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AKA: 学園特捜ヒカルオン (Gakuen Tokusou Hikaruon)
Genre: Superhero action-adventure
Length: OAV, 29 minutes
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: 16+ (adult themes and situations including attempted forcible rape, violence)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman
Notes: This was filmed as a tribute to the Space Sheriff trilogy of the Metal Hero tokusatsu franchise, namely the first two series, Space Sheriff Gavan and Space Sheriff Sharivan. This franchise is best known in North America as the source material for Haim Saban's VR Troopers.

Tucked away in here is the debut role of Minami Takayama, later to gain immense fame as the voice of characters such as Nabiki Tendo of Ranma 1/2 and Conan Edogawa of Detective Conan / Case Closed, as well as the vocalist of J-pop duo Two-Mix ("Just Communication", Gundam Wing).
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Campus Investigator Hikaruon

Synopsis

After a rash of high school suicides, Hikaru Shihodo comes in, posing as a normal student. He's anything but - with his superpowered reflexes, his combat suit, and his personal arsenal, he has come to rid the school of the literal demons that have taken it over. This looks like a job for ... Campus Investigator Hikaruon!


Review

I'm gonna preface this now by saying I am categorically not a fan of the tokusatsu film genre.

Now that the howling cries of "blasphemy" have abated, I'll explain why: the cheesiness of the aesthetic with the unambiguous Warrior of Justice fighting the cliched over-the-top villains has never appealed to me one bit. It's all rubber suits and gadgets and aliens and explosions and rarely if ever is there true character development or interesting plot ever involved.

Well, Hikaruon pretty much ties into that long tradition of camp, but somewhere along the way the creators have decided to tie it in with heavy real-life issues such as bullying and teen suicide - the very first scene we see is a high school student jumping in front of a moving subway train with predictably fatal results. Of course, this being a tokusatsu show, we soon find out that the bullying is actually the result of supernatural forces, which to me feels like a pretty amazing copout from a storytelling standpoint.

We also have a rather obnoxiously immature "hero" in Hikaru who just can't resist flipping up the skirt of his homeroom teacher Hazuki Azumi (because random sexual harassment is always funny if you're a Japanese teenager from the 80s, I guess). She's actually his partner in heroism, which means at some point in time she ends up getting assaulted herself because Hikaru doesn't quite grasp the idea of having backup, or that partners are supposed to stick together, what with all the demons and possessed people running around. It's all very by-the-book and more than faintly misogynistic, with our too-cool-for-himself hero saving the damsel in distress alongside his female sidekick who, despite being older and more experienced, clearly can't be as competent as her male counterpart in the combat department in any way. What's hilarious is that the bad guys are so obvious even in their disguised forms as humans; it's like this high school has a serious case of "high school sitcom" casting where everyone looks thirty, pretty funny when you remember this is a cartoon.

Health hint: the rangy, shifty-looking dude with the exact same name as a certain historical character who is almost invariably turned into a demon in anime like Ninja Resurrection is probably going to be your big bad. Also note: the clown doll motif is always creepy.

So now that we've established that this is by no means a revolutionary work, we can focus on the fair number of things Hikaruon gets right: Hikaru and Hazuki really do look pretty darn awesome kicking the butts of punks and demons alike, and the animation during the fight scenes looks pretty reasonable for a mid-budget 1987 action OAV, which is good since the opening scene leads us to believe this is going to be something of an artistic train wreck of still frames and black-and-white background characters. The vast majority of the fun to be had in here is in watching the fights - they're bright and loud and there's all the called attacks and hand motions and explosions you should expect from a Metal Hero-type show. The music is appropriate for the genre, and the character work, while limited, is fine given how little the seiyuu (including late 80s stalwarts Toshihiko Seki and Mika Doi) have to work with - honestly, emotional depth is the last thing anyone should be looking for in this kind of work. The creator/director of this OAV, Kazuhiro Ochi, is, after all, primarily interested in visuals, since most of his career appears to be as a storyboarder and animation director; his only other credits as series director are for the weird-but-middling dead-pet-harem show Angel Tales and the second season of chibi fantasy series Popolocrois.

Problem is, with a runtime this short, we never get to understand the motivations behind what the bad guys are doing or where they came from, and once they're defeated, suddenly the punks are magically turned back into upstanding, regular students (or at least karate jocks) which just leaves me a bit raw, given the inclusion of surprisingly dark material in what is otherwise over-the-top metal-suit schlock. But then, tokusatsu has never been about being subtle or tying up all the loose ends or paying attention to the minor details - it's about action and explosions and cool poses and fighting for justice, and if that's what you're looking for then Hikaruon will absolutely fit the bill.

It wouldn't be altogether fair to ding Hikaruon for being cheesy, because that's most of the appeal of this kind of show: this one-shot captures perfectly the spirit of a genre that unfortunately happens not to be my cup of tea. Retro Metal Hero aficionados will likely give this another star or even two and owe it to themselves to give this a shot for themselves; people craving modern graphics and character tropes may do the opposite and should absolutely pass on this.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Though tokusatsu series normally tend not to be over-racy, the creators went slightly overboard with the sexual content here: two female characters get assaulted and nearly raped over the course of the OAV, and the second case also involved brief frontal nudity. Additionally there is the expected fair amount of violence, with some blood (though most of the bloodshed is demonic in nature). One suicide shown with a discretion shot shielding us from seeing the actual impact (unlike Gantz). There's also some immature slapstick humor involving Hikaru sexually harassing Hazuki - clearly a high-class way to treat your superpowered law enforcement partner.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital release, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Campus Investigator Hikaruon © 1987 AIC
 
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