From the Dustbins: Ai City



A child psychic, her macho martial artist guardian, and an incompetent PI speed on down a causeway pursued by a butch female telepath leading a motorcycle gang.  Minutes later, the butch female telepath motorcycle blonde has been inexplicably transformed into an attractive, naked, amnesic, humorously lecherous woman that can’t keep her hands off the PI.  Nobody knows how this transformation occurred, but it involved some kind of shattered-mirror dimension that resulted between some kind of psychic clash of wills.  Later, donned only in the PI’s trench coat, she fights a pair of villains that practically stepped out of Batman’s rogues gallery, telekinetically ripping one of them apart before the battle is interrupted by a sort of science sorcerer that lives inside Robby the Robot.  By the end of the film, it is explained that a DNA-mutating virus was developed ages ago and it warped everyone into monsters, and that the child psychic was in fact a this messianic device that would destroy the virus and redeem humanity—this is explained, of course, just prior to the climactic boss fight that takes place in an unexplained gore dimension.  And at the very end of the film?  Everyone inexplicably time travels and the cycle repeats itself. 

This synopsis is far from complete.  I’m leaving out the rocket launchers, the giant transforming robot, the bunny suit, and the digital numbers on foreheads that dictate psychic power usage.  I’m also leaving out the main antagonist that resembles a combination of Darth Vader and Shredder.  But that’s fine.  Even if I tried to explain how all of that fit into the plot, it would only make the synopsis more convoluted.  That is the kind of narrative Ai City possesses.  I can’t even tell if it is a parody, but I’m not sure that matters.  It’s so hilariously discordant and spontaneous that such a minor detail doesn’t make any difference; however, if the total disregard for logical plot progressions and an utter lack of character development are any hint, I doubt any audience is intended to take this very seriously.  The last minute before the credits cut in seal that deal.

So with all of this in mind, you might be wondering what redeeming factors this train wreck could possibly have.  To be blunt, if this doesn’t already appeal to you (“Telepaths in bunny suits? Hell yeah!”, etc) then it simply has no redeeming factors.  Its irreverent plot revels in surreality, but it never establishes a firm frame of reference, so each scene ends up being even more unbelievable and incomprehensible than the preceding one.  Character development never gets beyond playing true to tired clichés, but the plot twists are odd enough that character development isn’t of much importance anyway.  In fact, the writers might have been better off removing the few scenes in which any substantial characterization was even attempted.  That way the whole streamlined package would be one of utterly ludicrous absurdity without any of those pesky traditional things like “plot” trying to get in the way.

The animation for this old gem is far from stellar, but not terrible.  It flies true to what could be expected from the animated films of Japan from its time.  The colors are mostly faded due to age and distribution methods—VHS being the only format it’s available, and said release is long out of print.  The choppiness of movement is also typical for its time; it’s not distractingly bad, but far from the likes of works produced by Studio Ghibli or Madhouse.  And again, keeping in touch with its time period, the soundtrack is fueled by every 80s J-Rock hook, motif, cliché, and instrumentation imaginable.  This isn’t really of any detriment to a work already so thoroughly dated, but then I suppose that’s one of the surest signs of a dustbin title.

If you have plans on watching this, be prepared to turn off your brain.  This isn’t some academically-inclined artistic romp through the absurd with all of the pretentiousness and self-importance that kind of storytelling dictates.  On the contrary, this is primetime OVA boom writing at close to its best.  It’s science-enhanced psychics plot had been done before in shows like Harmageddon, and it would be revisited again in the film adaptation of Akira, as well as other lesser-known OVA boom titles.  It’s hardly influential, most of its animation is sub-par even for its time, and its writing is a jumbled mess of nonsense that comes across as a parody.  I liked it.  If you’re someone who values storytelling over visceral entertainment, then you probably won’t.  If you prefer your plots to make sense, or if you want original, well-developed characters, then this isn’t for you, either.  But if you want something that makes no sense and doesn’t pretend to make any sense, then give Ai City a shot.  It’s stupid, it’s pandering, it’s gory and violent, but that’s what makes it entertaining.


About Merridian
Merri lives with his wife in the USA. He is a happy human being. He wrote for Forced Perspective while the project was active, and he is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of QNUW. His newest project is YNRI // Transcendence, dedicated to poetry, short fiction, and artwork.

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