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AKA: アイドル防衛隊ハミングバード (Idol Boueitai Hummingbird), Hummingbirds (UK)
Genre: Musical military comedy / mockumentary
Length: OAV, 4 episodes, 45 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: PG (mild violence, brief nudity)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Chance Pop Session, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Martian Successor Nadesico
Notes: This series has been released in the UK, albeit heavily edited, as "Hummingbirds".

By the way, "Toreishi" is an amazingly transparent pun, referring to the family in another hero-team show: Thunderbirds.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

Idol Defense Force Hummingbird

Synopsis

The five Toreishi sisters, Kanna, Yayoi, Satsuki, Uzuki and Mina are teenaged idol singers who are collectively known as The Hummingbirds. They are also one of the ace fighter pilot squadrons in the Japanese military. For in this world, the military is owned and operated by the large entertainment and music corporations. So when they aren't saving the world from major overseas threats, they are on stage in frilly dresses singing about the "Rainbow Forces" of love. This is the story of how they came to be Japan's most successful idol group and their first line of defense.


Review

Well, gee ... I think by the synopsis alone one can tell that Hummingbird is FAR from being serious. Is it a fluffy mecha-military spoof or a music industry / idol factory spoof? Actually, it's both, and it's a very funny one at that!

Hummingbird is one of those hard to describe anime. It's silly, but not over-the-top silly. So it's not like Dragon Half, but kinda. It does have action, but not until the last tape of the series, really. Top Gun this is not, but close. They are idol singers, but it doesn't really delve into the bad part of being a manufactured pop group. More Spice World than Perfect Blue...

And I'm probably not making much sense at this point ... but the weird thing is, in a way, Hummingbird -does- make sense! If Hollywood ever *did* take over the military, this is pretty much what it would look like. Instead of boot camp and a physical ... it's audition time! If you have a pretty face or a rare gift for acting or singing, you're good enough to serve your country! It's more scathing satire than anything else ... and trust me, there is nothing else quite like this series.

Which is probably why I liked it so much. It shows just how ridiculous our society can be, especially when it comes to pop culture. A group of teenage girls (the youngest is 11, the oldest, 19) piloting some of the most sophisticated fighter jets ever made? Silly enough, but made even sillier when you see their uniforms and aircraft are color coordinated. Even in the heat of battle they must always look GOOD. Not to mention they spend as much time in the dance studio rehearsing for the next big show as they do training for their next military assignment. Navy battleships are home to volleyball tournaments and sold-out concerts; Navy Seals host game shows ... EVERYthing is utterly skewered in this series!

But what about the Hummingbirds themselves? Well, the focus of the series is primarily on the five sisters and how they came to be idol singers / fighter pilots and their first few months in the military, up through their first real assignment. We see all the ridiculous things they must go through in the name of being marketed as the Next Big Thing. But they take it all in stride and have fun. Nothing ever gets too serious in this series, and even when Satsuki defies orders and goes off on her own to save two fellow pilots, the supermodel duo known as the Fever Girls, who were captured behind enemy lines, you never really get the feeling she's in serious danger. It serves more to remind the viewer that yes, this is still the military after all and they do use their designer jet craft for more than making pop videos. In fact, the whole series itself seems like one long "promotional" video / mockumentary along the lines of Spinal Tap and Spice World. It's not about the story or plot, but a really really funny look at how the band came to be and how they 'suffered' for their art, all to make you want to buy their CDs and merchandise even more than before.

Speaking of which, the music in Hummingbird is excellent! (But then, the music is really what Hummingbird is about, after all....) All of the songs are good, and there are at least two concert scenes in every episode. The opening song of the first OAV, Love Wing, is my personal favorite. ^_^ There are at least nine vocal and drama soundtracks for the series, and that's NOT counting the separate single albums each focusing on a different sister. The series's voice actresses also formed a real life idol group (named Hummingbird of course!) and toured Japan as promotion for the series, as well as releasing a live-action music video. There is even a official fan club and Hummingbird albums are still occasionally found on the shelves even today.

Idol Defense Force Hummingbird is one of the hardest series to find in the States. I happened to be lucky to find direct imported videos of the full series at the local Tower Records. It's a shame really, as the series has good animation, excellent music, funny, engaging characters (even though they did focus on Satsuki a bit too much), and well ... again, the very premise alone! Thankfully, they don't sing AS they fly like in a certain Macross sequel.

If you can find it, Idol Defense Force Hummingbird is a fun watch, especially if you ever liked the aforementioned Spinal Tap and Spice World. Groundbreaking it is not, but it is clever, original and very, very cute.

Add one star if you are a diehard fan of idol singers. — Christi

Recommended Audience: 13 and up. Older Spice Girl fans will love this series, as the Hummingbirds do have a lot in common with them, only there is no Scary Hummingbird. ^_^;; There are a few brief scenes of casual nudity as the girls change clothes and bathe, but no sexual situations. If you have a very open-minded eleven or twelve year old, then it should be no bother. There is no violence or objectionable language.



Version(s) Viewed: VHS, raw Japanese
Review Status: Full (4/4)
Idol Defense Force Hummingbird © 1993 Murayama Yasushi / Ashi Productions
 
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