I've never understood the lure of professional wrestling. Although I can't see how anybody could take it seriously, I know many people who enjoy it for fun anyway. Although it's made a comeback in the mid-to-late '90s, I remember the initial rush of enthusiasm in my classrooms back when Hulk Hogan reigned supreme and kids ran home to see who was going to get hammered next. I was not one of them, but some of my friends were. At any rate, Wanna-Bes is a 1986 OVA that takes us into the realm of female pro wrestling. (If there's a genre not covered in anime, I don't know what it is.) I wish it were better, because at times it is a show you can actually root for. However, terrible production values and a conclusion that mars the rest of the show make this one a lesser entry at best.
Miki and Eri are the most unlikely pro wrestlers you've ever seen. Thin waifs in comparison to the competition, they want to be a part of the action. As the Wanna-Be's, they'll have to face the reigning champions, the unethical Foxy Ladies. Their coach Oki gets them into deep training, and with the help of some new equipment, they are able to get themselves in shape, beating a lot of the smaller wrestling duos and certainly capable of taking on the win-at-all-cost bad guys. Not all's right here, though, as our two girls learn that their great increases in strength and ability have come through secret manipulation by a corporation using them as their guinea pigs. Of course, Miki and Eri can't just let that abuse stand, seeing that they're super-wrestlers now.
Wanna-Bes is a strangely unique creation of Toshimitsu Suzuki, who wrote the screenplay for the video from his own comic. Although I'd not heard of him before, that doesn't mean the show didn't have some top-level talent working on it, as Kenichi Sonoda of Bubblegum Crisis contributed to the character designs.
Technically, the show is neither impressive nor pretty. It looks its age in many ways. It also doesn't help that the Foxy Ladies are ugly to the point that they are difficult to watch. It's not by far the worst animation I've seen, but it won't win points, especially in comparison to modern work.
The largest section of Wanna-Bes isn't bad, though, because it pretty accurately reflects pro wrestling trends at the time, develops its characters just enough for a show this short, and draws the audience in against its better judgment. At times, the show is unpredictably compelling at a very basic level, just because seeing the one team cheat constantly almost instinctively brings the viewer into the show to root for the other side. The wrestling stuff isn't great, but it's still watchable. What's not, however, is the ending, which takes us into science fiction/horror as the girls find out just what's been done to them to make them into decent wrestlers. It completely wrecks the rest of the show, in my opinion.
For a show this short, there's not much to say. If you just love pro wrestling, there's enough here to enjoy. Otherwise, though, it's the same cheese you get watching the WWF compounded by a conspiracy plot that ends up even hammier than the wrestling. A rental at best.
Wanna-Be's -- violence, brief nudity -- C