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I often make fun of Studio Arms, not out of hate, but out of love. As much as I find the studio itself to be an amusing reference point for how depraved anime can get while still being as close to the mainstream as any show not named Dragon Ball Z or Attack on Titan gets, I also genuinely like their stuff. And we sometimes forget that, between Queen’s Blade, Ikkitousen and Elfen Lied, Arms did actually make Genshiken. So, out of respect for the studio I love to rag on, I’m going to review an OVA that can’t just be summed up with “It’s an Arms torture porn.” Today on The Anime Harvest, Mezzo Forte.

It’s worth noting that I’m working with the general release of the film here, not the uncut. The difference being two sex scenes. I’d usually go for the more complete version, just as a principle, but the uncut version sells for over twice as much. I guess some people must find those sex scenes really good, since it’s worth more than the other fifty-five minutes of OVA!

Also, while Melissa Fahn (Rika from Digimon, Ninamori from FLCL, Edward from Cowboy Bebop) voices Mikura through the entire version I have, she apparently has a voice double for the cut scene. I don’t know enough sexually explicit anime to say whether this is uncommon or not, but it just seems a little odd, and I thought I’d point it out.

We open on a baseball game in progress. The style of animation we’re seeing is immediately apparent, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. The colours, lighting and movement remind me personally of why I love older animation, and by that standard Mezzo Forte looks downright impressive. But this isn’t an older show; it’s from 2001. And the fluidity and cleanness of modern animation is present. This is probably the best looking Arms anime I’ve ever seen.

This shows as the batter swings his body, and hits the ball so hard that it leaves an imprint on the concrete wall of the stadium. It’s almost enough to make baseball interesting.

Mezzo Forte OVA anime

Unfortunately for the pitcher, his boss isn’t the type to give away nice severance packages. They meet up in the parking lot, the the old guy beats him to with a bat so hard, when he finally smash the bat, part of it lodges itself in the concrete wall. Seriously, what’s with the concrete in this? Of course, as brutal as the old man is, he leaves his daughter to finish the job, and she shoots the pitcher dead.Mezzo Forte OVA anime

3We cut to our main character, Mikura, in the process of selling a sex android, and I quickly realize why they got a voice double for the sex scenes. She has almost the exact same voice as Rika. During a pat down process, one guy tries to feel her up, and she send him flying across the room. The deal goes sour as soon as money is brought up, but Mikura and her partners manage to escape. One of their would-be buyers punches a hole in the road in frustration. I think it’s time to start a counter. *ding* (3)

Mezzo Forte OVA animeBack at home sweet RV, we learn that our protagonists, Mikura, Kenichi and Tomohisa, run a business called the Danger Service Agency. They get a new job kidnapping the baseball murderer, Momokichi, from earlier. The track him down to a bowling alley, and put a laxative in his drink so they can jump him in the bathroom, as you do. They tranquilize him, bag him, and lift him through the ceiling. This is one of many scene where the OVA does a great job building tension. Even something as simple as a person walking in to use the bathroom and them have to stop for a few seconds works really well. The timing and stillness of the shot is just perfect.

Unfortunately, they get found out and a fight ensues. Mikura manages to kill the man who found them, but apparently that was a mistake because falling fat men can smash through concrete. *ding* (4)Mezzo Forte OVA anime

They end up falling right on to the bowling alley Momokichi and his daughter, Momomi, were using, and Momomi and Mikura start fighting. Just as things are going south, Kenichi drives in through the window for the getaway. On the fourth floor. No, they never explain how the hell he got his car up there, and you know what, they don’t have to. This scene is too awesomely action filled to be tainted by logic!Mezzo Forte OVA anime

Despite the bad turn the mission took, they still escape with the target, though in a slightly more dead condition than intended. Momomi, who apparently is more trigger happy than Revy from Black Lagoon, isn’t pleased with the kidnapping of her father, and decides to take matters into her own hands.

Mezzo Forte OVA anime

Are we not going to address Derpsy over here?

Her goons track down Kenichi and torture him in a way that makes the nail removing scene from Higurashi look a manicure. Everything goes to shit as the DSA RV is raided, and Mikura gets kidnapped by Momomi. Everything is set up for an action packed climax, which is honestly pretty good.

The ending has a couple nice twists, and the good animation holds up through the most action packed scenes. Overall, this two episode OVA plays out like a double length episode of Black Lagoon or Cowboy Bebop, and while I think it’s weaker than both of those shows, I have no problem recommending it alongside them.

You’ve got a small-crime based small service business, run by a handful of charismatic characters with different pasts. One’s even an ex-cop. They’re short on cash but scrape by. They get wrapped up in something both over their heads and right up their alley. By the end they’re complaining about money and just generally back to business as normal.

A thirteen episode TV series of Mezzo Forte, called Mezzo DSA, aired later, in 2004. While I haven’t seen it, I hope to soon. I if it’s anything like the OVA, it should be just like Lagoon or Bebop.

It apparently doesn’t have any sex scenes, which I actually prefer. While I wasn’t able to watch the two in the uncut version, it’s pretty clear where they were meant to be, and I just can’t imagine them fitting tonally. Even with the actual explicit content cut, the lead up to it is really awkward and doesn’t add anything to the anime. While I can’t say for sure, I’m pretty confident that the cut version of Mezzo Forte is actually the better one.

Well Studio Arms, I’ll admitted. This was a really good OVA, and damn better than I expected. As far as I can tell, Mezzo has become a bit harder to find since I picked it up, but if you see it at a decent price and you like simple, old-school action anime, you should definitely get it.

Don’t Lose Your Way