The Tokyo Project

The fish-out-of-water story is as old as time, and it usually takes two forms. The first is the comedic one: throw Crocodile Dundee into America or a 13-year-old into a 40-year-old's body and see how it goes. The other is the suspenseful path, typified in live-action by thrillers like The Firm and Cloak and Dagger and in anime by Megazone 23. In these, the hero is thrown into a situation much too great to deal with and has to find some way of handling it. This second form is the road trodden by The Tokyo Project. This OVA released by AnimeWorks (a subsidiary of MediaBlasters) wants us to root for our heroes fighting against impossible odds, but it simply doesn't work. With extreme logic stretches and dialogue that makes George Lucas's screenplays look like Shakespeare, this is a show destined for the dollar bin.

Akira, his best friend Junpei, his sister Kumiko, and her friend Keiko run a detective agency. (This tidbit is from the box; if it's in the show, I missed it.) One night at a concert, a dying man hands Junpei a floppy disc, asking him to get the information to a certain professor. Not trusting the police to handle it, Junpei decides to try to track down the recipient personally, much to Akira's chagrin. As one might expect, the disc holds secrets that a sinister corporation wants for itself, and its cronies go after Junpei. When they can't kill him with an attack by helicopter, they try to assassinate him in his hospital bed. As our bad guys are irredeemably stupid, they don't even get that right, and they resort to kidnapping Kumiko to make their plan to get the disc work. With only the help of a renegade cop who's been taken off the case, Akira, Keiko, and Junpei will risk their lives to try and stop the evildoers and rescue Kumiko from certain doom. (Cue ominous music.)

The Tokyo Project is an exercise in too little, too late, too poorly animated. From a technical perspective, The Tokyo Project is one of the worst shows I've seen. When a character gets nervous, his eyes jitter on his face...while the rest of the face stays in place! Although the main characters look nice enough in still shots, everybody looks miserable when moving. The mechanical designs are much the same way--great when motionless, awful when actually animated. Whoever scored the piece should also be faulted; not only is the music bad, it's often cued at inappropriate times. And at some dramatic moments, there's no music whatsoever.

But it gets worse, folks, and it's because the show fails the basic rules of its genre. This same style plotline was much more detailed and much more focused back in 1985 when Megazone 23 Part 1 came out. Unless your characters seem to be in some real danger, there's no reason to watch. Here, when confronted with danger, the leads seem to find bigger weapons, better computers, and more devices to foil the enemy, all without explanation or reason. The characters should at least appear to be out of their element, but The Tokyo Project has no internal logic. It constantly stretches credibility, from Junpei's miraculous recovery from a near-fatal motorcycle wreck to his sudden ability to understand military blueprints for a secret weapon. Everybody here's a martial arts expert able to dodge 50 bullets fired at 20 different angles. The story makes sense, but it's so implausible as to be ridiculous.

I didn't find it boring, however, largely in part due to the amazingly so-bad-you-have-to-hear-it dub job. Beggars (and cheapskates) can't be choosers, so the saying goes, and I got ahold of the VHS version (which was only made in dub form) for $1. I tend to think the show might be dull in the original language, but the English track is absolutely hysterical. Put aside for a moment that it's often quite foul, with tons of strong language the Japanese would almost never use. It's hysterical. Note, for example, these great lines:

At the opening concert -
"This band is hot."

When the bad guys find out that Junpei has the disc -
"I think he knows something."
"This is not good."

I could go on, but you get my point. I frankly laughed out loud many, many times. Granted, this isn't supposed to be a comedy, but when the dialogue wasn't profanity-laced, it was written (and delivered) so badly I couldn't help but burst out with a guffaw. Not the director's intent, I'm sure.

To sum up, don't bother with The Tokyo Project unless you need a good laugh at some terrible English dialogue and acting that's so wooden, it's a disgrace to trees. It's not a disaster, but it's close. It probably deserves a lower grade than what I'm giving it, but I had so much fun laughing at it that I'm going to be generous...keep that in mind before bothering.

The Tokyo Project -- violence, strong profanity (in the dub) -- C-