Project A-Ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It's one of the oldest clichés, dating back to the writing of "Don Quixote" by Cervantes. And yet its meaning--that the only way you can tell if something is any good is by trying it, rather than just observing how it was made--holds true in a lot of situations. And it's spot on for Project A-Ko 2, which on the surface looks to be a fine continuation of the first film, a laugh riot that created a humorously interesting plot while parodying tons of shows from the late '70s and early '80s. It looks and sounds like the original, and for a time, you almost think it's going to have the same zany wonderfulness about it. But when you taste it, you find a reasonable dessert but not a sugary wonder. A closer look shows that when they made this sequel pudding, they left out a few of the ingredients that the first A-Ko had in abundance.

Project A-Ko 2 starts a short time after the end of the first film. (It also assumes you know the first film; don't expect to understand the sequel--or the rest of my review, for that matter--if you haven't seen it.) The aliens who wound up stuck on Earth have made their ship into a cultural center/shopping mall, but they are struggling with homesickness. Now friends, the alien captain tries to recruit A-Ko and C-Ko to help them get their ship up and running. But it can't be that easy! B-Ko still wants to crush A-Ko once and for all, and she designs the perfect mecha for the job. Her father, the titular Mr. Daitokuji, steals her blueprints and uses them to create the "ultimate" war machine. With it, he plans to take control of the alien vessel and use the highly advanced technology to make himself a fortune.

Now, there's nothing painful about watching Project A-Ko 2. It's actually still very fun in many ways, with crisp, bright animation, perky characters, and plenty of goofy action. It's not hard on the eyes or the brain. In fact, as I watched this second installment again after seeing it many years ago, I enjoyed it more than I'd remembered. In and of itself, it's not bad at all.

It's really in comparison to the first film that A-Ko 2 shows its problems. The original had a score filled with energetic pop music and catchy, well-written background tracks; A-Ko 2 has no worthwhile vocals and BGM that could have come from a demo reel. The original had parody after parody keeping me gasping for breath between laughs; A-Ko 2 has the slapstick of the first, but almost none of the humor comes from poking fun at other anime. The in-jokes are gone. The plot is an add-on to the first film rather than a new story...and the list goes on. It's still better than a variety of so-called comedies I've seen, but Project A-Ko was in a class that this sequel can't hope to match.

As part of the "Love and Robots" DVD package, Project A-Ko 2 comes along with the following two sequels, so it's not a bad buy, especially considering the quality of the third feature (which I'll review elsewhere). Despite the fact that it's still a fun show, which is why I give it the rating I do, I don't know of anybody who will be wonderfully overjoyed by Project A-Ko 2. Fans of the original will miss the things they loved about the first one, while critics will find more to pick on here. It's not bad, but once you've tried great, it's hard to settle for just good.

Project A-Ko 2 -- brief fan service, mock violence -- B