Anime Spotlight: Bubblegum Crisis

Bubblegum Crisis is an eight episode OVA series that was produced by Youmex and animated by AIC and Artmic. Katsuhito Akiyama directed the first four episodes, Masami Obari directed episodes five and six, and Hiroaki Goda directed episodes seven and eight. The eight episodes of Bubblegum Crisis were released between February 25, 1987 and January 30, 1991. As of this writing, AnimEigo holds the North American distribution license for Bubblegum Crisis.

Bubblegum Crisis is a cyberpunk-style anime that is set in 2032, in a post disaster Tokyo that has been renamed “Megatokyo.” A corporation called Genom holds immense power in Megatokyo, and their main product is Boomers, artificial beings used for manual labor. However, the Boomers end up being used by villains to be deadly instruments of destruction, and the A.D. Police have the task of dealing with Boomer-related crimes. There are also the Knight Sabers, a group of women who fight the Boomers for money for those who are willing to pay. These four women are a fighting team with incredible abilities, and they also have powered armor suits.

Sylia Stingray is the ringleader of the Knight Sabers, and she is the daughter of Dr. Katsuhito Stingray, the man responsible for creating the Boomers. Her father was murdered by a Genom executive, and the death was covered as an accident. But before he died, Dr. Stingray managed to send Sylia a data unit that provided the technological means to create the Knight Sabers’ suits. Sylia is a scientist in her own right and is also a wealthy businesswoman. Sylia’s younger brother, Mackie, serves as the Knight Sabers’ youthful mascot and mechanic. He’s a whiz kid with computers and technology and is the sole caretaker of the hardsuits. Mackie also drives a truck that delivers the Knight Sabers and their bikes to any situation they need to attend to.

Priss Asagiri, a member of the Knight Sabers, is also a rock ‘n’ roll singer. She is a motorcyclist who has a bad temper and hates virtually all authority figures (especially the A.D. Police). Priss also finds herself in a love/hate relationship with an A.D. Policeman named Leon McNichol. Leon has a tendency to rush into things without thinking and is a skilled armor pilot.

Nene Romanova, another member of the Knight Sabers, is a technical conductor and hacker. She is also an employee of the A.D. Police, where she functions as the Knight Sabers’ mole. Outside of her skills as a hacker, Nene is often portrayed as bubbly, naïve, and blissfully inept with real world logic. Linna Yamazaki is the final member of the Knight Sabers, and she is often presented as shallow, greedy, and superficial.

Brian J. Mason, who is also known as Largo, is the main villain of the first three episodes of the original OVA series. After this, there are several other antagonists for the Knight Sabers to deal with.

From the first shots of animation that I saw from the first episode of Bubblegum Crisis, I could tell right away that it came from the 1980’s. But while the animation may look a little dated, that doesn’t detract from the overall production or the storytelling. I was surprised to see that they could get away with using Priss and the Replicants, since both Priss and Replicants come directly from the film, Blade Runner. Perhaps they avoided copyright issues since the production was being made in Japan and was originally intended for Japanese audiences.

I really enjoyed the feeling of “girl power” that’s prevalent in Bubblegum Crisis, and I appreciated that the series was realistic enough to show that these women have weaknesses. Characters like Sylia, Priss, and Linna receive some fantastic character development in the series, and Leon and Nene add some comic relief that helps to keep the stories from becoming too dark. Bubblegum Crisis has the right mixture of drama and comedy to keep viewers wanting to come back for more.

Bubblegum Crisis can be violent, but it has nowhere near the amount of violence that A.D. Police Files has. There are also occasional shots of female nudity when the Knight Sabers change into their hardsuits. But these things didn’t really bother me, though.

The biggest disappointment for me is the fact that Bubblegum Crisis doesn’t truly end. While there are individual stories that run throughout the eight episodes, you can still tell that there’s a bigger overarching story that should lead up to a climax. But since there’s no ending, that overarching story just seems to come to a screeching halt.

Bubblegum Crisis is a classic 1980’s anime that should be seen by viewers who want to have a wide breadth of knowledge of what this art form has been like over the years or by those who want to have exposure to landmark anime from the 1980’s. I think the series can also be appreciated by viewers who enjoy science fiction stories or by viewers who want to see anime featuring strong female protagonists.

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