Posted by psgels on 26 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews

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.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

7 Responses

  1. indyk says:

    Yeah, the art is like in Memories – magnetic rose or Ghost in the Shell. It’s a shame that nobody develops this kind of character design nowadays

  2. Wyrdwad says:

    Ahhh man, this is a classic, right here. Haven’t thought about Key for ages, but I sure did love it back when I was first getting into anime. I should watch it again sometime!


  3. Camario says:

    Yet another anime I haven’t watched, but it still sounds like something I could enjoy by watching the series in the right mindset. Thanks for the review.

  4. DL says:

    Two things I’d mention:

    The music is also excellent (and the English dubbed music is ALSO good) and the opening animation is very clever.

    Felt the ending did not quite hold together but the journey was worth it.

  5. marebito says:

    Yup, a classic. One of my absolute favorites from when I really got into anime. I also loved how they actually ‘dared’ to just let the characters talk so long before the finale and explain the plot’s background so well and detailed. Even for today’s standards I consider episode 14 to be awesome in that aspect.

  6. lisa says:

    Well this is nostalgic! It’s been a long time since I saw this show, and reading the review makes me want to watch it again.

  7. Koji Oe says:

    I think those non stop talking episodes ruined the series for me. Totally hated that garbage. It was an interesting show up until that point too… It turned to crap after that.

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  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 09:02 PM)
    One-Punch Man’s pilot was almost adapted flawlessly. It straight up uses the manga panels as it’s main storyboard, but added just enough new touches to improve the action instead of ruining it. Now let’s see how they animate the mosquitos and all the lasers for the next episode.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 08:57 PM)
    And that’s why Madhouse is one of the few respectable studios left. I thought that they will be seriously diminished after Masao Maruyama took some of its key members and funded MAPPA, but One-Punch Man showed that they are still one of the best in the business.
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 08:51 PM)
    @Kaiser The anime industry isn’t advanced enough in CG to make it look good, is all it is.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 05:51 PM)
    @K-off: Your not wrong, it certainly looks poor but some of the old gonzo animated stuff was far more woeful looking. Stellvia, which was done by xebec was another example of old anime cgi which was quite ugly to look at. Just as I prefer traditional effects in film I also prefer traditional animation techniques to cg.
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 05:42 PM)
    Lately, the use of badly integrated cgi have been making my eyes sore,from the obviously cgi background characters in Asterisk to the overly fluid mech movements in Aldnoah. I still remember the shitty cgi piano hands in Kimi no Uso.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 6. 2015 12:04 AM)
    On the note of good balance between humor and drama- I think BoJack Horseman is an example of a show that executed that almost perfectly in both seasons. You are laughing one minute and amused by the hijinks and silliness and the next minute you are actually moved and shocked by the honest introspection. Too be honest BoJack is more a tragic character then a goofy one, and his struggles are deeper and more existential than they have any business being in a show with anthropomorphic animals.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Oct 5. 2015 11:56 PM)
    The changes in the setting actually made me more excited for season 3 then what I felt the past few weeks, since now the plot needs to move forward from the cliffhanger and hopefully this translates to more cohesion and refocusing on what mad the show great in the first place. I’m pretty sure S3 will also be a blend of episodic and arch story elements tho. Overall a few ups and downs but still a great show.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Oct 5. 2015 11:52 PM)
    The finale also had some of the most overall arch story elements featured in the season. Earth joining the Galactic Federation is a big deal story-wise from now on. Also the use of a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” (not the Nine Inch Nails one clearly) was a nice fitting yet surprising touch. The throwback to Mr. PB after the credits was a good idea, but felt flat in it’s actual execution.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Oct 5. 2015 11:49 PM)
    I thought R&M had a pretty good finale. The episode achieved what was missing from most of season 2, and that was a balance of randomness and meaningful bits. What made Rick Potion #9 and the previous season’s finale and general tone great was a sense of humor that was combined with more sincere drama and character developments; a sort of sweet melancholy.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Oct 5. 2015 09:51 PM)
    @K-off, not having too much trouble with the interface but I still cannot create categories.

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