The first thing I think about when the word shojo comes up in the description of anything is Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s one of my favorite anime so the association is natural. To be more specific, I usually associate a shojo for stories that place more emphasis on romance than a shonen, or seinen manga from what little shojo manga I’ve read. The vague definition of what is considered shojo versus its origin can muddles what is properly label a shojo, and what is mislabeled that. Although, I ain’t here to discuss that, but I am here to write about a shojo anime OVA from the late 80s that contains heads exploding, spider robots, huge amount of gushing blood, and eventually disposal unit filled with dead fetuses. Yep, these things that can be found in violent shlock can be found in the five episode OVA Blue Sonnet.
Storytelling in Blue Sonnet is as straightforwards as they come; good guys live ordinary lives, supernatural intervention occurs on heroes average life, and bad guys attempting to capture heroes. On one corner you have Lan Komatsuzaki, a quiet teenage girl who is thought to be controlled by the rage of the esper Akai Kiba (Crimson Fang), and the cyborg/esper Sonnet tasked to capture her. Both of these leading characters are decently developed in the five episode OVA. Sonnet character arc is the standard human recently turned cyborg rediscovery her humanity. There’s nothing here to spice things up besides the fact that Sonnet is also an esper. I might be someone who constantly harp on a story’s writing on a number of things, but I personally feel execution is more important than the ideas themselves. In Blue Sonnet, the character of Sonnet is handle well having each episode slowly questioning what she’s doing. Her rare interaction with other people also help in getting across these plot points.
Lan Komatsuzaki, as the OVA puts it, is just recently becoming a woman. The OVA partially tackle the matter of Lan growing up, but is mostly focus on her trying to control her powers, and learning about herself. She isn’t as developed as Sonnet since it feels like part of her character arc is incomplete. Only getting some answers to her mysterious background. Other characters in the series get minor development making events in the story slightly more engaging as two dimensional characters. Making the odd sight of seeing a human size cyborg battling spider robots, or a seeing a little kid holding a room filled with adults at gunpoint feel a bit more eventful.
It might be a shojo, but it also offers blood, and gore which it saves up for the final two episodes. Using it’s first three to develop the cast of characters to the best of it ability. Working for the most part to give out details on it cast, including some minor characters who don’t influence the story much. These three episodes also prepare the viewer for the insanity that occurs in the final two episodes which is basically a long rescue mission. These last two episodes is where it combines schlocky entertainment, and shojo convention in a surprisingly good mix. Taking a dark turn in what the villains intend to do with Lan, and eventually getting to a point where she ends up in a disposal unit filled with dead fetuses. It isn’t afraid to contrast the more realistic interaction in earlier episodes with dark moments like these. While nothing else is able to top the dead fetuses bit of grisly writing. What does it a good job at is structuring a buildup in first developing characters in the story earning it’s violent turned in the last two episodes.
Now the negatives of Blue Sonnet writing are easy to recognize. Suffering from talking a lot, and saying very little at the same time. Despite it having good pacing it feels like the writing linger on scenes longer than it should. Taking several minutes to establish information the viewer could easily pick up on. There’s also the character of Bird having a unearned importance in the story. Granted, Lan, and Sonnet developing convoluted romantic feelings for Bird is part of its Shojo DNA it in no way comes up naturally. It just appears, and you’re just meant to accept. Unlike the violent turn it takes, the romance aspect isn’t hinted at, or buildup too. There’s also the out of nowhere inclusion of humor after long stretches of being serious. Then there’s Dr. Merikus who is the villain, and the worst written character in the OVA. His motivation to capture Lan is poorly define resulting in him simply doing evil things for world domination. There’s hints in his dialogue he has a greater desire than simply capturing Lan, but that part of the story is poorly gotten across to the viewer.
The biggest downfall of the OVA is the incomplete state it feel it ends on. Being based on a manga that’s 19 volumes long ending it run in 1987. It’s unlikely that the five episode OVA which was released between 1989, and 1990 covered everything from its source material. This is strongly evident in the ending implying there’s between Bird, and Sonnet bond that was meant to build upon, and never did. Another instance of this is Lan herself suddenly being fond of Bird despite them hardly sharing any scenes together. Only in one episode do they share a scene together which is not romantic in the least. While the OVA is structure well it doesn’t use up all of its screen time wisely resulting in something that could have been than it ended up from a story perspective.
When it comes to the voice acting it was simply adequate. Only Hiromi Tsuru who voices Sonnet got a chance to stand out in her performance. The rest of the cast do fine, but only Hiromi stands out because she’s able to hit her dramatic parts successfully. Everyone else don’t add much to their characters in their performances. Also, it has some wonderful Engrish in the first episode which last briefly. The OVA is director by Takeyuki Kanda (director of the first six episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08Th MS Team) doesn’t impress in handling of the material. For the most part, the story plays out fine, but his inability to transition between tone is awkward. It explains the lack of balance in humor which is why Kanda hardly uses it because when he does it sticks out against the mostly serious tone.
Character designs look something from the early 80s, in particular Sonnet skin tight suit, and grasshopper inspired helmet is very cheesy looking in practice. The animation is done by Tatsunoko Production, and it’s dated. When moving, the animation lacks detail in the background art, and character movements are limited to being blocky. Visually resulting in a boring looking anime half the time. Only time the animation picks up are during the sequences, and the last two episodes where everything results in bloodshed. The same with the music being okay. No tracks stand out besides the opening song “What Is Love” by the band GO!. The music is easily the most forgettable part of the OVA.
Blue Sonnet is enjoyably schlocky entertainment. It might carry the label of shojo, but offers decently developed characters, a well structure story, and a little bit of blood & gore to satisfy an average viewer looking for something outside of what they expect from a shojo. The sums of it parts is better than the bigger picture itself, although it’s those parts that makes it stand out against shojo.