"I'm going crazy being chased and kidnapped by monsters!."—Mizuki
You have to give Yoshiki Takaya credit: he managed to milk the Guyver franchise on screen for nearly a decade. First there was 1986's Guyver: Out of Control, an hour-long movie based on his dark manga series about a high-school student fighting evil mutants with the help of a parasitic armor suit. Then a couple of years later, he remade the story, with a few changes, as the six-part The Guyver: Biobooster Armor. Two years later, a six-part sequel and a campy American live-action movie with cameos by Mark Hamill and Jimmie "J.J." Walker and directed by a guy named "Screaming Mad George." In 1994, a decent live-action sequel, Guyver: Dark Hero, tried to take the material more seriously, but fell victim to budget restraints. And now, Manga Entertainment tries to drum up new interest in this old anime staple by releasing the 12-part "Biobooster Armor" version of the story on DVD.
Guyver II begins shortly after the defeat of Chronos Japan, the would-be overlords of Earth, in Volume 1. Chronos flunkies still lurk about though, trying to kidnap our hero Sho Fukamachi's sidekicks Tetsuro and Mizuki. The first attempt fails, but shortly a new villain, Dr. Balcus, appears with a clever plan. This mad scientist (we can tell he is mad because he looks like the love child of Santa Claus and Fu Manchu) intends—brace yourself—to kidnap Tetsuro, Mizuki, and Sho's father.
Right from the start, you can tell that Guyver II is not going to live up to its predecessor. First, the animation is visibly cheaper, with a lower frame rate and level of detail. A new production team seems to have taken over, and they must have paid for the project with spare change found among the sofa cushions. And what have happened to the plot? Guyver II, from its first episode, finally makes it clear why Chronos, even with its endless supply of Zoanoids, has yet to conquer us: it is run by morons. This evil conspiracy's plan for world domination seems to be a) kidnap half the Earth's population, and b) taunt the other half until it comes to rescue, walking right into a deadly trap. Add maniacal laughter and mix well.
Plot twists from Volume 1 get repackaged in Volume 2. Remember Makishima, the mysterious Chronos agent who turned out to be on our side, but has a sinister personal agenda? Meet Murakami, a mysterious reporter who turns out to be on our side, but has a sinister personal agenda. Remember when Sho was killed and regenerated? Watch him do it again in Episode 3 of this second series. Remember the deadly Zoanoid Enzyme that killed Sho? Meet Enzyme II.
Yep, Enzyme II. The writers could not even come up with a new name. And instead of the dramatic tension building through the six episodes, as it did in the first series, this sequel stops dead in its tracks about midway through, tries to get moving again, stops dead in Episode 5 (so that Murakami can tell a long story about the alien Creators who made the Guyver suits), and then fizzles out in an overlong and anticlimactic one-on-one battle between Sho and a fairly minor villain in the final episode.
And to add to the pain, Manga Entertainment not only continues to include the appallingly bad "Guyver Rock" as the English dub theme song, but cuts all the nudity out of the final episode—because, of course, gore is fine for the kids, but we would not want them to ruin their minds looking at breasts. Manga does include the final episode intact, in Japanese, as a "bonus feature," along with the original Japanese credit sequences to the series, a badly cropped cover art gallery, and the Zoanoid Data Files from the original Japanese release.
Ultimately, it is probably unfair to blame Manga for the weak storytelling and insipid animation of Guyver II: the company is only completing the series for fans who want all 12 episodes. Enjoy them while you can, folks, because given Yoshiki Takaya's obvious tendencies, you are likely to see a brand new version of this story any day now.
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