The “it’s about time!” re-release of this classic series is a must see for any sci-fi/cyberpunk fan.
What They Say
In the aftermath of the great earthquake, one ruthless corporation stands ready to take over the devastated city of Tokyo with an army of synthetic monsters. Only a single band of female mercenaries stands ready to take on the monolithic power of Genom - but in this case, four women are all it takes!
Armed with the most incredible combat suits ever designed, the Knight Sabers wage a desperate war in the shadows, combating the monstrous by-products of technology run amuck with courage, sweat, and blood!
Contains all 26 episodes!
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 audio track. 2.0 offerings are also available in both Japanese and Spanish. The audio for this release was really well done. The dialogue track stays on the center channel but is clear with no dropout; the musical score has a nice mixture of hard, punk-ish rock and soft, haunting melodies that complement the action on the screen; and the sound effects utilize all the channels by displaying some good directionality. Considering the action-packed nature of the series, the audio does a great job enhancing the overall effect.
Despite being ten years old, this is a title that still looks pretty good. The transfer is clean, with little to no dropout, aliasing, or cross coloring, and the masters are in decent shape. There was no dirt or other flaws that affect some older titles. The colors are a little hazy at times, but I think that is more for effect rather than a symptom of age. Shading is still clear, and the dark tones are separate and distinct, which is important for a title like this that takes place mostly at night and/or in dark buildings/labs/sewers/etc. This title looks just about as good as anything brand new might.
This set comes in a double width Amaray case, with two inserts allowing for all six discs to be contained. The front cover has a shot of the four Knight Sabers in their hard suits, though without their helmets, looking as if they are flying in space. The Earth can be seen behind them. The back cover features a large-ish image of Linna’s Green Knight Saber at the top with a series summary to the right. Underneath are technical details and a few screen shots. The discs each have a shot of one of the girls, with the first four depicting the hardsuits, while the fifth has Nene halfway in her hard suit (and wearing little else) and the last has Linna in her undersuit. While basic, the packaging is nicely done.
The menus are all pretty basic, but easy to use. Each has a static shot of one of the girls, either in her hardsuit or not. The selections are to the right in a basic, white font. Selections are highlighted by an arrow to the left. All of this is set to a dark background, and the whole design is made to look like a computer display. While the menu is up, the intro theme plays on a short loop. Again, it is a basic design, but is easy to follow and fits the theme of the show pretty well.
These discs are the same as the Essential Anime collections from 2004, and thus the extras are preserved. And there is quite a bit here to take in. Aside from the standard clean opening and closing, disc 2 offers some character bios; disc 4 has some character sketches, details on the various vehicles, and profiles for both the English and Japanese VAs for the Knight Sabers; and disc 5 has a 17 minute video interview with all of the English Knight Saber VAs. Finally, the meat of the extras are in the form of commentaries, as commentaries are offered for episodes 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 25, and 26. Each of these have anywhere from one to four people discussing the episode, with the last two being done by all four Knight Sabers. Overall, there is just a lot here to plow through, especially if commentaries are something that interests you.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bubblegum Crisis is a title that has a bit of a tortured history. The original series saw sporadic releases from 1987-1991 before dying an early death at eight episodes thanks to general disinterest from the Japanese public and infighting between Youmex and Artmic, the two companies working on releasing it. 1991 saw the release of the ill-fated and ill-liked Bubblegum Crash series of OVAs by Youmex, before a lawsuit by Artmic brought production on that to a halt as well.
When Artmic folded, AIC took over the rights to the franchise, and an influx of cash from ADV—who noted that the original series sold well in the US—saw Bubblegum Crisis reborn. Sporting updated art, new character designs, and a revamped storyline, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 was finished and released in 1998 to great success, enough success that in 2002 ADV announced a sequel series, tentatively subtitled Tokyo 2041. Unfortunately, Tokyo 2041 seems to have suffered from the same fate that the earlier series did, as it seems to be in limbo and is no further along than when announced. It is a shame, because Tokyo 2040 displays the brilliance that the series has the potential to achieve.
In 2033, Tokyo was leveled by a massive Earthquake, killing millions and flattening any and all buildings. Despite predictions that Tokyo would take decades to recover, the recovery of the city merely took years, thanks to the help of Boomers: androids created by the Genom Corporation. The Boomers make all forms of heavy labor easier, and once the reconstruction of Tokyo was complete, they became a regular part of everyday life.
Linna Yamazaki has grown up with two dreams: get out of her small home town and move to Tokyo, and join the Knight Sabers. The Knight Sabers are a secret group of warriors—so secret, nobody knows if they really exist—who hunt and destroy rogue Boomers. For reasons unknown, occasionally a Boomer goes insane and goes on a rampage. A special police force known as the AD Police, are in charge of keeping rogue boomers in check, but the Knight Sabers usually beat them to the punch.
To further her goals, Linna gets a job in Tokyo. On her first day, she is knocked down by a woman riding a motorcycle, who refuses to apologize or pay for Linna’s lunch. Linna attempts to track her down, but ultimately loses her. However, later that evening, Linna is in a restaurant where a Boomer goes rogue, and is rescued by the Knight Sabers. When the Knight Saber in blue makes a motion similar to what the woman on the motorcycle made, she realizes it is the same person.
Thanks to a poster, Linna soon realizes that the woman on the motorcycle is Priss, the lead singer of an underground band called Sekira. She tracks Priss down, but Priss gives her the cold shoulder. Still, Linna is resolute, and follows Priss one day to the Silky Doll, a boutique and lingerie store owned by Sylia Stingray. Continuing to snoop, Linna stumbles upon the secret entrance to the Knight Sabers headquarters. A few discussions and a VR test later, and Linna gets her second dream: she is hired by the Knight Sabers. Linna proves to be a quick study, quickly proving herself to be more useful in combat than the forth Knight Saber, Nene, who is useful more for her hacking skills than anything physical.
The reason for the Knight Sabers is that Sylia harbors a general hatred of rogue Boomers that goes beyond the typical fear of their abilities. The reasons for this are unclear, as Sylia refuses to discuss her past. However, she pays well, and she provides more than enough equipment to keep the Sabers safe, so questions are few and far between. Each Knight Saber is given a hardsuit, a robotic outfit that enhances each member’s abilities, making them much more effective in the battle against rogue Boomers than anything the AD Police can put into action.
Though news of Boomer incidents are being suppressed by Genom, it quickly becomes apparent to anybody who is paying attention that instances of Boomers going rogue are increasing. As Priss, Linna, and Nene continue hunting down these Boomers, new information keeps cropping up that makes them start to question everything they are doing. Soon, it becomes obvious that everything they understand is incorrect, from Sylia, to Genom, and even to the earthquake in 2033. Only by learning the connections between all of them can the Knight Sabers begin to understand what they are up against. Of everybody they know, only Sylia can make those connections, and she is not talking.
Tokyo 2040 provides a really good blend of action, mystery, and suspense, especially as it concerns Sylia. It is obvious from the start that Sylia has issues, as she completely loses her temper anytime somebody suggests that Boomers are boons to society, or that perhaps she needs to stop her vigilantism. She goes through numerous highball and cocktail glasses alone in taking out her frustrations. And her temper only gets worse when her younger brother, Mackey, shows up on her doorstep.
For starters, nobody is aware that Sylia has a brother, including her longtime butler. But when Mackey discovers her secret life, she refuses to let him help out, despite being a brilliant mechanic. Nigel, an old family friend who works on all the equipment the Sabers use, even tries to vouch for Mackey, but anytime he attempts to help, Sylia flips out.
It certainly does not help that it is obvious to everybody that there is something mysterious about Mackey. As noted, nobody knew that Sylia had a younger brother, let alone one roughly ten years her junior. And when asked, Mackey has little knowledge about their parents. Still, this does not stop Nene from beginning to view Mackey as more than just a friend. It is these feelings that make Nene start doing research to find out what she can about Sylia’s and Mackey’s past. She discovers more than she wants to know when she finds a photograph of Sylia and Mackey taken when Sylia was much younger, and Mackey looked exactly the same.
But what this series really does well is build the stories of each character, their motivations for doing what they do, and bringing it all together for a satisfying conclusion. Each girl has her own reason for being part of the Knight Sabers, some a little more deep than others. Sylia presses forward with her own motives, despite concerns and criticism from the rest. Priss enjoys the pay and kicking a little ass, not to mention has a little issue with authority. Nene, in a constant struggle to prove that she is an adult, keeps pressing to show that she deserves to continue fighting alongside the Knight Sabers. And Linna, the glue of the group, is mostly driven by a sense to do what is right.
Even the non-Knight Sabers get plenty of time to tell their stories. AD Police Detective Leon at first wants to show up the Knight Sabers, but then wants to fight with them as he finds himself falling for Priss. Nigel is determined to bury and forget his part in past events. And Mackey just wants to help wherever he can, not to mention do what he can to please Nene.
If I were to criticize Tokyo 2040 in anyway, it is that I found it amusing that the Knight Sabers are supposedly a secret group, but they never really seem to act like it. Priss, Linna, and Nene openly talk to each other in the open about their “other job,” and when on a job, they do not even have codenames for one another, opting to just call each other by name. Then there’s the fact the mobile pit, a large van designed to assist the girls with ammunition, power supplies, and anything else for longer missions: this is a fairly distinct vehicle that Sylia drives without any disguise, yet nobody seems to notice. I just find it amusing that there are a few things they do that should easily out them to anybody who is paying attention, especially Leon and the other AD officers who always run into them, but nobody is ever able to put the pieces together.
I cannot really criticize Tokyo 2040 for that though, as otherwise, the storytelling is top notch. The plot is intriguing, the characters are well rounded and believable, and the action is really well done. That does not even mention the interesting dynamic that has the women off fighting the wars while the men who care for them sit around and worry. There are very few science fiction titles that I would place above this one in terms of pure enjoyment. The cyberpunk nature means it may not be for everybody, but I think the strength of the story could make many forget about it.
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is the culmination of a long, frustrating path for the Bubblegum Crisis franchise, but it does not suffer in any way from it. Though it is starting to age just a little bit, it certainly is not showing that age as it is as good, if not better, than most anything else coming out now similar to it. Anybody who likes science fiction/cyberpunk and has not seen this one yet really needs to, and even those who automatically dismiss sci-fi might find this one enjoyable. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, Spanish 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Voice Actor Commentaries, Character Bios, Character Sketches, Vehicle Technology, Voice Actress Profiles, Interviews, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System