Watching Key the Metal Idol really makes me appreciate how awesome art from the 90s can be. Sure, the past decade has also put forth a fair amount of beautifully drawn anime, but there definitely is a charm to the cell animation that dates from the time when there was no CG yet. The designs in Key the Metal Idol in particular are beautiful, only made better by some terrific animation. But how does the rest hold up?
Well, very impressive. This is an OVA that shines in its direction, which knows exactly how to keep you guessing, interested and caring about the characters. It really draws you in with its strange plot, and the way it plays around with its characters (especially Key) gives them all a unique feeling.
Key the Metal Idol made really well use of its OVA format to try out new things, in an attempt to be unique. The premise of this series is that robot girl Key wants to be human, but needs to become friends with 30.000 people, but this is only the tip of the iceberg in this. As the series goes on, more and more very creative idea pop up and make sure that even fifteen years after it originally aired, this series still stands out as fresh and original.
With 13 episodes of 25 minutes, plus two episodes clocking in at a whopping 90 minutes both, this really is one of the longest OVAs out there (aside from Legend of Galactic Heroes, of course), and it really shows. While most OVAs are just way too short for their story, Key the Metal Idol does for once have plenty of time to show its entire setting, and it makes really well use of this and takes its time to let the story slowly unfold.
This gets taken especially far in episode 14, which is really nothing but ninety minutes of non-stop talking. It’s those kinds of things that are risky, and will either have you love or hate the series. I personally loved how it built up and very carefully explained exactly what was going on in this story, but you don’t want to watch it with a short attention span and it also violated the “show, don’t tell”-rule at times during the exposition.
The final episode in its turn suffers a bit from hasty and convenient explanations, that may leap logic a bit too much at times. On top of that, the budget also seems to have dropped in these episodes. It’s a bit sad for the finale of an otherwise excellent series, but it’s not like this final episode is bad either. It’s just… not as solid as the other episodes.
Nevertheless, Key the Metal Idol really has a lot to like. Because it was released over the course of four years the producers really had the time to make this series as solid as possible, and aside from the final episode this worked very well. The cast of characters is imaginative and very varied, yet every character feels unique, the storytelling draws you in and the dialogue is deep and meaningful as well. A great example of OVAs done right.