The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko: Leda

Creativity is a hard thing to come by, and few shows have it. Plenty are action-packed, entertaining, exciting, and all together predictable. Then there are the DOA packages, where somebody tries something new but utterly fails because their ideas are just too far out there to understand. Sometimes, a mix of the familiar and the outlandish is actually best. Such is the case with The Fantastic Adventure Of Yohko: Leda. It's a classic B-grade movie adventure that has enough originality to fill a couple of normal features. A dearth of characterization hurts this OVA's emotional impact, but a forgiving audience will have a great time.

Yohko is the prototypical schoolgirl with a crush on a boy so anonymous we never even see his face. She wants to confess her feelings, and one day a song pours out of her. She records the song and carries it in her Walkman, hoping to have the courage to speak to him. As the moment arrives, Yohko passes him by. Perhaps she's missed her chance.

As the boy walks away, Yohko dissolves into the ground. Literally. This is where the fun begins.

Yohko finds herself in a terrifying yet beautifully wondrous new world called Ashanti. After surviving her initial drop into this place, she meets her first traveling companion, a talking fluffy dog named Lingum. Simultaneously scared and fascinated by this chatty mongrel, she learns that a rift between her world (which they call Noah) and Ashanti has opened. Legend has it that an ancient goddess named Leda will call someone from Noah at Ashanti's darkest moment. And that moment is upon them, as the evil pretty boy Lord Zell plans to conquer not only Ashanti but also Noah by controlling the heart of Leda. The key to his plan? Why, Yohko's song, of course. Lingum, Yohko, and a priestess of Leda called Yoni will have to battle Zell's forces to stop this invasion from starting, and Yohko will face her deepest dreams and fears in the process.

Now just by that plot, you can see that this show isn't particularly new. The odds and ends of it show up in Magic Knight Rayearth, Fushigi Yugi, and plenty of other shoujo (or women's) anime. Together with characters that fit stereotypes more than real people, Leda starts off with a hard load to carry. Yohko is so much an everygirl that she isn't particularly compelling, and her acceptance in becoming a warrior in a single moment is silly. Lingum is fun, but primarily there for the cute factor. Yoni is a plot device. Zell is ridiculous, right down to his sorcerer's robes. And that's essentially it for the characters.

So why can I still recommend this piece? It's because you will see things here you won't see anywhere else. You'll see creatures that Lewis Carroll would have envied. You'll see mecha that make you rethink how cool Gundam is. You'll see better mechanical designs than in a half-dozen other shows combined. This is a fantasy world that is indeed fantastic. Combined with some sharp action sequences, a soundtrack that's still a worthy listen in 2003, and nice animation, there's plenty to enjoy. And yes, it's fun, a joy at times to just sit and watch.

It's also the rare title that has major crossover appeal to both sexes. As the deodorant commercial goes, Leda's strong enough for a man but made for a woman. Despite my picking on certain character choices, there are some very interesting choices here too. Because we never see Yohko's choice in a man, we don't make judgments on her; we simply accept him as the embodiment of unrequited love. We feel for Yohko not because we know her, but because we know ourselves and our own pangs of love. And that isn't a storyline limited to either of the sexes.

I've grown fonder of Leda over the years, enough that I wanted to watch it again before writing a revised review. I caught some flaws I didn't remember, but I also was reminded of why this title works. It's like listening to the 80s station and hearing a tune that floods you with memories, not because the melody is great but because it connects with you at some deeper level. Leda's surface is glittery and sometimes too predictable, but underneath is a love song waiting to be heard.

The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko: Leda -- violence -- B+