In a far-future Earth literally cracked in two, evil Humans invade the homeland of the good guy Beast tribes. Faced with high-tech super-weapons and deadly sorcery, the transforming animals are being steadily wiped out. Wan Dabadatta (voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi), who turns into a tiger when angry, is captured when his tribe is slaughtered and thrown in jail alongside three other teenage beast warriors: Mei Mah (Mika Kanai) the mermaid princess; Mekka the turtle boy (Kozo Shioya); and Badd Mint (Takehito Koyasu) the funky, transforming chicken. Professor Password (Takou Ishimori), a human ashamed at his races behaviour, is killed helping them escape but entrusts them with his granddaughter Yumi Charm (Rumi Shishido). Pursued by ruthless cyborg sorcerer-warriors V-Darn (Yasunori Matsumoto), V-Sion (Yuko Mizutani) and their soul-scoffing devil-imp Akumako (Naoko Matsui), the beast warriors search for the legendary supercomputer Gaia that could turn the tide of battle.
This seven part anime serial never really caught on, but gained a certain cult notoriety as the sole video release from Anime U.K., Britain's premier anime magazine throughout the mid-Nineties anime boom. Amidst the hit-and-miss British dub, editor Helen McCarthy (future co-author of essential reference works like The Anime Encyclopaedia) crops up as the voice of pixyish Akumako, alongside several Anime U.K. staffers including Jim Swallow, who excels as the supercool Badd Mint. Their presence adds to an air of otaku enthusiasm that makes some of the more amateurish performances more tolerable. Along with Crusader Video's Catgirl Nuku Nuku (1992) it's a rare anime dubbed with regional British accents and including in-jokes that play best to U.K. audiences, such as when Bad croons The Birdy Song.
Plot-wise, K.O. Century Beast Warriors plays like a comedic remake of the prolific Hiroshi Negishi's earlier Ladius (1987) and offers an interesting twist in that human beings are vile bio-mechanical despots while the animal heroes are virtuous and kind, albeit prone to spasmodic bouts of A.D.D. But it's primarily lightweight, a hectic Looney Tunes affair mixed with sci-fi action, all bug eyes and blazing primary colours, typical of creator Satoru Akahori. Akahori made his name with the mega-successful Knights of Ramune (1990), that spawned a seemingly never-ending cycle of sequels, and thereafter came to specialize in zany fantastical confections aimed at undemanding teenagers: Maze (1996), Sorcerer Hunters (1995), Sabre Marionettes (1995), and a plethora of titles that eventually wore out their welcome. Arguably his most inspired creation was Samurai Pizza Cats (1990), an anime that won a genuine cult following after screening as part of Saturday morning kids TV.
Distinguished by a whiplash-inducing pace and non-stop gags, K.O. Century Beast Warriors displays a winning adherence to eccentricity and spectacle with costumes by Ah! My Goddess (1992) creator Kosuke Fujishima and a vibrant setting that fuses pastoral idylls with super-technology in that uniquely anime way. Mile-long spaceships, gleaming cities amidst the clouds, and an array of marvellous mecha all mark this as a product of the era before The Matrix's influence turned everything downbeat and dystopian. Akahori's gags range from the broad (Badd flips bad guys the bird), the silly (the Chief of the Bird Tribe looks like Colonel Saunders), and the obscure (the tribal home in a dormant volcano modelled on Devil's Mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Listen out for for of the five notes from John Williams signature theme). Initial instalments concentrate on the beast warriors learning to master their mecha-animal totems, building up to an epic confrontation that never happened since the final four episodes were never translated. By far the finest gag, the one that immortalises this for the ages, has robot pilot Badd Mint recalling all those classic anime shows when he shouts: "Sunbeam!!!" And winds up mortified when nothing happens.