Back in ’95-96 Akiyuki Shinbo directed a project called Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Yohko. It was an adaptation of a series of teenage-level science fiction novels written by Takashi Shouji. The project resulted in two OAV series, and later in 1997 a 26-episode TV series retelling the expanded novel story was aired.
Perhaps it’s just how people looked at TV shows and movies back in the 90s, but Yamamoto Yohko didn’t make a big splash. Unavoidably, Akiyuki Shinbo’s … signature directorial style is somewhat hit-and-miss with the crowd, and I think the Yamamoto Yohko TV series is one of the earliest example of this signature style.
(In some ways looking at Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, you can tell that its rather-two-dimensional look works much more successfully with the punches Shinbo pulls–in fact I believe that’s why Pani Poni Dash did so much better with the fans yet Soul Taker was just way out in the left field with a cold but critically acclaimed reception. Yamamoto Yohko shared that 3D feel. All to stretch the animation budget?)
Well the point here, I hope, is to remind or introduce you –I sure do need to rewatch it–to this actually really above average but rarely-heard-of anime series to you. Yamamoto Yohko is twelve years old now, but its faded-out color palette and seeing kids hanging out at arcades are the only things showing its age. The direction is sublime (and resourceful), the OAV episodes are fun, energetic, and charming. The TV series suffers, I think, from being 26 episodes long, but it delivers a solid story about someone much like Suzumiya Haruhi…sans the romantic/Kyon angle.
Maybe that’s where the magic is missing? I don’t know. (Is that just the difference between 90s TV shows and today’s?) But I do know that it’s a fairly timeless TV anime, and is worth watching beyond mere sentimentality. It’s smart, humorous, it keeps you surprised, and the voice acting is top notch.
It’s even got time travelers, aliens, and ESPer-like computers. It is even licensed–at least the two OAV series. The TV series is in limbo–RightStuf has an option which they have not exercised because the sales were subpar. The US release was back in 2001, and it was on both DVD and VHS. You can probably find the DVD super cheap now, if at all.