80s shows have a nasty habit of aging poorly. Anybody up for watching "The Facts of Life" or "Silver Spoons" reruns? I thought not. It's because they belonged to a different, less cynical era. Now some programs of the day like "The Cosby Show" may be aged past their prime, but they still inspire sitcoms fifteen years hence. You can look back and respect what they did for the genre without necessarily finding them very funny now. In the same manner, I have to give some grudging respect to Iczer 1. A 3-part OVA release from 1985, it was ahead of its time in many ways, introducing concepts that would later inspire all sorts of animated creations. I can still appreciate those bits. However, this is just not an anime I enjoy anymore...what once seemed fresh in here feels awfully trite and dull now.
The Cthulhu are a race of humanoids, apparently all women, who are wandering the universe looking for an appropriate home. Their leader, Big Gold, decides that Earth is the perfect stomping ground for her children. As aliens seem want to do, rather than kindly asking for a section of the Congo to settle down in, they attack. There's only one hope for mankind--Iczer 1.
When the show begins, we have no idea who she is, just that she wants to stop the Cthulhu invasion. She has a mecha called Iczer Robo, but it can only work to its fullest capacity if she synchronizes with another being. Her choice is Nagisa, a "typical" high school student. However, before Nagisa is fully apprised of the situation, she is attacked by all sorts of tentacled monsters, including ones that possess and destroy her parents. Shocked by their deaths and stunned as she becomes the center of this galactic battle, she wants nothing to do with it. However, she has no choice; Big Gold knows that she is the key to Iczer 1's success. If Nagisa doesn't join Iczer 1 in her quest to save the Earth, she'll lose not only her planet but also her life.
In 1985, the OVA industry had been on its feet only a couple of years, and Iczer 1 helped form that part of the anime puzzle. The title got moving because it took a melting pot approach to genres. It includes huge mecha fights for the science fiction fans. It has all sorts of tentacled beasts and eerie soundtrack ques for horror buffs. The fan service boys loved that the pilots of the mechs were completely nude, and the lesbian overtones didn't hurt either. Thrown together, it was a popular mix.
Also, something to be considered was the marketplace at that time. In 1985, the world was two years away from being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the controversial tentacle-porn horror epic Legend of the Overfiend; even the manga version was just going into publication. Although monstrous ogres existed in anime and have always been a part of Japanese folklore in some fashion, Iczer 1 really got the tentacle genre started (for better or worse). Between it and Vampire Hunter D, the realm of grotesque creature features grew rapidly.
However, Iczer 1 no longer has the same shock value it once held. It still has some visceral power, particularly in its first episode. To the seasoned viewer, though, it's not unlike watching the original Frankenstein and wondering why people left showings shrieking in fear. (Now don't misunderstand; Iczer 1 is far closer to the gory offerings of late than to bloodless 1930s films, so I'm not comparing actual content.)
When one watches an old B&W film now, it's not scary. However, people still rent the classic horror films because there's still an enjoyable story and moral underneath. Iczer 1, to its shame, turns out to be nothing more than the sum of its gratuitousness. Once you get past the gore and the guts, the tentacles and cleavage, there's not much left. Sure, I do appreciate that we don't learn everything up front. Mysteries about who Iczer 1 is and how she and Big Gold are connected abound until the ending, and that can keep somebody interested. Once. But the rest of it just doesn't hold. Everybody's out for revenge, leaving motivations a cliché. The fight sequences are OK, but it becomes a "send in the next bad guy" rehash.
Iczer 1 had its day now almost 18 years ago, and that's pretty much where it should stay. I'm giving it the rating I am not because I enjoyed it on this viewing. I was bored. But still, for those interested in the history of anime, it is still an important (if not watershed) moment.
Iczer 1 -- graphic violence, nudity -- C