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The Vault 02: Bubblegum Crisis OAV


Explanation of the Vault series

Originally published on March 17, 2003. At one point, I sought to review everything I read, watched, and listened to, and did so via short reviews–first paragraph summary, second paragraph analysis/review. This is an example of one of my short reviews.

an Artmic/AIC production (1987-1990), 8 episodes

In post-apocalypse Mega Tokyo (just how many times has Tokyo been demolished and then rebuilt in anime?), the GENOM Corporation manufactures intelligent androids called “Boomers.” They were instrumental in the rebuilding of the city after the earthquake, but sometimes they get a little malicious and destructive . . . and the bumbling AD Police, the force assigned to stop rogue Boomers, usually can’t stop them. But the Knight Sabers–a mercenary group of four young women in advanced hardsuits–can. Led by briliant leader Sylia Stingray, the team battles errant Boomers and unveil some of the more sinister projects and conspiracies going on beneath the giant ediface of GENOM and its imposing tower.

This is the original OAV series, which has inspired several knockoffs (Bubblegum Crash, AD Police Force, and most recently Bubblegum Crisis 2040). On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a terribly original anime–“women in sexy uniforms stop malfunctioning and malicious robots” is what the plotline often boils down to–but there’s some attention to detail and storyline that sets it apart from the crowd. There are, for one, the Blade Runner references and homages–it’s pretty clear from the very first episode that this is really a homage to that great Ridley Scott film by the animators. Second is the animation quality–dated, perhaps, by current standards, but very high quality for its day. The action scenes are still quite well-directed, though so many animes have taken after BGC and stolen designs, concepts, and other aspects enough that watching it now makes it seem very familiar, much like reading quotes from Shakespeare that have now become cliches. As far as story and character go, the notable episodes are 5, 6, and 7, all which deal with some difficult decisions that the characters have to face. There’s some basic emotional resonance there absent from the rest of the series, which are otherwise run-of-the-mill action plots. Characterization-wise, most of the main girls fall into well-known “types” one finds in action films and anime, so there’s nothing to write home about in particular. Now, of course, one can’t talk about BGC without mentioning the music, which is for the most part top-notch, then-state-of-the-art-produced 80s J-pop. The melodies are better developed than most of the dreck that topped the charts in that decade, though age has inevitably made some tunes sound rather “cheesy.” But the music always fits the action on screen, and the DVD set includes some decent music videos for the songs (the non-live action ones, that is. The live concert videos, alas, are incredibly embarassing to watch now). BGC has, ultimately, become a classic and is well worth watching to examine the roots of many current anime tropes. You won’t watch it to be emotionally involved or intellectually provoked, but it’s lost little of its charm and fun over the years.

Michael is on hiatus for the remainder of August. The Vault series resurrects entries from his personal blog about anime, written from 2002-2006. Entries will appear in the series every other day.

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