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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beat Shot!!: (Gainax + Golf)/Sex = ???

This past August a special anniversary happened: The DAICON IV Film turned 30 years old. What's DAICON, you ask? Every year in Japan since 1962, the Nihon SF Taikai/Japan SF Convention, a celebration of science fiction from around the world, is held, and each convention has a special name based on where it happens; Tokyo has TOKON (except the very first time, which was MEG-CON), Nagoya has MEICON, & Osaka has DAICON. In 1981 a trio of aspiring animators created a short opening animation for DAICON III all on their own. It's still an impressive feat to this day, and it got them all jobs in the anime industry, but two years later was DAICON IV, and these three men decided to come back, better than ever & with some help. Who were these three men? Hiroyuki Yamaga, Takami Akai, & Hideaki Anno... I think I've heard of them, especially that third one.

With the help of Ichiro Itano, Toshihiro Hirano, Narumi Kakinouchi, Sadami Morikawa, & Kazutaka Miyatake, the DAICON IV Film from 1983 is generally considered the beginning of what would become the animation studio known as Gainax. The studio would make its official debut with the classic movie Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, which will be getting a new release by Maiden Japan at the end of this month. Anyway, Gainax is now known as one of the most influential studios in anime, but even that studio has its super-obscure titles that they seemingly refuse to even list on their own "Works" page. In April 2011, I reviewed the most infamous of Gainax's ignored works, the excellent anime adaptation of Kazuhiko Shimamoto's Blazing Transfer Student. It proudly called itself an OLA/Original Laser Animation (only available on laserdisc!), but bombed to the point where it was quickly released on VHS & then never heard from again. Well, that's not the only anime that Gainax doesn't acknowledge, so let's take a look at what else they offered from 1989-1991, only to never speak of again (& never even get fansubbed), starting with 1989's Beat Shot!!.

Kyoichi Sasuga is an up-and-coming golf player who enters the local tournament in order to show off his skills on the links... And hopefully show off his "skills" with some women in the process. His biggest opposition on the links, though, is Akihiko Hanamatsuri, who might just be his toughest rival.

Oh boy, there isn't a whole lot to say about Beat Shot!!. Debuting back in 1986 in Weekly Playboy magazine, the original manga by Circuit no Ohkami's Satoshi Ikezawa lasted 11 volumes & had a single 27-minute OVA based on it. Truly, there's barely anything to really talk about in terms of this OVA, simply because not a whole lot happens. Kyoichi doesn't have a whole lot to his character, being nothing more than a skilled golfer who's also highly perverted. He has a swing he calls the "Beat Shot", but is easily distracted by the sight of a beautiful woman or catching a glimpse at some panties. For example, he tries showing off his control during the initial drive, that will determine the group he competes in, by having two girls, including female golfer Sayaka Sakuragi (who Kyoichi ran into before the tournament & tried groping her breasts), stand in front of each & hold each other's hands, making an archway that Kyoichi has to shoot the ball through. The first swing works like a charm, but when one of the girls's panties becomes visible due to a wind gust Kyoichi whiffs the second swing. Hanamatsuri uses this weakness during the main competition, since he's going against Kyoichi directly, by having his friend Misako distract him by looking sexy.

In terms of golf "action", there really isn't much to see, honestly. The OVA shows off the first, tenth, & final holes, with the rest being done during a quick montage. Luckily, the holes that are shown are kind of neat, with Kyoichi getting stuck in a couple of tricky situations to work his way out of. For example, on the last hole his ball is in the water, so in order to make it to the hole he has to not only hit the ball hard enough to get it out of the water, but also bounce it off of a sprinkler so that it can bounce far enough to reach the hole. To be honest, Hanamatsuri's attempt at distracting Kyoichi only works so much, as Kyoichi is seemingly able to eventually fight it off. The biggest problem here is that this OVA is just way to short. Had this been 45-60 minutes long, then more focus could be put on the holes & seeing how both players get out of their tough situations. Instead, everything goes by a little too fast, making the effect of any sort of deception or sex-driven ability increase feel moot at best... Yes, I just said the word "sex".

There are literally two sex scenes in this OVA, essentially book-ending the main part of the golf tournament. Neither scene is graphic as genitalia is always obscured, but they are still "graphic" in that you see Kyoichi & his two "partners", Misaki Kuchiki (Sakuragi's captain) & Misako, do all the motions. "Shafts" are sucked, "bunkers" are dug into, & "holes" are most-definitely sunk! In all seriousness, though, these sex scenes are absolutely pointless & simply do nothing for the story; they are likely only there because the original manga ran in an adult magazine. There are some bare breasts shown, which are fine, but these sex scenes are nothing more than gratuitous inclusions that don't have any real points to them. They're about as necessary as the two sudden boners Kyoichi gets in his pants during the OVA.

Anyway, this was made by Gainax, a studio generally known for quality animation... It's too bad that this is not even a basic example of that. To be fair, the animation is fluid & the golf holes shown in full animate well, not to mention the sex scenes are also done nicely, but it just doesn't have that "sheen" that Gainax productions tend to give off. Everything looks pretty low-budget, with the biggest indication being the montage in the middle that features no animation at all; it's all just panning shots mixed with lots of fades. The music, likewise, is upbeat when needed & slow during the sex scenes, but overall it's nothing memorable & isn't even used all too often. The major staff is made up of mainly small-name people, none of Gainax's recognizeable names, but overall it simply feels like they did the best they could with the little they were given.

The main cast, likewise, is pretty small. Kyoichi is voiced by Kenyuu Horiuchi, who at least does a respectable job with a character who's both a serious golf player & a sullen lecher. Likewise, Toshihiko Seki does an okay job with Hanamatsuri. The "main" female cast are all "guest performances", i.e. they aren't seiyuu, with Midori Nakagawa (a singer & actress from Space Sheriff Sharivan) doing a fair job as Sakuragi. Misaki & Misako (seriously?), on the other hand, are voiced by Ayumi Hayakawa & Yuko Maehara... Who at the time were adult video idols. That's right, Gainax literally hired porn actresses simply so that the sex scenes would sound "accurate". I really have nothing else to say.

The back shows Kyoichi sexing Sakuragi...  Which never happens.

There's no other way to put it: Beat Shot!! sucks. It's so absolutely basic in execution, outside of the almost-random sex scenes, that there is almost nothing to really say about it; it's that dull. It feels more like a pilot than a standalone product, but it doesn't even succeed at being promotion for the manga. Watching this doesn't make me one bit interested in reading the manga, even if I could read it, and while the animation itself is smooth & fluid most of the time it just doesn't exhibit any of the style & "sheen" that even the worst well-known Gainax productions tend to have. Thankfully, it was only slightly less than a half-hour long, so I can't call it a complete waste; I've had my time wasted by longer productions. I can only hope that it gets better from this, because there are two more ignored Gainax OVAs to cover. Luckily, both of them are roughly 45-minutes long, so pacing shouldn't be an issue. Also, the next one hopefully can act as redemption for Satoshi Ikezawa, since it's based on his most-successful work.

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