An Anime OVA
While relatively unheard of today, Minna Agechau aka I Give My All is perhaps one of the most infamous animated films of the 1990’s. Created in 1985 as a comic, it became hugely popular in Japan, spawning various TV shows, specials, and an anime adaptation (which is the subject here). It was set to be a surefire hit in the West except for one tiny problem – it was a bit racy. This normally wouldn’t be an issue, as most Blockbuster Video shelves were filled with anime that boasted a “THIS CARTTON AINT NO MICKEY MOUSE!” vibe, as most anime releases were violent action and sci-fi movies. It was to be Central Park Media’s first release, but was canceled after a botched promotional campaign was noticed by the same sorts of people that were trying to ban everything from video games and music in the 90’s. IT became the focus of a series of news “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” editorials and was prominently featured in a big LA Times expose called “Japan’s Latest Export: Soft- Core Cartoon : * Video: Adult-oriented animated erotica, a billion-dollar business in Japan, tries to shed its cult image in the U.S. Some predict American resistance“.
“We intend to pay close attention to what happens with this video,” said Robert DeMoss, the organization’s youth culture specialist. “We believe there is no redeeming value to this kind of degrading entertainment. (Central Park Media) assumes that Americans are moral morons, but I think they may be surprised by the resistance they are going to get from U.S. family groups.”Some Focus on the Family spokesperson
Things like this make me laugh, because after watching this today, it’s not that bad. I’ve seen other anime from the same time period like Genocyber and Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend that most video stores would let any teenager walk up and rent without any sort of second guess. Hell, some stored put them in their children’s sections! Due to the media uproar which apparently was less about the content itself (which I assume none of the Bible Thumpers watched) centered around a novelty pair of fake pink paper panties which were to be included in the release as a VHS slipcase. Sony Music Entertainment Inc. bought back all of the copies. So, is this some kind of crazy society destroying smut or was it all overblown? I’ll let you guess which one.
“Yuno is a wealthy Japanese teenage girl that has never experienced sexual intercourse. She is eager to have a boyfriend, have sex and come of age. She finds a depressing entrance exam flunkee that seems somewhat pitiful and offers herself to him. They become a couple and move in together, and everything is going great. Her family is mostly not impressed.”
For more information on this production, check out the article All About ‘I Give My All’ by Mike Toole. He talks about all of the ins and outs of the whole debacle far better than I could attempt to do.
At its core, this is just a weird romance story that goes in a couple of bizarre directions, and has a few low-key sexy scenes, but is by no means what I’d consider the sort of smut the above media sensation made it out to be. I would caution younger folks from watching as there is a bit of nudity and some somewhat crass sexual humor, but that’s it. Even something like South Park is far worse in comparison, and that’s on Cable TV. I think the biggest blunder CPM made was trying to promote the film through the general media. Expecting a generation of people that thought “Secret Satanists” were literally everywhere, and curse words were making kids turn into killers would somehow let the “this is basically a porn cartoon” marketing fly was a mistake. This actually has a lot of heart for media of its type and is very watchable and enjoyable as long as you aren’t averse to the above raunchiness.
Being an OVA based on what appears to have been adapted from a long-running serialized manga, you can imagine that a LOT of the story has been removed. Sure enough, the story here moves lightning fast, and in such a way that it’s almost non-sensical. To summarize: we basically find out that Rokuro Chikanaka is a depressing Ronin (somebody that failed college entrance exams and has to study to try again) and lives in your typical squalor of a bachelor pad. His love interest Yuno sees him doing something lewd, and rather than being disgusted she is sad for him and assumes he is lonely. They move in together, become a couple, and get in a weird fight right off the bat after a visit to a bathhouse. This all appears to be in a few days which is baffling.
I assume the comic had this spread-out WAY more to get used to the characters. The next thing you know, we found out Yuno is filthy rich, has weird parents that hire servants like a BDSM instructor in the basement, The family Matriarch shows up and kicks Rokuro out, and even resorts to eventually sending a private military force after him. This all happens in 45 minutes! I would have liked more breathing room, but I guess if I was Japanese and had read all of the comic, this would have been a “greatest hits” compilation of sorts.
The film was directed by Osamu Uemura, who gained notoriety in the 80’s as one of the primary directors of Urusei Yatsura which explains the jokes and comedic tone of the production. This pedigree is likely why this film hits so well despite its issues. It never comes across like pornography despite being marketed as such. Yes, there are sex scenes, but daytime soap operas have those and aren’t marketed as such either. Considering the video features some tender romance moments along with the comedy, and even a big licensed theme song, this hangs with many other 80’s OVAs that became huge hits overseas. The tone actually reminds me a lot of a comic I’ve been reading called Futaba-Kun Change! which is a similar mix of comedy and raunchiness that somewhat epitomizes early 90’s anime.
Perhaps my only issue with this movie is that Yuno has basically been reduced to a male wish fulfillment character due to not having too much character building. She just sort of shows up and proceeds with having an immediate sexual relationship with a guy that, from all viewpoints, seems like kind of a loser. Then again, pretty much none of the characters get too fleshed out due to the hyper-fast speed of the narrative. If it was available, I would actually want to see the original comic (although twenty book volumes are a lot) to see if we get more.
Overall, I’m not going to go out of my way to say that this NEEDS to be watched or anything, but if you like more “saucy” anime comedies, this is pretty funny and tells a ridiculous story. It’s a shame that a media sensationalist crusade torpedoed this before it even has a chance to get a foothold here in The West. It’s always infuriating to look back at the victims of that sort of nonsense and I wish we were far past it. However, we all remember that a bunch of grown adults spent a large portion of 2020 thinking that a furniture store was secretly trafficking children, so I don’t have much faith in humanity. This is a fun bit of anime history and a big “What if?” sort of situation. I’m glad I was able to find it and enjoyed it a lot.