Taking a look back at "Debutante Detective Corps" and "Ruin Explorers"
PREVIOUSLY, ON NATESTALGIA (I swear I'm not trying to turn this column into a quarterly):
Valiant CRN newswriter Nate Ming decided to do the unthinkable, and write about stuff he likes and feels nostalgic about. The last time he entered this killing ground, he covered his five all-time favorite JRPGs. Dusting himself off and getting ready to make Natestalgia a regular thing again, he digs deep into his collection of anime, and unearths something unspeakable...
Man, it's been a while! There's one thing I notice here on Crunchyroll that's kind of blitheringly obvious: you guys really like anime.
I mean, really--look at the likes and comments of the CRN 2012 Favorites list for Anime and Manga as opposed to games or movies. Natestalgia as a whole has been all over the place, covering two full anime TV series, a few random movies, and a bunch of gaming stuff, so I'm going with something different--a little more "core," if you will. Instead of dedicating a whole column to a 30-minute OAV, I'm mashing a bunch of them together into a new semi-regular feature I'm calling OAV Oasis. Sure, the longer OAV titles will be getting their own columns...
...but for the most part, we'll be focusing on one-shots, two- or three-episode mini-series, and the occasional theatrical-release anime. This week, we dig deep into the long-lost ADV Films vault for a look at sorta-forgotten not-quite-gems DEBUTANTE DETECTIVE CORPS and RUIN EXPLORERS!
Debutante Detective Corps is pretty out-there in terms of anime weirdness. I'm not talking Ishida & Asakura weird (still love that show), but, well... only in anime will you find an all-girls school populated by the children of the super-rich, and a group of those girls form a Detective Club. Based on a PCFX adventure game, this one-shot OAV was released Stateside by ADV Films, and was thirty dollars for a thirty-minute subtitled VHS tape, which we didn't get to preview unless we'd rented it from Blockbuster or something. Watching anime was hardcore back in the day.
The OAV kind of throws us into the thick of it, with the principal of the unnamed academy giving a welcome speech to start off the new school year. The main characters, being gigantic attention hogs, each have a spectacular entrance, with the girls one-upping each other as they show up. Like that dork you know who has "力" or "愛" ("power" or "love") tattooed on the back of his neck, the OAV's staff went with a "grass is greener" mentality and wrote out each of the main characters' profiles in English.
Miyuki crashes through a stained-glass window on a motorcycle
With her incredible sterngth, Reika blows down the hall's double-doors while riding a plain ol' bicycle
Youko orders her limo driver to knock down the rest of the wall and--wait, her Grandma is the illegitimate illegitimate child of Hitler?
Because white girls be crazy in anime, Nina ejects out of an attack chopper, blows it up in mid-air, and parachutes in through the roof
Main character Kimiko shows up with a massive police escort, including SWAT. Also, her specialty is "SUPER ABILITY"--more on that later
With our five main girls introduced (and the poor principal beaten and worn down), we learn from Kimiko's police escort that our heroines are being threatened by a shadowy terror organization. Apparently, the combined wealth of the girls is equal to Japan's gross national product, which in 1996 was a lot of freaking money. The terrorists believe these girls to be a symbol of all that is wrong with the world, and the world is much better off without them.
The girls are quarantined in a room under police watch, while Kimiko randomly decides to go take a shower for no reason at all.
Now, far be it from me to wish harm on anybody else, but it's like asking us to feel sympathy for the Kardashians. The girls are manipulative and dismissive and just plain mean sometimes, so when they come up with the hi-larious plan to lose their tail and put a gruff detective in a schoolgirl outfit, it doesn't come off as clever so much as bitchy.
Once the detective is out of harm's way, though, shit just goes bananas. The girls are shot at, trapped in a room with a cartoonishly huge bomb, and then forced to fight the terrorist group, which consists of, uh...
They're saved by Nina, who was carrying a concealed weapon:
The production values are already really high in this OAV, but it's almost like they were saving most of the budget specifically for these fast, brutal fights. The battle between kung-fu princess Reika and the villainous strongman is pretty insane, going back and forth for several minutes with fluid, lightning-fast cuts and a scale that quickly goes from epic to absurd.
The real highlight has to be when Kimiko reveals that she's a psychic, powers up her "Super Ability" (because if I had psychic powers, I'd pretend to do the Kame-hame-ha too) and misses. It's okay, though--they end up blowing up the entire school and everybody's alive at the end.
In the only bit of actual detecting done in a one-shot called Debutante Detective Corps, it turns out that Kimiko used her massive wealth to hire these mercenaries to attack the school, so that the girls could team up and Kimiko could form the Detective Club she always wanted to. And everybody's okay with this, because Kimiko is going to pay for all the damages out of her pocket money.
To me, it's not fair to say that Debutante Detective Corps is bad. It's really a product of its time, and in twenty-plus years I think we're going to look back on all this slice-of-life stuff and wonder why it was so popular in the first place. Now, in less-insane anime viewing, we'll wrap up with...
Ruin Explorers is a four-episode OAV based off a manga that ran in Hobby Japan, which covers statue/figure collecting, anime and manga, tabletop gaming, airsoft, and much more. Known in Japan as the longer and more descriptive Ruin Explorers Fam & Ihrie, this seemingly generic fantasy/comedy shows that you don't have to be super-original to hit all the right notes.
Like most fantasy stories, it starts with a history lesson, talking about how ancient civilzations wielded immense power, eventually leading to their downfall. Thousands of years later, foolhardy adventurers called Ruin Explorers brave the ruins in search of treasure. Tomboyish fighter/mage Ihrie and her catgirl magic-user pal Fam are searching for something creatively titled "the Ultimate Power" to reverse an embarassing curse that was cast on Ihrie. Right from the start, we learn a very valuable lesson:
Namely, the more you yell at a klutzy person, the klutzier they get
While haggling for rent, they run into this totally above-board merchant named Galuff, and his hilarious Muttley-looking dog Gill.
Another valuable lesson: NEVER EVER trust a guy who's doing this with his hands
Galuff promises to pay Fam and Ihrie's room and board for their treasure, and later cons them into buying a map from him that leads to the Ultimate Power. Of course, Fam and Ihrie rush headlong into the dungeon, but little do they know that they're being double (triple?)-crossed!
Of course, Galuff has hired another pair of Ruin Explorers--haughty hottie Rasha and her rough-and-tumble bodyguard Miguel--who swipe the treasure from under Fam and Ihrie's noses! Don't feel too bad for our leading ladies, though--they would totally do the same thing to Rasha and Miguel.
Eventually, Fam and Ihrie find out the treasure--the "Proof of Royalty"--is useless on its own, and must naturally collect the complete set of artifacts to awaken the Ultimate Power. Later, after one of their usual spats, Fam and Ihrie split, and Fam attaches herself at the hip to this guy:
His name is Lyle--he's sensitive, caring, listens to a girl's problems, totally single, thicker than mud, and is on a quest for revenge. Being the great friend she is, Fam jacks all of Ihrie's food and money, and gives the Proof of Royalty to Lyle, because Lyle told her some sob story about how he got conned by a shady merchant.
Speak of the devil, and he (she?) shall appear
Trudging into town half-dead, Ihrie comes across that same shady merchant and makes him pay her back. He does this in the nicest way possible: he gets her a job.
Of course, that wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't serving Rasha and Miguel. One thing leads to another, and we not only get an awesome tavern brawl between Miguel and the rowdy barkeep...
...but we find out what Ihrie's curse is. You see, she's pretty strong when it comes to using magic, but every time she casts a spell, she's transformed into a mouse. Kinda sucks for her, since she has to take special pills to return to human form!
Eventually, everybody's paths cross again in a dark dungeon where one of the artifacts is hidden, and Rasha immediately latches on to Lyle.
No sooner do our not-so-intrepid heroes come across the artifact they need--the mystical Sword of Sargus--than the Big Bad shows up, and he is one mean mofo, having ties to Prince Lyle's past. Former archbishop, now vicious warlord Ruguduroll (that name is a bitch to pronounce) once served Lyle's family, but was corrupted by dark magic and ended up killing Lyle's fiancee and devastating the kingdom.
Look at that lustrous beard! Can you use Herbal Essences' Long Term Relationship on a beard? I wonder...
Of course, since you can't end an important fight quickly in any good story, Ruguduroll laughs off everybody's magic and swordfighting skills, kicks everybody's asses and runs away--but doesn't take the Sword of Sargus with him. Because she's the only one with pure intentions in the room (and Lyle is unconscious), Fam is the only one able to touch the sword, and uses it to kick Ruguduroll's ass and save the day GIVES IT TO LYLE. She's just giving all their treasure away! WHAT THE HELL, MAN.
Just so I don't keep you here all night talking about two more episodes' worth of Ruin Explorers, let's just say it all ends up peachy in the end: Ruguduroll is defeated, and it turns out he's one of those not-so-bad villains who just wanted power to help people, but the power corrupted him and the rest is history. Lyle starts rebuilding his kingdom, Fam and Ihrie are off to have more adventures, and Rasha, Miguel, and Galuff are waiting in the wings to continue being hilarious pains in the ass.
Not to say I don't like today's anime, but watching Ruin Explorers again felt like a breath of fresh air. Bright, clean animation that was stylized but still had some edge to it, and a simple-yet-effective story that takes all the classic tropes and uses them effectively make this one actually better than I remember it from when I first watched it in high school. Debutante Detective Corps... not so much, but it was really well-animated and was frenetic and silly for its entire second half.
That about wraps up the first Natestalgia OAV Oasis, but here's a teaser for what's coming in the future!
Thanks for checking out Natestalgia, everybody! Were you part of the old guard, blind-buying Debutante Detective Corps or Ruin Explorers on VHS, or is this the first time you've ever heard of these titles? What other, older titles do you want to see make an appearance here on Natestalgia? Sound off in the comments!