Welcome to our fourth year of watching old school anime for New Year’s Eve! My brother Daniel and I aren’t party animals at the best of times, so the pandemic did not affect our New Year’s Eve plans one bit. As always, we spent the holiday evening drinking Rebel Red wine, eating cheesecake, and laughing hysterically (and even marveling) at the antics of anime from the 1990s. We normally pick our three VHS tapes to watch, but guess what? WE FINALLY RAN OUT. We only had two tapes left from the batch I’d picked up in 2017, so we had to find a third online to stream. This is what we watched on December 31, 2020:

Gestalt
Release date: 1997 (Japanese); 2000 (English release)
Rating: PG-13/Shonen

I love the cover art for this OVA, but we had put off watching it because it’s subbed, and it’s kind of hard to read while tipsy. So we watched this one before we started drinking and it was… interesting. You just kind of get dumped into this work and there’s a lot of crazy stuff happening and you have to relax go along for the ride. A priest named Olivier is looking for the truth behind the legends of his religious order, so he’s taking a trip to a forbidden kingdom, but his order doesn’t want him to leave, so they send a dark elf after him, and along the way he meets a sorceress Ohri who seems to be in the middle of some kind of competition with other sorcerers and she gets stronger when the priest kisses her… It’s all VERY 1990s fantasy/Record of the Lodoss War-style anime, but has some real charm. Once you get past the ridiculous and mismatching costume designs, the lore and world-building is actually really interesting. And the characters grow on your surprisingly fast. There’s also some really intriguing mysteries surrounding who exactly the sorceress Ohri is, why she’s so powerful, and what exactly is hidden in the forbidden land of “G.” This two-part OVA is all that exists in anime form, but there is an 8-volume manga that I just might have to track down…

The Heroic Legend of Arislan: Parts 3 & 4
Release date: 1993 (Japanese); 1996 (English release)
Rating: PG/Shonen

And so the story continues, building up towards a climax that I don’t think we’ll ever actually see! The drawing style and voice acting is about on par with the previous installment, so not as good at the first, but still ornate and pretty good looking. The fantasy politics make more sense in Parts 3 & 4 than they did in Part 2, and there’s a helpful narrator to keep things on track between the fast-cuts as they progress from one battle to the next, advancing on the captured capital. Narsus, as always, is our favorite character and I swear without him, nothing would get done. Silvermask, who was a main villain in the last installment, reappears, and with a possible love interest! There is a LOT packed into this anime and it does NOT let you pause to take a breath. You really have to pay attention, and it’s all really fascinating, but I do kind of wish that it had been drawn out into a full-length anime rather than being crushed into an unfinished OVA series. All the focus is on plot, and with a Lord of the Rings sized cast, the characters get a bit short-shrifted. I think I might have found Parts 5 & 6 online, which were apparently never dubbed into English (?), and leave the story kind of hanging, so while I love the art style for The Heroic Legend of Arislan, I might need to check out the reboot anime from 2015 which has a different style, but (hopefully) takes its time.

Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman
Release date: 1996 (Japanese); 1996 (English release)
Rating: PG/Shonen

So, remember when I said we didn’t have a third VHS to round out the night? Well, while watching the previews on the Gestalt tape, we came across… this. Just the PREVIEW had us rolling in the aisles… but the preview didn’t tell us the name of the anime! We spent at least thirty minutes desperately Googling lines from the preview to try to find this anime, and at last we did, took note, and found it on YouTube to stream AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO WATCH IT BECAUSE OMG THIS IS THE FUNNIEST ANIME I HAVE EVER SEEN! Like, this is an amazingly well-done parody of both corporate life and the Power Rangers-style of TV shows. The English dub is fantastic and it’s just a lot of fun. The main character, Matsumoto, didn’t expect to become part of a special secret team to fight monsters involved in corporate espionage, nor that he’d end up fighting aliens seeking to take over Earth through “Big Business”… but that’s exactly what happened. Yes, it is as ridiculous and crazy as it sounds and my god it’s so much fun. I wish this had been a full anime series, but all we have is the OVA and a 9-volume manga THAT WAS NEVER TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! (At least all of the plot threads do get wrapped up in the manga, according to manga.fandom.com so I’ll just have to find a scanlation for the series, which goes under the name “Tokumu Sentai Shinesman” by Kaimu Tachibana and Hideki Sonoda.) But Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman was definitely our favorite anime for this year. So go watch it. You know you want to.

 

And that is it for our fourth installment of Old School Anime! Feel free to check out previous installments from 2019, 2018, and 2017 here on Second Unit Reviews! We do have three DVDs of anime OVAs and movies that I think we’ll watch at the end of 2021, but after that it’ll be on to the various streaming services like Crunchyroll and RetroCrush. See you then!