In the middle of the 21st Century, gadgeteer Hiroshi Ozora has created the crowning achievement of his brief career: the Mol Unit — a device which can enclose its user in a customizable pocket dimension, protecting him from all harm and allowing him to interact with the world in ways that would seem to defy physical laws — in effect, to become Superman. Naturally, the lean and lanky Hiroshi sculpts the "event horizon" so that he looks like a muscular Super Hero when the device is activated. Its only drawbacks are that the Mol Unit can only operate for 666 seconds at a time, and its user must be nude or else the formation of the event horizon shreds his clothing.
Hiroshi intends to show off the Mol Unit to his old mentor Professor Amagi, with whom he shares both a friendly rivalry as a technologist and a love of old 20th-century devices. But before he gets a chance, agents of a mysterious new supervillain calling himself "Professor Machinegal" strike the social event they are both attending. Piloting insectoid mecha, they attempt to steal its centerpiece — a painstakingly restored Formula One race car from the 20th Century. Hiroshi is forced to actually use the Mol Unit to stop the thieves — and in the process becomes Tokyo's first superhero, Moldiver.
Afterwards, Hiroshi's ditzy younger sister Mirai becomes suspicious and investigates, eventually finding his development notes and system. Intrigued and excited, she modifies the Mol Unit so that has a second "look" — one that's more Sailor Moon than Superman. Unfortunately, the changes add just a little instability to the Mol Unit, making it impossible for the wearer to be completely sure just which appearance he — or she — is going to get when it activates.
As Mirai gradually assumes the mantle of Moldiver from Hiroshi, matters swirl around them and seem to converge: Machinegal's continuing depredations, an accelerating deep space exploration program, the unexpected discovery of a maximum number of uses in the Mol Unit, the arrival of a mysterious third Moldiver, and even a family friend on whom Mirai has a crush. Everything is resolved in a romantic and optimistic climax that is conclusive but still holds out the possibility of more adventures.
Moldiver is a six-episode OVA miniseries produced in 1993. Traditionally animated, it generally has good to excellent production values. Pioneer Entertainment brought it to the United States as part of its very first salvo of anime imports in the early 1990s, and as was usual for Pioneer at that time, the dubbing cast is one of the best.
The story is clearly having fun playing with both the superhero and magical girl cliches in a setting that would seem to be inhospitable to both, and it's not afraid to turn other cliches on their ears, as well — one of the most delightful ironies in the series is that the "civilian identity" of the villainous Professor Machinegal is also the lowest-bidder contractor tasked with the job of repairing the damage caused by his own crime sprees — damage that escalates whenever Moldiver gets involved, driving him to distraction with the plummeting return-on-investment he gets from his crimes.
This show provides examples of:
- Attention Whore: Mao
- Bland-Name Product: WcDonalds, ZIC (a reference to the show producers, AIC)
- Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: A curious inversion happens during the second episode, The One with... the space shuttle. Machinegal tries to take an Idol Singer holding a concert at Cape Canaveral hostage, and dares Moldiver 1 to stop him. This is because he thinks Moldiver is in the audience specifically looking at Misaki, who looks just like you'd think Moldiver 1 would look without a suit. Except he's not Moldiver 1 — Hiroshi just modeled its physique after him because he wanted to look buff. So the villain, the poor guy's date, and the crowd all want Misaki to transform and try to save the hostage being launched into orbit, while he tries to convince everyone he's not the superhero, and Hiroshi realizes his Mol unit isn't working.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: Subverted
- Clark Kenting: Amagi/Machinegal; All he did was change his clothes and put on some goggles.
- Clothing Damage:The Mol units will disintegrate any clothing the user is wearing.
- Naked People Are Funny: Mirai always ends up naked when Moldiver's power runs out. Hiroshi ends up naked (or worse) when he's unable to transform himself.
- The Ditz: Mirai
- Genius Ditz: Mirai again: within a couple hours of discovering her brother's work, she is able to re-engineer it to her own specifications. Despite having no technical training.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Hiroshi
- Henshin Hero: The Mol unit's transformation only lasts for 666 seconds.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Mirai, especially in the "Captain Tokyo" form, since Hiroshi's user interface is too technical. Fortunately her design includes a simpler HUD and controls. Meanwhile, Hiroshi isn't able to use the different limb sizes of Mirai's Moldiver form easily.
- Humongous Mecha: Professor Machinegal's prefered method of attack.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The first letter of episode one to five's titles + the first three letters of episode six's = MOLDIVER.
- Idol Singer: Amy Lean, who Machinegal takes hostage in the second episode.
- It Must Be Mine!: Professor Machinegal is already wealthy, respected and famous, but there are technological artifacts he can only get by stealing, and he doesn't think anyone but him are worthy of them anyway. Hence, supervillainy.
- Magical Girl: The Mol unit is technological rather than magical, but otherwise Mirai is a solid example. Her costume design was certainly inspired by magical girl shows.
- Magic Pants: Parodied oh so much.
- Mission Control: Hiroshi becomes this after Mirai tampered with his Mol unit and costume.
- Mouthy Kid: Nozomu
- The Professor (lightly subverted)
- The Rival: Several rivalries, on several levels. There is Amagi vs. Hiroshi, Mirai vs. Mao..
- Robot Girl: Machinegal's Dolls; subverted in that they aren't at all robotic in appearance or behavior, and some viewers may not realize their nature until the horrific moment described in the Nightmare Fuel section.
- Shout-Out: Moldiver has a cameo in episode 8 of Tenchi Universe.
- Shout-Out Theme Naming: Machinegal's Dolls all bear the names of famous Western and Japanese models and actresses, the most obvious being Nastassja (Kinski), Vivien (Leigh), Brooke (Shields), and Elizabeth (Taylor).
- Super Hero: Moldiver (particularly the Moldiver 1 / "Captain Tokyo" form) was designed to look like a classic comic book superhero.
- Team Shot: See the page image.
- Teen Genius:Nozomu
- Transformation Sequence
- Transformation Trinket: The Mol units, which look like portable music players (complete with earbuds).