August 16, 2013

I didn’t even know that even way back in 1989, there were aliens trying to take over Earth and failed! I thought it was just confined to a certain alien frog and squid girl. Surprise, surprise. Ariel may only be a couple of episodes long but the amusing synopsis was enough to gain my attention and made me curious enough to watch it. As stated, those aliens are still trying to conquer Earth but due to the tight budget and costs of invasion, they have yet to succeed. I guess this tells us that the aliens have been trying but failed all the time. Yeah, money is the determination of success. Even If they have launched some attacks, Earth remains safe only because of the defence by a giant shaped female robot named ARIEL (All Round Intercept and Escort Lady) by Dr Kishida. However our mad doctor too is having problems because the pilots are his granddaughters! Oddly, they are more interested in other aspects in their lives rather than piloting this giant. Can you blame them for girls their age? Aren’t there anyone else interested in piloting ARIEL? I’m not sure if his thinking is that it takes girls to pilot something female. Or maybe he just wants to keep costs low using his own relatives rather than hire other women to do the work.

Ariel Visual

Episode 1: SCEBAI’s Greatest Crisis Part 1
The opening narration narrates how the main casts are just a bunch of unfortunate people. Dr Kishida may have created ARIEL and saved the world from alien invasion but his granddaughters hate him. How unfortunate. Aya wants to go to college and her entrance exam is coming up soon but has to spend her time piloting ARIEL in which she is forced to by grandpa. How unfortunate. Mia the niece of Dr Kishida and leader of ARIEL is an unfortunate college student. Aya’s younger sister, the carefree Kazumi thinks it is fun to hang out with grandpa and loves flying ARIEL. How unfortunate. Albert Houser may be the commander of the spaceship Orcs and in charge of the invasion on Earth but hasn’t made any progress. Very unfortunate of him. Simone Torefan handles the tight budget of the ship with her strict ways but since she is love with Houser, it is very unfortunate. Saber Starblast is an alien who chased Houser to Earth and is veiled in misfortune. There is one final unfortunate guy making his way to Earth right at this moment. And so continues the story of their predictably unfortunate meeting. How unfortunate of me to watch these unfortunate events…

The girls just return from another round of piloting ARIEL. Yeah. It is clear on their face Aya and Mia are NOT happy. The mysterious alien dude, Commander Ragnarok Gilbert Howzen AKA Ragnus from the head office makes his way to Earth. Aya isn’t having enough sleep (due to staying up all night studying to compensate for her flying hours) but still gets up to make her way to school. Dr Kishida wants her to just fly ARIEL and he’ll personally get her into a good college. She blows her top but he remains cool. Dr Kishida is called to SCEBAI since there is an emergency. He heads off in the Harrier jet but it looks like he dropped his wallet. As Mia rides her bike to college, she sees the news reporting of another alien ship spotted closing in. They are not sure if it is connected to Houser and if so, brace yourselves for another invasion. Mia doesn’t care about aliens or what Dr Kishida says and thinks all this isn’t related to her. There is no response from Ragnus’ ship so Houser is left to ponder their purpose of arrival. Is it because of audit? Did they go over the budget as Simone fears? Houser knows they can’t lie to the head office and if this is an audit, they will face it since he is the commander of this fleet and it his responsibility. Ragnus finally makes contact and doesn’t want Houser to use formalities. Aya dreams of running away from her duties of piloting ARIEL. Wherever she goes, she sees Dr Kishida’s face. I know. Hideous.  Turns out she was dreaming right in the middle of a test! How on Earth did this even happen? Even Mia is seeing visions of him that she almost loses control of her bike and crash into the pedestrians! Oh wait. She’s not seeing things! Seems Dr Kishida has modified her helmet’s visor as some sort of an emergency communication device. He hopes she would reconsider her decision to pilot ARIEL but she is adamant she won’t and slams down her helmet.

Houser and Simone meet and talk with Ragnus. He is not here to audit them but is on his way back from an expedition. He knows Houser is having a handful with his invasion especially the robot that is piloted by 3 young maidens. Ragnus thinks they are putting up quite a fight but Houser complains if he had only a larger fleet, etc, so Simone reminds him about the monetary stuffs. Ragnus reminisces their reunion like those days in the academy. They were best friends and Ragnus introduced Simone to him. Feeling that fate has a strange way of reuniting them and for them to be working together, Ragnus wants to join this enterprise. He makes it formal and orders them to put this ship under his command. He will supervise all operations and in 20 hours, they will move to eliminate Earth’s giant weapon. Houser is still worried of that single person. Ragnus doesn’t want him to sweat about Saber and will handle him. Aya slams down another phone call from grandpa. She will not take up his offer to pilot ARIEL. The sisters go hang out at Mia’s place. They can’t really stand him forcing them to pilot ARIEL. Aya sees the picture in Dr Kishida’s dropped wallet. It looks like a woman resembling Mia. As pointed out it is their late grandma, Ayumi. Mia then gets a call from Dr Kishida about you-know-what. At first she is against it but it seems he makes an offer she can’t refuse. Aya warns not to get con again but Mia and Kazumi are ready to head out. Last chance to join them. Aya asserts she will not as she has prep school today. Ragnus and his troops prepare for their assault but it seems Houser still has his doubts. He knows Saber is too much for him to handle and doesn’t know what he is up against. Asserting he is still captain of this ship, he wants his advisor, Demonova to prepare a shuttle despite being ordered to remain in position. He also doesn’t want Simone to find out about this.

Episode 2: SCEBAI’s Greatest Crisis Part 2
Mia and Kazumi arrive at SCEBAI’s headquarters to meet up with Dr Kishida. Seems Mia agreed to do this because grandpa will be paying her rent for the entire year. Nothing like money talks. Dr Kishida is still worried on how to get Aya to cooperate. In great timing, they have detected aliens launching a fighter craft into the atmosphere. Everyone scrambles into action and ARIEL is also deployed. The fighter craft which turns out to be an alien monster crashes into the city and close to where Aya is. The monster rampages through the city but when ARIEL arrives, she starts firing hitting just about everything. Buildings, cars, etc. Thankfully it hit and killed the monster. That easy? Something feels wrong. Yeah. It’s a trap. The main force is dropping at SCEBAI’s base and this one was just a decoy to draw ARIEL away. Tons of monsters drop in the vicinity of the base but Dr Kishida is going to show them who is boss by initiating some barrier. Mia feels she can’t fight that many without Aya. Speaking of which, they spot her and pick her up. She still refuses to pilot but when Mia mentions about grandpa in trouble, I guess family is still family so she agrees to join in. The monsters are relentlessly attacking the barrier and making some breakthrough. SCEBAI needs to hold out until ARIEL arrives. Dr Kishida gets word that Aya has joined in and contacts ARIEL. However Aya is busy studying since her test is coming up. Suddenly the communications get cut. Did the monsters get them? No, just the communications itself that got lost. But at least it made the girls worried enough to focus on the job at hand.

ARIEL arrives in time to engage the monsters. Another full blown destruction. ARIEL is fast running out of ammo and the only weapon left is a sword. Ragnus is piloting one of the monsters and is going to engage ARIEL. Mia has Aya concentrate on ARIEL’s footwork while Kazumi use her tennis timing to strike down the monster. They may seem successful but Ragnus still lives and catches ARIEL from behind. He tears ARIEL apart and tells them they won’t die alone. He has the other monsters destroy SCEBAI’s base as well. Before Ragnus can destroy ARIEL, a boomerang rips off his monster’s arm. Saber is here to save the day. Houser notes the mystery man has shown his face and launches down in his shuttle. Ragnus is confident in taking him on but Saber’s sword easily slices through him. His sword also strikes down and destroys all the other monsters. During this time it gives the girls enough time to recuperate and power back up ARIEL. They are mad that Ragnus has attacked grandpa and go all out to destroy the monster. Ragnus ejects safely as Houser picks him up. In the aftermath, the girls wonder if grandpa is alright. Dr Kishida’s voice is heard coming through the walkie-talkie. He was repairing the communications. That mad scientist won’t go down so easily. Suddenly SCEBAI’s base emerges from the rubble. Seems he has anticipated something like this and has built a second base. And the girls thought their piloting days would be over. Dr Kishida is glad Aya came to help but she says she is here to give back his wallet. He is very grateful for it since he was looking for it. His colleague tells on him that he has a bunch of those photos. The photos of Ayumi look very much like ARIEL. I suppose it was designed with her in mind.

Ariel Deluxe

As stated even in the synopsis, the incompetent aliens are still trying to conquer Earth. I guess there is merit when you don’t give up after failing. But that’s just about it. If you don’t succeed at first… Yeah, how unfortunate. Can they succeed this time? The only thing that seems to stand between their invasion success is ARIEL. Or is it? Wasn’t it Saber that thwarted their invasion? If failure is the only fate for Houser, I can see where this is going… The question is how bad they are going to fail… And we have a couple of more OVAs with extended running time of around 45 minutes each to see all that.

Episode 1: The Beginning
Aliens are attacking Earth and the world has prepared its army to take on them. Everyone except Japan because the government thinks they need a consensus. Dumb ass. Even with photographic proof of monsters, they shrug it off as mere practice. So Dr Kishida has foreseen this and unleashes ARIEL, an ultimate creation of National Science Institute. Look at it as a giant robot lady in leotard fighting aliens. Is she our only hope against alien invasion? Kazumi barely makes it to catch the train and meet up with her friends Emi and Yuki. They talk about last night’s announcement of the invasion in which Kazumi believes it is real since she was riding the robot. She is after all Dr Kishida’s granddaughter. Kazumi discovers some sort of letter in her bag and her friends are very shocked thinking it’s a love letter. In class, her friends are envious because a carefree girl like her got a love letter. For the record, they never got one. Kazumi wonders what to do so they give their opinions. Don’t go. Or maybe Emi could stand in for her. Anyhow, Kazumi seems blissful. Meanwhile Houser is talking to Demonova about his grand plan to invade Japan by launching many battalions. He is soon chided by Simone who reminds him about their very limited budget. Due to that, their supplies are running low. No cash flow means shops are going out of business and unemployment is over 10%! Wow. See? War is just not economical. She wants all plans to be approved in advance before execution. Look at all the other control girls snickering at the captain for being chided… Is it that funny? But Houser wonders if he can secretly launch them.

Kazumi tells her big sister Aya about the love letter she got. Surprise, eh? Kazumi isn’t sure what to do and seeks her advice. Taking a look at the love letter, Aya has her own opinions on it but if Kazumi wants to know who this guy is (there is no name on the letter), it is best to meet up with him. Kazumi is thrilled that she might be going on a date and wants Aya to tag along. I don’t think big sister has got time to babysit. Aya is dumbfounded to learn that the meeting is today at 5pm! And it is already 4pm. Aya believes they still have time and rushes Kazumi. Meanwhile it is more woes for Houser. Because the ship is falling apart! No money for maintenance, huh? Yeah, the engine is going. Some compartment is going. And some drop units are dropping. Houser thinks they can use this accident as an excuse to launch those drop units but Demonova says those are scrap units and have no control devices. Yeah, Simone thinks he purposely released the drop units. Headache, isn’t he? But as they fall into orbit, many burn up into nothing. All the space agencies around the world pick it up as the aliens are launching an invasion. One of them did not burn and is falling towards Tokyo. Dr Kishida is being told by SCEBAI about this so he leaves his geothermal plant to his un-confident scientists to head there. He gives permission to use ARIEL. Mia Kawai is in the middle of her shower when she receives an emergency call. She can’t say no because the pilot is here to pick her up in his Harrier jet. Dry and change in the plane, miss. Is there enough space? Aya helps Kazumi dress her best. But Kazumi now has second thoughts about going. She doesn’t want to go. What?! After all this? Sure, Aya won’t come? She won’t. Now get going to your date! Unfortunately, the helicopter pilot is here to pick them up. Of all times. Kazumi must be happy since she doesn’t have to go on the date now. However Aya learns that since the date is in 5 minutes, they must kill the alien in 3 minutes. Sure that’s enough?

When they rendezvous with Mia inside ARIEL (Mia is wearing a Playboy bunny suit – apparently she thought this was the new uniform), she is also shocked to learn Kazumi has a date. Kazumi doesn’t mind missing this one but Mia insists the first date is always important and calls Dr Kishida directly to complain. This guy wants the girls to blame the aliens for picking such timing. Plus, it is their honourable to defend the Earth from its invasion. Some sacrifice is needed. I guess that’s about it. Better get moving because the alien is approaching. ARIEL flies and launches its missiles but didn’t do any damage to the fast descending alien. So fast that the shockwave caused ARIEL to fall and some operations malfunctioned. On ground, the real battle begins. Because the buildings make it look like they’re playing hide and seek and tag, ARIEL flies off and the alien follows suit. Kazumi does button mashing to fire away to destroy the alien. Nothing happened. And they ran out of ammo. Realizing she really wanted to go to the date, Mia gives her the only weapon left. They only have one shot of this rocket launcher. The alien charges at them and bites the head but ARIEL loses her helmet and crashes to the ground. Just when it looked like victory belonged to the alien, it suddenly ran out of power. Enough time for ARIEL to fire the rocket launcher into its mouth and killing it. Kazumi immediately ejects to make her way to meet her date. But the streets are so devastated she doesn’t know where she is. In the end, she didn’t get to meet this guy but back home she gets a new love letter and is all over the moon. Meanwhile Simone wakes up Houser as something terrible has happened. Washington makes contact with Kremlin as SCEBAI intercepts the call and informs Dr Kishida about it.

Episode 2: Great Fall
On Christmas Eve as Japan is in celebration mood, the military around the world launches a nuclear attack on Orcs. Yeah, it is already ridden with poverty, unemployment rates at 40% and with no spare or maintenance parts to repair the ship. This just adds to their woes, eh? Houser is going to get loads of headache as the parts will only arrive in 6 months. Yeah. They’ll be doing a re-entry by then. Dr Kishida discusses with a SCEBAI scientist about the operation of blasting Orcs out of orbit and its prediction of crashing into Central Europe. However the warheads didn’t exactly destroy Orcs and changes its orbit. Still, it is dropping and it is expected to crash into Japan. Dr Kishida catches Mia eavesdropping and takes her away. On New Year’s Day, Dr Kishida barges into a high profile meeting between the Emperor, Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers. This is an emergency. He shows them SCEBAI’s calculations that Orcs will crash into Tokyo. To prevent this catastrophe, nearby is his geothermal plant. He is planning to convert magma into energy to act as a catapult and push Orcs away. The risky idea may destroy some islands but what choice do they have left? The Emperor gives Dr Kishida full authority. Mia is still suspicious of what Dr Kishida is up to since he is busy working on New Year’s Day. She muscles away to see him on one of the islands and threatens not to leave till she finds out what is happening. He takes her underground just above the Earth’s mantle. She is shocked to see those nuclear signs and realized he is the one causing the frequent earthquakes felt over Japan recently. Dr Kishida plans to drop the nukes here to convert magma into plasma. The lava will be jet propelled straight up like a continual stream of Hiroshima bombs to reach orbit. Not only this island a handful of other islands will be doing this too. Extracting geothermal energy is a long and slow process but this will release all that power in a single burst. Consider it as a controlled nuclear explosion to blast Orcs out of the sky.

Orcs becomes visible in the sky. So there are many theories about it. Some say it’s the weather and some say it’s just a big movie prop. Mia returns to tell Aya what is going on and going to happen. Apparently ‘crash’ is a taboo word for her because she is studying for the entrance exams. No use getting worried about it so Aya continues her studies and takes her entrance exam like normal. But she is still disturbed that Orcs is falling. She then goes to the bookstore to research on the effects of a nuclear fallout. She is devastated to learn of a nuclear winter on Earth. The final hour is at hand as Dr Kishida and SCEBAI prepare to launch their catapult plan. Final checks and systems are in place as everything seems to be running on schedule. However there is a rift in the ocean floor and a fault line is moving in the Fuji volcanic chain. Cursing at the bad luck of such timing, Dr Kishida orders the plant to shut down before every volcano on Fuji chain erupts. He also stops the catapult plan and though they aren’t able to push the target back into orbit, it bought them enough time to begin the trampoline project.

On March 12, there are protests and panic everywhere. The Prime Minister calls Dr Kishida to lambast what he is doing. That’s because he has taken over all the railroad and power companies for this next plan. Dr Kishida can’t give a damn how a hard time the Prime Minister has to prevent panic because he’s got a falling alien ship to worry about. Aya tells Mia about the nuclear winter she read but Mia assures her it won’t happen because they’ll spring Orcs back into orbit. So just study and take her tests like normal. Kazumi sneaks onboard and since they have no time to shoo her away, they bring her along to the lab. Dr Kishida explains the giant barrier he is making. Using some theory, they’re going to place those generators around somewhere and run 200,000 giga watts through them. This will create some force field powerful enough to twist light and gravity. Once at full strength, it will reverse Earth’s gravity and turn it into a giant spring. But it only looks good in theory. It wasn’t meant to handle something this big. They have to try or else they’ll have a huge crater in Tokyo. The only way is to cause a massive blackout over the Kanto area. Houser and Simone are in some sort of argument. Whether it’s about money or not listening to orders. Demonova has come up with a strategy to bounce them back instead of sitting on the surface for months and then crashing. Looks like he has this same idea to use some reverse gravity field to bounce them back but they will need to use the mass of the Earth as a springboard. It will be a close call because they need to be close to the ground before they can activate this reverse gravity thingy.

In the final minutes, Dr Kishida and SCEBAI begin their plan. The blackout of Kanto region begins. However the power is too great as the power system overloaded and short circuited. They need a new power source and it seems ARIEL is their only hope. However they left it parked back at their home. I guess Aya realizes if she doesn’t save the world today, it doesn’t matter if she studies for tomorrow’s test because there won’t be any! She flies ARIEL to the lab and immediately rendezvous with Mia and Kazumi. ARIEL then hooks up to power up the barrier. When Orcs crashes into it, something went wrong. It seems Orcs is not stopping and is sliding off the barrier. That is because their engine is reacting to the barrier (they were trying to put their plan into action too). Because the barrier is too high for Orcs for its optimal height for the reverse gravity, it is causing Orcs to malfunction too. ARIEL is also at its limit and crashes. Orcs breaks through the barrier and crashes into Tokyo. BOOOOOM!!! The land has become a desert wasteland! They failed!!!! Or was it just Aya’s imagination?! Suddenly everyone is shocked to see this scene. What the hell is this?! Is that Superman?! No, it’s Saber! So his role for the entire 2 episodes was just for this short moment? Sure we see him from time to time as somebody watching the sky and doing some training but I guess that’s about it. So full of mystery as always. Anyway, Saber himself is holding up the giant mothership! WTF???!!! He then uses his immense strength to fling it back into orbit! With the world now saved, it’s time to pop the champagne for celebrations! Yahoo! Life returns to normal for everyone. Except for Aya. Because she didn’t study enough… And her worst fear comes true… She didn’t pass the exam… CURSES!!! How unfortunate. The mothership should have fallen over Tokyo, eh?

No Money, No Success
Watching this by itself is rather fun. If you don’t mind the other details or the what-ifs and what-will-happen scenarios. It might not be comparable to today’s standards but back then I guess it feels rather okay since you get to see a giant robot fighting a giant alien while smashing up the city. Reminds you of Ultraman, huh? Even if it doesn’t seem funny but I think they’re trying to make it funny that Houser is always having problems with his budget. He really wants to invade Earth but finds his insufficient funds prevent him from achieving his goal. Especially with Simone by his side, it feels like she is his wife controlling his finances. So it goes to show that even if you are some high end intergalactic alien, without money, you still cannot do a successful conquer even if your target like Earth is such a primitive and backward place compared to their high technology. It is pretty funny to even see how the lack of funds affect the morale and the entire ship. Economics on an intergalactic scale is quite scary. Hey, even aliens need to work for a living and eat, right? They have families to support too. It is mind boggling that the ship has been holding out for so long that it could break into many pieces any time. So why not just retreat for the time being, return to headquarters to repair and fix up everything good and then come back and continue the invasion? Must be some alien pride thingy.

On the other hand, the pilots of ARIEL and Dr Kishida are also another funny bunch. Dr Kishida’s worries is not about defeating the alien and defending Earth (since he is very confident about ARIEL’s abilities) but rather if his granddaughters especially Aya would cooperate. Yeah. That’s how I feel. Kazumi is like the airhead of the pack and while not entirely dumb, she does enjoy piloting ARIEL and nothing more than that. But her happy trigger ways means ARIEL runs out of ammo real fast. Just fire and shoot! Mia also didn’t like doing this job but when grandpa agrees to pay her expenses, look how quick she shifts her allegiance. Aya may be the most stubborn one but you can’t blame her seeing it is her dream of entering a good college. And that means studying hard enough. She knows she can’t juggle both duties. But when the time really calls for it, she will still pilot ARIEL. Too bad her grades had been severely affected. Don’t worry, grandpa will try and use his connections to pull strings so she can get into a good college. But what is the use of that when she doesn’t make it with her own hands? Ah… Girls like them are already in so much dilemma. Often, I think that Earth is very much safe thanks to this Saber guy and not because of ARIEL. Houser has is budget problems, ARIEL and the girls have their own life problems and I also think they aren’t that proficient in piloting ARIEL. Both sides are just trying their luck to wipe each other out. The real turning point comes when Saber intervenes, giving ARIEL the upper hand to finish the job.

Speaking of Saber, as the most mysterious character in the series, it is sad that he is somewhat reduced to some character that only appears in crucial times. Other times, you see him bidding his time waiting for the moment the aliens make their move. I am sure there is more to him than meets the eyes. At first I thought he was some guy who popped out from The Fist Of The North Star. Houser knows him so it is safe to say that they both have had clashed in battlefields many times. I believe that none of the humans or Dr Kishida and SCEBAI know who this dude is nor have contact with him. Seeing how strong Saber is, I am sure he has thwarted Houser many times in the past. Just be glad that this super strong dude is on our side. And then there is Ragnus. What happened to him? Though he just dropped by and had to leave the soonest for another expedition, I’m sure he won’t take this lost very lightly. Maybe another time, eh? He seemed like he had some potential in playing an active role once he took over the command of Orcs but was that just for a short while? Maybe he’ll leave the failures to Houser, eh? To sum up the characters, I would say they are under developed. But how can a handful of OVAs do any justice?

As said the battles are an enjoyable watch. Ariel Deluxe made it even more interesting when Dr Kishida decides to employ his scientific theories to propel Orcs back into space. I know I suck in all those scientific terms but here they are kept to a minimum. At least I understood what they were trying to do even if they added the jargon and all. I think this series is trying to pay tribute to some sci-fi series. Most obvious is Ultraman because of the fights and how some of the monster designs feel like they are worthy of being Ultraman’s monster-of-the-week. I only heard the opening song once and it really feels like those Ultraman themes. Then there is Star Wars. At least the opening narration in the first episode feels like one (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”). Strangely they are all romanized. Doesn’t Orcs look like some Romulan ship from Star Trek? I may be wrong since I am not a Star Trek fan but I had this feeling it looked like it. Even the background music is very sci-fi-like. Exciting actually. One more thing I need to mention. SCEBAI I noticed is pronounced very closely to that perverted word, ‘sukebe’. Looking at the word, naturally I would have pronounced it as ‘su-ke-bai’. So it really sounds funny to hear people calling this organization ‘sukebe’. What’s so perverted? If you had a mad scientist making a giant female robot in leotards, isn’t that perverted enough?

Well it goes to show that aliens are very much like us human beings too. Sometimes they fail miserably but that won’t stop them from trying to persevere. You can have the best technology and the best army in the entire universe, but all that is for nothing if you don’t have the dough needed to execute everything perfectly. Seriously, a single robot is all that is needed to protect an invasion? Why don’t they make two or three or a dozen just in case? I won’t be surprise if it is money problems. Maybe that’s why they get a little help from one mysterious Superman. Just one super guy to defeat all the hard work that the aliens have been putting in. Very depressing, isn’t it? Does blowing up the planet now sound more enticing and easier? So whether or not you are humans, aliens, primitive or advance, in the end it is money that still reigns supreme. It has already invaded our lives and pretty much how we live, don’t you think?

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