Project A-Ko 4: Final

Sequels can always be problematic. Many movies aren't created with a sequel in mind, and sometimes logic has to be stretched in order to make everything fit. Of course, if there's enough money in it, you can be sure someone will try. But what happens when someone makes a sequel to the sequel? What it comes down to is this: Project A-Ko 4: Final is a sequel not to the classic film but to Cinderella Rhapsody, its immediate OVA predecessor. Characters who only appeared in part 3 reappear in part 4 with their personalities (or lack thereof) intact. That's perfectly fine if it's done well, but Final feels like a tacked-on ending that isn't as funny as any of its previous counterparts. It's good for a grin and a chuckle and a couple of laughs here and there, but they would have been best stopping the series at number 3.

By now, you know that (as in any installment of this series) you will see copious amounts of fighting between A-Ko and B-Ko. Fighting each other is their raison d'etre. But for once, C-Ko kind of realizes it. She's relegated to cheering on the sidelines with B-Ko's minions while A-Ko gets all the fun. She's not sure of her place any more. At the same time, archeologists in Iraq have dug up a huge ancient statue that overlooks ruins that describe the end of the world. They are confident that something is going to happen in the very near future to bring it about. Add in the arranged marriage of longsuffering teacher Miss Ayumi and an alien fleet of over 3000 ships, and you've got a formula for wonderful chaos.

That's what one would expect, anyway. Final is a surprisingly melancholy endeavor for a slapstick comedy, and I wonder if the creators of the show picked the wrong target when they deliberately attempted to parody the overearnestness of a lot of late-70s/early-80s sci-fi and romantic dramas. There's an obvious (though still funny) bit that picks fun at a key scene in the Kimagure Orange Road movie, and the random references to Rumiko Takahashi's works and Macross are momentarily entertaining. However, a show likes this needs forward momentum, either through energetic action sequences or a driving plot or at least some fun slapstick.

But this time around, it feels like we're finally repeating ourselves. The battles between A-Ko and B-Ko are virtually identical every time. They are perfunctory. And even though they are new, the dramatic elements feel out of place with what we've seen before.  Even the music from the first film is recycled...yes, it has new Japanese lyrics, but otherwise it's the same old thing.  

And what you can get away with in thirty minutes can seem mind-numbing at fifty. For example, the archeologists are completely unnecessary and extend the run time without ever helping the show's entertainment level. They are there for one reason only: to set up a Macguffin about a six-pointed star. Meanwhile, I'm surprised that anybody thought that Miss Ayumi was interesting enough to make a central figure in the series. I mean, this episode makes her into a character almost as important as the protagonists. Meanwhile, some of the funniest running characters barely show up.

If this show were anything else, I might not give it a recommendation. But for those who have enjoyed themselves through the first three parts will have a good enough time to complete the quadrilogy. There are certainly funny parts. The ending itself is actually quite touching, which is not something I ever expected to say about Project A-Ko. Because it's packaged in the US with parts 2 and 3 on one disc, there's no reason for most not to watch it. It's also light years ahead of the miserable wreck that was Project A-Ko Vs. But was I disappointed?  Yeah. It's not bad, just that I would have preferred one of my favorite franchises end on a better note.

Project A-Ko 4: Final -- violence, brief nudity -- B-