Saturday, October 28, 2017

Forgotten Anime: “Megami Paradise”

Distributor: ADV Films (USA)
Original Year of Release: 1995
English Video Release: 1996, NTSC VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles
Japanese Title: Megami Paradise
Runtime: 2 episodes x 29 mins

Note: Originally posted on the "Lost World of Anime" website in 2005. Revised version published on the "Anime Archivist" blog in March 2014.

Certainly a lot of amazing OVAs came out in the 1990’s like “Giant Robo”, “Please Save My Earth”, “Key the Metal Idol” and a ton of others, but of course there was rather predictably a lot of trash. I’m not going to make any excuses here; a lot of that trash was kind of fun. Like I’ve said before, anime does quite a number of things well, in particular genre films and exploitation material, the staples of live action low budget cinema. In fact a lot of the time I think anime is far more successful producing this kind of material than their live action counterparts, particularly Japanese live action. What we have here with this OVA is clearly material that fits in the exploitation category. The story of this little OVA goes something like this;

Megami Paradise is a land in a fantasy world setting, seemingly inhabited only by gorgeous women who wear skimpy clothing, have incredibly long legs and are mostly between the ages of 14 to 29. In this otaku wet dream world, a high priestess, called the Mamamega shields their world from by using the Astrostar, a magical device that absorbs evil. The Mamamega’s main job is to purify the Astrostar when it has reached its limit.

A new Mamamega has recently been appointed, and she chooses a young girl named Lillith as a shrine maiden. Lillith is a white witch, and her job as shrine maiden will be to protect the Mamamega, but she also has to recruit other shrine maidens. Her first candidate, Stasia, has absolutely no interest in the job as she believes it is currently so peaceful in Megami Paradise, that the shrine maiden’s job is nothing but a token position for those who want fame and prestige. Upon leaving, Lillith is harassed by a pink haired girl called Rurubell, a magical girl complete with wand and “Creamy Mami” parody spells, who grew up with Stasia and is very close to her. She asks if she is on Lillith’s list of candidates, which of course she isn’t. Despite Lillith’s attempts to get rid of her, she manages to tag along. Lillith’s next candidate is Megami Paradise’s strongest swordswoman, Juliana. Unfortunately Rurubell decides to test Juliana out, and casts a spell sending magical bubbles in her direction. Juliana easily defeats the spell, and sends a powerful blast via her sword to flush the duo out from their hiding place. Despite their explanations, Juliana is understandably very angry with them and chases them off. Soon after, another powerful and potentially deadly attack is aimed towards Juliana. Believing it was Lillith and Rurubell, she sets off to teach them a lesson.

Meanwhile Lillith sets off to speak with other candidates with the persistent Rurubell in tow. Every candidate they visit has been attacked by someone using magic. Lillith and Rurubell become the main suspects, and despite a lack of evidence against them, are soon being chased by a pack of girls being lead by Juliana. They manage to ditch their pursuers and proceed to a hall, where the last candidate is dancing with a group of girls. A magical spell is suddenly cast by someone and all of the dancers in the hall collapse. The attackers show themselves and announce that they are the shrine maidens of Yamimama, the evil opposite of the Mamamega. The evil shrine maidens have attacked all of the candidates in an attempt to bring down the Mamamega. A melee ensues with Juliana and Stasia joining Lillith and Rurubell in the fight against them. The Yamimama use many attacks against them, but soon their evil summoning witch, the elf like Angela, conjures up a gigantic woman who all but defeats them. It’s up to Lillith to summon forth something to defeat it, but she doesn’t haven’t much confidence in herself to do so. Naturally (and predictably) the others convince her that she can do it, and she calls up a giant white dragon to defeat Angela’s spell, and the evil shrine maidens soon retreat.

A few days later the coronation takes place for the new Mamamega and the new shrine maidens; Juliana, Stasia, Lillith and Rurubell. The ceremony begins but it is soon apparent that the Astrostar and the old Mamamega are both missing. The perpetrators of the crime make their appearance. The Yamimama shrine maidens are up to their old tricks. They have stolen both and in the chaos they also kidnapped Lillith. The Yamimama plan to use her as a portal to rid Megami Paradise of the Astrostar. Juliana and Stasia set off the rescue Lillith and the Astrostar.

As you may have guessed from the pictures accompanying this piece, this short OVA series is all about fanservice, fanservice and more fanservice. In particular the very Japanese and very odd fetish of panty shots. I’ve never, ever found this type of fetishism to be erotic whatsoever. Anybody who is familiar with Studio Fantasia, creators of this anime, will know what to expect. They’re the studio who made the OVA series “Aika” (released as “Agent Aika” in the US) and the TV series “Najica”. Both are disturbingly chock full of panty shots with only the occasional hint of plot or story. When I first saw “Megami Paradise” with a friend many years ago, we both howled with laughter at the number of panty shots in the show. At the time I thought it was just so exploitative of the lower half of the female body it was laughable. It just had to be a joke. That was until I saw “Aika” (which is a complete rip-off of the dud James Bond movie “Moonraker” as well as being nothing more than a piss weak excuse to show panties every 30 seconds). That show has just got to be seen to be believed. Both “Najica” and “Aika” make “Megami Paradise” look tame in comparison.

Despite the completely over the top nature of this show (which you must admit makes it fun to watch), the other thing going for it are the designs, which are superb. For a show now over 15 years old, the animation is still looks reasonably fluid and quite good. Unsurprisingly the show is based upon a manga which was in turn based upon a PC Engine Super CD-ROM game, and with all the fan service, it’s little wonder that Gainax was involved in the game’s development. The story is pretty stock standard, but it’s pleasant enough. Surprisingly for show this trashy some big name voice actors make appearances in this show. Megumi Ogata, most famous for Shinji Ikiari in “Evangelion” plays the redhead swordswoman Juliana, and Beldandy (“Oh! My Goddess”) herself, Kikuko Inoue, plays the blue-silver haired Stasia. They must have been desperate for some cash.

But when it comes down to it, this show is nothing more than forgettable fluff. With “Project A-ko” director Katsuhiko Nishijima at the helm, what else did you expect? Of course though this show is nowhere near “Project A-ko” in terms of greatness. It’s trash with a capital “T”. However I did enjoy it a lot when I first saw my friend’s copies, and I did buy it when both tapes (ADV released the two OVAs on separate tapes) were being flogged off for about $5 as VHS were being dumped by the truckload by online anime shops over a decade ago. Oddly I didn’t enjoy the show as much when I saw it a second time. Like a lot of guys, I secretly do like a little bit of fan service occasionally. I generally have a bad reaction to it when it becomes the sole focus of a show or replaces plot or becomes exploitative. Over the last decade I have come to detest the current focus on fan service in a lot of modern anime. In particular the way it’s gone from something that was an afterthought to a core part of a show. The fetishistic, cliché ridden and bizarrely sanitised aspects of modern depictions of fanservice annoy me as well. Being an older show, it does not suffer from these problems as much and surprisingly has a decent story. But the implied lesbianism, occasional bondage and S&M references, gratuitous panty shots, really short skirts and high cut panty lines totally overshadow any positive elements this show has. But I suppose when you take away the fan service elements of this show, what you are left with is a pretty bland fantasy OVA.

In the end this is an OK show if you don’t mind the production staff’s obsession with panties and high cut panty lines. The question for me is when ADV was at its peak, in a market where “DearS” and other derivative trash outsold worthy series like “Master Keaton” by about 100 to 1, you’d think it would have been a perfect time to re-issue this title on DVD. Amazingly they didn’t. If you are trying to find something different from the current crop of anime, this isn’t a title to look out for. Only those who like panties and the lower half of the female body will probably feel the need to search this title out.

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