Ayane-chan High Kick is a sports comedy from the late 90s. It was written by Shizuya Isao and put out by Nikkatsu & Rikuentai. I've reviewed a lot of semi obscure OVAs so let's delve into this one.
We open with our heroine, Mitsui Ayane, skipping school in order to try out for wrestling. Unfortunately for her, throwing herself into things carelessly doesn't work out and she isn't signed. But things look up when she's approached by Tange Kunimitsu who sees championship potential in her. She eagerly takes him up on his offer to train her, not realising that he actually wants her as a kick boxer rather than as a wrestler.
The biggest issue with the OVA comes down to the humour. To explain it in simple terms, it can't decide whether it wants over the top, absurd comedy or more subdued dry comedy. Which basically results in it giving you kind of absurd, over the top situations and then reeling things back and giving you a subdued punch line that usually proves a bit disappointing. Having Ayane woken up when she's sleeping in class by her friend doing a countdown could be really funny, if she let loose and decked the student in the desk next to hers. Not so much when she just stands up awkwardly and shouts. That's just a little funny. Having the antagonist bring a van to her school and challenge her would be really funny if she gave a kind of exaggerated challenge speech like the Ultimate Warrior but it's not really funny when she's just a bit haughty.
Another issue is with how much time they spend on training montages where nothing all that amusing happens. I get it, you have a sports thing so you want to show some training and progression. However, this OVA has two episodes and runs for a little less than an hour. So, spending a bunch of that time showing training doesn't seem particularly prudent when you could have some jokes for your comedy or character development if you want to take it semi-seriously. Or both.
With those critiques out of the way, I will credit the series for being kind of entertaining and having jokes that might not be uproariously funny but are a bit funny. And there's nothing in the OVA's writing that's actually bad or even boring. Its main problems come down to trying to do too much with limited time and a general unwillingness to commit to the more absurd elements. And the worst that's going to lead to are some scenes that are a bit "blah."
I've often said that a comedic work doesn't need characters with all that much depth so long as it has characters that have strong comedic interactions, although it is a bonus. That being said, this OVA isn't solely comedic. It takes its sport elements somewhat seriously and, because of that, I would say it needs some depth. Which it really doesn't have. Even if this were purely comedic most of the characters aren't all that funny in their interactions. So, you ultimately end up with characters who are a a bit too flat to make for a good cast in a sports work that's taking itself somewhat seriously and not animated enough for a strong comedic cast.
The artwork isn't all that good. It's not bad either it's just kind of average 90s fare in terms of character designs, backgrounds and the like. The biggest issue I had with it were with the action sequences. The OVA opts for more pulse pounding action rather than absurd, over the top action. Which is a perfectly acceptable choice but the problem is that it's not good at it. The action sequences mostly involve Ayane taking hits with flashes and recycled footage before she pulls it together and delivers her devastating titular high kick and it's just not that exciting or interesting to watch. And when it tries to illustrate injuries, there's really no detail so it just doesn't work. I get not wanting to show too much blood or detailed gore in a comedic sports work but at least give us some bruising or anything that can actually convey the damage they're supposed to have taken.
The acting is fine. Nishihara Kumiko, Miyamura Yuko, Kawamura Maria & Ootsuka Akio all deliver acceptable performances. I dare say they could've done better if they'd had stronger comedy and/or stronger characterisation to work with. The music is okay. Not anything spectacular or super memorable but it works well enough.
There's a bit between Ayane and Kayoko. When they start talking about graduating together and Ayane realises she has to win her match for that purpose it gets pretty homo-erotic.
Specific Improvement Suggestions:
This is something new I'll probably do from this point on. Namely, I'm going to suggest three specific changes that I think could have made for a stronger work. Obviously, it's going to end up being a lot easier with works that aren't as good and get more nit-picky when you get something really strong, but I think it'll be interesting. So, for this OVA here are my picks.
1. Embracing more absurd humour.
I'm not opposed to drier, more subdued comedy, but with the ridiculous set ups and situations I definitely think going for more zany, over the top japes would have made for stronger comedy.
2. Cutting The Training sequences down, using that time for character interactions.
If the OVA had done a bit more with developing strong comedic interactions, I definitely think the characters would be both stronger and more memorable.
3. More polish for the action sequences.
Whether you want to keep the pulse pounding action, or you want to keep with the general motif and make the fight sequences more ridiculous, the action sequences definitely need more effort.
Ayane-chan High Kick is all right. It's certainly better than some of the random OVAs I've gone over but there are also plenty of better ones out there. If it sounds like it might be your thing, you won't lose much time watching it since it does run for less than an hour and you may enjoy it. But if you skip it you aren't really missing out on anything. I'll give it a 6/10.