There's nothing like a parody show to get my smile working. Although I can appreciate the comedies of Rumiko Takahashi and romantic silliness like Child's Toy, the best belly laughs are usually found when anime makes fun of itself. Assemble Insert is just such a show, with two episodes released on a single DVD by Right Stuf in the United States. Although the animation doesn't conceal the fact that it's pushing 15 years old, the laughs come early and often. Frankly, it's a rental I now wish I had bought.
In Assemble Insert, there's a nasty conniving group known as the Demon Seed (with its very own evil leader, Mr. Demon) that keeps pulling huge heists in mobile suits. Not only that, but they're brash enough to send messages to the city leaders letting them know when they're going to strike! One division of the police department is solely dedicated to taking down the group, but they have no leads, no mecha, and no clue. Disparaged for their complete lack of success, the chief puts together a no-holds-barred plan to get the police force back into the public's good graces. Their strategy is to hold a massive talent contest, but it backfires when the best contestant's main skill is speed-slamming bowls of rice. But then, as the audience has nearly all left in disgust, there's contestant #28 - Maron. She's a shy high school senior forced into the competition by her family who knows about her secret gift: she is the strongest person anybody's ever seen.
Before anybody can say "Lynn Minmei", Maron is transformed to be the public face of the fight against Demon Seed as a singing idol. (Besides, since the budget's strapped, what better way to make some extra dough than by selling some copies of her pop single?) It doesn't really matter that Maron isn't a crooner or even a decent dancer; image is everything, as the soda pop slogan goes. But Maron and her loyal friends on the force will have to make some hard decisions when it comes down to choosing between becoming a superhero and a pop idol.
Assemble Insert has a cute, funny look about it, but the animation was done on the cheap. This isn't to say it looks bad; there aren't any poor shot choices or incompetent drawings. But there is little actual animation on display. The DVD also suffers from materials that are slightly washed-out, making the show look older than it should.
Normally, those things would lessen the experience, but in Assemble Insert's case, it can be forgiven. I've seen a lot of anime and a lot of anime parodies, and I admit I can be jaded. But Assemble Insert got through those prejudices and just set me out on a wonderful hour of fun. The goofy lampooning of idol stardom, evil villains who reveal too much information, "geekdom", and magical girls just struck a chord with me. From the satirical live-action ad (that could almost make it onto legitimate Japanese TV) to the bad guys who won't attack in a rainstorm, Assemble Insert tickled me as few shows have. Are their funnier shows? Sure. But Assemble Insert hits all the right notes without any wrong ones.
I also have to admit that I was pleased to see an anime comedy that did not rely on sexual humor for the basis of its antics. Our heroine is a perky blond, but there are no fan service shots. Although there is a brief joke at the beginning of the first episode about a guy embarrassed to be discovered renting racy movies from a video store, the rest of the show stays away from the typical "hot springs misunderstandings" of Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina, and many other shows. I'm not saying that it's appropriate for children, mind you; much of the humor would go straight over their heads. But the humor in Assemble Insert is comforting after watching too many shows whose main grabs for laughs surround the question, "Did he just accidentally put his hand where I think he did?"
Assemble Insert is not a life-changing show. It's simply very funny. It's a guilty pleasure without the guilt. If you are looking for brief, diversionary entertainment and like a good parody once in a while, this is a solid bet.
Assemble Insert -- mock violence -- A