Way back during the Nineties when the VHS was king and not Blu-Ray/DVD, there were tons of classic and beloved anime that were released into the United States. One particular series, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, holds a special place in my heart as one of the first anime series I really got into and one of my personal favorites. It is also perhaps one of the first anime brought over here to the West to incite the cyberpunk genre fandom for English speaking audiences.
Originally released in 1999 by the now defunct ADV Films, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 takes place in Tokyo in the year 2040 (yes, I’m sure you all are shocked to hear this) in a time where robots are commonplace in Japan. These robots called Boomers are in charge of all the undesirable tasks that their human masters assign to them. However, there has been a rise in rogue Boomers that malfunction and cause havoc in Tokyo leading to the establishment of the A.D. Police and the appearance of the mysterious underground group called the Knight Sabers. A young office worker, Linna Yamazaki, seeks to join the elusive Knight Sabers and rid the city of the growing number of rogue Boomers.
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is actually a remake of a 1987 cyberpunk anime OVA called Bubblegum Crisis. The original OVA was cut short due to budgeting issues, leaving many questions unanswered and a lack of character depth or development. Thankfully, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 includes more than just a quick glance over different characters and has an actual ending (kinda) unlike its predecessor. However, fans of the OVA may be turned off by changes in the series' characters in terms of designs and personalities. The main designs of the Hardsuits, the name of the cybernetic suits used by the Knight Sabers, drawn by Kenichi Sonoda are still there, but the civilian forms of the Knight Sabers as well as other members of the cast are redrawn into a more "modern" look (similar to series such as Gundam Wing and any other anime of that time).
The strong point of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is its storytelling which keeps you entertained with its darker episodes. For those of you who love action, there is plenty of it, as almost every episode has an awesome battle involving girls in awesome robot suits kicking robot butt. This series began off as sort of episodic in nature, but goes away from that sort of storytelling as you get into the meat of the story. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040's ending left me feeling a little happy and a little sad. While the story actually did conclude, we still received a sort of open-ended ending which leaves us to wonder the fates of the Knight Sabers afterward, despite humanity being saved. That said though, it is not as bad as it could have been and it certainly isn't as bad as the OVA.
Unfortunately, though, the series is not without its flaws. Some plot holes do exist. I mean, seriously, if some of your robots start killing civilians for a while, don’t you think you should stop making them? Because it certainly seems like a common enough occurrence since they even have a police force (who are completely useless by the way) to fight them. I found a few episodes to be really unneeded and a bit boring. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 could have easily made do with about 13 episodes instead of 26. However, like I said previously, we do get more character development due to having a longer series.
One particularly rare thing for me is to like English dub casts. The English voice cast actually did a good job and certainly portrayed their characters well. Understandably though, Priss’ singing was a little sub-par since they had to translate lyrics from Japanese to English and fit the mouth flaps at the same time.
Special features on the complete series classic collection are lacking. It seems nowadays we’re only given clean openings and ending animations as special features. My collection that I had bought before this set was chock full of bonus features such as voice actor commentaries, character bios, character sketches, vehicle technology, voice actress profiles, interviews with the English voice actresses, as well as clean opening and closing animations. Needless to say I was disappointed in this collection’s offering (opening/closing animation, advertisements). I do appreciate not have fifteen minutes (well it seemed that long to me anyways) of ADV commercials on this set though.
In conclusion, those who are familiar with the OVA, you may want to stay away. However, those of you who are willing to try the reboot may end up liking it, like I did. Just be prepared for some changes.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher
Images copyrighted:Flyingdog,AIC / JVC , FUNimation Entertainment