Anime Reviews: Plastic Little
One of the better titles in the early 90s OVA wasteland, Plastic Little boasts great animation and fast-paced action, but very little else.
Title: Plastic Little
OVA Length: 47 minutes
Air Dates: 3/21/1994
Age Rating: 17+ (mild violence, frequent nudity)
Summary: 17-year-old Tita is the captain of the Cha-Cha Maru, a hunting ship used by Tita and her fellow pet-shop hunters to capture and sell exotic creatures that exist in the skies. Ever since Tita's father disappeared during a hunt five years ago, she has decided to follow in his footsteps. On this particular day, Tita wakes up late for a crew meeting and, while shopping for food for the ship, she encounters a group of soldiers pursuing a girl her own age. After mounting a daring rescue, Tita learns that the girl, Elysse, escaped from a military laboratory when her father sabotaged a weapon they had been developing and was killed as a result. This weapon, in the hands of the ruthless Emperor Guizel, could bring the world itself to its knees. With the fate of the world at stake, Tita and the crew of the Cha-Cha Maru are on the case!
The Good: High-quality animation; non-stop action; characters and story have the potential to be interesting...
The Bad: ...but are absolutely killed by the short runtime; setting is never explored or explained; too much fanservice
The Ugly: Have I mentioned the main heroines are 16 and 17 years old? What are those sirens I hear...?
Some of you out there may be wondering what the hell I'm doing, reviewing some no-name OVA from the early 90s that no one cares about and no one remembers. Some of you may be wondering if I'm running out of material to review (and you would be wrong--so, so very wrong). And some of you may even be wondering why I'm bothering with some old bollocks when there's a bunch of new stuff I could be talking about. Well, y'all can shut up and sit down, because there is a purpose here:
Plastic Little will be my stand-in review title for the rather broad field of "80s/90s OVAs That Aren't Very Good But Were Licensed By ADV or Manga Entertainment Anyway," because it might just be the best among such titles (with the exception of the legitimately-good Gunsmith Cats), but that's not exactly a high honor. Let's take a look at one of the better titles in the wasteland that is the pre-anime-boom OVA trash bin.
First of all, it's worth mentioning that the animation in Plastic Little is really, really incredible. For a no-name one-shot sci-fi anime, there's absolutely no reason for so much money to be put into this title, but alas, someone had faith it would do well. Not only are the characters' movements extremely fluid and nuanced, but the scenery and vehicles are given just as much love. The character designs themselves are deliciously 90s, and I wouldn't have it any other way, though I do question the decision of giving Nichol pink hair. Ah, well. That aside, I would almost give this OVA a pass just for its visuals alone, because Plastic Little seriously has no business looking anywhere near as good as it does.
It's pretty fortunate that the animation budget is so high, though, because the story moves along at a breakneck pace and that means there's almost always an action scene going on. This kinda goes hand-in-hand with some of my complaints later on down the line, but at the very least I can say that this is not a boring film by any stretch. From motorcycle chases to underwater ship battles, if you want some quick action, you've got it right here.
The last good thing I'll say about Plastic Little is also the most tragic thing about it: I really, really wanted to like these characters, and I really wanted to know more about the story and the setting. Tita is such a vivacious and enthusiastic character that I can't help but root for her when the chips are down despite knowing so little about her, Elysse has such potential to be a sorrowful figure I find myself growing attached to, Balboa would have been an incredibly badass character if I knew Thing #1 about him, Guizel would have been an intimidating villain if (he didn't look like a complete nimrod and) we actually saw him do intimidating stuff, and so on. There's potential with these characters, and if this were a feature-length film or even a TV series, they could have been great.
Likewise, the story and the setting suffer at the hands of the ever-ticking clock. So much happens so quickly that it becomes impossible to follow, and fie be it for me to expect anything about the world of the story to be explained to me. Is pet-shop hunting such a lucrative business that the crew can afford such a highly-equipped ship? What exactly do gravity belts do? Why do pet-shop hunters need to wear bulletproof suits? Why does Emperor Guizel want to destroy the city? Where exactly was that military laboratory from the opening scene? Elysse escaped in some kind of pod, so is it in space? Is it underwater? There are so many questions that it makes my head spin, and the whole thing becomes an incomprehensible mess.
My last complaint is simultaneously major and trivial: the constant nudity. On the one hand, why is this a big deal? So there's a lot of boobage. So what? It's not like the story is being hampered, as the mammary mayhem occurs during important exposition scenes, so what's the problem? On the other hand, the sheer number of bouncing bosoms makes it impossible to take anything seriously (especially since ADV added a Jiggle Counter in the DVD version), and so what should be a serious sci-fi adventure turns into elaborate spank-bait. You wouldn't take any other film seriously if roughly a fifth of it was spent on extreme close-ups of saturated sweater-meat. It's juvenile, and it's distracting. Oh, and the girls subject to this are underage (at least in America and anywhere else where the legal age of consent is 18). So have fun with that thought.
And that's all I have to say about that. I can't say with any honesty that I was bored by Plastic Little, but its short runtime and excessive T&A really bog it down. It's kind of a shame, because I wanted to know more about, well, everything, and that's the tragedy--it's good enough to make me want to learn more, but delivers basically nothing in that regard. And that fact alone makes it better than ~90% of the other OVAs released around the same time. If you really want to go dumpster diving into the bargain-bin OVAs of yesteryear, Plastic Little is pretty much as good as it gets.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 10. Plastic Little is visually brilliant and never has a dull moment, but it's just too short to deliver on any of the good things its characters and story could have promised.