World Conquest Zvezda Plot is an anime with a quirky premise: Watch as a little girl and her evil generals try to take over modern day Japan. It's exactly as fun as it sounds.
Good – Team Rocket Protagonists
In classic superhero anime, there is always some kind of evil organization trying to take over the world. And while the heroes foil the baddies each episode, they always return to try again. World Conquest takes place in such a setting—only instead of following the heroes, it follows the villains. There is also one other major twist to the formula: Before even the opening credits roll on the first episode, we see that, eventually, the bad guys will succeed in their aim of conquest and leave the world in ruin.
This team of evildoers consists of the common bad guy stereotypes you've come to expect: the mad scientist, the big bruiser, the one-eyed swordsman, the treacherous coward, and the robotic minion. The audience proxy, Asuta, is a normal boy who runs away from home only to end up as the random mook/cook/maid of the organization. Each character consistently embodies their respective stereotype even as the show goes on but also gains liberal amounts of (often comedic) backstory. But as fun as the supporting cast is, they are all little more than background fixtures when compared to their hilariously well-written boss, Hoshimiya Kate.
Good – Kate
When it comes down to it, Kate is a lot like a Bond villain. She concocts devious plans, is cool and in control in even the most dangerous situations, and is prone to overly verbose villain speeches. She is also a pretty normal elementary school girl. This contrast is what makes her such an enjoyable character to watch.
Sometimes she acts like a Bond villain and sometimes like a normal little kid; but of course, the best scenes are those where she acts like both at once. She may need training wheels to ride a bicycle but will still talk about the grander philosophy of world domination while doing so. When discussing an evil plan, she may use the time to practice trying to do a backflip over a pull up bar with her evil generals spotting her so she doesn't fall. And despite being ruthless in her ambitions, she is more likely to get angry over missing her favorite cartoon than from any setbacks she faces on the road to world domination.
Good – The War on Smoking
Perhaps the most entertaining episode of the show comes early on in the anime's run. While walking around the town, Kate comes upon a smoker annoying those around her with her smoke. Kate, in full bad guy regalia, then tells the woman off as only a little girl can. But instead of running away from the evil terrorist, the people flood around her, thanking her.
She then proceeds to lead the general populous in a systematic purge of all smokers from the city—a much more literal war on smoking than we are used to. It is dark as well as hilarious as the smokers are driven from one hidden bar to another, always searching for the next safe haven to smoke in before Kate's forces invade and drive them out. And the clash outside the city's final smoke-filled pachinko parlor is nothing short of brilliant with its climax and subsequent punchline.
Good – Not Quite the Setting You're Expecting
It's clear from the start what World Conquest is: a parody of classic superhero anime. But that is also the trap that the series weaves for the viewer. By knowing the framework of the typical story, the viewer is prone to make all kinds of assumptions on the setting. World Conquest has a lot of fun proving those assumptions wrong.
[*Skip to the next section to avoid minor spoilers about the setting.]
For example, classic superhero anime almost always takes place in a near-utopia where the only evil people are the bad guys. So naturally, you'd assume the same in World Conquest—and the anime is more than happy to let you think that. It's not until the last third of the series that we see that Japan is far from a utopia; rather it is a fascist distopia immersed in civil war outside of the single city Kate has conquered. Moreover, as we learn about the state of Japan in general, Kate looks less like the villain and the more like a benevolent dictator. It is a fun twisting of expectation.
Bad – Makes Crap Up
Unfortunately, the setting is far from the only curve ball World Conquest throws at its viewers. The longer the show goes on, the more it seems like it’s just randomly making up things on a whim to be silly—e.g., the power source for their evil inventions is udo (sometimes called “mountain asparagus” in the West) and there are the ruins of an ancient civilization under their base that stretch from Japan to Ukraine, among many others. It's even worse when it comes to the backstories of the characters, as the characters' actions before big reveals don't often make much sense when viewed in retrospect.
Though that's not to say that the silly reveals and plot twists are bad in and of themselves. The problem is that these reveals often occur with no prior foreshadowing or setup—making them seem to come from way out in left field. The overall feeling of the story is like a child telling you a story he or she is making up on the fly: Crazy things just happen without buildup or sufficient explanation.
World Conquest Zvezda Plot lives or dies on two factors: how much you enjoy a parody of classic superhero anime and how much you enjoy watching Kate. The story is rather lackluster and the constant reveals—while funny—are more concerned with getting laughs than building a cohesive world or characters. Still, if you're up for some laughs and the idea of watching a little girl take over the world sounds at all appealing to you, you'll likely have a lot of fun with World Conquest.
World Conquest Zvezda Plot aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be viewed for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.