Video Girl Ai is a six-part anime OVA (original video animation) produced in 1992. Although this short mini-series is well lost to time among the heaps of OVA’s released in this era, it is worth looking into for its memorable blend of romance, sci-fi, and 1990s technology paranoia.
The series surrounds Yota, a high school boy frustrated by his unsuccessful romantic endeavors with Moemi, a girl in his class. Yota soon meets Ai, a virtual reality companion become flesh after she literally emerges from Yota’s television screen. The series follows Yota and Ai’s relationship as he introduces her to the world he knows, typical anime style (aka normal human boy must show being from other realm/planet/dimension the ways of Earth).
Things get complicated when Ai realizes she has a limited time on Earth before she must return to the Video Realm– a real damper on Yota and Ai’s relationship. Later in the series, things shift from Earth to the Video Realm, leaving Yota in a challenging predicament.
What makes Video Girl Ai so memorable is its focus on character development and its refusal to rely on cheap gimmicks featured in many stories about clueless, outside visitors. For example, Ai does not have to cling to Yota in her new environment; she is a very independent character who rarely seems helpless. Yota is a good-natured guy who genuinely cares about his love interests’ feelings, and not just their looks. It is incredible how natural the characters’ relationships develop in a six episode period.
Another aspect that sets this anime OVA apart from others is its willingness to control its sci-fi urges. This is a sci-fi anime, but it primarily feels like a story about human relationships. The true sci-fi nature of the series emerges in spectacular fashion in the final episode, which features some of the most mesmerizing and gorgeous animation sequences of the decade.
Video Girl Ai is not without its flaws, but it contains a lasting and universal message which will allow it to be understood, analyzed, and enjoyed for generations to come.