Putting all three of the OVAs together in one packaging, Megazone 23 is overflowing with the kinds of things that made the 80’s what they were when it comes to SF based anime. Cheesy, violent, sexual… it’s all good.
What They Say
Teenager Shougo and his friends just want to have fun, but one day one of Shougo's older friends show up with what looks like a motorcycle but turns out to be much more. Now ruthless men will stop at nothing to retrieve the strange machine. Sucked into a secret world of danger and mystery, Shougo must fight for his survival - and his sanity.
Megazone 23 has a pair of pretty good bilingual tracks to it, though the English language mix makes out better in general simply because of the increased bitrate and less compression overall. Having seen this show so many times over the years, it just doesn't feel right to listen to it in any other language as I've gotten so used to it so we listened to this release in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is very well done here considering the age of the materials and it sounds very solid without anything going too high or clipping. We did spot check the English track in a few scenes in its 5.1 mix and liked how that came out a lot. While there isn't a lot of heavy directionality to it, everything sounds much more crisp and distinct.
ADV Films release of the three OVAs in this set essentially takes the previously released DVDS and puts it all together with a bit more uniformity in terms of packaging. When it comes to what’s on the discs themselves though, it’s identical to their past releases.
Part 1: Originally released back in 1985, Megazone 23 Part 1 is presented here in its original full frame format. The materials here really shine especially in comparison to past releases and I think they still stand up well even as the feature is nearly twenty-five years old. Just in the start of the program it looks so fresh and vibrant that it's hard to believe it's as old as it is. Colors look very rich and solid for its time with a wide variety of colors used. There are a few touches of cross coloration in a few areas where the animation is very tight and detailed and some of the panning sequences have some aliasing going on, but most of it is just inherent in something of this age. The only thing that really shows the age of the materials other than the designs in the show is some of the dust and nicks that are on it throughout. These are pretty minimal in general but they do show up and it does give it an older feel, but it also just doesn't feel right without some of that showing up.
Part 2: Presented in its original full frame release, the transfer for this installment of MegaZone 23 continues to look good but some of the basic problems with the materials of this age show through. There's a fair bit more noticeable dirt and scratches on the print and some of the pastel and soft colored backgrounds show more movement to them than before. They're not breaking up in a bad way, but if you get a wide section of the same color it's not going to maintain a solid feel for too long. Colors look good overall though with no noticeable cross coloration. There's some aliasing in various fast motion scenes but it felt more just a part of the animation style than anything else. While not as smooth and good looking as the first piece of the series, this is probably one of the better looking releases of this title in some time.
Part 3: Presented in its original full frame release, the transfer for this installment of MegaZone 23 continues to look good but some of the basic problems with the materials of this age show through. There's a fair bit more noticeable dirt and scratches on the print and some of the pastel and soft colored backgrounds show more movement to them than before. They're not breaking up in a bad way, but if you get a wide section of the same color it's not going to maintain a solid feel for too long. Colors look good overall though with no noticeable cross coloration. There's some aliasing in various fast motion scenes but it felt more just a part of the animation style than anything else. These are basically nitpicks though and this is probably one of the best looking versions of the show out there now.
This complete collection of Megazone 23 doesn’t have the same kind of slick feeling that I had with the individual volumes which is unfortunate because I really liked that design. This set definitely shows its age and general lack of materials as the front cover of the single sized keepcase has some simple pieces of character artwork against a green background. There’s a bit of an action feel to it with the speeding bike and Eve looks good, but it definitely feels old even with the vibrant colors. The back cover doesn’t provide too much in regards to checking out the show itself with visuals as it has a simple strip along the top of a few small shots. Amusingly, they do push the Matrix-esque aspect of it and there’s a good push for the amount of material in the st overall as well. The summary works over the basics as well as can be expected for the three features here while the remainder is given over the various production credits that are needed for all three features and the technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout uses the varying green stripe effect to a good use here with the logo and some of the sketch designs along the top and the few selections lined underneath it set to some of the strong instrumental music from the show. The layout is easy to navigate and has a few cute 80's quirks with the computer style with fast access times and now transitional animations to deal with.
Part 1: The extras are minimal but deep depending on your point of view. The first extra is a series of production sketches that cover a variety of areas. The second extra is something we don't get often from ADV and one that I just can't get enough of in general and that's a commentary track with Matt Greenfield along with David Williams and Janice Williams. Matt's commentaries, particularly with the older shows, are just so richly filled with trivia and golden nuggets of information that really enhances your viewing of the show. With a show like this, there are tons of in-jokes and "visiting" characters from other series in addition to all the nuances from the creators themselves that I'd almost expect that Matt could do the commentary twice and not cover the same territory twice. While the transfer and new dub are worth an upgrade alone from previous versions, it's this commentary track that I think adds the most value over all the previous ones.
Part 2: The only included extra here is a production art gallery. Sadly, a commentary track was not done for this release and already the show feels like it's missing something.
Part 3: The only included extra here is a production art gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Megazone 23 is one of those shows that I've managed to see numerous times over the years and each time I get to see something new in it or come to a new appreciation of it. Part of the appeal of the show is just in its place in history and how it came about from being a TV series whose sponsor dropped out to becoming the second OVA release in anime history and the one that ended up changing the market in more ways that one.
The premise is pretty straightforward as we're introduced to young "punk" Shogo and his friends as they live their lives in the city of Tokyo in the mid 1980's. They're all young and living the big life in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Shogo's their leader of sorts with his wild nature and his most excellent motorcycle skills. As we see the small group of friends living their life and enjoying everything, the basic theme of "living in the happiness of the now" is very strong with them and with youth in general at this time in history. Shogo and his friends have the world at their fingertips and are living it up. Shogo's luck is even looking up after he has a brief run in with a young woman named Yui and she gives in to his charms and gives him the phone number of the store she works at.
But when his luck goes up it also goes down as he later meets up with his friend who works for an important research company in their garage. He shows Shogo a new motorcycle that his company has been building, the Bahamut, a very futuristic and fairly big looking bike that's nothing like anything else out there. But as Shogo learns, there's some things you shouldn't remove from company research labs as the men in black arrive and demand the bike back, shooting first and asking questions later. Shogo manages to snatch the bike and escape but not before his friend is killed and the thugs manage to get a clue as to who he is. Shogo's now on the run and trying to keep what happened a secret while trying to figure out how to avenge his dead friend.
As it turns out, Yui is the newest roommate with two of his good girl friends so he's somewhat surprised to find that they're all together now and he ends up using her garage as a place to store the bike after he gets some other friends to check it out. One thing leads to another and Shogo's out again with Tomomi on the bike as he tries to figure out how he's going to deal with this bike. Before they know it they're being chased by the cops and the head into one of the tunnels, only to find the bike activating some of the guard barriers to disappear and reappear behind them, leading them off into another tunnel that they normally would even think of going down. Tomomi's got her 16mm camera handy and before they know it, the section of road they're on starts lowering and moving, before rising again and leading them into a massive area where a dark and empty city is both laid out below them and above them with a power source of some sort in the center.
It's from here that Shogo starts to learn about what their world is really like and the forces that are operating with in it to try and steer it into a new future. Shogo comes up against various military forces with different goals and a computer presence that's trying to protect everything and everyone from knowing what's really going on. Shogo tries to deal with all of them, especially after the computer presence known as EVE tries to get his help, and finds himself being thrust into situations he doesn't know how to handle well. This comes across particularly well when he goes up to Yui at one point and demands sex from her.
The second OVA picks up six months after we last see Yahagi dragging his bloodied body down the streets of the city. In the time since then he's gone to ground and hasn't been seen by the military that's been looking for him. The military has used their time wisely by beefing up their numbers in recruitment and using the revelations made during Yahagi's escapades as a way of cementing their authority and control. While they've survived their initial meeting with the other craft, the ship is now in negotiations with another starship with the aid of those in the financial sector. More and more people know what's really going down but there are still plenty of sheep out there.
While BD and use his use of Shiratori have the military in shape and ready for just about anything, especially with the new ships they've built to go outside of the Megazone itself, Yahagi's time underground has been put to good use as well. With the knowledge he does have, which is plentiful and limited at the same time, he's managed to bring together a good sized youth gang of bikers that while maybe not believing him completely have thrown in with him anyway. A lot of it seems to come from the way he seems to know about the changes Eve has gone through as her influence is still strong. Her current controlled material hasn't won her any fans and has ended up with people like this listening to her old material in seclusion. With their base under an old abandoned embassy, Yahagi and his group of ruffians stock up on weapons and wait for the right moment to do? something.
Two pieces fall into place that bring Yahagi back to the surface. Eve's return to the situation with her constant calling for the Operator of 7G lets Yahagi know that some remnant of who she once was is alive and well down in the bowels of the second city and that he has to get there to find out what it is she wants him to do. The second thing is the return of Yui to his life. The two haven't seen each other since he initially left to find Eve and he never looked for her again since he didn't want to drag her into everything. But now she's back in his life and ends up falling in with the biker crowd pretty easily. Before you know it, she's sporting a new hairstyle and learning how to ride a bike. The number of women in the group help her feel at ease, but it's only when she and Yahagi get back under the covers do things really move well.
While there is a lot going on in this OVA through the first two thirds of it, it really doesn't feel like it's going anywhere. We get a lot of action scenes based around the military and their fight with the mysterious tentacle enemy and we get a lot of movement with Yahagi's group as they move around the city and fill in the blanks, but there's no real drive towards anything. This does hit in the third act when Yahagi makes the decision to finally go after Eve so he can find out what she wants and this leads into heavy exposition and plot material, but it's just so far into things that you can imagine plenty of people falling off long beforehand. I love the final third of the show and the way it plays out and all that it reveals, but it's a bit of an effort to get there.
Visually, this OVA is like night and day from the first one when it comes to character designs. The original was the epitome of 80's style designs. But when they moved to the second OVA, all of the original character designs were dropped for various reasons other than Eve. Her design is the only bit of real continuity throughout the three parts to this series with Mikimoto only getting more and more detailed as it progressed. The director ended up bringing in one of his favorite designers at that time, Yasuomi Umetsu, who years later would become somewhat infamous for his OVA series Kite. Umetsu's career has been interesting overall, from those two extremes and with some hentai releases inbetween. Umetsu's style is completely different of what the first OVA did and this one ended up with very strong realistically built characters. With a lot of key animation to them (and with Umetsu as the key animation director), there is a striking amount of fluidity to them that sometimes is too fluid, giving it a really strange feel. All of the gang members are outlandish in their designs, heavy with paint and colors. By contrast, the military characters are all over the map in body shapes and feel. In particular, BD changes completely and is now a purple haired muscleman of sorts. Yahagi's transformation isn't too much of a shock since you can imagine him changing his look during his time hiding out, but when you have such differences with characters like Yui and BD who don't resemble their original in any way and you're going to alienate a lot of people.
Taking place hundreds of years after the end of Part 2 of the series, the survivors of the Megazone that Shogo directed back to Earth now live inside one massive contained city on the planet called Eden. The computer systems that were designed to re-introduce humanity into the environment, simply called The System, has been twisted and corrupted over the years and it's grown into a quasi-religious cult that dominates everything. Nobody leaves the city and most cannot likely see outside the massive barriers that keep them all inside so they're unaware of the changes of the planet, and of how the city has been working to keep them contained.
Some do know that there's more out there than what the EX group, the supposed leaders of the city, are letting everyone know about. One of these forces is the Orange Amusement companies, a group that's focused on high-tech video games. They've been using their games to train and teach the best and the brightest that don't fall into the hands of the EX folks to use as their warriors when the time is ready for them. They've planning to cover the city with their own hypernet so that they can force EX off of the system and attempt to free the people themselves.
Into all of this, a young up and coming EX recruit named Eiji is one of the hottest virtual gamers out there and is scouted by Orange but he falls into the EX side of things at first. With as skilled as he is, it's not long before he ends up interacting with some interesting artifacts from the past including the Garland bike and learning more of what Eve really is. Across the two episodes, as Orange begins to set its plans into motion and each side uses their own forces and pawns to push their agendas forward, more is revealed about the make-up of the world since Shogo first crash landed here and the System starting to make things hospitable for its passengers.
Part 3 plays up a number of interesting angles that give the show a bit of a fresh breath of air after the first two parts were so closely connected. The distance between Part 2 and Part 3 may throw some people but this is the kind of follow-up that Part 2 needed, to show what humanity tried to do once they got back to Earth and how it all went completely wrong. The religious aspect to it with the group that controls the city is a lot of fun to watch as well. It's not completely blatant except in a few areas so they do some nice little bits with adding in some good pipe music into some of the background music that ends up swirling into a strong suite before you realize it. The religious side is nicely balanced by corporate interests as well which leads most of the action, once more, to fall into the hands of "street punks" in the form of net-jackers and gamers and those under the control of the System.
Much like the previous two instances, the look and feel of the show is both the same with some evolution in design and completely different. The world itself is definitely a solid evolution of what we've seen before from the space-borne Megazone cities and the strange interiors set up by the Creators but the striking differences once again comes in the form of the character designs. I've always liked the work Kitazume has done, particularly his Genesis Suvrvivor Gairth series, so his designs here look really good and at one of his prime moments from his career. There is a really good smooth and clean look to the characters and his adaptation of Mikimoto's work on Even blends in really nicely here. It's definitely an eighties style series of designs but there is just something about the way he his artwork manages to feel like it can go beyond the time in which it was created.
Megazone 23 is old school anime at its height. This is from the time before the animators and studios had to be concerned with things like copyrights and overly protective owners, so you have all sorts of very detailed items from mid 80's Japan, from the cola cans down to the McDonald's menu. There is so much in this show that references other shows and gives nods to the big guys at the time that the more anime you watch the more you get. This is even more true now that the US studios are going back and getting more 80's anime, so things some of us are seeing for the time now only help shows like this even more. Megazone 23 fits the bill of 80's science fiction anime with its heroic leads, lots of women and plenty of equipment that really makes no sense in how it would actually work, but it's filled with lots of style and energy of a group of animators and storytellers who were doing something very new at the time. This is a very fun and raw energetic series that I love returning to and taking in again and again, especially since there’s always some nice new little thing that I discover each time, be it a nuance of story or something in the background animation.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Production Sketches
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.