Idol Fighter Su-Chi-Pai Anime Review
Aidoru Faito Suuchiipai II
"Idol Fight Su-Chi-Pai II
US Release By
Assorted Superbabe Action
What do a maid who uses black magic to transform into a dominatrix, a military cyborg who just wants to be human, a rabbit-shaped alien invading earth, a psychic girl from the world of magic masquerading as an idol singer, and an everyday Tokyo girl who transforms into a crime-fighting, Mahjong-themed superhero have in common? Absolutely nothing, really, but that doesn't stop them from going at it in this series. Each of them wants to vanquish a set of monsters to retrieve a set of magical Mahjong tiles known as the Pai--these ancient artifacts will grant the one who gathers them a wish, and these girls aren't going to let anything stand in their way--monsters, or each other!
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If the idea of anime based on an erotic Mahjong game sounds random to you, you've already got an idea of the plot of Su-Chi-Pai: Rather than sticking to a single tired anime cliche about transforming girls in cute costumes fighting evil, this little gem goes for the gold and shoves all of them into a single story. It is devoid of meaningful content, goes absolutely nowhere, and crams an impressive number of wildly unrelated backstories into one single episode, but the free-for-all climax is actually pretty funny. Kick in cute character designs by Kenichi Sonoda and decent production values, and you've got yourself an effective way to kill 30 minutes marveling at extreme randomness while rotting your brain at the same time.
The series was never completed, it's really random, and it's low-brow, but at least it's well made. If the sheer randomness of its pedigree sounds intriguing or it otherwise sounds like fun, go ahead and give it a shot.
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When I first glanced at Idol Fighter Su-Chi-Pai, my impression was: unoriginal, cheap, and relatively sleazy. I was only right on two out of three counts; despite it indeed being painfully cliched and of questionable taste, it does manage to be passably fun if stunningly random for as long as it lasts.
One thing I can say for sure is that Su-Chi-Pai is the best anime based on an erotic Mahjong video game series I've ever seen. As you probably guessed, it's also the only anime based on a Mahjong game, let alone an erotic one, that I've ever seen, making for a downright strange pedigree. (By the way, if you're wondering, erotic Mahjong is actually a standard arcade genre in Japan--see the notes section.)
Anyway, if the idea of anime based on a Mahjong game sounds random to you, you've already got an idea of the plot of Su-Chi-Pai: Rather than sticking to a single tired anime cliche about transforming girls in cute costumes fighting evil, it goes for the gold and shoves all of them into a single story. There's about a minute of overly dramatic exposition (with a voice-over by Ai Orikasa) at the beginning to explain the theory behind cute girls hunting down monsters, but that doesn't exactly cover how a rabbit-shaped alien, a girl from the World of Magic masquerading as a pop idol, a military cyborg who just wants to be loved, and a black-magic-using S&M Queen all managed to end up on Earth bickering over a Mahjong tile.
No, logic or even meaningful flow have nothing to do with this "story." Still, you get to enjoy 5 nice cheesy little compartmentalized character-establishing scenes, then watch the five girls go all-out in a highly amusing brawl over who gets to kill the evil (but cute) monster. It's 100% content-free and goes nowhere, but the free-for-all cat-fight was surprisingly funny and there are several decent gags scattered around. Only the one episode was ever produced (unless you count the games), so don't go hoping for a conclusion or anything more than a chuckle, but you can't exactly call that a surprise given what inspired it.
It's actually disappointing that there isn't more, since it seems the creative staff had enough talent to do something fun with even this concept. As it is, it spends a lot of its short runtime establishing the characters before it gets rolling, only to go nowhere. At least it's empty enough that it's hard to feel ripped-off at the lack of a conclusion.
On the visual end, you've got a selection of nice character designs by Kenichi Sonoda (who also did the art for the games), which is to say traditional and without a whole lot of variety, but plenty cute. The art and animation aren't spectacular, but the linework is decent and the animation on the small amount of action is smooth. Coupled with lively colors and at least passable backgrounds, that makes for a nice-enough-looking little chunk of traditional anime.
The Japanese cast features several recognizable names, most of them reprising their roles from the arcade game version. The acting is all-around good, inasmuch as this much random cheesecake allows for good acting. Anyway, it's fun. I can't say as much for Hirameki's English dub; the acting is half-decent, and I was impressed with the accurate pronunciation of the Japanese names, but the dialogue is a far too literal translation and awkwardly written on top of it. If you're going to watch it, I can't recommend the dub at all.
The music is lively, if not very memorable. The end theme is certainly cute, though.
In the end, Idol Fighter Su-Chi-Pai succeeds at what it was trying to do: throw a bunch of cute girls with random backstories and occasionally skimpy costumes at the viewer with an excuse for them to do very violent and funny things to bad people and each other. It's vacuous, low-concept anime with no conclusion, but at least it's done right. If the sheer randomness of its pedigree tickles your fancy, or it otherwise sounds like fun, go ahead and give it a shot. I, at least, enjoyed it more than I expected to (and more than I felt like I should have).
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There are countless random and unfinished OAV series like this, but for worthwhile transforming girl action, Cutey Honey is a good bet--it's a bit sleazier, but almost has a plot, somewhat more substance, and has higher production values.
Notes and Trivia
The Suchi-pai series, as the documentary on Hirameki's DVD explains, started with a 1993 non-erotic SNES game by Jaleco that was followed by a spicier arcade version with voice acting in 1994. This OAV is based loosely on the arcade version (same characters, anyway), which is why it's technically "II." Later games include several releases for the Playstation and other systems, most of them mature-viewers titles, and none of which ever made it outside Japan.
The artwork for the original series, and therefore the character designs in the anime, are by Kenichi Sonoda, probably best known for his manga series Gunsmith Cats and Exaxxion. He has also done character designs for many anime series, Bubblegum Crisis and Gall Force among them.
For those not familiar with the Japanese arcade scene, erotic Mahjong is actually a genre in and of itself--the game play is always similar (it is Mahjong after all), but each game features its own brand of attractive anime girls to play with or against, and some go as far as having storylines revolving around the gameplay and full-on animated sequences. Most (though not all) also happen to involve scantily clad women who become more scantily clad if you manage to win.
If you're actually interested in trying a video Mahjong game and you don't live in Japan, the free MAME arcade machine emulator is your best bet (for those not familiar with the software, it lets you play a faithful reproduction of most classic arcade games, providing you can find the ROM files for the games). If you are a MAME junky, Su-Chi-Pai is supported by newer MAME versions, though as of 0.74 the sound isn't supported yet. The ROM names are 47pie2 (version 1.1) and 47pie2o (version 1.0), and the game is listed as Idol Janshi Suchi-pai 2. For those interested, I did find a great site for learning to play arcade Mahjong, and it even includes a detailed tutorial for Suchi-pai 2 for those who can't read Japanese.
This, along with the TV Series Soar High! Isami, was the first anime release of a small company that specialized in translating visual novels, Hirameki International. They quickly gave up on anime DVDs, however, to stick with visual novels in the form of "AnimePlay DVD" or "AnimePlay PC," basically choose-your-story-path games either on computer or set-top DVD players (including one based on Ai Yori Aoshi). In mid-2008 they closed shop completely, though a placeholder of their website is still up as of 2010.
US DVD Review
The DVD, like Hirameki's other first effort, Soar High! Isami, is a little odd. The basic checklist is okay: The video looks fine, the audio in both languages is okay, and the menus provide access to proper chapter stops and language controls. Aside from the annoyance of the disc skipping the menu and launching directly into the dubbed program, the problem is mostly with the subtitles. Although the translation is accurate, the font looks a little cramped (though unlike Isami, it's not monospaced or left-aligned), the timing is off in a few spots (not badly, but certainly enough to notice), there are an unusually high number of typos, and in a few spots there are a full four lines of text onscreen--that's going a bit far, even for narration. It essentially feels like a mid-grade fansub.
The disc doesn't have any song translations, and more disappointingly features no translations of the closing credits (or credit for the English voice actors, for that matter), but at least it left the Japanese cast intact, so you can find that here.
The DVD includes a sort-of-documentary (as long as the main feature, in fact) on the making of the anime as well as some history about the game series it's based on. The documentary is interesting enough and fully subtitled (it even features a dub audio track, if you prefer), but Hirameki apparently decided to edit out the closing, which consisted of some of the game-ending animation sequences from the arcade game and was apparently a bit too raunchy for their taste. Not often you see an anime company cut out some exposed skin on a title that was fairly raunchy to begin with.
The disc also includes a couple of little Su-Chi-Pai themed applications for Windows users.
Rated 15-up by Hirameki, that's about right--it's a lttle low-brow, but doesn't actually have anything that objectionable in it.
Violence: 3 - Despite being cute, the monster leaves a bloody corpse in its wake and the fighting is surprisingly gory.
Nudity: 1 - Actually pretty clean.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Mostly innuendo.
Language: 2 - Not too rough.
Staff & Cast
(Note: all names are family name first; translation by AAW, so there may be errors.)
Suchie Pai (Ozaki Kyouko): Kanai Mika
Milky Pai (Rabbit): Nishihara Kumiko
Cherry Pai (? Sanae): Mizutani Yuuko
Peach Pai (Shinohara? Arisu): Yoshida Konami
Lemon Pai (Ichimonji Tsukasa): Matsumoto Rika
Sasaki Rumi: Tominaga Miina
? Monster: Iwao Junko
Katagiri Shiho: Yajima Akiko
Cecil Telinger: Orikasa Ai
College Girl: Takahashi Miki
Master of the House: Ishiyasu ?
Daughter of the House: Itou Noriko
Band Member: Touyama Akio?
Member: Enkin? Kouichi
Member: Higo Makoto
Original Character Design: Sonoda Kenichi
Executive Producer: Takayama Masaharu
Producer: Takami Masato, Kakinuma Hideki, Anzai Takeshi
Director: Hachiya Kenichi, Abe Kunihiro
Animation Character Design, Director of Photography?: Kazui Hiroko
Monster Character Design: Muroi Fumie
Art Director: Morikawa Hiromi
Supervisor, Script: Ide Yasunori
Animation Production: Doumu
End Theme: "It's a World Birthday!"
Lyrics: Matsumoto Hiro
Music: Ubukata Noritaka
Singing: Kanai Mika