Manga Video // 1997 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // December 13th, 2002
"We'll show them the infinite potential that only humans possess!" -- Erika
You know it had to happen. Neon Genesis Evangelion was such a success. Resurrecting old shows in new guises has always been popular. So why not put the two in a test tube and see what you can breed? Director and designer Masami Obari will forever be known for his work on the legendary Bubblegum Crisis, the quintessential '80s anime: pretty girls in powered armor suits fighting monsters to pop music. After a few years working on fighting anime spun off from video games, like Fatal Fury, Obari turns back to this familiar premise, a sort of "Bubblegum Evangelion."
In Neo-Hong Kong (Tokyo apparently being crowded out by too many heroes already) of 2097, a team of armor-suited warriors defends Earth as part of a government-backed group called STAND. Oh no, it is not like NERV at all -- by which I mean that they are exactly like NERV only with different uniforms. STAND protects us from bioengineered monsters (don't call them Boomers!) sent by an alien force called "Incubator."
And that is really all the exposition you need to understand Virus Buster Serge. The rest is just the usual fighting and fussing and bouncing and brooding. Our anatomically hyperbolic heroes seem to have walked right out of one of Obari's fighting animes, with mile-long torsos and wafer-thin waists. The girls are all perky (read into that what you will) and the men all brood a lot. And everybody has a feminine physique, even the men. To give you an idea of how predictable all this is, the sinister and brooding leader is named Raven. Get it? Creativity was clearly out for a long lunch break on this one. Lead "tough girl" Erika wears a pink "variable gear" armor suit with little hearts on it and a beaked visor reminiscent of Swan Jun from Gatchaman. Should I even mention the size of her breasts?
And nobody involved with Virus seems aware that this has all become a joke. In fact, the whole show seems determined to take itself too seriously. By contrast, Evangelion had a bleak sense of humor about itself and its place in the mecha show genre. Even Bubblegum Crisis, which Virus seems most insistent on aping, was campy fun.
But Virus does its damnedest not to have any fun. And the dour tone makes the show drag. I cannot honestly say I particularly disliked this series, but it just goes through the motions. It is all pretty competent, even Manga Video's English dub. Manga Video offers this series with English 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, plus the original Japanese in 2.0. The original Japanese track at least has a little passion, but the American cast seems disinterested. There is a character design gallery, some average looking drawings of the show's mecha, and some character descriptions so you can keep the players in order.
The series, told in 12 episodes (over three DVD releases -- we are just reviewing Volume 1 here), revolves around Serge, a punk and thief with a mysterious past and the ability to kill monsters with a single punch. He joins up with STAND in their battle against the Incubator. But is he STAND's savior, or some secret experiment gone awry? There are other characters too, but they make little impression: a feisty underage girl, a sulky weapons expert, and so on. Even the opening credits identify the characters by name, or you will forget them quickly.
Virus: Virus Buster Serge is all stuff you've seen before. The energy level on the show seems forced, punched up artificially by grinding guitar riffs and strobe lighting during the action scenes. Virus is so routine, you may find it feels longer than it actually is. Although this first set of four episodes runs about 96 minutes total, Manga Video lists the running time on the packaging as 120 minutes. Maybe it just feels that way.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Manga Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese, original language)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Profiles
* Art Galleries