Anime Movie Review: "Black Magic M-66"

Black Magic M-66 is an OVA by the author of “Ghost in the Shell” made several years before he began working on that iconic masterpiece.

That sentence alone should be enough to get you to watch this OVA (it’s only about 45 minutes long, what is that, in the great span of your life really?), but because I’ve got a word count to deal with, I suppose I’ll write a proper review.

According to some quick Wikipedia research, this OVA was based on one story from the original doujinshi published by Masanori Ota a.k.a Masamune Shirow in 1983. It’s short, and to the point.

No complicated details about anything, for the most part; this film has a plot, some good lucking characters (and character design) and great set pieces. It’s a very simple action movie that doesn’t get weighed down with existentialism or any of that other cyberpunk philosophy stuff, and instead just sticks with the bare nuts and bolts.

There’s a crazy military-grade robot on the loose, and because of a programming accident it’s trying to kill the granddaughter of its creator and the only one who can save her is Sybel, a gutsy, front-line war reporter! Sybel’s character design reminded me of Ellen Ripley. That should tell you basically all you need to know about her (assuming you’ve seen Alien).

The OVA plays out like a mish-mash of all the popular western action movies from the 80’s and it works kind of brilliantly. I can imagine Masanori Ota sitting in a movie theater in Osaka on a late afternoon, drinking a beer, and smoking a cigarette, and getting inspiration to create this movie… but then again, that’s just my imagination, because the original doujinshi for this predates most of those movies by a good bit.

Moving on…

Because there’s not really much of a backstory for any of setting or characters, it’s all left to the imagination, which is great, because it lets you just enjoy the set piece action scenes, which are pretty great, even by today’s standards.

I really enjoyed this movie, finding it very nostalgic for simpler times. The background art was extremely well done, the vehicles were all overly designed in a typical 80’s anime way, but the level of detail in just the random truck that explodes shows you how much attention to detail artists paid on the little things back then. The crazy robot looks fierce, cold, and cool. Its weapons don’t require any long explanations of science or physics to understand; they’re very lazerbeam pew pew, hulk smash kind of deal. The same applies to all the countermeasures the military takes to fight the robot. We’re acknowledged to be a smart enough audience to know what “the donut” does (because I certainly don’t remember them telling us), but I find that very refreshing not being babied. No excess exposition required. Great.

This was yet another movie I found looking through the HIDIVE vaults. Crazy to think that when you go hunting for hidden gems, sometimes you actually find them.

Hard recommend. Go, grab a pizza, or a beer, and throw this on before you get back to your seasonals. I’m sure it will be a nice change of pace.

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