of Rion, her boss' daughter, Aika gets into a huge struggle with a megalomaniacal brother/sister team who want to exploit lago for their own nefarious schemes. Will Aika keep her clothes on long enough to save the world? I doubt it, but that won't stop her.
The infamy of Agent Aika lies within its camera angles. Seriously, this show has more panties than...well, insert your own joke, because other websites have made them all too, but there's an overwhelming abundance of them. If you see a woman come on-screen and speak in this show, at some point, you will see her panties. (Sometimes, she doesn't even have to have a speaking role.) Although the story is pretty weak, it is there, and there are plenty of action-packed scenes. However, virtually every frame of the show (even the action stuff) is filmed as if the creative team had just stumbled off the lot of a Hustler shoot. Now fan service generally refers to a throwaway shot or two of cleavage, undergarments, or brief nudity that has little to do with the actual program except to give the male viewers in the audience a bit of excitement. It would be inappropriate to say that this show has fan service. It would be more correct to say that Agent Aika is fan service with a little bit of actual program.
The fan service is so completely embedded in every part of Akia that the fact that it does have a plot simply doesn't matter. Although the nudity and truly sexually oriented content in the program is brief in comparison to the non-stop upskirt shots, that doesn't make it any better. Just because we don't see absolutely everything doesn't mean that the show isn't pornographic by definition. Many people will hop on me for saying that. Is it a great looking production? Often, yes. Is the voice acting good and the music reasonable? Yes. Is there much actual nudity or sexual contact? No. But the whole way the show was created was designed to arouse, which is the point of pornography. Whether it succeeds at that purpose is up for grabs--I was just annoyed, disturbed, and bored. But in my opinion, this is at its core a hentai fetish title masquerading as something mainstream. Frankly, if US Manga Corps hadn't marketed it as a mainstream title, it wouldn't appear on this site.
What's sad about the whole thing is that we've seen recently how good female-driven action shows can be. The ever-growing popularity of the live-action show Alias proves that. And indeed, Alias manages to be thrilling, action-packed, thoughtful, fun, and sexy while appealing to both men and women. And even fan service can be done right--witness my review of Plastic Little to find a show that got an A grade despite having plenty. Agent Aika, with its female protagonists, could appear on the surface to be similar to both, but instead it's really dedicated to degrading women. Every woman in the show is an object to be constantly ogled. Agent Aika is just a massive fumble from start to finish.
Agent Aika was directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima of Project A-Ko fame, and some might wonder how he went from there to here. However, knowledgeable fans also remember that Project A-Ko was originally intended to be an adult title before it went into development and in its rewrites became instead a hysterical satire of all things anime. Thus, it's not all that surprising that he directed this show. Some of Aika's fans have said that Nishijima was attempting satire again here--by taking fan service to its utter extreme, they say he was making a point about the anime industry. However, I respectfully disagree--if it's a satire, it's a worse satire than it is an anime. For if it was satire, it would be like dropping a two ton anvil on an egg five hundred times to prove it's rotten--we get the point after the first few drops, but after that, it becomes unbearable.
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I picked up this title, but I really had no idea. Despite its huge amount of fan service, if Agent Aika had been interesting or fun, I could have forgiven much. But it wasn't, and I feel some serious wrath coming on. There are many anime fans, I'm sure, who will not only get past the extremes of what fan service can be but will also think that Agent Aika is a blast; there will probably be many more who lambast me as a stick-in-the-mud. I really don't care. Agent Aika was created by a dirty old man to entertain impressionable boys that will likely grow up to be dirty old men.
P.S. To add insult to injury, the DVD of the show has many visual problems, including line shimmering and rainbows throughout. If the rest of the content doesn't bother you, those might.
Agent Aika -- enough fan service to gag a goat, nudity, brief sexual situations, mild violence -- F