Fans of “Ghost in the Shell” and all-female sentai (that’s sentai, NOT hentai), are surely fans of the original “Bubblegum Crisis” OVA. Cutting edge animation that helped innovate a genre of cyberpunk animes, years later a sequel came out, which was recently re-released by Funimation on a special “Anime Classics” DVD set. So how is “Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040”, and is this DVD worth picking up? Let’s take a look!
I’m sure we have all heard the term “show, don’t tell” when it comes to movies. “Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040” ignores that, and gives us some dialogue right at the very beginning of the first episode to clue us into what has happened in the past seven years before this show began. To summarize, this stand-alone series, which is not a direct sequel to the original “Bubblegum Crisis” OVA, takes place after that initial series, but with a whole new cast. This is a good thing since it does not require any previous knowledge to jump into the series. However, the first episode is just a bit too expository considering that fact.
In a nutshell, country girl Linna arrives in MegaTokyo, which is somewhere near Neo Tokyo and Old Tokyo in anime geography I think, and is an office worker for a company run by “boomers”, which are basically synthetic humans that are programmed to do work. Of course, sometimes, these androids go haywire and start killing people or causing havoc, which is when the mysterious “Knight Sabers” arrive to shut them down. After nearly being run over by Priss, who Linna later recognizes as a Knight Saber that rescues her from an attack, she decides she wants to join their team. It doesn’t take long to figure out that she makes the cut, and joins the fashionista Sylvia and the tech-geek Nene to round out this ferocious foursome to battle some boomers, and uncover a few mysteries along the way about why they seem to be short-circuiting.
The story progresses at a methodical pace, introducing the characters one by one, but not really telling us much as they do so. It takes about three episodes before you start to really have a better idea of what is going on with these people. Speaking of, the characters are interesting enough, fitting the standards of your average team of “hard-suit” wearing heroines. These are strong and, generally speaking, regular working-class women who have secret identities, so it was refreshing to see this take on them. These characters maintain their femininity without blurring it into the lines of slutty like other animes are guilty of, so points to the creators of this show for keeping it classy.
There also plenty of love stories happening along the way with some of the male characters that appear in the show, but they are handled maturely and sensitively, allowing the viewers to become more emotionally involved in-between the explosive action scenes. These are complex characters, more than just stereotypical or archetypical anime characters, even though they may seem to fall along those lines at first. Again, it just takes a bit of time to get things moving and you will find yourself wanting to see what happens with everyone’s personal lives as much as you want to figure out the main story arc of the series.
The voice-over work on the English dub sounds pretty dated, and rightfully so since this series is over a decade old now. Luckily, the punk rock soundtrack makes up for the mediocre VO job, and even though it might not be the best audio, it is not cheesy – just average. A punk and rock soundtrack accompanies it (each episode is actually named after an album or song by a punk band), which does not age too well, but fans of that music will enjoy it.
The special features on this site are quite skimpy, which consist of textless songs and trailers. Again, keeping in mind the age of this OVA, it’s no wonder there is not much else here – so we can not hold it against them too much. After all, you are buying this so you have the series in one well-priced box set. Luckily, the quality of this transfer looks wonderful, and is a big step up from your old VHS tapes.
Overall, “Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040” is a fine series that just takes a little bit of time and involvement to pick up. It’s slow to start, but if you can get past that, it picks up and becomes a worthwhile watch. However, while not filled as much with techno-babble as the “Ghost in the Shell” series, I would recommend this more to fans of the cyberpunk genre of anime as opposed to fans who like things like “Bleach” or “Cowboy Bebop”. It’s not one of my favorite series out there, but that is mainly because it just is not the series I typically check out. If you are a fan of this genre, this is a must-have piece of anime for your collection.