What They Say:
Before becoming the sensual and sensational Agent AIKa there was Aika Sumeragi, an unemployed student who, after years of training, just received her C Class salvaging license. Setting out on her first adventure alongside the school’s resident treasure hunting club, Aika quickly finds out that the life of a salvager goes beyond simply finding ancient artifacts and well into the bizarre. Be prepared for an onslaught of fan-service as Aika and her team do battle against a lingerie wearing dominatrix homeroom teacher and her short skirt clad minions!
The audio presentaiton for this release is pretty decent as we get the original Japanese language and the English language dub in stereo encoded at 192kbps. What this means is that it sounds decent but it’s fairly unexceptional and without any real oomph to it. The show has a fair mix of dialogue and action and it all blends together well enough to serve the material but nothing stands out as noteworthy or attractive. The opening and closing sequences are the best moments in some ways but overall it’s solid. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2007, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Released during the ten year anniversary for the original OVA, the new one has a fair bit to live up to. The transfer here certainly looks better than the original with a lot of bright colors and fluid animation, but it’s one that feels like it’s slightly hampered as well as there’s some noise in the backgrounds, mostly in the deep blue scenes. Add in some aliasing as well as a few minor gradients and it just doesn’t feel like it’s as pristine as it should be, especially considering that the final OVA was released in October of 2007. In general it does look good, but the fairly average bit rate seems to give some pause for those with larger setups.
The cover artwork for the release wasn’t used for the primary covers of the Japanese releases but it looks really good here. The dominating image is that of Risako in the background with their bathing suit and copious amounts of skin, but the other characters in the foreground accent it really nicely. Aika in the center position with a happy expression as she readies her weapon is certainly appropriate yet different from her more serious expressions in the original series. The back cover provides a fair bit of character artwork and a decent small summary of what to expect. Th layout is very clear on the episodes as it includes numbers and titles and the disc features are broken out a bit more than usual, though still fairly meager. The discs extras are well listed as well though there are multiple pieces of some of these on the disc which could be promoted as well. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is something of a disappointment if only because the artwork used looks so poor here. Aika’s an attractive character and the artwork itself isn’t bad, but it has so many jaggies in it that it doesn’t inspire confidence going into the show. It’s not exactly a bad cover for a good novel idea, but it’s like the opening artwork to a chapter that alters how you’ll view what’s inside. The layout is otherwise a cute mix of the nautical and pink as the logo and navigation is done in that color while maps and ships are used otherwise as some of the upbeat bouncy music plays along. The menus are quick and easy to navigate and there weren’t any issues in moving around the submenus. As seems to be the norm, the disc did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with no subtitles.
Extras have been slim from all distributors in the last few years, but at the end of Bandai Entertainment’s life cycle, they went all out with this release as there’s fourteen items to it. There’s a lot to look at here for fans of both sides of voice cast fandom. The Japanese fans make out well with two interviews that deals with the three lead characters talking over their experiences, characters and silly stories. Two of the English voice actresses also get to spend their time chatting in their own interview sessions which is a lot of fun, particularly with Cristina Vee who is continuing her path from minor roles to lead roles. The opening sequence is done in a clean format and there are three clean endings for each of the respective OVA episodes. A couple of promotional videos are also included that highlight how the series was being promoted prior to its release. A really fun extra is the location scouting piece at JAMSTEC where they go over the submarines that they want to include in the show. It’s pure geekery for the production crew who are completely into it. This extra really complements the first two extras which is the standard behind the scenes making of features that delves into some of the more routine and mundane aspects of the show, but lets the production staff’s personalities shine through.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Released back in 2007 in Japan to coincide with the ten year anniversary of the series, Bandai Entertainment brought out the three part Agent Aika origin stories series in 2008. And they recently put it on Hulu as well, which got me in mind to go and revisit the fun action/fanservice series once again. Back when it came out, I was a bit surprised that Studio Fantasia and Bandai Visual wanted to revisit the property since it had been so long since the last one, but you never know what they’ll do. It did well there originally but also did well in the US over the years. What was a surprise was that they opted to go and do a prequel which takes place ten years prior to the previous OVA series and introduces us to a school age Aika who has just earned her C-Class license.
Helmed once again by Katsuhiko Nishijima with Noriyasu Yamauchi returning as the character designer and chief animation director, Aika R-16 is quite a lot of fun in a simple and charming way. It’s really little more than a side story all told, a little bit of fleshing out of the past for Aika Sumeragi, as opposed to something that really sets things up for what happens in the future. There are some nice bits of continuity that are brought into it however, as we get a bookend piece with Aika and Gozo as he’s with her on her submersible as well as Gusto having some amusing moments as he’s little more than a waiter for parts of it. They aren’t key moments by any stretch but they do help to connect the dots just a little bit more.
The story for this three part OVA revolves around Aika’s wanting to get her name out there in the salvaging business and taking on anything and everything that comes her way. She’s a bit hampered in all of this though as she does her advertising at school and none of her ads are staying up because the class rep, Eri, has it in for her. In actuality though, Eri simply wants to coerce Aika into working for her since Eri is the daughter of a rich family but is stingy with her money. As it turns out, Eri runs a treasure hunting club of sorts within the school and has discovered the path to some potentially great treasure and she needs Aika’s submersible driving skills to get her there. It doesn’t hurt that Aika is also pretty skilled with the basic martial arts as well.
The treasure map is rather amusing as befits the show as it’s in the form of a tattoo of a butterfly that’s on their friend Karen’s breast. Made up of a code, it reveals the location of where the treasure is and that sets them off on their journey. That journey has problems when one of the teachers that snuck along, the buxom and beautiful Risako, has plans for the treasure herself and utilizes some fascinating bits of technology to control the minds and bodies of the women that Eri has brought with her on the trip. The back and forth of it all is pretty familiar to Aika fans though it doesn’t go quite as brutal in a way as it did in the original series, mostly because these are familiar girls to Aika and Eri and they can’t quite bring themselves to truly hurt them. They’re not bent on world domination and living in a harem like those girls were.
What makes this show an Aika show however is the sheer amount of fanservice. Aika R-16 pays off in that regard in spades, whether it’s full of panties or outright nudity. It’s not exactly full of nipples, but they make several lovely appearances and accent the shows personality nicely. What really makes an impression though is just how many panty shots they get in there. It’s easy to imagine the production staff getting giddy over placement and trying to one up each other. They’re really everywhere and the camera does its best to be where it needs to be to show the viewer more and more panties. It’s pandering, it’s silly, it’s sort of debasing, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love this aspect of the show. It’s really just a comedic element and it works well.
The Agent Aika series not something that people will ever claim is high art. What it does is to really feed a particular niche that is somewhat more old school in a way. This incarnation gave us a new touch of it with flashier, fresher animation and much of the same overall styling, which is a plus. Nobody has really come close since the original OVA series to doing what Studio Fantasia has done for exposing the undergarments until this release. Half the gag is them showing the panties but they do tie it to a fun story of a younger Aika dealing with some of her school life and the evils that show up because of it. I’m ambivalent about it if only because I wanted to see more of the adult Aika and her life after the previous OVA series. Once you get past that though and just enjoy this for what it is, Aika R-16 is a lot of fun, well animated and full of panty shots. I really can’t ask for more than that with this series.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Making of AIKA R-16,AIKA R-16 Promotional Videos,Cast Interview, Location Hunting at JAMSTEC,Textless Opening,Textless Ending
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: June 3rd, 2008
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.