Hello and welcome back to yet another Anime retrospective. Apologies with the massive delay in this new edition, but I was away getting married…if you could believe that such a thing was even possible…and the resulting months has had me trying to catch up on my webmanga-work. At very least, I can cannot complain of being bored!
By way of compensation, please join me back in time to heady days of the late 1980’s where neon was all glowy & futuristic and women wore massive shoulder pads for no reason at all…
Tonight’s retrospective is of the original Bubblegum Crisis.
When it came to science fiction in the 1980’s, there were often 2 two general trends that a story would follow. Either the action was set in space, or set upon a post-apocalyptic or over urbanized dystopian Earth. The likes of Blade Runner, Mad Max and The Terminator, dominated the feel of these particular themes.
Anime followed this trend as well, with the ‘post-apocalyptic’ genre well represented with the likes of Fist of the North Star and Violence Jack, but to name a few. By far the deepest explored sub-genre in this flavor of anime sci-fi was the ‘Over-urbanized Dystopia’. This tended to manifest as an unending ‘mega-city’, not too unlike the present-day’s megalopolis of Tokyo’s urban sprawl. One such mega city was Mega Tokyo, which is where tonight’s anime was set.
Mega Tokyo was a combination of several different things. First off, it was a Mega City, but it was also Post-Apocalyptic and managed the paint the picture of a world that had been wrecked, but still somehow functioned regardless the wreckage. I’m going to guess that this was a somewhat subtle reference to post-war Japan, which managed “Not Panic” and even “Carry On” despite being fire-bombed and nuked to bits.
However in the world of Mega-Tokyo all was not what it seemed (It never is…is it?). An evil mega-corporation named Genom (because you know, 80’s SciFi *always* needed to have “The Company”) who were responsible for building up Mega-Tokyo in the first place, have turned out to be…well…evil, and had mass produced a breed of crazy robots named Boomers. Thus these Boomers were wrecking havoc upon the city and the especially assigned ‘AD Police’ weren't really up to the task of policing them. Oh well...
In this environment of official uselessness, something needed to be done. Vigilantes were sorely short of supply in a city that had lacked a crusader who-was-caped, but in this void a new type of hero emerged in the form of The Knight Sabers.
In a nut-shell, the Knight Sabers were a collection of 4 women from different backgrounds who donned robotic ‘hard-suits’ in order to combat the boomer threat. Also Bubblegum Crisis was somewhat innovative when it came to how robot suits were illustrated. Before this show a robotic suit would typically be bulky & masculine and the likes of Iron Man would probably be the most slim-line robo-suit you would find. The Knight Sabers however were an early example of robotic suits having a distinctively feminine appearance to them. From the figure-hugging curves of the armor’s torso sections, to the ridiculous high-heels incorporated into the armor’s boots…the so called Hard Suits of the Knight Sabers all screamed “There is a girl inside this!!”
Of the Knight Sabers themselves, we had the following:
Sylia Stingray who was a wealthy young business woman, leader of the group and essentially this show’s Tony Stark. Sylia sort of made a business out of this whole vigilante gig and manages the Sabers’ operations under the front of her lingerie shop. She fulfilled the trope of the more mature girl and had a bit of a personal vendetta angle going on with the Boomers. She was decent enough in this role, but unfortunately not fleshed out as much as she was going to be, due in part to what happened to this show (I’ll explain later).
Next was Priss; our all-rounder defiant warrior type. She would lead the girls in battle most of the time and sort of served as Sylia’s second in command. She was a fun character to follow and had some more developed relationships than the others. A biker girl first and foremost, she spend much of her civilian life as a rock singer, who’s music added to this show’s 80’s feel.
This was followed by Linna; an athletic wannabe dancer who used her agility as a weapon while in her Hard Suit. Linna alas was more 2-dimensional than the other girls, and there’s not much I can add beyond her being a warm, friendly team player. Not a bad character at all, but she really needed to be fleshed out .
Finally, my own favourite of the bunch; Nene! Yes, I’ve made this a bit of a habit, but for some reason I always like the cutesy spaz characters that fulfill Nene’s particular troupe. She was tones of fun, but not an idiot at all, and served as the Sabers’ hacker and computer expert…which made up for her relative lack of physical battle prowess. Of the 4 of them, she was actually a serving cop within the AD Police and also served as the Sabers’ mole there. Having Nene in the mix balanced out the group well I felt and the character herself had made me wanting to come back for more.
Beyond the girls, we had a cavalcade of supporting AD Police officers, evil Genom staff and various other cast members from the extensive tapestry of Mega Tokyo. I could go into each one, but we would be here forever. So instead, I would like to talk more about the actual *feel* of the show.
For the most part, Bubblegum Crisis takes its cues from Blade Runner as well as any number of Sci-fi cop shows and dramas. Plot-wise it never really goes too far beyond the Pale in this respect, with the exception of some very clever Boomer-related problems. However, what sets this show apart was the manner in which it is all put together. The animation was crisp and wonderfully illustrated, and the physics of the Sabers’ Hard Suits were very spot on. You could get the impression that the animators had gone to great pains in getting all of the details right.
With the addictive personalities of (some) of the characters in play, the one last ingredient of the show that had made it so good was the music. There was a considerable amount of hot-jazz and metal thrown into the show’s score which had made Bubblegum Crisis feel like a loving tribute to the decade that had birthed it. There was no denying that this was a show from the 1980’s, and any sitting of the introduction or exit credits would whisk anyone (of-a-certain-age) back to that decade seamlessly.
Alas all things come to an end, and unfortunately Bubblegum Crisis suffered an end that it didn’t deserve.
Only 8 of 13 OAV episodes were produced, due mostly to fighting between design studio ARTMIC and production company Youmex. The production came to a complete halt, until 1991 when ARTMIC decided to be cheeky and attempted to produce the final 5 episodes without Youmex. This proved to be a mistake however, when Youmex successfully sued ARTMIC into halting production again. Only 3 of the remaining 5 episodes were produced, which eventually became a short bundled feature called Bubblegum Crash. That however left us 2 episodes short of a show’s conclusion, which never came…
Bad blood continued between ARTMIC and Youmex, with legal action continuing right into the late 90’s when ARTMIC finally went bankrupt. Youmex also ended up disappearing, with the rights to Bubblegum Crisis passing on to AIC.
AIC didn't waste any time and went ahead to produce a new show named Bubblegum Crisis 2040. It was a faithful re-imagining of the original, but somehow it felt sterile and lacked the rich 80’s feel that had made the original so addictive. It had managed a respectable 26 episodes (2 unaired), before wrapping up.
Thus ended the saga of an 80’s themed sci-fi cop-show, with girls in shapely battle-suits.
If you want your nostalgia buttons pressed, I fully recommend seeking out both Bubblegum Crisis and Crash to get a sense of what I feel was the quintessential 80’s anime.
In a couple of weeks check-in again with UKAnifest for a retrospective yet another classic series. But first a question: What does a Dragon, some Balls, and the letter ‘Z’ have in common? ….yes…you know where I am going with this. However, I am not just covering that show! Drop by soon for the first of a 3-part Dragonball retrospective series, starting off with the original 1986 Dragonball!!
Until next time...enjoy some nostalgic 80's rock...and don't be alarmed if you suddenly grow a mullet. That's normal...