Judge Sandra Dozier passed up a chocolate shake in order to watch the last volume of this series uninterrupted. It's that good.
The Apocalypse is coming…and only four women can stop it!
As "re-imaginings" go, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is spectacularly successful, with a tightly paced, engaging story that still manages to work in romance, madness, and a little bit of end-of-the-world action. It takes the basic characters from the 1980s Bubblegum Crisis OAV series and gives them a new look and a new world to hunt Boomers in. The slick new animation and technology update should help the series appeal to a fresh audience as well as to old fans.
Facts of the Case
The main characters are headed up by Sylia Stingray, a lovely older woman (in her late twenties or early thirties) with white-blue hair, who runs a shop by day and the Knight Sabers vigilante group by night. Her vigilantes are Priss, the brunette lead singer of a rock-and-roll band; Nene, the cute blonde über-hacker who also works as a dispatcher for the AD Police; and Linna, a country girl who works in an office and has always dreamed of joining up with the Knight Sabers. In the periphery, Sylia's brother Mackey, her boyfriend (and chief mechanic) Nigel, and her butler Henderson support her. Other series regulars are Leon, who works for the AD Police and hates the Knight Sabers because they make the ADP look bad, and his partner Daley, who left his family farm in the country to escape small minds. The villains of the piece are Brian Mason, corporate lackey for the all-powerful Genom Corporation, and his boss Quincy Rosenkreutz, who is kept alive only by elaborate machinery, and wants to see Boomers embraced by the general public.
Bubblegum Crisis basically revolves around Boomers, organic robots that were developed by Sylia's father as tools for mankind—servants and executive assistants of all stripes. Unfortunately, the Boomers are going rogue on a regular basis, ignoring their programming, mutating into horrible monsters, and killing everything in sight. Thus, Genom (the manufacturer) formed the AD Police, specifically to handle the Boomer threat. Sylia responded by recruiting and training the Knight Sabers, who wear special hardsuits that give them super-strength and agility as well as protection. Sylia seems to be after something, but the girls don't know what it might be. She seems obsessed, driven, occasionally manic to the point of madness, but she is tight-lipped and mysterious about it. Meanwhile, Mason also seems to be after something, but his isolation from humanity and his careful deception of boss Rosenkreutz mean that he is just as mysterious and unyielding about his ultimate goal as well.
ADV has produced a two-disc set for each volume in this Essential Anime series, with four to five episodes per disc. Matt Greenfield, director and script writer, sits in on each commentary to help moderate discussion, and cast members appear as shown below.
The episodes included in Volume Two are:
• Episode 10: "Woke Up with a Monster"
The episodes included in Volume Three are:
• Episode 19: "Are You Experienced?"
Because of the tightly paced plot, it's difficult to give a synopsis of episodes without giving everything away. In a nutshell: We find out what Sylia's greatest fear is, what Mason has been looking for, and whether or not Priss will give in to Leon's clumsy but determined advances. We also see the genesis of the Boomer project, the unnatural source of the Great Earthquake that killed thousands, and what the hardsuits can (and cannot) do in space. I've already said too much now.
Where the original series had a fairly straightforward plot and concentrated mostly on getting the girls into suits and fighting Boomers, Tokyo 2040 is heavy on the psychology: Why did the Boomers go rogue? How were they developed? Why does Sylia occasionally have periods of what can only be called insanity? Where has Mackey been all this time? What is Mason's motivation, other than just being an evil bastard? Nothing is revealed right away, and Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 manages to keep the audience busy and in suspense while it moves the story along to a point where answers will inevitably be revealed.
This new focus, and the changed look of the overall series and of the Knight Sabers, is probably going to be a turnoff to fans of the original series who grooved on the look and the kick-assedness of it. For fans who wanted to know more about the guts of the Bubblegum Crisis universe, including how the Boomers were developed and more about their horrible potential, Tokyo 2040 definitely delivers. Personally, this is my favorite Bubblegum Crisis series—I was unable to tear my eyes away toward the end.
Fortunately, ADV has reissued this series, which was originally produced in 1998, in a three-volume compendium as part of their Essential Anime series. The series has new, sharp-sounding 5.1 remastering, scene-specific commentaries, and a new transfer. It looks gorgeous, about as good as it could possibly look. So good, in fact, that some of the source animation imperfections are clearly visible on some of the episodes. All 26 episodes sound great and feature some really fine vocal performances, with ADV regulars like Christine Auten (Priss), Hilary Haag (Nene), Spike Spencer (Mackey), Laura Chapman (Sylia), and Kelly Manison (Linna) giving 110% to the lead roles. I especially liked Haag's take on Nene—it perfectly fit the character, but Haag was able to give Nene vulnerability and approachability that is hard to communicate for a perky spaz like Nene is supposed to be. The big surprise is learning that Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 was the first major role for most of the lead actresses.
Another welcome highlight to this series is that it has some great music—aside from a few dated rock-and-roll riffs, what Priss and her band play is entertaining, and the series music is very techno, very "future now," as is the world that all the characters inhabit. It's a future Tokyo that retains a flavor of the past and feels believable rather than the Jetsons brand of "all chrome all the time" futurism. The look of the hardsuits is changed for this series, but if you stick with it for long enough, something occurs that forces Sylia to have new suits built, and these look very much like their '80s forebears, in a nod to the old-school fans out there.
Extras are mostly represented by the audio commentaries, which are numerous. The commentaries were recorded for the 2004-2005 Essential Anime releases, so in them the cast members look back on their 1998 performances and give their take on the series overall. ADV producers seemed to have made an effort to line up actors to provide commentary on episodes where their characters had a major role, which is a nice touch. The only caveat is that the commentaries are very spoiler-heavy; since cast members are looking back on an older series, they are assuming that everyone has had a chance to see the whole thing at least once before they listen to the commentary. Therefore, unless finding out about future plot twists or character motivations ahead of the series reveal isn't a problem, avoid listening to the commentaries before watching the episodes through to the end.
In addition to the commentaries, Disc Two of Volume Two also has production sketches (mostly of the hardsuits) and a nice voice actress profile section, which has bios and head shots for both the Japanese and English voice actresses for Priss, Nene, Linna, and Sylia. There is, of course, also the "usual" clean opening and closing animation and ADV previews. Disc Three has a very nice treat for fans of the English-language voice actresses—Hilary Haag, Laura Chapman, Kelly Manison, and Christine Auten participate in a 17-minute video interview about their work on Bubblegum Crisis. They give perspectives on how far they've come since the show (since for most of them this was their first major role with ADV) and how it influenced their style of voice acting. Good stuff, and it's nice that ADV thinks of adding these touches.
This three-volume set is gorgeous, sounds great, and is packed with commentaries by the English voice actors. If you've been holding out, now is the time to buy. Even if you have the original releases, the price is reasonable enough to justify a second look for the ultimate edition of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040.
Freeze! We couldn't resist using police slang to alert you to this awesome (we might even say Essential) edition!
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