Anime Spotlight: Megazone 23

Megazone 23 has earned its place in anime history by being one of the early Original Video Animation (OVA) releases. This production, which was created by AIC, was originally intended to be a television series, but became an OVA after the sponsors withdrew support mid-way through production. Megazone 23 was written by Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, and directed by Noboru Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Kenichi Yatagi, and Shinji Aramaki.

The first part of the Megazone 23 OVA was released in Japan on March 9, 1985. A year later, this production was spliced together with The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross to create the ill-fated Robotech: The Movie.

Several companies have held the North American rights to Megazone 23: Harmony Gold, Streamline Pictures, Image Entertainment, and ADV Films. As of this writing, the most recent North American release was ADV’s Megazone 23 Complete Collection DVD set in 2007.

The first part of Megazone 23 tells the story of a delinquent motorcyclist named Shogo Yahagi; it appears he lives in Japan in the 1980s. He befriends a dancer named Yui Takanaka, and also runs into his old friend Shinji Nakagawa. Shinji shows Shogo a prototype military motorcycle called the Garland; suddenly, mysterious agents appear and kill Shinji. Shogo, however, makes a getaway on the Garland.

Using a public video phone, Shogo calls a popular singer and TV host named Eve Tokimatsuri, in an attempt to expose the Garland to the public. The broadcast is shut off, and Shogo makes another escape on the motorcycle when he is once again chased by agents. During this chase, Shogo discovers that the Garland is a transforming mecha. Over the course of the first part of Megazone 23, Shogo learns that Eve us actually a computer simulation, and that they are actually living on a spaceship 500 years later than they think.

In the second part of Megazone 23, only four characters carry over from the first part: Shogo, Yui, Eve, and a police officer named B.D. Another major change in this part is the animation style; of the four characters from the first part, only Eve looks like she did in the first part. The other three characters were redesigned to the point that the only way you know who they’re supposed to be is the fact that they are referred to by name. The second part of the series also contains more explicit scenes of violence and sex than either the first part of the remaining parts of the story.

In this section of Megazone 23, Shogo has been hiding underground for several months in the abandoned cities under Tokyo’s surface, as he attempts to avoid detection by the military and police. Shogo has joined up with a motorcycle gang, but he has lost the Garland. A new Eve has been programmed to release “pro-war” music and encourage young men to join the military. However, the real Eve is now running as an independent program and sends out messages through various media devices. Shogo and the motorcycle gang make it their mission to make contact with Eve.

The final sections of Megazone 23 take place 500 years after the end of the second part of the series; the only character to carry over is Eve. This section is set on Earth, in a large, super futuristic city called Eden. This city was built by “The System,” and it’s for humans to live in until it’s decided that humans and nature can live together in balance. All of the citizens of Eden are waiting for the “Day of Liberation.” Eve is a popular pop singer and idol; however, in Eden, it’s known that she’s a virtual idol. Hacking plays a very important role in this portion of the story, and Eve and a Garland are also crucial. I hate to be so vague, but saying too much more runs the risks of providing spoilers.

My favorite part of Megazone 23 is the first part; there’s an interesting story being told, and it’s rather easy to follow. While the story in the second part of Megazone 23 is a decent continuation of the first part, the change in animation style is extremely disconcerting. The characters look like cartoon characters in the first part, and then they suddenly look much more realistic in the second part; I tend to think the animation style in the second part is comparable to the style used in the Akira film. As I mentioned earlier, most of the characters were redesigned so drastically in the second part that you don’t know who they are until they are referred to by name.

During the first portion of the third part of Megazone 23, I found myself wondering how much of a connection it really had with the first two parts, since the only things to carry over are Eve and the Garland. The second half of the third part does tie back in a lot better to the first two parts of Megazone 23, but I think this section of the OVA is rather strange. Also, I wondered if the third part of Megazone 23 was truly necessary; while it appeared the intent was to wrap up the OVA with this final story, I was left with some unanswered questions. An attempt appeared to be made to answer the questions I had, but the answers given were so vague that I didn’t think the story effectively answered the questions.

There’s no denying that Megazone 23 holds an important place in anime history, and it should be seen by anime viewers at least once. However, don’t be surprised if you find that you don’t like the entirety of the OVA series.

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