Ayane’s High Kick
2 parts, 30 minutes each
© 1998 Central Park Media
© 1996 Nikkatsu Corporation/ Takahiro Okao
Genre: Action/ Sports
Version Viewed: Japanese with English subtitles
Objectionable Content: Mild violence.
Central Park Media’s obsession with martial arts anime is evident in its stock, titles including Art of Fighting, Grappler Baki, Battle Arena Toshiden and more recently Shootfighter Tekken. So it was no surprise that they would also acquire distribution rights to Ayane’s High Kick, which would probably be the cream of the crop, however, still loiters around the average mark.
I first saw this a while ago but decided to review it after a second viewing, which I took my sweet time getting round to. Yet, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this review now if it wasn’t for another movie of a similar vein that rekindled my interest in the sport film genre, and that film was Rocky II. It put me in the mood for a film that motivates you to strive harder and reach your goal, it also has a dated feel and the humorous, yet somewhat brainless, Rocky (Sylvestor Stallone).
So, does Ayane’s High Kick deliver on the grounds that Rocky so readily did? Well, no. It tries to, and there are definitely elements of a motivational sports film here, however they aren’t used to their full potential and the film comes across as ironically lethargic and lackluster. Yet despite this immediate lunge into Ayane’s faults, it does touch on the theme of kids’ dreams and the pursuit of them quite nicely.
Ayane Mitsui is a high school student with dreams of becoming a pro wrestler. After failing at the try outs she decides not to quit, but to train harder. During one of her training sessions, in a somewhat perverted entrance, we have a combat coach, Kunimitsu Tangay, who is willing to take Ayane to the top – but for what sport?
It turns out that Tangay is actually a kickboxing trainer (explaining his obsession with Ayane’s legs). However, he does not tell Ayane this fact until she is in the ring at her first kickboxing tournament. The second episode then sees the female kickboxing champion Sakurako Miyagawa challenging Ayane to a duel, but Ayane doesn’t want anything more to do with the sport. However the choice is no longer hers when the school principal becomes involved and tells Ayane that if she does not win the upcoming duel, she will be expelled for her choice in extra-curricular activities, which go against the school’s policies. Ayane no longer has a choice in participation, or the result.
A Rocky derivative no doubt, even the way certain scenes are directed; the rich vs. poor training juxtapositions of the second episode have been done before, and better, by the Rocky franchise; the second episode’s plot has been ripped almost completely from Rocky II with only minor alterations and the school sub-plot was a little silly and done pretty poorly, seeming only as an excuse to get Ayane back in the ring. This motivational sub-plot was handled much better in Rocky II as with everything in this two part OAV.
And considering that Ayane’s High Kick resides in the sport genre, I was surprised at how lackluster and somewhat tedious the actual sport scenes were, with little fight fluency or energy. This really proved restrictive in each episode’s finale where no real climax is met and the excitement tends to subside, on occasions, lower than the rest of the OAV’s little more than mediocre standard. The fight scenes were presented in the classic anime-style fighting with still characters laid over a moving background of colour.
If you were expecting depth when seeing this you deserve to have been disappointed. The characters are no better, nor original, from the hollow, derivative plot that the OAVs share. While Ayane has some depth to her, it is only the depth that any hour long monitor of a character could buy her. The others are all left in the cardboard cut-out stage. Yet I feel I am being too harsh in the sense of the type of film it is, perhaps I was expecting another Rocky? – which would be a foolish mistake on my behalf and for that reason the OAV series should not suffer as a result; because Ayane does have a determined and fun charm that I quite liked even given her lack of depth.
The two OAVs run nicely into one another with the first episode, the weaker of the two, ending on an intriguing note that raises questions for the second – a good, if somewhat unbelievable, episode. Yet the ending of episode two feels incomplete with perhaps another episode needed to clear up whether or not Ayane will again fight Miyagawa and leaves the audience unsatisfied with another dull kickboxing finale. I found more pleasure in watching Ayane’s training and school angst than the actual fighting itself.
On to the technical side of Ayane’s High Kick we have some fairly competent and bright animation but a poor, inapt rock soundtrack.
Ayane’s High Kick is unoriginal yet strangely likeable. While it is certainly no Rocky, it is a fun tale of kids and their dreams where things may not turn out as planned, yet they still end up turning out.
The Bottom Line: **1/2- unoriginal but has an amiable charm in its appealing, underlying theme. However, boring fights subtract from the viewing experience.
Suggestions If You Liked:
Other sport anime titles would include Princess Nine which is suppose to be an excellent 26 episode TV series and Prince of Tennis is a much larger TV series that is very popular in Japan. Battle Athletes Victory is another 26 episode TV series about a female athlete which is based on a 6 episode OAV, Battle Athletes. Outside the anime spectrum, one of the most popular combat sports franchises is the Rocky series. It is interesting to see the inspiration they had on Ayane’s High Kick (and other sports films for that matter).
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