It seems that I am in the land of the ripoffs. Last week, I talked about how Amon Saga was directly descended from the far superior Vampire Hunter D. This week, I subjected myself to the 1997 3-part OVA series called Voogie's Angel. Director Masami Obari has a pretty decent resume, considering that he is often associated with his work on shows that feature overendowed women such as Gravion and Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer. Here, he contributes a variety of his talents to the show; sadly, most of them are ripped off from better sources he worked on in the past. And let's be clear -- Voogie's Angel is a goshawful mishmash of genres, cliches, and tropes. But with a tongue-in-cheek dub that doesn't realize how awful it is, it's still worth watching for the unintentional hilarity that ensues.
For nearly 200 years, the world has been under the domination of the SE, the Space Emigrants. Having conquered every known land mass, the SE have forced humanity not underground but underwater. Planning and scheming for decades, Earth's original inhabitants have as their only plan a group of five intrepid young women bioengineered to save us all. Apparently, somebody really didn't do their bioengineering homework, since these gals are anything but an organized team ready to take on a massive alien force. Each one has her own
shoujo stereotypes unique personality traits that will help save them when the going gets rough...though they themselves have no memories of their pasts. As the aliens prepare a hypercannon, the Angels are our only hope. (We're doomed.)
It's curious just how many elements of Voogie's Angel are pieced together from other places. The character designs, particularly in the costuming, have a striking resemblance to those from Silent Mobius, albeit with bigger busts and more exposed flesh. (Obari worked on the first film as a production assistant.) The third episode, where things actually get serious, is filmed in black and white with only moments of color for accentuation...much like Gunbuster. (Obari's role in that seminal OVA was as an animator.) And not one, not two, but three plot devices in the third episode are straight out of Akira. (Obari didn't work on that, but come on...it's Akira.) Granted, Voogie's Angel originated as a radio show, and so some of its problems can't be placed on Masami Obari's shoulders -- but an awful lot of them can be. By the same token, he does need to be given credit for the animation itself, which is perfectly acceptable. But overall, the show steals a lot from other, better anime.
What makes Voogie's Angel odd to watch is how the tone abruptedly changes. The first episode is mostly silly, what with a talking spaceship with an attitude and the crew members acting like idiots. There's a lot of fan service at this point, though there's no actual nudity. The second episode starts in this vein and then becomes more serious as the girls find themselves captured. The third episode starts with a flashback to the erased memories of the Angels, and this is by far the best part of the show. In fact, it's so good that it sticks out like a Monet at a local art show. Eventually, it falls apart when we come back to the present time, but there are flashes of brilliance (or at least something more than incompetence). Other shows do this tonal switch and work well because of (or in spite of) it, such as Video Girl Ai or even the before-mentioned Gunbuster. But because the characters are dull nitwits who are underdeveloped throughout, when the show insists we care about them, it's hard to follow along. Perhaps the reason the tone shifts is because the team didn't know where to go with the story. The SE, which look like humans with inkblots on their foreheads, are not a forboding enemy. There's never any sense why the SE are so dangerous, except for an attack at the beginning of the first episode which was so poorly done as make me uncertain what was going on. Quite frankly, there's nothing of note in this show. The only character's name I can remember 48 hours after watching the show is Voogie, and that's because her name is in the title!
Having thoroughly trashed the show, what makes Voogie's Angel worth watching at all is the English dub. I can't speak to the Japanese language version of this show; I don't think it could possibly save the underlying mediocrity and likely makes it all the worse. But the English dub is a trip. It's bad -- think not modern dubs but early era, Fist of the North Star Streamline dubs, and you'll get the picture. What is unexpected is how funny this turns out to be. I was laughing at all sorts of things that, in Japanese, I'm sure were not funny. I mean, how often does your antagonist introduce himself with the line, "Yes, I'm the bad guy!" It makes the English version of this show into a camp classic. It's underacted and overacted all at once. It's the love child of Al Pacino and William Shatner on a entry-level paycheck. I mean, I wouldn't spend $20 on the DVD, but I found it on VHS for a buck, and for that, it's side-splittingly funny.
How to sum it up? There are about 20 excellent minutes in Voogie's Angel. For a 90 minute show, that's just not enough, especially when the good minutes were done better in other anime they ripped off. But you can't go wrong laughing at the show, which the dub makes incredibly easy to do.
Voogie's Angel -- profanity, violence, non-nude fan service -- C (but only for the hilarious dub)