She's an archeologist AND a black belt and Ray Kazuki will need her brains and her brawn as she plunges into a thrill-filled adventure. Ray's examining an exciting new archeological discovery: a legendary temple located in an isolated area of the world.
As always, she has with her a strange mirror that belonged to her father; a mirror that may provide access to a vanished civilization. On the excavation, Ray meets Mai and Mami Tachibana, freewheeling pubescent girls who heedlessly court danger. And danger they find, in the form of Rig Veda.
Veda's after a big prize: Ray's mirror. But she will have to stop him at all costs, because if Veda gets his hands on the powerful object, he will possess secrets that could lead to disaster.
Explorer Woman Ray is an OVA from AIC, the same studio behind Bubblegum Crisis, Vampire Princess Miyu, Battle Athletes, Blue Gender, Sasameki Koto and the terrible OreImo. just to name a few I've reviewed. Based on a manga by Okazaki Takeshi. Although this one is far less known than any of those, but being a “hipster” I just have to dreg up obscure titles just so that I can say I've seen them and you haven't. Actually, the truth is that I picked twenty super short anime that looked kind of interesting, assigned them numerical values and rolled a d20 to determine which one to
look at. Incidentally, they had to be super short because I've been sitting on this Gintama request for months and something really short gives me more time to work on it. So let's look at Explorer Woman Ray and find out if it's an obscure gem or if I should have left it buried in the desert.
Our tale opens with some twin sisters riding a bus when they see a truck pull alongside it covered in tarp. The tarp gets removed to reveal a group of men with guns who board the bus to chase the twins. The twins manage to escape in a pretty good action sequence and they make their way to the archaeologist, Kazuki Reina, our titular Ray. They deliver an artifact to her and witness an altercation between her and another archaeologist, Rieg. In the morning she gets a call that the mirror was stolen by a pair of girls and she finds the twins gone, along with the mirror. Although they were kind enough to leave a note saying that they'll return it once they find the treasure. She goes after them but Rieg and his group of ruffians are after the mirror too.
Let's begin with the negative things about the series. First off, this is one of those action-oriented series where archaeology is basically about running through ruins for adventure and fending off thugs who are after the same discoveries as you are. Instead of excavating ancient artifacts through long and arduous labour for science. Don't expect an accurate depiction of the field. Now, that doesn't really other me since it's a pretty common choice for fictional media but what does bother me is that we see our heroine destroy ancient artifacts and scientific data that's been gathered because she's worried about how it'll be used. Why is she even in a scientific field if she's so damn skittish about knowledge? It's also a bit head scratching that they visit ruins that they've been to before and yet they've still got intricate traps armed and ready. No one else bothered going through them and disarming those so that the ruin could be explored safely?
Now I will give the series some credit as well. I do like that the antagonist's minions are portrayed as individuals and not mindless followers. They do question his orders, even pondering whether or not to obey him at one point. I also do like Ray's character arc and the way she faces her own inner conflict. It's not fully realised and they could have done a lot more with it, but given the time constraints it's pretty well done.
Most of the characters in this are pretty archetypical. Ray is the experienced adventurer. Rieg is the villainous scientist motivated by greed. His minions are a slight improvement over regular minion characters since they do have some agency but they aren't very far above them. Mami and Mai act as Ray's sidekicks. With Mami being the more timid sidekick type and Mai being the more active and headstrong variety. I honestly can't fault the OVA for using the ad hoc archetypes, since it is only two episodes and they're more action focused than character driven but it doesn't really make for a compelling or memorable cast.
The artwork and animation are pretty dated. For the late 80s it's pretty typical but by today's standards it doesn't look very good. The backgrounds are pretty plain and there are some art errors peppered throughout. I will say that the action sequences are pretty nicely done and they hold up pretty well. You can tell that AIC was really putting their focus on them.
The vocal cast is pretty good. Ray is voiced by Doi Mika, probably best known for her work as Queen Serenity in the original Sailor Moon anime. The twins are voiced by Itou Miki (Jessie Gartland) and Takayama Minami (Griffith.) They do well, but expect to hear them yell “Ray” a lot. Hori Katsunosuke (we got to hear him play Professor X in that terrible X-men anime) does make for a pretty decent villain. The music is kind of generic, but serviceable.
There really isn't any. I suppose that you could say that the only reason for Mai and Mami to stay with Ray after the first episode is that one, or both, is/are attracted to her but I kind of doubt that that's the reason that was intended since there's really nothing to support the idea. It's more likely that Okazaki just couldn't be bothered to give them a reason for sticking around or that AIC didn't feel it important to share that reason with the viewers.
Explorer Woman Ray is not a bad OVA. It's kind of standard for an archaeologists are action heroes type of narrative. If that's your type of thing you'll probably enjoy it well enough. My final rating is going to be a 5/10. Next week, Shigofumi: Letters from the departed. Yeah, Gintama is still a ways away.