Fairly popular in the anime community, Mezzo Forte (2000) is an adult-orientated action thriller OVA from the mind of the infamous creator and director of the anime Kite, Yasuomi Umetsu. Originally released in Japan as a two-episode OVA, the anime was edited into a single animated movie when released in the West around 2005.

“Double the Girls, Double the Guns!! For Mikura, the danger is routine and killing is as natural as breathing. Sleek and sexy, she was born with a gun in each hand and a smile on her face. She specialises in taking risks, but things get a little too hot when her company takes a kidnapping job. The target is a wealthy baseball team owner named Momokichi, but he turns out to be a powerful underworld boss. Mikura and her team are beset by countless heavily armed bodyguards and Momokichi’s vicious daughter, Momomi. She’s used to getting her way, and with world-class marksmanship skills, she may be the perfect match for Mikura!”

Mikura Suzuki in action

The OVA retains much of the ultra-stylish, hand-drawn animation style Yasuomi Umetsu has displayed in his previous work, featuring amazingly detailed environments that efficiently bring this world to life. Moreover, the overall character design is refreshingly unique, where each character has a distinctive feel that assists the dynamic flow of the world in which this story occurs. One key feature considered unaccustomed to this era of anime is the representation of Kurakowa, instead of the typically unflattering depiction of black characters littering the medium, Kurakowa embodies none of these aspects. Instead, displaying a similar representation as other characters–his only difference is his skin tone. In all honestly, it’s a shame that this is not the standard for the medium, which relies on caricature style features that are hardly appropriate in this modern-day–though this is beginning to change in modern anime.

Consequently, Mezzo Forte’s art style follows through with its explosive action sequences, full of stunning attention to technical details that elevate the anime’s overall visual quality, leading it to stand the test of time. From realistic firearm presentation to stunning hand-to-hand combat, the anime is a tour-de-force of action, especially considering its minuscule run time.

The handful of sex scenes featured are fairly egregious in their display, lacking any supplement to the story, and are only included due to contradictory obligations between Yasuomi Umetsu and the anime’s financial backers. Contrary to my usual opinion on the matter, the cut version of the anime is the preferred way to watch, only omitting the sex scenes whilst keeping the violent bloodshed intact. As a result of the anime’s popularity, Yasuomi Umetsu created a sequel to the OVA with the series Mezzo DSA (2004); a twelve-part episodic series following the band of misfits as they take on more cases. This series drops the adult aspects of its predecessor (though littered with Ecchi throughout) to focus on a wider audience while still retaining some of its more violent aspects, though on a lesser scale and with less frequency.

Undoubtedly, Mezzo Forte is an amazing example of style and substance, with many aspects handled with a darkly comedic sense of humour. Littered with references to Yasuomi Umetsu previous work (Kite’s Sawa and her iconic firearm have separate 2-second cameos) as well as his obvious inspirations from western cinema (mock film posters of Die Hard and Dirty Harry seen in the cinema), the anime is a love letter to the action genre and a fantastic representation of it as a whole. Widely available in its cut and uncut versions, this anime is easier to approach for those who do not wish to experience the explicit sex scenes.

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