ADV Films // 1998 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // February 24th, 2005
This isn't child's play!
This anime gets off to a very rocky start by assuming that I am (a) interested in what is going on, and (b) aware of what is going on. This latter point deserves some further explanation. The story opens on Hibari Hanakoganei, who is just starting junior high. She and her two best friends will all get the latest craze in toys, a "Pata-pi," and it will change their lives. Pata-pi are cute, they're semi-alive (but partially mechanical), they walk and talk, and occasionally they transform into adult-sized versions of their owners and fight the forces of evil in special battle gear that materializes from thin air!
Oh, did I mention the dirty old weirdo who keeps peeking at the panties of the girls even as he delivers cryptic messages about a phantom prince that wants to meet Hibari? Or the psychotically pumped-up nemesis that Hibari fondly calls "cow tits"? Or Shadow Master, the creepy man-child who watches over everything and somehow enslaves the hearts of adult women with jobs and lives and makes them do his evil bidding? Or the bizarre principal of the junior high school these girls attend, who seems to have some master plan that he's trying to hatch? Or the mysterious idol singer Hatoko, who appears for a brief number at the beginning of each episode for seemingly no reason?
Yes, someone has been taking in too much caffeine, then staying up all night before writing the script. A little bit of everything went into this series -- a dash of Pokemon (cute creatures that can be trained to fight), a bit of Wedding Peach (three girls who discover they are special transforming warriors in a conflict they know nothing about), and just a pinch of Saint Seiya (an enormous cast of characters on either side of a good-versus-evil battle), and it's just as incoherent as you might expect.
The good news is that things do start to get interesting, but only when the three girls finally get together and form the Cyber Team in Akihabara squad and immediately start in-fighting and stressing out about the people who are constantly trying to kill them. Watching their hysterics is funny. Other than that, the shadowy organization behind the repeated attacks and the mysterious prince that appears to Hibari only in her dreams and visions are just too vague to hold the viewer's interest for long. In short, these episodes will pass the time, but there are probably better ways to spend an afternoon.
Image quality for Cyber Team in Akihabara is not up to the normal standard of a recently released series. The image is grainy and has a surprising density of spots, fuzz, and other image gunkiness. The colors are slightly washed out and, thanks to the animators' fondness for backlit and soft-focus scenes, all of this combines to make your eyes water during certain scenes, as white colors come out over-bright and other colors fade together. The sound quality fares better, with a strong, mostly front-channel, 5.1 English language mix and a 2.0 Japanese mix that sounds clear and unblemished. Extras feature black-and-white production sketches set to series music and clean opening and closing sequences. The sketches are mostly of the Divas (the transformed state of the Pata-pi), although there are some concept sketches for the other creatures, as well, including a few that aren't seen in these first five episodes.
This series does come with a "mature themes" warning on the box, and there is a little tomfoolery there, mostly in the form of looking at little-girl panties, absurdly large chests, and a possible lesbian orientation for one of the main characters. Any rumors of father-daughter lechery are to be ignored, however. There is one scene where Hibari is in the bath, and her father absentmindedly says he will join her soon, and she freaks out, but this is there mostly to show that she is a grown-up who can no longer bathe with her father because she is too old. In Japan, it's common for fathers to have a soak with their small girls, so this scene indicates that she has grown up right under his nose and he is just now taking notice.
I wish I could recommend this series, but I really can't; it just doesn't wow me or stand out in any way. The verdict: released on parole -- I want to see how things develop in future volumes before deciding if this is worth my time to follow.
Review content copyright © 2005 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (signs only)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Sketches
* Clean Opening Animation
* Clean Closing Animation