In Graviton City, Japan, sometime in the future, Eiko ("A-Ko") Magami — a teenage girl endowed with absurdly high levels of superhuman strength and speed — attends high school with her best friend, the blonde and bubbly Shiiko ("C-Ko") Kotobuki (who is both The Ditz and a Lethal Chef). Unfortunately, their incredibly intelligent (and gorgeous) Gadgeteer Genius classmate Biiko ("B-Ko") Daitokuji apparently really, really wants a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship with the blonde dimwit. She is determined to win C-Ko for her own, and attacks A-Ko at every opportunity with Humongous Mecha or her revealingbattlesuit. Things get just a bit more complicated when an alien warship descends upon Graviton City with the goal of capturing one of the girls — or rather, rescuing her, as she seems to be their long-lost princess...A blend of over-the-top screwball comedy, action, and science fiction, Project A-Ko was one of the shows everyone saw during the prehistory of anime in America, especially because it was one of the first "non-arty" anime imported commercially back in The Eighties. The show's general level of goofiness can be seen in the girls' names — quite simply, the three main characters are named "Girl A", "Girl B" and "Girl C". (There's even another character who simply goes by "D".) Despite over two decades passed since its release, A-Ko remains a persistently influential, respected, and well-loved film.The original film was followed by three OVAs which continue the story of the film — Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group, Cinderella Rhapsody, and Final — and a two-part Alternate Continuity OVA called A-Ko the VS.
Project A-Ko and its sequels provide examples of:
Action Dress Rip: A-Ko, per the page illustration; this actually happens in the film during her fight with D.
After School Cleaning Duty: At one point A-ko is assigned After School Cleaning Duty for being habitually Late for School. While it went well at first, with A-ko using her super strength to easily stack up the desks, a run in with B-ko's gang left the classroom (and a good portion of the school itself) completely demolished, much to her teacher's chagrin.
Amazonian Beauty: Liza from The Vs. She's noticeably taller and more heavily built than A-ko, beyond just having Boobs of Steel, and she wears skin-tight pants and a red bustier that shows copious decolletage, ramping up the Fetish Fuel.
Berserk Button: A-ko - cutting her face, making her late when she made an effort to be early; B-ko - A-ko winning; Captain Napolipolita - Sobriety.
Bishōnen: Gail of A-Ko the VS. is a subversion, as when he's wearing his cape he looks quite bishie, but when he takes it off he's actually very muscular.
Blatant Lies: In the ending of the Vs., Maurten being the last survivor of the Space Patrol.
Blow You Away: A-ko, used intentionally against Mari in the original. Used accidentally in Cinderella Rhapsody.
Bleached Underpants: The series began life as part of the Cream Lemon series of hentai before becoming a full-fledged feature film; the hentai short that appears in Cinderella Rhapsody is actually recycled from the show's own initial storyboards. Which can be found on the web if you care to look.
BFS: Played with in the fight between D and A-ko. In D's hands, it's sized appropriately. When A-ko gets it, it's this trope. No problem, though, because A-ko has super strength.
Boobs of Steel: Liza from A-Ko the VS.; A-Ko refers to her as a "jiggling juggernaut" at one point. She's tough enough to give A-Ko a challenge in a hand-to-hand fight, and that's saying something.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Played with in the OVAs. In Cinderella Rhapsody, A-ko is looking at "the camera" when she admits she lied. In Vs. Blue Side, A-ko is talking directly to the viewer. Even some of the promos break the fourth wall.
Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: The "Love and Robots" DVD has a character listing giving brief character profiles for A-Ko, B-Ko and C-Ko. On C-Ko's, it lists that she hates B-ko and doesn't understand why she wants to get with her so badly. This is completely incorrect as C-Ko is shown to have a friendly relationship not only with B-Ko but her subordinates as well. She even wishes at the end of FINAL for her, A-Ko, B-Ko and all of B-Ko's gang to all be friends and not fight anymore. If anything, they were referring to Kei, who is the ONLY character C-Ko outright hates.
Department of Redundancy Department: In Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group the newspapers the spies use as their "disguises" are titled "Mainichi Daily News". Mainichi is Japanese for "everyday", making the paper the Daily Daily News. For a time, this was actually the name of the website of the English version of the Mainichi Shimbun.
Fan Disservice: D's battle bikini and Daitokuji Hikari's Akagiyama-23 battle suit.
Fanservice: The first time we see A-ko, she's waking up wearing nothing but a pajama shirt and panties. The camera focuses rather prominently on her curves (and her drinking a glass of iced tea) throughout the sequence. The C-ko says it's time for school, she throws her shirt off (baring her breasts for the camera), puts on her uniform, and she quickly runs out the door.
Follow Your Heart: The ending theme song for the original movie, "Follow Your Dreams".
Foreshadowing: Subverted in Final. The prophecy foretelling the end of the world was just a coincidence when the aliens arrived. And Ms. Ayumi wasn't possessed by her charm. She just did incantations because she was told it would bring her luck.
Freudian Excuse: Invoked in the first movie when A-Ko starts complaining about how B-Ko has made her late again.
B-Ko: Is that the only thing you care about?! Being a "good girl?!" Charming the teachers?! Well naturally, it never occurred to you that there ARE some children who just aren't born with the same charm! But not you, no you get to be the heroine while I have to be the girl everyone says is spoiled! Okay! If they say I'M the bad girl, then that's what I'm gonna be!
Funbag Airbag: Played as an Oh Crap moment in addition to a gag, as it's A-Ko running into Liza after having kicked her through a wall.
Gadgeteer Genius: B-Ko designs and builds a new Humongous Mechaevery night to defeat A-Ko. The VS: B-Ko builds a fast and heavily-armed sand skimmer from the wreckage of her & A-Ko's house after it gets destroyed by a sub-sand cruiser, again in only one night.
Glory Hound: apparently, Maruten in the VS. After Xena is defeated, A-Ko, B-Ko, and C-Ko end up back on the sand planet. After meeting up with C-Ko's father, they discover that Maruten has taken all the credit for stopping Xena and the Dragon God. A-Ko & B-Ko are not amused and they vow to find him just before the credits roll.
Good Is Not Nice: B-ko arguably qualifies. Apart from her obsessive rivalry with A-Ko, she's just spoiled and haughty and not bad in any way. She pays her subordinates for the work they do for her (though its not much), gives them breaks, oh, and she will go on a full-scale one-woman-army attack on a huge invading alien force if her friend is kidnapped and do a damn good job of it. She is even willing to put aside her war with A-Ko to make sure C-Ko gets back to Earth safely.
There are hints that their rivalry will give way to something resembling a friendship by FINAL and in VS., an alternate universe version of A-Ko and B-Ko, who really seem to be A-Ko and B-Ko in a parallel universe, are best friends and battle partners. Since the Graviton Universe is referenced a couple times, it does seem to imply that their rivalry is only skin-deep, if still ridiculously destructive and violent.
Gonk: Most of B-Ko's flunkies, especially Mari; also, D and Captain Napolipolita of the Leptons.
Graviton City is the Center of the Universe: In the Sub, the radio show, "Fresh Morning", calls it the high tech capital of the world, and where is the Earth Defense Force based? The desert planet is also the center of its universe.
Iconic Outfit: A-ko's Transfer Student Uniform; when Central Park Media was publishing comic adaptations of the series, they changed her outfit in their version of A-ko the VSnote Project A-Ko Versus The Universe to the sailor suit to increase sales.
Impossibly Cool Clothes/Stripperiffic: B-Ko's Akagiyama-23 battle suit; this was Lampshade Hung and parodied when everyone who first saw it was mostly embarrassed for her. And madeevenworse when, in Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group, B-Ko's father wore one, with very little alteration from the original design. D also wears a similar outfit when she fights A-ko, pretty much ending any doubt that she and all of the other aliens are all female in the process.
In Their Own Image: Xena and Gail's plot in The Vs. is to use the Dragon God to destroy the current "degenerate" universe and make a new one.
Jerk Ass: A-ko in A-ko the VS, as she was meaner and ruder than her original universe counterpart. The movie glosses over this by giving her some reasons to lose her temper and later tells us other things that happened before the story.
Womanchild: Despite being under 20, C-ko fits this. Even in The Vs., where she's actually just turning 10, her nanny tells her she's growing up and it's time to stop acting like a little kid. She doesn't.
Made of Explodium: Most of B-ko's mecha, almost all mecha that A-ko fights. Or maybe A-ko has thermokinesis.
Made of Indestructium: By Final, the desks in classroom 2-E. Good thing too, as the students use them as cover. Too bad the rest of Graviton High School didn't get this upgrade.
Meaningful Name: Maruten literally means "ball head" in Japanese; Maruten's cranium is approximately the size and color of a tennis ball.
Mile-Long Ship: The initial shots of the aliens' ship are carefully blocked to make it appear to be about the size of Space Battleship Yamato. (Which it resembles quite a lot. Not by accident.) Later we get to see the whole thing. The "Yamato" part is its figurehead.
Oblivious to Love: Grash in The Vs. doesn't seem to realize how much he means to Liza. When she thinks he is dead, Liza is ready to go berserk on A-ko and B-ko, but when Grash rises from the rubble she immediately breaks down in tears and embraces him, while his reaction on seeing her is "Oh, you're okay too! That sure is nice to see."
One-Gender Race: The Alpha Cygnans are an interesting variation of this trope. They're all female, but some of them—such as D and Captain Napolipolita—look, talk, and act male. Looking carefully can reveal that they're female early into the first movie.
Only in It for the Money: In The Vs. B-ko has to bring up the possibility of profit in order to convince A-ko to help her rescue C-ko. C-ko is the heir to the Kotobuki fortune, and if they rescue her they're sure to get a massive reward. Unfortunately for them it doesn't quite work out that way...
On the Final Concert album, C-ko's solo song is basically a medley of old anime themes.
Our Dragons Are Different: The Dragon God in The Vs. is gigantic (it seems to grow at least as large as a planet), with three heads, and it's so powerful that it wipes out a number of planets and their defensive fleets with little effort.
Rant Inducing Slight: A-Ko delivers one of these when B-Ko has Mecha-Mooks ready when she gets to school early for probably the only time in her life. C-Ko calling Liza "granny" in A-Ko the VS. C-Ko wasn't trying to insult her, most likely Liza's over-sexualized appearance implies "older" to the childish C-Ko.
Restraining Bolt: A-ko's wristbands reduce her powers to almost manageably safe levels.
Required Secondary Powers: Played with. A-ko is shown several times to be hurt by fairly mundane things. Then she can kick robots without hurting her leg. Her super endurance must only work when she's fighting. Rule of Funny fully applies.
Original movie: Hits her thumb with a hammer (she probably isn't using her super strength there) with full cartoonish reactions which are just as easily forgotten and she trips on an ordinary piece of flawed sidewalk.
Second movie: Tires after failing to get a piece of the Alpha Cygnian ship back in place. The pool incident doesn't count as "mundane".
Vs.: Cartoon injury from being bonked by B-ko's hammer.
Running Gag: A-Ko constantly running over D on her way to school.
Samus Is a Girl: The Alpha Cygnans are all female, including D and Captain Napolipolita, both of whom look, sound, and act male.
Sand Is Water: The desert planet where A-Ko and B-Ko are living in the VS.
She Is All Grown Up: Non-romantic version (and possibly an inversion as she's a childhood enemy rather than a Forgotten Childhood Friend)- according to A-ko's flashback to their childhood, she and C-ko back then used to look more or less like chibi-versions of their present day forms. B-ko, on the other hand, was described (accurately) by A-ko as having a "basin haircut, piggy eyes and dumpy legs" but grew up into easily the most beautiful of the three girls (A-ko is an Amazonian Beauty and C-ko is The Cutie, but B-ko is just outright gorgeous). No wonder A-ko didn't recognise her at first.
B-Ko's father when he appears bears some resemblance to Tony Stark.
Captain Napolipolita is pretty obviously supposed to be a parody of Captain Harlock, in the same way that the bow of the Lepton mothership looks like the Arcadia. Alternately, Napolipolita is Leader Dessler dressed like Captain Okita, flying the Yamato.
The title itself is a reference to the Jackie Chan movie Project A.
The design of teacher Ms. Ayumi is a Shout Out/Homage to magical girl series Creamy Mami.
Mari, B-Ko's underling, looks like Kenshiro with pigtails.
The Three Faces of Eve: C-ko is the "child" as the innocent and childlike figure, A-ko is the "wife" since she is the protective big sister figure looking after C-ko, and B-ko is the "seductress" since she has a curvy figure with penchant for wearing a revealing power suit and has acertain obsessionwith C-ko.
Token Yuri Girl: B-ko Daitokuji. Possibly unintentional; the director admitted in an interview for the US DVD re-release of the film that he didn't think about how the scene featuring B-ko in a giant bath, thinking about C-ko, could be interpreted. Which is kind of confusing, because it looks to all the world like B-ko is touching herself while thinking about C-ko. Based on the differences between the dubbed and subtitled versions, if it was unintentional it can only be because it's so common in the genre that it got put in without being thought about. The dub takes this aspect of the complicated relationship between A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko out, and makes C-ko seem a bit weird and creepy as a result. Alternately, it isn't so much unintentional as it is a leftover from when the film was supposed to be part of the Cream Lemon series of erotic films, where indeed B-ko was infatuated with C-ko.
Transfer Student Uniforms: A-Ko and C-Ko wear these throughout the film; they switch over to the proper uniforms at the end of the film, then wear them regularly in the sequel OVAs, though A-Ko does switch back to her Iconic Outfit for the climatic battle in Final, apparently just for the express purpose of irritating B-Ko (in which she succeeds.)
Wardrobe Malfunction: A-ko, often. When she is particularly embarrassed, one of her bra straps will slip down her shoulder, often with some of the shirt accompanying it. She also often gets into situations that become an innocent Panty Shot, not that she takes it that way.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Played with? That whip? B-ko apparently never picked it back up after A-ko kicked it out of her hand. She uses a whip again when she and A-ko are bickering in Vs.
White Hair, Black Heart: Gail from the Vs. fits this trope due to his callous disregard for the trillions that will die when he and Xena carry out their plan to create a universe by wiping out the current one with the Dragon God.
Wingding Eyes: When Maruten is trying to convince A-ko to help him defeat Gail, Xena, and the Dragon God, he's unable to sway her until he mentions the reward, whereupon A-ko gets dollar and yen signs for pupils, and says, quite deadpan, "It is my duty."
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Very common, even a lot of the unnamed civilians have blue hair. For named characters: Miss Ayumi has light blue hair, D has dark blue hair, B-Ko has bluish-silver hair, and Grash in The Vs. has dark blue Shonen Hair.