Mike Toole rates it:
Oh boy, look– it’s another anime title based on a video game from ADV! Granted, while Sonic the Hedgehog was pretty lukewarm, their other recent release of video game offspring, Sakura Wars, was quite decent. Still, the rule of video game-based anime being kind of iffy is a pretty good rule to live by. The thing is, even complete stinkers like Panzer Dragoon and Tekken could not prepare me for the sheer insanity (or perhaps inanity) of Variable Geo.
Our heroine, the spunky and implausibly top-heavy Yuka Takeuchi, is a waitress at a restaurant called Hanna Miller’s. When she isn’t working in her fetish-gear worthy waitress outfit, she hangs out with her tough but insecure pal, Satomi. Uh-huh. So we’ve got the boisterous heroine and her soft-spoken but supportive best pal. Already, we’re falling into contrived formulae here. Anyway, the interesting thing is, Yuka isn’t just a waitress. Every now and then, an opponent, a girl from a rival restaurant, will appear to challenge her. At that point, the two will register themselves on a computerized fight network run by the VG (Variable Geo– don’t ask me what the hell it’s supposed to mean) league, and then… and honestly, I am not making this up (© Dave Barry), they proceed to duke it out in a wrestling ring, executing Street Fighter-style fireball and grappling moves that would kill a normal person instantly. The winner earns ten million dollars and primo real estate for herself and her employer. And the loser? Well, depending on how formal the match is, (Level 3 is low; Level 1 is the most formal) the loser has to strip naked for the jeering crowd of spectators.
Uhhhh… yeah. Okay, well, while I admit that I find the idea of a league of restaurant servers duking it out for the title of World’s Toughest Waitress to be incredibly hilarious, the little clause regarding the fate of the loser seems a little unsavory. I mean, sure, I enjoy cheesecake as much as any heterosexual male fanboy, but the obvious misogyny (particularly evident when the loser doesn’t want to strip, but is forced to anyway) really puts me off. A lot of anime is a little chauvanistic, sure, but this is… a little unpleasant, I think. Definitely not for the Ms. Magazine crowd.
Anyway, Yuka, despite having only moderate physical fighting skills, tends to pound the hell out of her opponents. This is because she has psychic powers. (Quit groaning.) That’s right, apparently most of these rock-em’ sock-em’ waitresses have psychic powers. In fact, Yuka’s pal Satomi (herself a battlin’ waitress) is such a powerful psychic that the evil corporation that runs the VG league takes an interest in her. And kidnaps her. And (get ready for this) turns her into a killer cyborg!
Had enough yet? Well, there’s also the teleporting ninja industrial spy who eavesdrops on the evil head of the VG corporation (and VG champ herself), Reimi Jiahana (think B-ko with mad fighting skills), using the most obvious-looking bug I’ve ever seen. There’s Arina Goldsmith, the bunny-girl (Hey, don’t play dumb. You know what a bunny-girl is.) who appears completely at random with her entourage of fan service-o-riffic cheerleaders to challenge Yuka. Yuka puts the smack down on her, and then there’s this lame subtext involving Arina’s grandma. Then, of course, Arina and her pals doff their clothing, in the only incident of nudity in this video that didn’t make me feel filthy from looking at it. There’s also Yuka’s pals, the tough and gritty Jun Kubota, who helps Yuka out of respect after suffering a defeat by her at the beginning of the story. And finally, there’s Manami Kusonoki, the creepy little girl character, who fights with giant mittens that look like cat paws. She’s just kind of thrown in at random, much like Ellis was in the Toshinden OVAs.
You see what I mean about this show, don’t you? In a last-ditch effort to salvage things, the writers try to garnish the thin premise of waitresses beating each other up by building a complex psychological backstory, but it just rings hollow and is totally confusing. This is too bad, because the animation is a bit above the bar for video game-based fare, and it’s dubbed very nicely by Monster Island studios. But Variable Geo is still pablum. It’s proof that sometimes you just can’t make an engaging, entertaining story based on a fighting game. About the only thing I liked about the show was the very nice character designs. But the story is muddy, the characters are thin, the gratuitous nudity is often a little disquieting, and it all builds up to a lame, anticlimactic ending. If you really must see this, rent it; despite its very nice value for the dollar (about 90 minutes, not including trailers) this just didn’t grab me at all.
Added: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Related Link: ADV Films