Series Review

February 2022 Review (Video Girl Ai)

So, yeah February 14th came and went for me without much fanfare, as I stay a perpetual single dude. Not that I mind it, as I have found it to be a venture only worth taking on with someone truly special. That said, the yearning of a sad single otaku is a subject explored quite frequently, quite often in harem romcoms where a stand-in MC gains a bevy of babes often for no reason other than to sate the otaku’s misery. But not many of them truly examine that lingering loneliness quite like this month’s review……

Video Girl Ai (1992 OVA)

Director: Mizuho Nishikubo 

Script: Mayori Sekijima and Satoru Akahori

Studio: Production IG (IG Tatsunoko)

But first, some background, as it’s needed to understand this show. See, back in the day, there were these videos circulating in Japan known as ‘loneliness aids’. Usually, they consist of a hot young woman staring at the camera, in simulated sight of the viewer, and offering words of comfort and shall we say other adult needs, though not always the case. Video Girl Ai takes this idea and writer Masakazu Katsura ran through the always reliable ‘what if’ narrative scenario builder and asked “Well, what if the video girl came out of the tape to help a lonely young man?” 

Thus, Video Girl Ai follows the story of Yota Moteuchi (his name is a sly if sad word pun centered on loneliness) as he discovers the tape he brought at a strange video rental store contains a girl (virtual waifu Ai Amano) who ends up coming into the real world. Which at first glance would seem to be the setup of yet another otaku power fantasy. But there’s a snag, as Yota, our sad homeboi got some relationship troubles. See, he likes classic girl next door/classmate Moemi and got a mad crush on her. But she loves Yota’s best friend, cool guy Takeshi and so Yota feels left out. Yet, when Moemi confesses her feelings to him, Takeshi shrugs it off as Moemi not ‘being his type.’ So begins Yota’s quest for seeking out love with his video waifu while sorting out his own complicated life.

That’s what makes Video Girl Ai stand out for me, in that it takes what could have been a rather rote rom-com idea and makes it into a compelling and thoughtful dramatic piece. It does, at times, veer into some truly raw emotional territory that adds to the drama. I can really appreciate the emotional honesty present in the characters as not just Yota but some of the others struggled with their feelings. Yet it doesn’t wallow in the despair too much, as despite the pain love brings you, it helps to endure it.  

Now, while this might lead you to think that the story will end on a great ‘oh love conquers all’ closure typical of relationship-centric stories, no it opts for a more bittersweet if not pragmatic conclusion. Which to me marks out a truth: That love might be able to conquer, but it takes a sincere drive and belief in oneself to really have that love take on a deeper meaning. 

Having bought the DVD for this OVA series, I am surprised that no one has yet released this on Bluray, looking at you Discotek. I mean, it’s great traditional animation with some interesting use of ‘replicating’ videotape effects in certain spots and some striking visuals. Also of note, I love the Opening song “Ureshii Namida” by Noriko Sakai as it’s a neat upbeat, and lovely song. On a final note, the English dub (courtesy of Ocean Group) is anchored by two great performances; Brad Swaile as Yota and Maggie Blue O’Hara as Ai Amano. 

So, Video Girl Ai stands out as an amazing old-school anime OVA series about love and relationships. I sincerely hope this gets a Bluray release in the near future, as I feel it deserves to be preserved. The manga is available due to Viz Media, all 15 volumes that explore the story even further for those who got hooked in with the OVA. 

Well, next month we go back to a favorite franchise I’ve covered before, but this time a movie……

Til next time dear readers.

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