Monday, July 31, 2006

Moldiver

Most people have at least one anime series they like in spite of the fact it doesn't get much attention or even particularly good reviews--and for me, that's probably Moldiver. Moldiver is a six-part OVA series that came out back in 1993--it's not an old-school classic on a par with something like Urusei Yatsura, but somehow every time I watch it, it manages to bring a smile to my face. Moldiver is a superhero series, with a mix of action, fanservice, and battles that level large portions of Tokyo's infrastructure--somewhat like a cross between Superman and Dirty Pair. Overall the action's good, the animation is high quality, the characters are entertaining, and if you can look past its flaws it's just fun to watch.
The heroine of Moldiver is Ozora Mirai, bishoujo and recent high school graduate who lives with her older brother Hiroshi and her younger brother Nozomu, with absentee parents (of course). They live in Tokyo at some indeterminate point in the future, say 50-150 years from now, where a lot of people (including Mirai) live in houses in huge skyscrapers that remind me of the Sky City 1000 concept. Mirai's brother Hiroshi is an inventor of sorts and he's just perfected the ultimate fighting suit, called Moldiver--it makes you completely invulnerable to any attack, and gives the wearer superhuman speed and strength. The trick is there's a time limit, and when it expires you go from superhuman to normal (only naked).

Hiroshi gets his first chance to try out Moldiver when he's at a special event before an antique F1 car race, and Dr. Machinegal's mecha attack to steal one of the Formula 1 cars on display. Mirai's there entering a beauty contest to be the race queen, and gets caught up in things when Machinegal's minions attack, but she's saved when Hiroshi transforms into Moldiver and easily defeats the mecha. Mirai suspects it's Hiroshi, since she finds his clothes there (when you transform you have to be naked or your clothes get destroyed in the process), and she confirms her suspicions later. Mirai decides to change the style of the Moldiver suit from a muscled guy to something more fashionable (well, by 1993 standards) that looks more like her. The next day she gets the chance to try it out for herself--and somehow, from there it's Mirai who's transforming into superhero Moldiver and not Hiroshi.
There's no more inexact science than trying to predict the future, and you can see that a little in this--for example, it's set in a future world where videophones are everywhere, but cell phones don't exist at all. When Mirai is trying to meet up with Misaki they have to do it the way we did back in the early 90s, leaving messages for each other at home from pay phones. These days they'd just text message each other on their keitais and find each other in a second.

While it's a superhero show, the "bad guy" in Moldiver isn't evil on the scale you might expect--he's an aging brilliant scientist (and Hiroshi's former professor) who loves old technology, from VCRs, to the Yamoto, to the Space Shuttle, and he uses his squad of female androids to go steal it for him. Most of the fighting is between Moldiver and the androids, and leads to the destruction of large portions of Tokyo's infrastructure--it reminds me of Dirty Pair a little although in Moldiver no one actually dies. Some of the funnier scenes are when Amagi tells his minions to be careful not to destroy the priceless objects they're supposed to steal, and much to Amagi's chagrin, they end up getting blown to pieces in the course of fighting with Moldiver. The background music is one of Moldiver's strong points too--it fits the superhero genre absolutely perfectly. The ED is slow-paced, but the OP is pretty catchy.

Moldiver's flaws really surface towards the end, when in the last two episodes they try to focus on the relationship between Mirai and her senpai from school (and Hiroshi's best friend) Misaki--they have no chemistry at all together, not helped by the fact Misaki has less personality than a toaster oven. They also try to turn things more serious, only to lighten back up at the very end. I didn't think the drama worked very well as a result, and it didn't fit with the tone of the first four episodes very well either. In the last two episodes there are a lot of things that happen that seem out of character, for Nozomu especially, like the writers suddenly wanted to go in a different direction but didn't have the time to smoothly transition the story. Don't expect any real character development either, although in any anime just six episodes long I guess it's hard to pull that off. If you consider 90s character designs and animation ugly then you should probably steer clear as well, although I really liked the character designs myself.

If you live in region 1, you can get the Moldiver DVD with all six episodes on it pretty cheap. If you're like me and watch the subtitles though, you'll find they're much closer to the dub than to what the characters are actually saying in Japanese. You know something's wrong when no one is saying anything in Japanese, but English subtitles appear anyway. I avoid dubs like I avoid sticking my face in a fan, so seeing "dubtitles" like this was more than a little annoying. Unfortunately, I doubt there's nearly enough demand for them to do a more modern subbing job on a re-release.

Overall, Moldiver is a lighthearted action/superhero show and while it doesn't do anything revolutionary, it does enough well to be an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. If you're looking for an older series with action, comedy, and some fanservice, I think it's not a bad way to spend your time.

1 comment:

Ross said...

Heh heh.. your Moldiver is my 801 TTS Airbats.