Photon: the Idiot AdventuresYui HorieEiji TakemotoYuu Asakawa
Photon: the Idiot Adventures
Medium: OVA, series
Year: 1997
Director: Koji Masunari
Original creator: Masaki Kajishima
Studio: AIC, MOVIC, Starchild Records
Actor: Junko Takeuchi, Yui Horie, Yumi Kuroda, Akiko Hiramatsu, Kouichi Yamadera, Kozue Yoshizumi, Marie Ichino, TOMO, Yuri Amano, Ai Orikasa, Eiji Takemoto, Hidenobu Kikuchi, Masaaki Tsukada, Masashi Hirose, Naoki Bandou, Yuu Asakawa
Keywords: anime, boobs, SF, comedy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 6 episodes
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 6 June 2006
Photon's a sweet kid, if not the brightest spark in the plasma generator. He sleeps in a drawer and reacts to life like a kind-hearted but slightly confused five-year-old. Oh, and he also has superhuman strength. Nothing even scratches him. He can lift rocks the size of houses, is immune to conventional weapons and even energy blasts only knock him over.
Aun Freya is obsessed with a pop star, to the point where she'll steal a sand cruiser and roar off in pursuit of her idol. She also has the ability to stop time.
Keyne Acqua is a spacegoing fugitive, on the run from a bad guy called Papacharino who seems to have difficulty keeping his clothes on. However that's okay, since that's also true of Keyne.
This show wasn't quite what I'd expected. Online reviewers had made it sound like non-stop hilarity and tastelessness, while the title led me to expect hyperactive shrieking comedy. In the end I found it to be a relatively straightforward OVA with a nice balance of drama and comedy, with nothing particularly off-colour if you don't count a little nudity. Okay, a lot of nudity. That word "idiot" had led me astray. Despite what Aun writes on his forehead in indelible pen, Photon isn't a 'baka' (i.e. dickhead) but an 'aho' (i.e. simpleminded). He's child-like, endearingly loyal, speaks at twelve words a minute and could probably beat up the Incredible Hulk.
It's reminiscent of Tenchi Muyo, unsurprisingly since Photon's creator, Masaki Kajishima, also worked on that series. Every woman seems to fall for Photon, resulting in some highly amusing bitch fights. Yup, it's almost a harem anime, albeit more plot-driven than most. It's also riddled with nudity, although not to the extent of Masaki Kajishima's hentai shows like Masquerade or Spaceship Agga Ruter. Oddly, this show has some of the most blatant fanservice I've seen outside pornography, yet somehow it feels innocent. It's just skin. Okay, there's lots of it, but: (a) there's male nudity too, and (b) flashing some flesh feels less perverted than the things anime can do with women who still have their clothes on. We can't leer up Keyne's skirt if she isn't wearing one! Besides, Photon's reaction to a pair of naked breasts is to use them as pillows like a baby with mummy. Far more disturbing is Papacharino and the self-censoring black dot that protects us from the sight of his giggle stick.
I like the visuals. Photon's planet (called "Sandy Planet", or so he says) has a nifty Mad Max vibe, with steampunk technology in which a felt tip pen is a priceless religious relic. There's plenty of more traditional-looking SF hardware courtesy of Keyne and Papacharino, plus some entertaining action. It's simply funny to see Photon beating up... well, just about anything.
Incidentally, episode one has the most high-pitched Japanese voice I've ever heard. It sounds so bizarre that I was astonished when the character proved to be only a cameo, although had she become a regular my ears would still be bleeding. It's the kind of thing you show to friends to reduce them to disbelieving giggles.
The tone is inconsistent. The first couple of episodes weren't outrageously funny, but I enjoyed them on a story level. The characters are fun, the SF concepts are interesting and the plot is decent. However after that came the bitch fight between Keyne and Aun, which is practically open war and very amusing indeed. Compared with these two, Tenchi Muyo's Ayeka and Ryoko were bosom buddies. Then wrapping everything up was the heavily dramatic (albeit not entirely coherent) final episode, which seems to have thrown the "this is HILARIOUS!!!" reviewers for a loop. Since I'd been enjoying the show as much on a story level as anything else, I rather liked it... though even I must admit that it comes out of left field somewhat.
This isn't an A-list anime, but it's a solid B-grade title. Comparisons with Tenchi Muyo are interesting. That franchise similarly began with a six-part OVA of girls and SF high concepts. The difference is that Tenchi is more obvious wish-fulfilment, with a blander hero, an contemporary Earth-based setting and a more obviously harem-oriented set-up. It has a richer variety of girls, for one thing, although they tend to remain clothed. Photon's plot is stronger and its setting more distinctive, but it's hard to imagine it kick-starting a franchise. It won't change your life, but it's fun.