When people talk about shows that deal in fan service, very few come close to matching the pure joy that is Agent Aika and its bounty of panties.
What They Say:
In her search to recover a mysterious energy artifact, Aika encounters a plot for world domination. Watch as the titular Aika attempts to stop a perverted scientist and his army of short-skirt wearing women using only her golden bustier and the ability to transform into a nearly indestructible bikini-clad superwoman!
This complete collection features all seven original episodes, a previously unreleased episode of live-action Aika and more up-skirt exploits than ever before!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the previously created English language track in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. While the show could likely have made out a bit better with a new dub in comparison to the original, it doesn’t get it but we do at least retain the original dub that was produced by Central Park Media. This isn’t a show that has a lot of muscle behind it considering the time it was made but it sounds good and gets the point across throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released throughout 1997 and into 1998, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Using the remastered materials that saw release in Japan during 2007, the show looks very different than the original release we saw back in 2001. That release was decent for a lot of it but it was filled with a lot of cross coloration when it came to the character designs. This remastered footage eliminates just about all of that and produces a far better looking image. Not a perfect one however but one that supercedes the original quite easily. This new release feels more vibrant and colorful than what we’ve seen before but it still has a fair bit of noise in a lot of the backgrounds, particularly during the first four episodes. There are also a number of times, again in these four episodes more so than the second set, where the brightness fluctuates which is part of the source material. These aren’t deal breakers in any way but there’s usually a perception that remastered equal flawless, which isn’t the case here. The series retains its original Japanese text for the opening and closing sequences and all the original sequences in place as well. While not a stellar knock out transfer, it far exceeds what we had before and is definitely a very worthwhile upgrade.
This double disc release of the series is done in a standard thickness keepcase which has no flippy hinge inside thankfully as each disc is kept to one of the interior panels. The front cover artwork looks great as we get a good pairing of Aika and Rion together in action poses while wearing the outfits of the bad guys while there’s a good blue sky with a few clouds for the background. The original logo is used which even has the small text describing the setting and there’s a very up front listing about it being remastered and complete. It does feel odd for the show to have the Anime Legends banner on it considering it’s the first time it’s been released by Bandai Entertainment. The back cover is done with a continuation of the background design which gives it a very light and positive feeling. Adding to that is the sexy character artwork for Rion and Aika though they aren’t terribly large pieces. The summary is done up in a gun sight which is a bit awkward to read with no breaks but it covers the basics clear enough. The discs extras are listed clearly as are the features while there’s also a rundown of the episode numbers and titles. The remainder is given over to the staff listings and the meager technical grid that doesn’t say all that much. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu designs for the two discs are similar overall with only the character artwork being different for each of them. The background and navigation design is decent with mechanical designs in some slick framing with something of a classic early 90’s kind of science fiction feel to it. The first volume has Rion and Aika striking sexy poses as its characters while the second has Aika beating the snot out of a blue shirt Delmos woman, both of which have some bouncy upbeat music playing along. The layout is decent enough to navigate though the font and colors leave a bit to be desired at times, as it’s either purple and a steel blue or a deep green and steel blue. Neither disc read our players’ language presets correctly and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles
With this being a double disc set, Bandai has set things up so that the extras are spread across each volume so there’s something to check out with each of them. Strangely, it feels like the wrong extras got applied to each disc as the first disc has the extras for episode son the second disc and vice versa.
Disc 1: The extras here are pretty much just clean versions of the openings and endings from the episodes on the second disc, but the killer extra is a ten minute live action piece that was made to promote the new series. This is hilariously amusing as they really do try to re-enact the shows signature panty fetish with the costume play and all. It is disappointing though that they went for standard panties and not the more revealing ones of the show, sine otherwise it really doesn’t work all that well. The small outtakes in the end credits make it all worthwhile though.
Disc 2: The second disc has some good things on it though it’s pretty barren overall when you really look at it. The clean openings and closings for the first four episodes are listed here as well as a series of TV commercials. The opening and closings are presented in single form while the commercials run for a total of just over two and a half minutes as they advertise the OVA series release. There’s also a brief promotional video which runs just under forty seconds and showcases the first four episodes via the special trial episode that’s on this volume. The best extra for me is the cover art gallery that shows the original laserdisc releases in clean form, the DVD releases and then the remastered DVD releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its release back in 1997, Agent Aika helped to bring Studio Fantasia to the forefront of at least a select and very picky set of consumers. The fan service fan. At the time, the series got quite a lot of buzz because of the way it handled itself by being a panty fest for all intents and purposes, but one that was wrapped up in a very fun action adventure story that contained great character designs. At the time it was praised quite a bit for its visual design beyond the panties but looking at it now some ten years later, you realize just how much effort went into it and how well it stands the test of time within the anime world. Simple in its approach, the series just goes out there to have fun and challenge the director of photography to show as many panties as possible. Everyone wins in this one I think.
Taking place some twenty years or so after a shift in the world which left a good chunk of it under water, including Tokyo Bay, the series revolves around a company called K2 in which it has three primary employees. The company president, Gozo Aida, used to be an industrial spy but moved on to the business of salvage and recovery of things underwater after events played out. Business has been off and on but he’s kept the company going, largely due to the help of Aika Sumeragi, a young woman who is just fantastic at what she does. Her history with Gozo is explored eventually but for the most part we just see that they’re very tight in a professional and friendly manner and work very well together. Along with them is Gozo’s daughter Rion, who works with Aika during the salvage operations and has something of a crush on Aika but not in a deep seated way. The trio operates well together though they just can’t seem to get to a comfortable place. Eventually they get some help in the form of Michiuksa Shuntaro, an effeminate young man who is really a bit off as he’s always playing with a pink kappa doll and has an odd view of the world and social interactions.
The series is split rather well across its two volumes as each one contains a relatively complete storyline. The first volume has the trio getting caught up in a mad plan by a man named Hargen who has a bevy of beautiful women in his employ. He’s been researching a new power source called Raggu which Aika has been contracted to find out about or to steal a sample of. She and Rion end up getting involved in this just as Hargen is about to kick off his mad plan to destroy the world by resetting it and then repopulating it with his seed and his crew, which also amusingly enough contains his nutty sister. Across the four episodes, it’s really a back and forth game as Aika deals with Hargen’s crew and his attempts to woo her into his harem while also trying to free Rion from his grasp. Toss in a super A-class secret agent and a couple of other salvage characters and it flows surprisingly well and quick.
The second disc is a bit less focused though not any less fun. The first episode is actually a bit awkward as it’s a transitional piece that was placed as an extra on Central Park Media’s release of the show as it features things like a music video, clean opening and closing sequences and some new story bits to tied it all together as the K2 company moves into a new office. These kinds of things pre-date DVD in a way as there used to not be a real way of showing them easily enough, something that’s easily forgotten in this day and age of how media works. The rest of the disc is quite good though as it revolves around the remnants of Hargen’s harem trying to extract revenge on Aika and her friends. Each episode stands alone in the tale told of revenge but they keep upping the ante on it as different members of the Delmos Corps get brought in to handle it. These episodes are a bit lighter in general with its tone and the addition of Michikusa to it while taking away Gusto balances it a fair bit. While the stories stand alone, they have the same kind of energy and rampant fan service that we saw in the original four OVAs of the series and that alone makes them a worthy successor.
While Agent Aika has plenty of story material to it, it is admittedly largely about the fan service. With character designs by Noriyasu Yamauchi, there is such a great variety and detail to each of them that it’s quite surprising after awhile. The cast is pretty large when it comes to the women since Hargen’s crew has so many, but they do a wonderful job of really giving them all very distinct features and looks, even if they all do wear the same white panties. The lead characters are equally strong as Aika really has a great kind of confidence to her that shines through and even Rion has that kind of childlike beauty to her as she rides the line between young woman and adult. These pieces combined with some very fluid animation and great set designs for the ships and settings that they take place in really brings it all together into a very enticing OVA. This is the kind of release that you just rarely see anymore where it’s a great combination of story and design with animation.
If there is anywhere that I felt Bandai Entertainment really dropped the ball with this release, it’s in how they handled the credits. The simple fact that they didn’t’ handle them is quite bothersome, though I’m sure to some extent there might be some contractual/legal issue behind it due to Central Park Media having worked on it first. There aren’t any credits provided for the release at all beyond who worked on the disc in the extras menu. The original Japanese credits aren’t translated at all which is a real shame nor are the English dub credits to be found anywhere, nor who worked on some of the technical aspects of this release such as the new subtitle track that’s included. This is a fairly small blemish overall for this collection but it is one that bothers me.
With the series having made its way into the stream realm last year, revisiting the show was a lot of fun. Agent Aika was a fun show when I first saw it some fifteen years ago but it really holds up well when viewed in this form. The content itself that’s the real winner as it’s light, breezy and fun as it balances out some serious material with it. It has a classic action/adventure feel to it that just clicks. Its gimmick of hundreds of panties, nearly one in every shot, doesn’t hurt it either. And that’s what’s surprising since such a thing could indeed really hurt it. Instead it proved to be a real positive and just made it all the more fun. Beyond one blemish, this is a release is very easy to praise and to give Bandai Entertainment kudos for and hopefully will inspire them to try out a few other older shows like this. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Previously Unreleased Live Action Agent Aika Episode, Agent Aika’s Special Trial, 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: April 15th, 2008
Running Time: 210 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.