The image you see below is a short prequel manga for AWOL -Absent WithOut Leave- titled Lady Steady Go! (get it?) that was drawn by character designer Isamu Imakake. It tells the story of how main character Jim Hyatt met future team member Rachel Hurst, as she was already with Hyatt when she debuted in the anime. According to production assistance studio Ehrgeiz (who in fact helped out with AWOL and, yes, Next Senki Ehrgeiz), this manga released on April 30, 1999 was only available as a bonus to people who bought all of the anime on home video when it was released in Japan; naturally, it's now intensely rare (I've never seen it for sale online, at least).
Why do I bring it up? No real reason, honestly, other than to say that I've now covered everything AWOL with this review. Speaking of which, let's recap a little with the subject of Review #150... You know, the anime that's a son of a pitch.
The AWOL that ran on TV Tokyo in late-night from January 7 to April 1 of 1998 can be described in many different ways. Justin Sevakis called it "unwatchable", I called it "lopsided", and its sheer difference in quality between the non-existent pace of the the first half & the more focused second half was a true blue instance of an anime pulling a Dr. Jekly & Mr. Hyde, only in reverse. The end result felt more like a short OVA series that was forced to be turned into a weekly TV series, which is kind of the opposite of what usually happened during the OVA boom (i.e. aborted TV series got turned into OVAs). This TV series really felt like the equivalent of a professional runner doing a false start yet still kept running, simply because that's all this specific runner is good at. Eventually, everyone just lets this runner finish the race that never even got started simply because they feel sorry for him/her; they might even play "Chatiots of Fire" by Vangelis just to make the runner feel special. Japan's only interaction with the original TV version of AWOL would be via the airwaves, because the staff involved knew that no one would buy this show on home video in the form it originally aired in; that didn't stop d-rights from licensing the TV version to AnimeVillage.com, though. What Japan got instead was something called AWOL Compression Re-MIX, which truncated the entire production from twelve 24-minute episodes into four OVAs which were released on VHS & LD from August to December the same year; episodes 1-3 are around 53 minutes long, while episode 4 is around 43 minutes. Taking into consideration the fact that the OP & ED are only used four times instead of twelve, roughly four episodes worth of content was removed to compress everything! Does that make AWOL actually watchable now? Hell, is it as "speedy & powerful" as it's claimed to have been made into?