Riding Bean (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Release Date: Friday, March 22, 2002

What They Say
In Chicago, ace courier Bean Bandit rules the road, and operates on both sides of the Law.

"When it absolutely, positively, has to be there NOW," Bean Bandit is your man -- if you can afford his rates.

"Worried about the getaway from your next heist?" Leave the driving to Bean!

Unfortunately for Bean, and even more unfortunately for the Chicago P.D.'s insurance company, he's about to have to demonstrate why he's so expensive.

The plot begins to thicken when Bean drives getaway from a robbery (score: 6 police cruisers and 1 18-wheeler). The crooks are a little ticked off to find out that Bean's flat rate fee accounts for almost all of the proceeds, but business is business. Curiously, as soon as Bean leaves, their annoyance disappears.

The next day, Bean and his heavily-armed assistant, Rally Vincent (deadly with both gun and frying pan), receive a visitor with a young girl in tow.

The visitor barely has time to beseech them to return the girl to her father before a hit-team swiss-cheeses Bean's apartment. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't have Bean's taste in clothes (all Kevlar, including his underwear!)

Bean and Rally bundle little Chelsea into the car and make tracks. Alas, what they don't know is that the kid- nappers have already made off with the $2,000,000 ransom, leaving them to take the rap.

Will Bean discover the ruse in time and get the money for himself? Will he be able to evade the relentless pursuit of Inspector Percy? Will the Chicago P.D.'s insurance company raise their rates? Find out by watching RIDING BEAN, one very high-octane action-adventure!

The Review!
For those who got into the domestic anime scene with legit releases around the same time I did, odds are you’ve got a copy of Riding Bean in your collection. Bean is a classic to be sure, and one that fans of Gunsmith Cats will want to check out.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Though an older show, it’s got a solid sounding track with lots of custom sounds made just for it, such as the cars and the guns. This adds a nice depth instead of hearing the same sounds we hear in every anime for years and years now. The mix is a simple stereo one with most everything filling up the forward soundstage nicely.

Originally released back in 1989 at a time when OVA’s were really starting to show a lot of detail, things look good here overall. There are a few minor problems, but most seem to be source related. There’s a fair amount of jitter throughout, such as watching a still scene of two people talking you can see them moving slightly. Some cross coloration is scattered throughout, but the main thing you’ll notice is some line shimmering during camera panning sequences. It’s not all that distracting in the end and isn’t visible during most of the action sequences.

Using some good looking artwork, the cover for Riding Bean is pretty slick. It gets in the three main characters, Bean, Rally and the Roadbuster. The back cover features a few pices of artwork and a good summary of the show. Also included is a set of liner notes, though there’s not much to note here.

A good static image of the three main characters again makes up the main menu with selections quick and easy to access and a nice simple layout.

The two extras included are a decent 4 minute video gallery showing of various images from the show as well as the trailer used for the Japanese DVD release of this show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back in the ‘early days’, Riding Bean was one of the hottest shows out there. It was the first OVA where fan favorite Kenichi Sonoda got the chance to really control what he was working on and produce something that was really close to him. It shows quite well here and also shows the origins of where Gunsmith Cats would eventually go.

Riding Bean is a real Western anime. Sonoda’s love of all things Chicago shines through here, and this 45 minute OVA could easily be reworked as a pilot for a live action TV series in the U.S. with minimal effort. The story focuses around Bean Bandit, a scruffy anti-hero type whose doing what he does for the money. His business is him and his car, offering his services to whomever pays his $40,000 fee. Of course, with a fee like that, he regularly offers his services to criminals. This is how we’re introduced to him in fact, as he’s the getaway car for a couple of bank robbers.

These aren’t ordinary bank robbers nor does Bean have an ordinary car. His car is affectionately named the Roadbuster, and it’s quite notorious in the Chicago area, especially with the police. Since he’s done enough work for criminals, he’s gained a reputation for aggravating them as well as demolishing a ton of their squad cars. The car is nicely souped up with the usual things such as bulletproof glass and pieces on the door that open to allow guns to fire out.

The bank robbers he’s helping in the beginning turn out to be real amateurs. After a getaway that involved a lot more police cars being destroyed and a detour due to a big rig accident, the two criminals end up with far less than they expected, leaving them with practically nothing after Bean takes his cut. Bean refuses to help them further since they are amateurs, and during the getaway the shorter one took off her mask and was revealed to be a little girl. It was during this part of the getaway that a picture of her got taken from a nearby security camera no less.

All of this is just set up though. It’s revealed that the girl, who was another girl wearing a mask to make her look like her, is the daughter of a very rich local businessman. Bean’s being set up to take the fall for her kidnapping and have the police chase him while the “amateur” criminals are off getting the 2 million dollar ransom and heading out of town. But Bean, with the help of his partner Rally Vincent, an attractive blonde with a love of firearms, end up getting more and more involved in the situation. Especially when the end up with the real daughter and can’t even bring her back without anti-tank weapons being fired at them.

When watching this show, you’ll find Sonoda’s love of things really apparent. The backgrounds of Chicago look great. Familiar chase scenes from Blues Brothers become apparent as well with a chase under the El and along the highways. The cars are also just as much characters here as the people. Bean’s car is definitely the slick on and takes the most damage, but watching these chase scenes just makes me itchy for more. Bean even gets himself a nemesis from the police department in the form of Detective Percy. Percy’s got it in for Bean and has an open ended investigation into the guy, so it’s only natural he gets wrapped up in everything. He’s also got himself a nice rebuilt Shelby Cobra GT 500. The two roaring down the streets of Chicago is a great watch.

Of course, Sonoda’s affection for firearms is also apparent here, with a variety of pieces used and even characters named after manufacturing companies. While the level of detail isn’t the same as we get in the manga or in the Gunsmith Cats anime, you can see the seeds of everything here.

Bean’s a great show and one I wish more was made of. It’s unfortunate that he only resurfaced in the Cats manga and not in another OVA or series. It’s also unfortunate that Sonoda’s essentially dropped off the radar not long after the Gunsmith Cats anime. Looking at various shrines and sites on the net, hardly anything goes beyond the mid 90’s in mentioning what he’s worked on outside of attending a few US conventions. His designs were some of the earliest that really grabbed me and continue to have their own special look to them.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Trailer,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Riding Bean