Oh! Hello again, somehow another year has slipped by again or should I say that somehow only a year has passed by again – I’m not sure which it is or maybe it’s both. The world seems to be simultaneously worse off, better off, and about the same as it was a year ago at this time. One thing that I’m glad is back again is the anime Secret Santa project, which has been going strong for 13 years now. I don’t know which part I enjoy more, the picking of anime for someone else to watch or discovering what new anime someone has chosen for me to watch. Over the years I’ve discovered a number of great anime from participating and I still haven’t gotten a lemon yet – will this year continue the trend?
Let’s find out.
Kachou Ouji (Legend of Black Heaven) is about a middle-aged office worker Ouji “Gabriel” Tanaka who, while in the doldrums of a looming mid-life crisis, is asked by an attractive female coworker, Layla Yuki – a space alien, for his help in fighting an intergalactic war. She doesn’t need him to be a soldier or because he’s some sort of tactical genius; she wants him to dust off his guitar skills from his old rock band days because his music has the capability of powering a weapon that might just save the day.
Thoughts and Impressions
This year’s Secret Santa project is once again hosted by AGC at their newly reformed website – AGC podcast.
As you probably know, each person is given three choices of what to watch and they are asked to review just one for this Secret Santa project. I like to start these reviews with a short explanation of how I picked what I picked to watch.
My three choices were:
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
The Legend of Black Heaven
Key the Metal Idol
All three choices were possibilities here and, given the time, I would have watched them all. I decided on trying for two and started with Kachou Ouji to leave the shorter Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san for later but I ended up running out of time. I picked Kachou Ouji because of an AMV I remember watching a long time ago. Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is a recent series that I passed up when it aired almost solely from the fact it had 10 minute episodes and I find it difficult for short length anime to leave any sort of impact. It is possible for a short length anime to be worth watching and I was willing to give this one a chance, maybe I’ll still get to it and post a belated review.
Kachou Ouji aired for 13 episodes during the Summer 1999 season. Over on MAL, in terms of members, it’s the fourth highest anime of the season with 27,470 members (only 8,455 have completed it, though); the highest for this season is Great Teacher Onizuka with 685,474 members. (I’ve always wanted to watch GTO but have yet to get around to it.)
So how was it?
At the start I was hoping to really like this anime as anime featuring adults facing adult problems has always been rare in anime. So, it is with a heavy heart to say that I did not enjoy it as much as I was hoping. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to like about this anime; however, where it went wrong was, instead of the conclusion being Ouji “Gabriel” Tanaka finding a way to balance his past love of rock with his current commitments to his family and job, Ouji finishes the series all too willing to accept the benefits of being a rock god to the culture-less alien species (that look exactly like humans) he saved with his guitar playing, including the romantic attention of his pretty alien coworker.
This isn’t where I thought the series was going.
The anime opens with Ouji’s life at a low point. He dislikes his job and he feels disconnected to his wife and his young son. He lives in a cramped apartment and his wife has just thrown out his last and favorite guitar from his rock band days. He’s miserable. (Though, some of his problems are his own fault.)
When he gets the chance to play guitar again at Layla’s request, not understanding his part in the intergalactic war, it puts a fire in his step. Suddenly, his job isn’t so bad and his job performance greatly improves. He finds ways to connect to his son and starts reconnecting with his wife. She even buys a guitar to replace the one she threw out. Things are getting better for the Tanaka family. So, when it’s decided that Ouji’s band has to reform as a way to further improve the space weapon and a new keyboardist is needed, I thought the obvious solution was to enlist Yoshiko Tanaka, his wife, who already could play the keyboard. Instead, Layla is picked and this allows Ouji to slide backwards.
Up to that point of picking Layla to play keyboard, I was expecting to give this show a near perfect or perfect score. Watching Ouji fumble about and slowly improving the situation around him made for a unique experience in anime. I really liked it, even if I sometimes wanted to pull my hair out and play marriage counselor for the couple.
I have focused on the characters and their relationships because the space side of the series is a bit lacking. We never see the opposing aliens or are told why they are fighting. At one point, my watching of Macross made me wonder if the culture-less aliens that enlist Ouji are the true bad guys, which would have been a very interesting twist. Further fleshing out the space side wouldn’t be necessary if the character drama hadn’t fallen apart at the end, so, I’m not knocking the show for this.
The production values were pretty good for a late 90s anime. The vocal work and guitar playing are still top notch, though, a more diverse song selection by Ouji would have been a plus. There is some CG animation, mainly found in exterior shots of the space ships, aand it’s about as bad as one expects given the age. A few guffaws over how badly it sticks out doesn’t detract from the show, and they had to start somewhere.
I will be remiss if I don’t mention probably one of the most amusing things I’ve ever seen in anime. In one of the episodes, I’m not saying which one, we see an American character speak English in the original Japanese dub. Normally, they would get a Japanese seiyuu who can’t really speak English to say the lines. This time, Kachou Ouji found a native English speaker to say the lines, which is great, except for the fact this person was not a trained vocal actor and the underwhelming acting ability was so hilarious.
I am glad Kachou Ouji was one of my picks and that I watched it. Thank you, Secret Santa. I know this review is a bit more negative sounding then how I felt about the show overall, but, the ending was what stuck out to me since it was unexpected.
I do hope to write a few more posts in the near future covering what anime I’ve been watching this year and my favorites. 2021 was a pretty good year for anime, so, maybe it won’t be another year before I post again 🙂 .
Final Score: 9/12 A-
MAL Score: 8/10 – Very Good
Ending: 0/3 – Average
Production Values: 0/3 – Average
Rewatchablity: 0/3 – Average
Recommended? – Yes. It doesn’t finish how I would have liked, but, for most of it’s run, it’s a unique experience to see normal adults deal with normal adult problems. The rock music was great to listen to.
You Might Also Like: Macross, FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, Interstella5555: The 5tory of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, AKB0048, Senki Zesshou Symphogear, Aquarion Evol
And to all my readers, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
One thought on “Kachou Ouji (Legend of Black Heaven) – A Secret Santa Review”
Every year I tell myself I’ll do this again, and every year I forget to sign up…