Mike Toole rates it:
It’s always fun to cast a nerd in the role of a superhero. Just look at Spider Man and the Hulk. That seems to be part of the idea behind Moldiver, a 1993 OVA series that manages to be both a parody of and an homage to costumed superheroes.
In this case, our hero is apparently Hiroshi Ozora, a brilliant young physics student who’s developed a molecular shield and transportation system. The physics behind it are a little spotty, but the general idea is that Ozora can use a control device to create an incredibly light, high-density molecular shield in any shape around himself, and move the suit just about as fast as he wants to. The result is a seriously powerful weapon, and we get to see it in action pretty quickly– whenever Hiroshi appears in his “Mol” suit (which, incidentally, lasts 10 minutes– kinda like Ultraman!), the scrawny little nerd takes on the appearance of a muscular, charismatic caped wonder. The locals eat it up, quickly dubbing him “Captain Tokyo”.
The problem stems from Hiroshi’s old instructor, Professor Amagi. Amagi’s an odd duck– a grizzled and respected old professor, he loves collecting relics of the late 20th century (our story takes place about 100 years later) and seems to be strangely secretive, almost a control freak. It turns out that he has a good reason for this– he leads a secret double life as the villanous (sort of) Dr. Machinegal, a fitting moniker considering his omnipresent squadron of cyborg babes. Machinegal isn’t really a traditional bad guy– he’s just an ace in the hole that Dr. Amagi seems to whip out whenever things aren’t going the way he wants them to, or (more commonly) when he sees a 20th century relic that he wants, but can’t acquire legally. Having a supervillain alterego gives him a convenient pretense for stealing antiques.
Not surprisingly, it isn’t too long before his cyborg girls (all of whom are named after famous 20th century actresses) and Hiroshi and his powered “Mol” (molecular) armor come to blows. This happens just in time for Hiroshi’s sister, Mirai, to slip in and steal the limelight. By some odd twist of fate, she ends up with a “Mol” unit, transforms, and does battle with the doctor’s cyborg babes. But instead of Captain Tokyo, Mirai ends up transforming into a much more fashionable outfit (she’s a chronic beauty pageant contestant in her spare time) and quickly dubs herself “Moldiver”.
Things proceed along nicely in this 6-episode OVA series; while Hiroshi and Mirai struggle with the “Mol” system and thwarting Dr. Akagi, their little brother, Nozomu, has diabolical plans of his own– and meanwhile, Prof. Amagi is flight-testing a new transportation system, a system which he fervently believes the human race just isn’t ready for. Will he sabotage the efforts of chief astronaut Kaoru Misaki, who happens to be Mirai’s objet d’affection? Will there be comedic hijinks and exciting superhero battles? Of course there will!
Before I pass judgement, let’s look at some technical aspects of this DVD. Considering that all 6 episodes are included on this single disc for $20, it’s a hell of a deal. There are problems– while the audio sounds great in Japanese and English, the video is starting to age (I noticed some dust specks) and parts of the transfer seemed a little “soft”– no doubt there weren’t QUITE enough bits to comfortably pack all 6 episodes in. Also problematic is the subtitle track– it’s a dubtitle, which means that it’s basically just a subtitled version of the dialogue in the dub, which is noticeably altered from the original Japanese. The translation is actually fairly accurate, but it’s still difficult to watch at times. Finally, the extras are just magnificent– they include production art, a gallery of LD covers, and even a mini-documentary about the physics of Moldiver, hosted by the main characters!
While it boasts a pretty slow start, I found Moldiver goofy and easy to watch. The superhero antics are fun to watch, the characters (especially Dr. Amagi) are amusing, and the story is entertaining without being too pointlessly derivative. What’s also interesting is the fact that, in this reviewer’s opinion, Moldiver is really good viewing for younger fans– there’s not much graphic violence, and the nudity in the show (there’s bits here and there) is always veiled– no naughty bits. In fact, I’d venture to say that Moldiver is almost ridiculously sweet and utterly inoffensive, if lacking substance in parts. If director/character designer Hiroyuki Kitazune was looking to create a fun, pleasant, lightweight show, then he’s definitely succeeded with Moldiver.
Added: Saturday, October 18, 2003
Related Link: Pioneer Animation