ADV Films // 1985 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // September 9th, 2004
The Matrix pre-visited.
Tokyo, 1985. Shogo Yahagi is a reckless teenage street racer who blows the money he earns working at a local McDonalds on modifying his bike. His carefree life is thrown for a loop the day his friend Shinji shows up with the Garland, an experimental military motorcycle capable of transforming into a combat robot. Shinji, hired to test drive the bike, has stolen it from his employers. Unaware that he is being followed, Shinji asks Shogo to take the bike for safekeeping; Shinji is murdered, and Shogo flees with the Garland. The men responsible for Shinji's death, looking to retrieve the vehicle, relentlessly pursue Shogo. Hoping to gain Shogo's support, BD, commander of the military forces responsible for the development of the Garland, corners the youth and reveals the true nature of the world in which they live. Although it appears to be the late 20th century, it is actually five hundred years later. Earth, having been ravaged by nuclear war, is no longer habitable. Humanity has fled into space, and the city most people believe to be Tokyo is actually an artificial construct housed within a spaceship controlled by the supercomputer Bahamut, which BD hopes to overthrow. Shogo, realizing BD means to establish a military state if his efforts prove successful, refuses the offer. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize this decision will have dire consequences for him and his friends.
The core idea sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? It's no secret the Wachowski Brothers culled from numerous influences for The Matrix, and I think we just stumbled across a big one. Beyond the initial concept, though, Megazone 23 is pretty much standard stuff. What we have here isn't necessarily bad, but at the same time it's nothing to write home about. The plot is choppy at times, and some of the character motivations make absolutely no sense, but this is probably due to the fact that this was originally envisioned as a 26-episode television series; after sponsors for the proposed series backed out, it was revised and released as a three part Original Video Animation (OVA), with the total running time one-third that of what was originally planned. It's really a shame, too. Some of the ideas at play are interesting, and it would have been nice to see more character development; the story does actually become more interesting toward the end (and the one truly annoying character is killed off), giving us glimpse of what might have been. Had the creators been allowed to develop their concepts, and had the series been allowed to breathe a bit, they might have had something here. Despite my reservations, I do believe I will watch the final two installments; I am, however, a little hesitant to recommend a blind purchase of this title. I would suggest you talk someone else into buying it, and then borrow it.
Audio and video wise the presentation is average. Colors vary from somewhat vibrant to very drab. The animation, especially in the action scenes, betrays the rushed nature of the project. The Japanese stereo mix is adequate, and the English dub, while touted as a full 5.1 mix, is virtually identical. For extras you get previews, production sketches, and a commentary by the producers of the English version, during which the participants spend most of their time discussing the voiceover process, and the rest spoiling plot points from the concluding installments.
One quick aside before we close. If the motorcycle/mecha plotline sounds familiar, it's probably because footage (which is easy to spot) from this series was used in The Robotech Movie released back in the '80s.
All charged are free to go, although the backers of the original project should be reprimanded for spoiling what could have been a rather interesting series. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Sketches