Did you know that without Project A-ko, anime as we know it would not exist?
Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Still, Project A-ko was hugely influential on the 80s-era American anime fandom. It was one of the first non-artsy anime to be successfully imported to the States without being ripped to shreds à la Robotech; therefore, it fulfilled the role of gateway drug for many aspiring young otaku, introducing them to anime and launching their lifelong obsession with Japan that would eventually mutate into the modern monstrosity known as otaku culture. So, next time you’re glomped by a middle-aged 300-pound man dressed as Sailor Moon at a con, you can shake your fist at the sky and angrily scream, “PROJECT A-KO!”
But what’s the history behind this oh-so-important anime? Keep reading past the break to find out!
This is the inaugural post of our new Past Masters column. Here, we hope to explore those classic (and not-so-classic) anime productions that are ten years old or older. This will give us a chance to reminisce about the anime we grew up on, and hopefully introduce the newer generations to the series, OVAs and films that helped define modern otaku culture.
To your average otaku, mentioning “Gainax” might bring to mind such iconic series as Evangelion, Gunbuster, FLCL and Gurren Lagann. Without a doubt, Gainax is one of the most recognizable names in the anime industry. But where did this legendary studio get its start? Let’s turn back the clock and find out…
The year is 1981. The Nihon SF Taikai convention, a gathering of Japanese science fiction fans, is set to take place in Osaka, under the name of Daicon III. For the opening ceremonies, the organizers of Daicon ask a group of college students from the Osaka University of Arts to create an animated promotional video. Among the students are such future luminaries as Takami Akai, Hiroyuki Yamaga and Hideaki Anno. The 5 1/2 minute-long 8 mm film they create, which came to be known as the Daicon III Opening Animation, was to become the first of Gainax’s productions.
Daicon III features a young nameless girl, who is tasked with using a vial of water to a revive a dried-out daikon radish. As she journeys to the radish, she encounters and battles a variety of opponents, including a powered armor suit from Starship Troopers, several kaiju including Godzilla, a Star Destroyer, the space battleship Yamato, the starship Enterprise, an RX-78 Gundam, and many other iconic science fiction-themed enemies.