Bubblegum Crisis Box Set (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2004



What They Say
ncludes 4 DVDs containing the full Bubblegum Crisis OVA series in a completely re-mastered format, along with the Hurricane Live Music Videos and the "Holiday in Bali" Live Action Special - all in a gorgeous, high-quality artbox!

Like a Phoenix, the city of MegaTokyo is rising from the ashes of a devastating earthquake. In the twisted canyons of the megalopolis, the Knight Sabers, a small band of high-tech mercenaries, fight a lonely battle against the evil GENOM corporation and its sinister android "Boomers".

The Review!
Returning to DVD once more, the original classic 80's cyberpunk series gets remastered and pumped up with numerous extras for this definitive release.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show's stereo mix is once again an important part of the series due to the heavy use of music and it sounds good here and pretty much problem free. We don't expect too much out of it since we've been hearing it for years but with this new version is sounded as good as it has and did what it needed to do. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions with the Japanese track or with the couple of areas I spot checked on the English track.

Video:
Originally released between 1987 and 1991, the eight episode OVA series is spread across the four volumes in this box set, much like the previous releases. We've seen so many releases of this show since we first bought the VHS versions. Going from that to laserdisc then to the first DVD release, then the re-release, then the Japanese international edition and now this one, it's all admittedly blurred a bit. The difference this time around is that we're sort of rigging things by playing this upconverted to 1080i. The way shows look when doing this can vary quite a bit but this show manages to look rather good this way outside of a few minor areas; during the black screen opening with the text you could see a lot of macroblocking and you could see that in a few other areas throughout the episodes. But if you set it back to 480p, which is what the bulk of players out there can do at the most, that's completely gone and it's a relatively solid black screen. Colors throughout look good, though not terribly vibrant in a lot of scenes, but they maintain a solid look to them and there's very little in the way of cross coloration. Aliasing shows up throughout in very small doses during some panning sequences but nothing that's distracting or problematic.

Packaging:
The various packaging releases over the years have been both good and bad, particularly with the DVD releases, so it's a relief that this new edition has a great looking package. Each of the four keepcases uses artwork related to that volume or with a good cast shot. They're all blue tinged and dark to keep with the style of the show. The first disc has the cast shot that you see on the box cover itself, the second volume has a standalone shot of Priss in her hardsuit against the cityscape, the third volume has the manga illustration version of the foursome in thin vertical panels while the fourth volume wins out the best with a great shot of Vision in her concert outfit. Yum. The back cover is well laid out with a background of a blue filtered shot of the city that has a few shots from the show on top of it as well as summaries of the individual episodes. The listing of extras and technical details for each volume is listed in an easy to read way. No inserts are included in this release as all notes are on the disc themselves. The box itself, which is of the soft type that can be folded down without destroying it, looks great but I wish it was a chipboard box since none of the past releases were. The main panel has the shot of all four in their hardsuits but sans helmets set against the blue filtered cityscape while the back panel breaks down all the discs content in both episodes and extras. The spine goes for simplicity with a shot of Priss in her hardsuit over the logo and a small strip of headshots along the bottom. It's a good looking box but I held out hope for something more sturdy for what's likely and hopefully the last DVD release of this series.

Menu:
The menu layout for the series is fairly simple across the volumes with a piece of static artwork set to some of the bouncy music from the show. Selections are all lined along the bottom for individual episode access and then for submenus. Access times are nice and fast and the layout works well with an easy to navigate style to it. The discs also read our players presets for languages, a continued plus in our book.

Extras:
Spread across all four volumes, there's a great mix of extras on this release. The big release is the inclusion of all the Hurricane Live videos and they're spread across all of the volumes and most are tied to the episodes to which they're related, so that of course means they're a bit heavy at first and sort of peter out as it gets to the fourth volume. All of the volumes have text interviews with staff from the episodes, line art galleries and promo's if they existed. The big extra other than the music videos is the always entertaining "Holiday in Bali" live action special. Having everything finally in one set is great, especially considering how the initial DVD releases went.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For well over ten years now I've been watching and re-watching this series. It's one of those few series that to me holds up well over time, partially from nostalgia to be sure. It was the series that was big when it first came out within the very small number of commercial releases that existed and it was the one that set the stage for how AnimEigo would do much of their work over the years. Much like one or two other series, it's one of the few that comes up again every format and a couple of times within the lifespan of the format that I don't mind seeing repeatedly.

In this particular release, we didn't watch the entire set but instead focused on some of our favorite episodes from the show. The opening episode, Tinsel City, continues to be one of my favorites for how well it sets up the setting and world of MegaTokyo and introduces the characters. It's heavy use of the music, especially during the opening up through Priss' introduction while on stage at Hot Legs, is an enduring piece in my mind. The wide pans over the city, the way the show seems so prescient as it was only a few weeks ago that we'd seen plans to build things very similar to the Genom tower in Tokyo to help deal with the population problems. The first episode is also one of the strongest ones that shows its influences from Blade Runner and a number of other western SF shows and isn't all that ashamed about it. While a lot of series have decent opening episodes, this is one of the better ones as it gets so much accomplished.

One of my favorite stories from this set is the Double Vision piece, particularly for its use of locations in the US for parts of it. Again, it comes back to the heavy music aspect of the series which had been used during the previous episodes with the four lead characters to great impact. To up that level a bit, they bring in a new character for a short run who is also a singer and a popular one at that. The addition of her to the mix works out really great since she's got a slightly different style, a great look and a much darker storyline in an already fairly dark show. The episode also provides a good deal of amusing Engrish in background signs, something that's always fun to watch.

Add in the very fun Nene-heavy episode of Scoop Chase or the multi-part vampire episode with the characters from off-planet and you've got a great mix of stories and character arcs that let everyone get fleshed out in one way or another. While Linna comes off the weakest, particularly since her character episode was so early in the series, she still keeps on as a key player in the series. This group works best as a group though and the series does a great job throughout in portraying them as good friends working towards their common goals but still as individual as they can be.

In Summary:
Bubblegum Crisis will always hold a special place in my heart and memory for the way it got me even more into anime. While the show isn't as fresh and original as it was back in 87, it's one that shows just how well things could be done back then and done in a way that allows it to not really be dated all that much. This remastered edition brings all the elements together for a solid release. The show looks great, probably as good as it ever has, the extras are plentiful and the show is simply as good as it ever was.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,13 Music Videos,Line Art Gallery,Text Comments/Interviews with the Original Japanese Staff,Program Notes,Holiday in Bali Video,Original Japanese Promo

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.




Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 69.99
Running time: 453
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Bubblegum Crisis