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World Conquest: Zvezda Plot (2014)

There's a long and storied history in fiction of shadowy secret organisations bent on world domination. Zvezda, the eponymous group in World Conquest: Zvezda Plot, are a little unusual. For a start, their leader- the infamous Lady Venera- is actually a little girl named Kate Hoshimiya. The rest of the group is also similarly unexpected, including an eye-patch sporting swords-woman, a young Ukrainian inventor, a former gang-leader and a robot. Into this mix comes the show's main character, a teenage runaway who encounters Kate one day and finds himself (not entirely willingly) joining Zvezda's ranks.

Zvezda is a locked in a constant battle with a secret government agency named White Light determined to foil their plans for World Conquest. This in itself is a fairly standard set-up for an anime. Typically the members of White Light would be the heroes of the series- but this time it's the villains that are taking centre stage. This isn't the first series to pull this switch by any means, but it's still enough to make it stand out from the crowd and make it at least worth a look.

The basic premise may have clued you into the fact that this show is comedic in tone, at least for the most part. The basic absurdity of the premise gives it plenty of mileage for humour and provides a lot of really out-there ideas. One of the areas the series has most fun with is the idea that members both of Zvezda and White Light have secret identities.  Protagonist Asuta continues to attend school as normal, completely oblivious to the fact that members of his rival organisation are among his fellow students. Even the slowest-on-the uptake viewer will have their alter egos pegged in no time, but the series still gets a lot of entertainment value out of the idea.

Visually, the show acquits itself well with cute character designs and some stylishly textured backgrounds. The animation is perfectly decent but not at all flashy with some not especially well integrated CG.

Zvezda and their opposite numbers in White Light are all decked out in outlandish costumes (often gratuitously skimpy in the case of the female cast) complete with masks. Fans who know their anime history will recognise them as riffs on a particular type of Japanese super-hero series typified by Yatterman. Mix in a touch of the tradition of live-action Sentai series (which gave the world the original Power Rangers) and some Gigantor-inspired mecha designs and you can see where the series takes it's inspiration. The only difference is that this time it's the 'bad' guys in the spotlight.

A large proportion of the 12 episodes consist of standalone missions undertaken by Zvezda. It's not always clear how tasks such as winning a treasure hunt or establishing a smoke-free zone will help achieve world domination, but that's all part of the fun.

The series is at its best when it revels in the essential daftness of the idea and ramps up the more sit-com-style elements. It comes a little unstuck in the latter episodes when it tries to head into more dramatic and serious territory Luckily, it soon seems to realise that's not where its strengths lie and goes back to silly mode for one last hurrah. Although Zvezda is relatively light on fan-service (revealing costumes aside) there are still a few sequences that we could have done without. Fans who like to watch their anime dubbed will also be disappointed as this series is a subtitled only affair.

Ultimately, this is an enjoyable series that doesn't outstay its welcome. Ironically, it's not going to change the world, but it's a great deal of fun while it lasts.

WORLD CONQUEST: ZVEZDA PLOT is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK From MANGA/KAZE and ANIPLEX in the US. Also available streaming on CRUNCHYROLL

Buy From Amazon UK