Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger wonders if stellar animation and "The Jiggle Counter" are enough to recommend this plastic little disc.
Mice don't shoot back, but Tita does!
Previously on DVD Verdict, we reviewed a handful of re-releases of Geneon titles called "Geneon Signature Series." These releases are cheap, no frills, and often cramped onto a single layer. Nonetheless, they give anime fans on a budget a means to build a collection of wanted DVD titles. It seems that the "Essential Anime" collection is ADV Films's equivalent re-release effort. The Essential Anime Collection has better packaging for sure. How do the DVDs stack up?
Plastic Little details the adventures of Captain Tita, a seventeen year-old orphan who commands a space vessel. Her ship is a Pet Shop Hunter, which means that she seeks exotic animals to sell on other worlds. Her older and crustier crew, holdovers from her father's reign as captain, has no trouble accepting a teenager as the sole decision maker for the ship. This puzzling attitude becomes important when Tita rescues a comely lass named Elysse from a group of soldiers. The military needs Elysse to unlock a powerful weapon created by her recently deceased father. When Tita takes Elysse under her wing, we soon learn that the Pet Shop Hunters possess ultra-powerful military weaponry. They will need it to outmaneuver the enemy fleet and stop the evil Lord Guizel.
There are two reasons why Plastic Little made it to the "essential" anime collection—and they are both bundled up within Elysse's brassiere. Plastic Little is a faithful rendition of designer Satoshi Urushibara's original designs, which means that Plastic Little features the best depiction of naked breasts in the history of anime. The two lead girls miss no opportunity to disrobe, which means we are treated to copious "jiggle shots." This tendency to flaunt feminine assets is the inspiration behind the puerile "Jiggle Counter," an alternate subtitle that counts the number of breast jiggles. (I would give you the final tally, but that would deprive you of the immense fun of watching a little counter shaped like breasts.)
There are other strong aspects of Plastic Little besides the breasts, but the one that deserves special mention is the animation. It is simply outstanding, as though they crammed 150 minutes' worth of frames into 50 minutes. Characters don't just move, they breathe and display body language. Eyes are not simple black dots within blue dots; they are liquid pools of warmth and light. The look and design of the show is beyond reproach; it is one of the most carefully rendered anime movies ever. This makes the action sequences particularly energetic, with clouds of smoke and quick maneuvers to dazzle our senses. In terms of raw visual appeal, Plastic Little is impressive indeed. This transfer shows off the stellar animation in a good light, though it isn't perfect. There are many fine lines in Plastic Little, and the frame rate is high, which makes the transfer particularly susceptible to moïre effects. There were occasional specks as well. But in general, the generous color palette and fine details are shown well.
So what's the problem? Stellar animation featuring comely breasts is a good combination, yet we still crave a good story in our anime movies. This is where Plastic Little breaks down. The story borders on the nonsensical. At best, it is abjectly generic. Calling the tertiary characters "cardboard" is too generous; they are more like tissue paper. None of them do much besides fawn over Tita. The powerful villain is decidedly non-powerful. He issues such brilliant strategic directives as, "Fire all your weapons! I don't care how, just destroy them!" Of course, an entire fleet firing all of its weapons is bound to hurt the fleet more than anyone else. With logic like this, it is unlikely that he lasted long enough to command a fleet.
Lord Guizel is the least of Plastic Little's worries. Take any character, location, or plot point: if you ask more than cursory questions, understanding slips through your fingers like water. Why do pet vendors possess powerful weaponry? Why does the first mate have such blind devotion to Tita? Why does Tita decide to send all of her friends and crew into certain death? Why does the military want to destroy an entire planet? Why doesn't Lord Guizel just shoot Tita and Elysse? How does flying into a whirlpool wipe out an entire fleet? Why is the show called Plastic Little? Nothing is adequately explained. The story is insultingly simple and maddeningly cobbled together.
The culmination of this frustration comes when certain events lead up to the destruction of an entire city. This tragic event has little precursor or aftermath. It is as though the animators thought that five minutes of annihilation would be fun to draw and just stuck it in there. It is well done, but difficult to stomach.
The worst part is that it all would have been fine had they simply elucidated more. Show us the exotic pets, explain the weaponry. Give the characters something to do, or trim them out. Make Lord Guizel seem at least partially intelligent. Give us a shred of plausibility.
Lavishly rendered breasts can overcome a lot of obstacles, but nothing can distract us from the non-existence of a coherent story. For that, Plastic Little plunges out of classic status. If you like great animation, this DVD is still worth consideration, because the artwork truly is exquisite.
The court knows that Plastic Little is guilty, but hot women usually get to walk. This is one of those times.
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