Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody Anime Review
Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody
US Release By
Schoolgirl Romance Parody
As if A-ko, B-ko, C-ko, and D weren't enough, now Graviton City has to put up with K... er, Kei. A-ko is determined to have a good time on her spring vacation, and lo and behold while out dress shopping C-ko bumps into the superstud Kei. It's not long before A-ko and B-ko have found someone new (and male) to fight over. When Everybody gets "invited" to a special party with Kei, they'll give "party crashing" a whole new meaning.
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Another Project A-ko movie, another style--give these folks credit for never doing the same thing twice. Cinderella Rhapsody pokes fun at high school romance, but unfortunately mimics what it mocks a little too effectively. On the negative side, by going a little too straightforward with the "light romance" theme (even if all the details are just a little bit wrong on closer examination) it's too much like a standard high school romance to properly enjoy, and not even a memorable one. It also lacks the wild-and-wooly action of the rest of the series. On the positive side, fans might appreciate a bit of downtime and just a smidgen of depth, and C-ko is not only not as annoying, you can almost even empathize with her--will wonders never cease. As with the rest of the sequels, it's visually solid, if unimpressive, and the entire voice cast (in Japanese and English) is back and doing their thing.
Cinderella Rhapsody is another creative take on the Project A-ko characters, but it overcompensates for the too-silly second movie and ends up being too straight for its own good. Still, it has a few good classic anime references, a couple of good jokes, and it's nice to see the characters (especially C-ko) filled out a bit. Unremarkable, but worth the time if you're a big Project A-ko fan.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Another Project A-ko movie, another style--give these folks credit for never doing the same thing twice. Where the first movie was an action-loaded schoolgirl/space invasion parody, and Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group was outright silly, Cinderella Rhapsody pokes fun at high school romance. Unfortunately, while I thought that the second one was too over the top for its own good, this one swings too far in the other direction.
It starts out well enough--a little pool hall parody that looks so good you'll think you've got the wrong movie. But once we meet Kei, we find two things out: One, A-ko and B-ko apparently are interested in boys, laying to rest a long-standing question. Two, if you take a silly comedy and give the characters some emotional depth while proportionally decreasing the wacky factor, you get either a mediocre high school romantic comedy or a parody of one that isn't all that funny.
Had Project A-ko been a longer OAV series, or the characters a bit deeper to start with, I might have enjoyed a slightly more realistic (or at least sappily romantic) take on them, but Cinderella Rhapsody feels a bit too much like a standard high school romance to properly enjoy. It does have some gradual build up of tension and potential chaos, but in the end it never leads anywhere since it's lacking any real action. Considering this movie's heritage, that's a crying shame.
That's not to say that Project A-ko 3 doesn't have its high points. Aside from generally poking fun at the whole high-school romance genre (it's a standard romance, but if you pay attention almost everything is a little off), there are a few good jokes and a little sequence at the end that makes reference to just about every classic mecha anime that you can think of.
It's also a nice change of pace to have some downtime with the characters. As two-dimensional as they are, I still like the characters, so I enjoyed getting to see to see a bit more depth out of A, B and C-ko. We also get to spend plenty of time with B-ko's loyal minions.
The biggest change (and this one is for the better) is that C-ko is not only much less annoying, she almost qualifies as an actual character instead of an empty blonde shell full of annoying. Yes, that's right, I very nearly found myself empathizing with C-ko. Will wonders never cease. Almost frightening, but it finally makes sense why A-ko is willing to put up with her, especially after a cute little scene at the end (which also brings back all that ambiguity about exactly how "friendly" A-ko and C-ko are). Certainly a pleasant change.
The visual end of the production is par for the three sequel movies--same character designs, nice art, smooth animation. Said animation is mostly character animation this time; there's very little action (the bit it does have also looks good). The one thing that stands out is the stylized intro sequence, which looks very slick--reminds me a lot of Yasuomi Umetsu's character designs and sharp visual productions. Pointless, but good stuff.
The dub is, as before, unremarkable, but the same old Japanese cast is back again, and doing their thing. Impressively, Michie Tomizawa manages to make C-ko something at least vaguely resembling a person with human emotions without significantly changing her voice (again, will wonders never cease). Unfortunately USM's subtitles make some alterations from the original dialogue, matching the loosely translated dub more closely.
The music, thankfully, is back from the generic anime tunes of 2, this time featuring several classical-style (or actually classical) pieces of music and one unmemorable vocal interlude.
In the end, Cinderella Rhapsody is another creative take on the Project A-ko characters, but while it lightly pokes fun at high school romance, it overcompensates for the too-silly second movie and ends up being too straight for its own good. Still, it has a few good classic anime references, a couple of good jokes, and it's nice to see the characters (especially C-ko) filled out a bit. Unremarkable, but I'd say worth the time if you're a big Project A-ko fan.
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Vaguely similar to Urusei Yatsura, in that the characters are silly but there is something vaguely resembling emotion underneath (though this, unlike other Project A-ko movies, is much less silly).
Notes and Trivia
As with Eiko et al, Kei is a real Japanese name, in addition to being alphabetically appropriate. Other letters that could have made an appearance but don't in the series, are I (Aiko), U (Yuko), and O (there are a number of names that begin with an "oh" sound). That said, B-ko's three minions are each named with a vowel: Asa, Ine, and Ume. Those are the first three characters in "alphabetic" order in Japanese, roughly (and appropriately) equivalent to A B C. Mari is the odd girl out, possibly because E was already used by A-ko herself.
The Graviton City Citizen Defense Force preparation sequence toward the end is loaded with classic mecha anime references, but I have to point out my personal favorite since it is rather obscure: If you check out the two guys sitting in the front row of the adult movie, you'll notice (other than a disturbingly frustrated guy--check the bottom of the screen) none other than Lt. Kilgore and Koji from MADOX-01. The owner of the dress shop may be modeled after Kusumoto Ellie from the same series, but it's harder to say for sure about that one.
On a completely different note, a lot of anime fans might miss that the makeshift dress scene is a riff on a sequence in Gone With the Wind.
Speaking of which, A-ko's summer job at the "Mods Bonrga" burger joint is a play on "Mos Burger," a popular midrange fast-hamburger chain in Japan.
The original credits featured quick shots from the intro interspersed with the text, and a couple of pictures of A-ko in the same style toward the end, as well as a group shot of A, B, and C-ko that you can see at the end of the music video. These credits were used on USM's VHS release, but not on the Love and Robots DVD.
For those wondering "Are the three girls lesbians?", this installment conclusively answers the question: No. At the very least, A-ko and B-ko are interested in boys, though C-ko is less clear. Based on the final scene, however, they might well be bisexual. Further, if you look at the prototype story (Project A-ko was originally envisioned as an installment in the Cream Lemon hentai series, but was re-written as a mainstream action-comedy), the girls' relationship was unequivocally physical, so you could infer that in this non-erotic recasting the more-than-platonic interest has carried through, albeit in a never-explicitly-stated way.
US DVD Review
The DVD is a triple feature with the other two sequels, and is a basic but decent production; see the review of Project A-ko 2 for details on the disc. This particular movie unfortunately has the end credits sequence changed; the original text was interspersed with shots from the opening sequence and a couple of additional pictures toward the end, which on this disc was replaced with the montage from the credits of the second movie. On the bright side, the VHS version included a bonus (and mostly live action) music video of the catchy end theme which is available in the special features section of the menu. That video, at the end, has a group picture that originally closed the credits of this movie.
Mostly clean, but one short joke involving an adult-movie-within-a-movie toward the end makes this a no-no for the kids, and if you're particularly strict might even make it worse worse than the 13-up that USM gave it.
Violence: 1 - Not a whole lot of fighting, especially by Project A-ko standards.
Nudity: 3 - One relatively short but flesh-filled scene from an adult movie near the end.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - That same scene.
Language: 1 - Pretty clean.
Formerly available in North America from the late US Manga Corps on hybrid DVD, titled "Love and Robots," which also includes the 2nd and 4th A-ko movies; there was also a box set that included all four films together. Was originally available on subtitled and dubbed VHS.