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Video Girl Ai – Vol. 1: Preproduction (Story and Art by Masakazu Katsura) (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 2, 1999 by  



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A manga series with drama, sci-fi elements and even a bit of fan service, “Video Girl Ai” vol. 1 is highly recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 1989 by Masakazu Katsura. All Rights Reserved.

MANGA TITLE: Video Girl Ai  Vol. 1: Preproduction (電影少女)

STORY AND ART BY: Masakazu Katsura

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shueisha

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Shonen Jump Graphic Novel/VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: A for All Ages

RELEASE DATE: October 1999

High school is hell for Yota Moteuchi. He’s so unpopular his fellow students have a nickname for him: “Dateless.” That doesn’t stop him from falling in love with one of them. His gentle classmate Moemi is everything he wants – but is she in love with someone else?

In 1989, mangaka Masakazu Katsura (“Wing-man”, “Super Mobile Troop Vander”, “Zetman”) created the manga series “Den’ei Shojo”.

Originally created as a one-shot manga for Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump”, the series would be serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from 1989-1992 and a total of 15 manga volumes were created.

The popularity of the series would lead to a live-action movie in 1991 and in 1992, a six-part OVA series produced by I.G. Tatsunoku.

While the anime and manga series has its devout fan following, also being one of the first OVA series to be seen by anime fans via fan sub back in the early 1990’s, the manga series have been purchased by fans with translated synopsis available on electronic BBS.

But now a translated version of the series, which was featured in Animerica Extra, will be released in graphic novel format courtesy of Viz Media.  It’s important to note that this volume is presented in Western format not in Japanese format.

It’s also important to note that for those familiar with the OVA series, the manga series is slightly different.

“Video Girl Ai” is a manga series that revolves around an unpopular guy named Moteuchi Yota.  Yota has always been in love with Moemi Hayakawa, but because of his unpopular status, she tends to avoid him, until she starts falling for his cool childhood friend, Takashi Niimai.

Takashi has known that Yota liked Moemi but also know that he’s too shy to come out and say he likes her.

One day, Moemi confesses to Yota of how much she loves Takashi and asks if he can help her get closer to him.

But the pain of knowing that Moemi likes Takashi, while Takashi doesn’t like her (because he knows that Youta likes her) is too much for him to take.  Sad and depressed, one day he comes across a Gokuraku video rental shop and he rents a VHS featuring Ai Amano with the title “I’ll Cheer You Up”.

Needing to get over his pain, he rents the video and plays the adult VHS on his VCR.  But his VCR becomes glitchy and during the playback of the video, he sees a the girl, Ai trying to console his broken heart.

But while knowing he needs these positive words of encouragement from the video girl, next thing you know, she comes out of his television screen.

Immediately, Yota thinks he has a new sex partner but the truth is that her job was to cheer him up.

But the problem is that since Yota played the video in a glitchy VCR, her demeanor becomes more like a guy (via tsundere attitude), her cooking is bad, her breasts have deflated and now she is super pissed off.

And she warns him that fast forwarding the VCR will speed up the time and she only has three months of play back time and that’s all, before she disappears.

Despite how angry Ai may get towards Yota, she still finds herself attracted to Yota’s good points and as her job is to help Yota become happy and possibly get him together with Moemi, what happens when Video Girl Ai starts to have feelings towards Yota?

I first discovered “Video Girl Ai” back in 1993.  In fact, it was the third anime I actually watched after “Ranma 1/2” and “Tenchi Muyou” and I can easily remember having friends over and we all watched the anime for the very first time.

We absolutely loved it and not long after, I purchased the first manga volume from Kinokuniya and it was my first foray into learning the Japanese language and wanting to learn kana to read a manga.  And one of the first anime-related contests that I have won, was a cel of Moemi Hayakawa from “Video Girl Ai”.

While “Video Girl Ai” has been featured on “Animerica Extra”, this is the first time the graphic novel has been released in the United States and it’s about time!

Personally, the story of “Video Girl Ai” is one that will attract readers and all guys who have liked a girl but she doesn’t like you back, especially that love being one-sided.

The pain that Yota Moteuchi is living is pain that many guys have gone through, so we can sympathize with him while reading this manga.  He’s your average teenager, but unpopular with the girls and often has fantasies of Moemi.  Typical teenage life but to change things up a bit, mangaka Masakazu Katsura added sci-fi elements by adding a video girl or I suppose one can see as a gravure idol or porn star VHS who comes to life after Yota plays the VHS on his VCR.

Unfortunately, he plays it on a glitchy VCR which alters Video Girl Ai and not only does she lose her greatest features, her positive and sweet attitude becomes more tsundere and she can easily get angry with him.  But most importantly, the glitchy VCR also leads to a breakdown of Ai’s duty to make Yota happy and bring him closer to Moemi, as she starts to develop feelings for him.

And I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want to spoil the manga series for anyone.

“Video Girl Ai” is one of my favorite anime OVA’s and one of my favorite series, probably because it was one of the first I was introduced to but have since discovered other Masakazu Katsura titles such as “Zetman”, “DNA2” and “I’s” and have become a big supporter of Katsura’s work.

A manga series with drama, sci-fi elements and even a bit of fan service, “Video Girl Ai” vol. 1 is highly recommended!

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