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Tokiko Mima, nicknamed "Key," is a robot who has been raised as a human girl by her inventor/grandfather , or is it the other way around?. As her grandfather is dying, he tells her that she can become a human, provided she can make 30,000 friends before her battery runs out. With this, Key moves away from her idyllic village and heads for Tokyo.
Here she finds her best friend from Middle School, Sakura, working three different jobs to keep afloat. With her help as well as the help of Sakura's friend Tataki (neither of which are convinced by Key's story), they plan to make Key into a Idol singer - someone they reason could easily gain the friendship of 30,000 people.
However, in times of extreme stress or danger, a second personality emerges from Key's emotionless form, revealing a girl that is not only more like a human, but one who appears to do supernatural feats.
Key the Metal Idol was released as a 15-episode OVA over a few years. The final episodes are nearly 90 minutes in length.
And if you think from the description that this is a cutesy kid's tale about making friends and becoming a real girl... you're going to be in for a rough ride.
- Anyone Can Die: Both major and minor characters are offed during the series. Borders on Kill'Em All.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Gel.
- Badass Nickname: D. Yes, it's his code name, but A, B and C just don't sound as cool. And they aren't.
- Badass: D and Wakagi.
- Bad Boss: Ajo.
- Broken Bird: Sakura. The lyrics of the end theme alludes to it, well before it's revealed in series.
- Con Man: Prince Snake-Eye.
- Cool Loser: Tataki.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ajo.
- Crazy Prepared: Wakagi seems to be ready for just about anything that could possibly threaten Key. As he should be.
- Deconstructor Fleet: Covers Pinocchio/ Become a Real Boy, Mini-Mecha, Real Mecha, Super Mecha, Eccentric Mentor, Idol Singer, and Magical Girl to name a few. Additionally, it subverts and deconstructs Emotionless Girl and Robot Girl, as Key is revealed to be neither.
- The Dragon: Sergei/D.
- Fan Service: Sakura and Key apparently need to shower often.
- Fetish: Ajo has a truly disgusting obsession with robots.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The series constantly pelts the viewer with massive spoilers, but they're almost impossible to notice.
- Gainax Ending
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Jinsaku Ajo's voice in the (largely well-done) English dub is also the actor who played the Wishmaster in that franchise's later films.
- Human Resources
- Idol Singer: Deconstructed
- Improbable Weapon User: Tomoyo's preferred weapon is a wrist-mounted slingshot that fires explosive slugs.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Key's first response to becoming human and the emotions that come with it.
- Kick the Dog: Ajo does this at least once per episode.
- Mecha-Mooks: The PPOR combat robots.
- Mega Corp: Production Minos.
- Mind Screw
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Holy God, Ajo.
- Night Vision Goggles: Part of Wakagi's arsenal.
- Not So Stoic: Key
- Pinocchio Syndrome
- Post Modernism: One manner to interpret this perspicacious exchange uttered by Wakagi and Shuichi in Episode 14 after Shuichi engages in disclosing what he has learned from his visit to Mamio Valley: Wakagi: "There could be multiple universes, but Key should only have two futures... to regain her humanity, or fail. Any action should lead to one or the other. Her future should determine her present, and we should have been performing our given parts, but an element of uncertainty suddenly interrupted that determined plot. You! You still can't fit into your role. Do you realize how your good intentions have warped the future, thinking it was for Key's good?" Shuichi: "How could I change the result? Would Key transform into something inhuman?" Wakagi: "Exactly! Something inhuman, but we can't go back anymore, and I thought your role was the Greek Chorus."
- Punch Clock Villain: Staff A, B and C. We never learn their names, and they still end up dead in the end like almost everyone else.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots: Inverted. Key's behavior is very robotic, but she's human.
- Robot Girl: Heavily subverted, since Key only thinks she is a robot, due to a failed experiment by her grandfather that sapped Key of much of her emotions and memory.
- Shout-Out: Eraserhead is one of the movies being taken out of the video store in episode 2.
- Shower Scene: On a regular basis, as noted above.
- Smug Snake: Tamari.
- Third Person Person: Key combines this with Spock Speak and Creepy Monotone. She still speaks in the third person after "becoming human", making the transition all the more disheartening.
- Tsundere: Sakura, particularly when talking to Key.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Sakura.
- Villainous Breakdown: Ajo, several times.
- You Would Make a Great Model: Happens to the very naive title character. Fortunately, the scumbags ordered delivery, and her friend Tomoko who brought the food figured out what was going on, and saved her.