Some works of fiction manage to captivate thanks to their complex and deep plot; others become unforgettable thanks to characters so strong and authentic that the viewer grows attached to them like they were real friends; others just provide incomparable beauty to the eye, or side-splitting humour; others yet, become legends due to simply how hilariously bad they are. Tankū Danzai Skelter Heaven, a tie-in to a pretty obscure Playstation 2 game, is one of the latter.
In a distant future, a huge, mysterious flying object appears above the city. It is up to Altamira Agency, a top-secret organisation comprised of genetically-altered girls trained to pilot fighting mecha, to stop it, even at the cost of their lives.
And… that’s about it. Right after a cheap Evangelion-knockoff scene, and a short sequence where we see the training the girls have been through (which, to be honest, is indistinguishable from a bondage hentai), the OVA dives right into the action with little to no background explanation. You know when, while watching an anime, you feel like they’re trying to go through a checklist of good elements that characterised other, better works of fiction, pulling none of them off decently? Mysterious enemy, check; protagonists forced to fight for unknown reasons, check; short-lived genetically-altered experiments among which some are becoming “too human”, check; fighting for those you love, check; rivalry, check; hard decisions and heroic sacrifice, check; an heartless boss who doesn’t care about the lives of his subordinates, check; they even tried to pull a big philosophical “humans are jerks” reason behind the enemy attack, but it’s so rushed and clumsy and out-of-the-blue that it not only falls flat, it ends up being funny, if not downright stupid. For these reasons, the best word that comes to my mind to describe this OVA is “pretentious”: it’s trying to squeeze far too much in its 20 minutes, it’s far too unoriginal and clumsy to take itself seriously (and, unfortunately, it does), and so the result is a confusing, odious, unintentionally hilarious flick, that’s trying to be all epic and deep and that, with its unnecessarily tragic ending (and lame final cliffhanger), even ends up feeling completely useless.
You should totally watch this.
If there’s something I have to give the OVA credit for, is that they do manage to at least flash out a bit of a personality and interaction for three-four of the characters; however, the way they’re introduced and the way they even try to make them feel “deep”, despite them being so bland and trite is, once again, “pretentious”. When your characters have only three or four lines of introduction (letting us understand which overused clichéd category they belong to) and their dialogue is so corny, there is no conflict, love declaration, flashback, development, death or sacrifice that can make us give a damn. It almost feels like they were trying to go somewhere with three of them (they try to give at least the two protagonists a little bit of backstory) but everything is so rushed, so generic, so flashed, that even the scenes that were supposed to be most dramatic and intense end up becoming comical. Again, it’s simply trying to be too much for a 20-minutes OVA, and even if with a longer running time some elements could have had potential, it fails miserably in what it does.
This is probably the best aspect of the anime, and with this I mean the aspect that makes it such a masterpiece of badness. Besides its very fanservice-esque characters, the design of almost every element is noteworthy: the angel (come on, call it whatever you want, it’s an NGE angel) is an extremely poorly-rendered CGI hovering octopus, the mecha are bland and the way their incredibly stiff CGI doesn’t manage to blend even with the pilots is priceless, the ample-chested girls’ uniforms seem designed by the guys who did Bible Black, the characters are often poorly proportioned, and, come on, that command room was taken directly from NERV, don’t try to fool me. The animations and CGI are so wooden and sloppy, that most of the time just watching the art alone will make you laugh out loud.
I kind of get the feeling most of the soundtrack was taken bodily from the game, as since the first time I saw the anime I always thought it sounded like a cheap videogame soundtrack. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if used right. Unfortunately, it is not, and the sheer inability to take the story seriously does the rest in making it fall flat. There even are opening and ending songs, but they’re just generic poorly-mixed dance/pop songs with lots of keyboards, and feel kind of useless in such a short OVA (I’m sorry, Chihara Minori, you know I love you, but… just no). The sound effects, on the other hand… look, I normally don’t notice the quality of the sound effects, it’s simply something I don’t give much attention to, but those short-looped computer noises in the control room are the most fake-sounding and painful to the ear I’ve heard in a long time. It’s like someone kept smashing two-three random buttons on a Star Trek console. Please, make it stop…
I’m not sure what to say here, because there are actually a couple of seiyū who would later become big names or were already; for example, Chihara Minori, best known as Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya, or Tanaka Hideyuki, who’s played Otacon in the Metal Gear Solid franchise amongst many others, or Nazuka Kaori, who’s played in such acclaimed works such as Code Geass, Spice and Wolf, Eureka Seven and Strike witches, or Itō Shizuka, who’s worked in Maria-sama ga miteiru among others; but, strangely enough, they’re given very minor roles with little to no lines, so it’s like they’re not there at all. So the roles of the two protagonists are left to the voices of two… quite bad actors. Nasu Megumi turns a couple of would-be emotional moments in funny ones, but in general I can at least see that the effort is there. The male protagonist, on the other hand, is simply bad; there’s no going around it, he’s flat and emotionless. To be fair it’s not like they had good dialogue to perform to begin with, but still…
Well… it’s bad. It’s pretentious, amateurish, awfully animated, and clumsily written. There is some effort and even some slight potential here and there, but it’s trying to be too much in only twenty minutes, and thus fails. But you know what? I like it. I like it, and I’d seriously suggest it to everyone, especially those who sometimes enjoy watching a bad movie. It’s so bad, it’s fun; in particular, in some scenes the animation is simply hilarious, and so is the ending. Especially if watched with a friend, it will provide 20 minutes of sincere, unintentional laughter. You really need to see this!