Year Released: 1995
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally released by Anime Works)
Running Time: OVA, 3 episodes, 25 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Zenki, Mega Man, Yu Yu Hakusho, Cyber Team in Akihabara, Shinesman, Saber Marionette J, Medabots
-I watched the Japanese language track for this review.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: Has anyone seen Shamanic Princess? For those of you who have, you might recognize the voices of the main characters Signal and Nobuhiko. They are played by Hiro Yuki and Rika Matsumoto respectively. They voiced Leon and Japolo who are both familiars to Tiara and Lena who are rivals, but they work together in Twin Signal.
-Twin Signal is based on a manga created by Sachi Oshimizu which ran from 1992-2001 with 19 volumes.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written an anime review. No, we’re not going to get into semantics with me backlogging several reviews before I post them on Iridium Eye. Now that you know one of my blogging secrets, let’s go straight into my thoughts on this obscure shonen 90s OVA.
Twin Signal deals with a boy named Nobuhiko Otoi. He’s currently living with his grandfather Prof. Shinnosuke Otoi as his parents are abroad working on robotics research. In Prof. Otoi’s lab, they create a human-like robot named Signal who’s programmed to be like a big brother for Nobuhiko. There’s one faulty in the programming though. Nobuhiko sneezed the second Signal was activated which can turn this advanced adult combat robot into a chocolate-obsessed kid version of himself AKA Chibi Signal (or Mini Signal if you follow Anime Works’s subtitles). They’re just living life at the Otoi household until Shinnosuke’s enemy Hoshimaro Umenokoji plans to steal the MIRA system that makes Signal work and even sends a combat robot named Pulse to destroy Signal.
I barely knew anything about Twin Signal until I saw a trailer for this anime on one of my Kurogane Communication DVDs. I thought it looked quirky and fun, so I decided to give it a chance. The animation is your typical 90s shonen fair, not anything that bad or offensive. I will say that the animation quality was much better during the opening theme animation with its glossier look which made me think this was made circa 1999-2001 instead of 1995 which is a compliment. The character designs are also with that time period of anime although Signal and Pulse did look interesting even though they are definitely bishonen bait for any fangirls out there. The music quality was alright. The opening theme did have that action-packed feel while the ending theme was a happy and peppy J-pop piece complete with dancing SD versions of the characters.
The characters were a mixed bag, but there were some likable protagonists. Nobuhiko is a typical kid who just happens to be surrounded by robots and pets, but he’s a decent foil to his robot “big brother”. Signal was interesting with how he wants to be a better fighter and is selfish at first, but he eventually grows to really be a big brother figure for Nobuhiko and is able to defend him. His chibi form was actually funnier than I expected with how his voice gets super high-pitched (provided in the Japanese version by Ikue Otani who’s the voice of Pikachu) and talks in a broken childish way while caring about chocolate every time the youngest Otoi sneezes around him. When another sneeze happens, Signal would have a transformation scene while spouting typical shonen hero platitudes before realizing that nothing’s going on. I did enjoy that parody element. As far as protagonists are concerned, I had a bunch of issues with Chris Sine and Elara who are the only notable female characters who regularly show up. Chris is a robot scientist who lives in Prof. Otoi’s house who hates doing work and brags that she’s the best and most beautiful robotics engineer ever. She becomes such a designated hero after she invents her robot Epsilon because it runs amok all over the place and at one point almost kills Signal. When Nobuhiko says “It’s Chris’s fault!” during the next episode preview before the last episode, he has a very legitimate point. I even hated how she never takes responsibility for her actions. There’s Elara who’s a robot girl that Signal has a crush on. She does have some funny scenes like accidentally cutting a computer cable while cutting veggies over it, but I had a lot of umbrage with that character. Basically, she’s programmed to cook and clean even though she clumsily makes mistakes. She’s so servile, that she would make Roll from Mega Man want to slap her and say “Girl, be your own woman!”. When she gets kidnapped by the villains, she is punked so easily by the henchman by luring her in with the promises of DISHES to use for serving food. What. An. idiot. The fact that you have an unintentionally villainous heroine and a glorified maid robot as the two prominent female characters left a bad taste in my mouth.
The villains save for one of them were just pathetic. Dr. Umenokoji has one of the flimsiest and most cliched reasons for being a bad guy. The only reason why he wants to take the MIRA system is that he always lost to Prof. Otoi in robot competitions and got lower grades than him. Even Edgar from The Aristocats was more hardcore of an antagonist than him. Okay, I did think it was funny how he would play this computer game that resembles whack-a-mole, but with Chibi Signal in order to crack the MIRA code, but other than that, I could care less about Umenokoji. His henchmen are your typical fat and skinny/short and tall duo that are just bumbling idiots. The main exception in my apathy and dislike of the antagonist side would be Pulse. There is a bit of bias since he’s voiced by Takehito Koyasu’s epic baritone presence (Ryosuke Takahashi from Initial D, Il Palazzo from Excel Saga, Aokiji from One Piece), but he almost stole the show for me. He’s the only character who’s a legitimate threat to Signal with his lasers and long blades even though Pulse is incredibly nearsighted which I thought was hilarious. Pulse has standards in not trying to hurt or kill anyone or anything that’s defenseless which I thought was very refreshing. Also, he’s not even that evil since he was reprogrammed to destroy Signal against his will and the Otois. Yes, I did find it unoriginal that he was the prototype for Signal which would make him the big brother of the two (Yes, he’s the Proto Man to Signal’s Mega Man, if you think about it that way), but he was the only antagonist that was worth watching.
Although I’ve had my issues with Twin Signal, I’m not going to lie about this: there were some legitimately funny things in this show. The moments with Chibi Signal were quite hilarious and how Nobuhiko sneezes in the nick of time as a strategy to have Signal avoid Pulse’s blades. The dynamics between Pulse and Signal arguing when they aren’t fighting for real were really funny especially when the latter would be out of the former’s limited vision range. Pulse’s introduction where he gives this epic speech to a tree that he thinks is Signal was funnier than it should be.
Twin Signal was an average OVA, but I had a few good laughs in it. The animation and music are nothing special, but nothing horrible. I did enjoy Signal, Nobuhiko, and Pulse the most in terms of characters and their relationships. Despite it being based on a long-running manga, the OVA did tell a complete story even though there were some plot holes or openings for a much longer run. If they made a remake as a TV show, I wouldn’t mind that much. I did wish they made Chris and Elara better characters. They don’t have to be the next Rosie the Riveters or try to pass the Bechdel Test, but I wish there weren’t sexist implications with those two. It was an alright anime mini-series, but there’s better stuff out there.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re big into 90s shonen anime
Subtract 2 points if sexism really bothers you when it comes to female protagonists
-Some funny comedic timing
-The Signal/Nobuhiko character development
-Pulse being very balanced in being serious and funny
-90s shonen anime cliches
-Pathetic main villains excluding Pulse
-Sexist ramifications with Chris and Elara
Final Score: 5/10 points
Content Warning: Teens and up. The action is surprisingly tame despite the superpowers and weapons used. The only big issue that would make it 13 and up would be the language because it does get strong sometimes which would prevent it from the youngest viewers.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of Media Blasters/Anime Works