Manga Video // 1997 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // February 22nd, 2003
"This place is like a group home for idiots!" -- Jouichirou
You may remember in my review for Volume 1 of Virus Buster Serge, Masami Obari's ode to powered armor, balloon-breasted women, and incoherent storytelling, that I called the show "Bubblegum Evangelion." I take it back. It is increasingly clear from Volume 2 of the series that Virus steals much less from Evangelion than Ghost in the Shell. I expect at some point after writing the first couple of episodes, Obari and his team all went out to an afternoon movie, watched Oshii's cyberpunk thriller, and decided to shift the focus of their 12-part show in that direction.
Volume 2 subjects viewers to four more installments sure to smooth the creases in your brain. Picking up where we left off: Serge, mysterious past and all, is now firmly settled in as part of the STAND team, defending the world from the Incubator and its viral assaults.
In Episode 5, "Incubating the Succubus," a bunch of women die in their sleep as a result of a corrupted program. The explanation has something silly to do with estrogen and netrunning, suggesting a target audience of teenage boys to whom women are a chemical mystery akin to the philosopher's stone. I tried to follow the dialogue, and in spite of the fact that I can understand even essays written by college freshmen, all I could figure out was that this all had something to do with a trap for Serge. All the Incubator had to do to lure him out was put up a sign that says, "Clueless dupes enter here."
Episode 6, "Behold Change Or Die," is even worse. A villain known as the Brain Lizard, claiming to have "the worst brain in the world" (insert your own joke here), livens up an otherwise talky follow-up to the last episode's Virus attack. A bunch of stuff happens, but it seems to be edited together at random, and two viewings offered no sensible interpretation.
In Episode 7, "Another Boy Missing," Mirei has creepy dreams of her dead brother, somehow tied to a murdered hacker. The Virus inflects Mirei's nervous system and STAND's computer, prompting a tense standoff within the team. Yes, that did make sense -- this is the first coherent episode in the entire series. And -- brace yourself -- it is actually reasonably good, balancing suspense and character development. It only makes me hate the rest of this show even more.
Episode 8, "Behold Change Or Die II," loses whatever good will the last episode earned. In the most overt -- ahem -- "homage" to Ghost in the Shell yet, cops arrest a hacker whose body is just a puppet host for the Brain Lizard. All that kept me going by this point was asking myself silly questions about what Obari and company were thinking. For instance, why does Serge wear a sports bra as his uniform? Perhaps for the same reason the brooding Macus wears a fur collar and patrolman's cap. This show is looking more like a cyberpunk Village People with every episode.
The technical details of this disc are pretty much the same as last time out: 5.1 and 2.0 audio in English, 2.0 audio in Japanese. The print looks quite soft and hazy though -- or maybe it was just my vision blurring over as brain cells gave up the fight. Extras consist of character descriptions (again) and a photo gallery. The packaging advertises character and mecha designs (presumably the same as on Volume 1), but they are not included. Perhaps Manga Video pardoned them and set them free. I'm envious.
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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)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery
* Character Profiles