20 July 2003 | BrianDanaCamp
Hotshot corporate blonde perks up high-tech anime adventure
CLEOPATRA DC is a three-part made-for-video Japanese anime series, dating from 1989-91, with a rather unusual set of characters and a distinct look and feel. On the surface, this is straightforward industrial intrigue and adventure, with some sci-fi elements added to the mix. But the most original and appealing aspect is the relentless comic charm given off by the series' sexy, but terminably cheery heroine, Cleopatra Corns, chair and CEO of the giant conglomerate, the Corns Group. Operating out of her own New York City skyscraper, the teenaged Cleo exclaims "Hi, New York! You're looking fine today," as she races her sports car out of her building's garage and into the city's traffic. Surprisingly hands-on for a CEO, her day's work includes rescuing damsels (and companies) in distress, going so far as to fly, via rocket pack, into the heart of a Saudi Arabian oil refinery to head off a disastrous oil fire. And the leggy, buxom blonde does it all while parading a steady stream of dazzling, eye-popping outfits. Despite the provocative fashions and semi-nude scenes, there's never a hint of romance or sex; Cleo's simply too busy rescuing (even younger) girls and saving the world from a corrupt rival conglomerate.
The first two episodes are 30 minutes each, while the last, and best, is 50 minutes. In "Lightning Bolt of Apollo," Cleo is called on to intervene when a playboy oil tycoon tries to woo a client's daughter by kidnapping her. The action takes her to Saudi Arabia and an armed confrontation which requires a phone call to President Bush (the Elder) for approval of the use of an ICBM. "Crystal Pharaoh" details the fight over a powerful diamond needed for use in a super-destructive weapon. The action involves a space shuttle and an attempt to shoot it down. More of a straight science fiction piece, the final episode, "Pandora's Box," finds Cleo on vacation in Nice, but forced to harbor a runaway girl who turns out to be a super-android created by an evil arms dealer. Cleo dubs her "Sara" (after the heroine of the novel, "The Little Princess") and tries to protect her from mercenaries on her trail. When Sara turns up at NORAD in the Rocky Mountains with the express purpose of launching all of America's nuclear missiles, Cleo and her team are in a race against time and have to make another call to the President.
While the character design and animation style are unmistakably 1980s in look and tone, favoring angular features, long-limbed bodies, bold linework, and bright primary colors, there are some rather unusual and distinguishing features, including the girls' oversized but incredibly detailed pupils set in the center of eyes encircled by a lush field of long, flowing lashes. There's a deceptively simple, but highly original, eye-catching style employed here that makes it all eminently watchable even when the storyline gets a little confusing (as it does during the oil company machinations in the first episode). The relatively simple painted backgrounds are perfectly suited to the stylized action. While the stories invariably begin and end in New York, the backdrops include Saudi Arabia, Nice, and the Rocky Mountains. New Yorkers will enjoy the glimpses of Times Square, Central Park and Coney Island. The jazz-inflected score includes a couple of catchy songs sung in English.
American viewers need to be warned about a couple of bits of action that may hit a little too close to home. In the first sequence, a small plane crashes into a New York skyscraper (pre-9/11) with, miraculously, no deaths, while in the second episode, a space shuttle explodes (post-Challenger) with an equally miraculous lack of fatalities.