Agent Aika (1997)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/30/01

Contains four episodes

Oh my... This is the ultimate panty fetish anime series, with an unprecedented 212 panty shots!!! (yes, I counted them all...) That breaks down to about one every 30 seconds, which is pretty astounding. You wouldn't believe just how many inventive ways you can view a girl's underwear... Ahem. Anyway, despite the ludicrous exploitive angle, this is a very interesting and engaging sci-fi action series that takes place in the near future after a global catastrophe has left 95% of the Earth's land underwater. Salvaging goods and data from the sunken cities has become a very lucrative business, and the story focuses on two such salvagers, Aika and Rion. After falling on hard times, Aika finally decides to take on a high paying, but dangerous job, in order to ease her company's financial burdens. She and Rion naturally get more than they bargain for and end up at the mercy of an effiminate megalomaniac drag queen and his sadistic sister (who happens to be his lover as well). It turns out that he's searching for an ultimate power source - one that was generated by the Earth itself - to rid the planet of the human race so that it can be "purified". Can Aika stop his crazy plan? Of course she can, because she happens to own a very special bustier that endows her with amazing superpowers. With her pure heart and magical lingerie, there's no stopping Aika and her pals.

The animation is good and so is the character design (with the exception of the fruity looking villain). Not surprisingly, Aika's design is superb and superior to all the other characters. Smart, sexy, and strong, she's your typical fantasy anime babe. The story is fairly light-hearted, with a nice balance of drama and absurdity. The action scenes are exciting and the fight scenes are extremely good. Even with the ridiculous panty exploitation angle, what makes it work so well is director Katsuhiko Nishijima's clever treatment. Apart from the swishy villain, there are essentially no men in the series at all. Without any men around to bring the women down, there's no sexism, no chauvinism, no shame, and no humiliation. Without the burden of oppressive male chauvinism to drag the story down, this leaves the women free to pursue their objectives with deadly seriousness and high effectiveness, and the fact that they're constantly flashing their underwear doesn't concern them in the slightest - in fact, it's never even acknowledged. The point being made is that panty flashing is no big deal unless some idiot male actually sees and reacts to it. Without any men around, the material is handled in a very clinical and matter-of-fact manner. This also supports the idea that being sexy isn't about being naked - it's about power, attitude, and presentation. It's a shame so many filmmakers misunderstand the subtlety of visual seduction. In the end, what it all comes down to is perspective and how society shapes that perspective. A very clever and innocently playful voyeuristic approach to filmmaking. This should come as no surprise since Nishijima also helmed the incredible "Project A-ko" (1986) which also featured no male characters. So, if you're not easily offended by an over-abundance of playful panty shots, then "Agent Aika" is a highly entertaining romp that just might surprise you. (or maybe I'm just a pervert)