Bubblegum Crisis 2040 Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2000



What They Say
In the aftermath of the great earthquake, one ruthless corporation, Genom, stands ready to take over the devastated city of Tokyo with an army of synthetic monsters, called Boomers. Only one small band of female mercenaries is ready to stand against the monolithic power of Genom, but in this case four women is all it takes! Armed with the most incredible combat unit 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! It's a deadly trial by fire as the acclaimed cyberpunk masterpiece is reborn!

The Review!
This isn't your father's Bubblegum Crisis.

Bubblegum Crisis 2040, which is not a continuation of the original OVA series, but rather a much more fleshed out new version, has finally hit the digital side of home video, and just a scant two weeks after the Japanese DVD version which will contain pretty much the same materials.

Continuing with their tradition of including more than the standard audio tracks for their release, Bubblegum Crisis 2040 includes a third track in the form of a Spanish audio track. We spot checked it and the English track and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, though we did enjoy moments of each track and noticing the differences in styles between the actors. Being the kind of person I am, I only watched the Japanese track in its entirety for the purpose of the review, and I'm very pleased by it. While it's not a knockout track, it sounds great, which is critical with the music used within it. It's recorded in 192kbps format, so it doesn't have the fullness of a 384kbps compressed track, but it didn't sound tinny or poor at all. Dialogue was clear and understandable and there were some good panning effects throughout all the episodes.

Where this disc truly shines, outside of its content, is the video presentation. ADV has hopefully started a love affair with the POP/Cinram studio, which produce some of today's slickest looking anime DVD's, by having this title be the second one to go under their icepicks. This series is fairly recent, and as ADV invested in its creation, more than likely has access to the best master material available.

And it shows through. The colors are vibrantly rich, the dark colors are solid with plenty of depth, and the fast paced action sequences simply look wonderful. Frankly, TV animation is not supposed to look this good. Very few series that are this long. Several of the shorter 13 episode series contain some wonderful looking animation, but for a series that's 26 episodes long, it's rare to see something that looks this good.

We did notice a few minor things though, but their inherent in NTSC. Some of the panning across the screen causes some light line noise in some of the backgrounds, and some of the complicated city drawn scenes suffer from a bit of line jitter there as well. These moments however are extremely brief and hardly noticeable unless you're looking to point fault with every little thing. We watched this disc just after finishing an episode of Cowboy Bebop and were pretty floored overall by how it looks.

The packaging is pretty good, using the same cover as the first VHS volume slightly expanded for the larger space available on a DVD cover. Priss' cleavage will definitely catch the eyes of more than one or two passerby's. The back cover is rather busy with lots of pieces of animation, menus and general design work. A good brief description on the series is included as well as the episode #'s and their titles. The only thing lacking, and I'll always mention it, is the region coding. No "All" listed here at all. I had to pop the disc into my DVD-ROM to find out what it was.

The insert thankfully didn't just repeat what was on the front cover. One side has a good close-up of a performing Priss with microphone in hand. Below it, it lists all the trailers on the disc and then each episode and their chapters. The reverse side has the full picture of the front cover that includes all of the other Knight Sabers. The disc itself is silver etched with the logo.

The menu system is also fairly similar to Evangelion, though laid out a bit easier to read and use. The top center plays the opening sequence (sans credits, much like the trailer on previous releases). Below it you can select each of the episodes, check out the nicely down character profiles and choose your language selections. The disc nicely picked up my language presets of Japanese with subtitles, so there was nothing to change. What is a disappointment is that the trailers that play before the program are unavailable from the menu. You have to pop the disc out and insert it again to get them to play.

Which references something some people are really going to hate, in that there are a half dozen or so trailers that play before the menu comes up. The trailers, as well as the FBI screen at the beginning, can all be skipped quickly by pressing menu, or fast forwarding or skipping chapters. Thankfully no keys were disabled while these run. But it's a real disappointment that I can't select the trailer I want from the main menu. With a lot of these shows partially announced or just known to be in the works, a lot of people go to check them out to see what's coming.

The only other thing that bothered me with the layout of the menus is the lack of chapter selection. While the bare minimum of chapters are included (in my opinion) and placed appropriately, you have to start the episode and then chapter skip to where you want. A quibble really, but chapter selection menus are pretty much a standard item these days, aren't they?

So while there are a few little quibbles with the menu layout, the overall presentation of this disc is rock solid when it comes to the content itself, and frankly, isn't that what counts?

Bubblegum Crisis 2040 bears a few resemblances to it's predecessor, but they are there. Since this show started it's release on VHS several months ago, there have been more than enough comparisons to the original I'm sure, so I'm not going down that road at all. This is a new version with different sensibilities about it, and we're going to treat it as such.

Can't Buy A Thrill starts things off like any series, by introducing the setting and some of the major characters. The world of Tokyo in 2040, six years after a catastrophic earthquake, is now known as Megalocity. The city itself is amazingly impressive, with wonderful architecture designs and a sense of style I haven't seen in anime designs for a number of years. We also get to take in the city and its environs through the eyes of the new to the city countryside girl of Linna Yamazaki. It's not long before she's getting into trouble, both with a biker woman and her boomer boss.

The boomers themselves populate a good portion of the city. Boomers are essentially robots, some designed to look humanoid, that helped rebuilt the devastated city and have been adapted to other menial jobs over the years. For many people, there's a lot of resentment over them and their place within society.

Linna, being the somewhat naive girl that she is, ends up on a date with her manager. During these sequences, we meet more elements of the city in the form of the AD Police, a segment of the police that deals with boomer crimes. Nene, Leon and Daley are presented most prominently. A bit of their job gets discussed and some amusing interactions follow. It doesn't take long though for a boomer to run wild, and in the same building as Linna and her fast footed friend.

Leon and Daley hustle fast to the scene, not wanting to be beaten to the criminal by the vigilante group known as the Knight Sabers. A gorgeous looking chase and fight scene ensues with the mad boomer and one of the Knight Sabers, with Linna being involved. Linna realizes who this Knight Saber is and begins her quest to become a member of this group she's so infatuated with.

Fragile keeps things rolling by presenting more information on the dark undercurrents of the city. More of the characters are expanded upon, with Priss getting some time to perform as well. The big bad enemy in the form of the evil Genom Corporation comes into play, with a couple of the folks at the top are brought into play, as well as something in the form of the mysterious Showhamm Project. There's lots of good bits in this episode as well, especially as we learn more about the Knight Sabers leader and the group itself.

Keep Me Hanging On brings in a new secondary character in the form of Nigel, who is definitely more than the bike mechanic he's originally presented as. His relationship with Knight Sabers leader Sylia is also more likely than not more than it seems as well. With Linna being brought on as a fourth member to the team, Nigel is brought into to create her hardsuit, which is a great sequence all in its own. There's plenty of action added to the second half of the episode as well, with Nene and Linna taking center stage in their suits.

Machine Head brings to the forefront the fight that Linna, Nene and Priss engage with the mad boomer from the previous episode. They also add a dash of AD Police and actual emotion from Sylia. Linna's feeling like she's definitely bitten off more than she can chew, and the fight gets serious between them all.

The second half of the episode goes into a lot of character exposition which adds a lot more depth to the series in terms of the characters. While not all of them get much time, those that do are well presented, especially Priss. The remainder of it heads into yet another action sequence with another mad boomer.

BGC 2040 definitely kicks things off in high gear. Fluid and vibrant animation, solid scripting, interesting characters and a very stylized setting are rare to be seen this well done in a full length TV series this day. The music is terrific and the voice actors do a great job.

This is a solid release with only a few minor issues as mentioned earlier. If those are tweaked and a creditless opening and ending are included in future volumes, I'll be a completely pleased fan. While it's unfortunate that the opening and ending songs are hard subtitled (in English in the odd episodes, Japanese in the even), at least they do sub the songs unlike some other studios.

Don't pass on this release, even if you are an old school fan. BGC 2040 will make a convert out of you.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,Spanish Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040