This eight-part OVA (Original Video Animation, or made-for-video) series is set in the giant megalopolis of MegaTokyo in the year 2033. The story chronicles the battles of four women in power armor against an evil mega-corporation called GENOM. BGC is one of the most popular series among fans of Japanese animation ("anime"), as well as fans of the cyberpunk genre. Written by
Christopher E. Meadows <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Quite good overall, but don't believe the hype too much.
Considering the large following and high reputation this series has, one imagines it must be quite good. Oddly, it never struck me as mind-blowingly fantastic as the fan hype makes it out to be, but I did quite like most of the series.
Many praises are sung about the soundtrack, and those are very true indeed; great rock songs with very good pace and vivid vocals accompany the action. They work a treat, and a lot of the songs stick with the viewer for very long.
Alas, the raving over the music is probably the only point where the hype got it right. For the rest, the actual series seems a bit underwhelming compared to what one might expect. For example, the supposedly excellent character development is a much-trumpeted point that falls a bit flat. Not to say that the characters are poor by any means. They're very likeable, and they do have their own distinct personalities, but they don't seem all that revolutionary. Our four heroines, Priss, Nene, Sylia and Linna basically consist of respectively the tough rebellious youth, the pink-haired girly "cute" computer whiz, the mysterious and only -really- interesting one, and...err, the other one (yup, poor Linna is badly under-used and shows very little distinct character traits). It's true that this is a cast formula that was innovative for it's time, and that it has been copied very often, but maybe that's exactly why the whole thing sometimes seems a little below it's reputation. There are tough, rebellious youths and pink-haired squeaky cute computer geniuses all over the place on the anime market. The fact that they're all female is hardly a novelty anymore either.
That might be the main problem here; time hasn't been too kind to Bubblegum Crisis. Those who first saw the series and became loyal followers in the 80's had every reason to be impressed back then. Alas, by now, the same formula has appeared so often, be it under different guises, that there's little left to be amazed about for one watching this series for the first time now. Somehow BGC doesn't really manage to hold up a feeling that it's the founding father of a whole generation of anime series.
Animation quality has aged a bit better though, with only the first episode looking genuinely old hat by now. Episodes seven and eight are still lovely to look at (probably due to the nice and somehow "softer" color palette used for ep. 8). The mecha action scenes -another highly hyped point- are indeed fast and furious, and have some very intense moments. The mecha designs as well are admirably intricate and innovative sometimes. But like most over-hyped elements of BGC, the fights have flaws as well, namely that they are sometimes cut short a bit. The way the main villain in the sixth episode (who is utterly brilliant, by the way) is finished off struck me as rather too sudden, as was the end of the battle in episode 5. It's supposed to be a very dramatic moment, but it went a bit too fast and thus didn't have all the punch it -could- have had.
There still is lots going in favor of BGC, however. Several minor characters are very likeable and amusing, and manage to actually be more entertaining than the four heroines. The adorable Daley springs to mind, not exactly because he's gay -homosexuality is very common in anime- but because during his few moments in the spotlight he's always delightful (and damn it all, he's -cute-). Most of the one-shot characters that only appear in one or two episodes are also handled with style and become very vivid. A very nice bunch, basically. And that goes for the minor nasties as well. The four heroines are also entertaining enough, despite not being all that full of surprises.
The storyline also manages to present some interesting themes. Revenge is one of them, as is the blurred borderline between machines and living beings. There's also a very intriguing triangle between Sylia, minor nasty Mason and more impressive nasty Largo. There are also hints that Sylia might be more than meets the eye. All these themes and possible subliminar messages are only established in the background and hardly ever mentioned in so many words. One could very easily miss them altogether.
Subtelty is all very well, but it's a shame that none of these possible deeper plot threads are ever tied up; the end of episode 8 is -not- a proper ending. The series was supposed to continue on for a few more episodes, but alas the project ran into murky waters at that point. And that's why BGC is so tricky to judge; it's an unfinished piece (a sequel tried to sort of tie everything up but didn't really succeed). It's as if Return of the Jedi was missing from the first Star Wars trilogy, for instance. And that's quite a shame, as the -promise- certainly is there.
If the series had lived to see it's originally planned ending, it might have become the masterpiece it's -said- to be. As it stands, it's a good, solid series with plenty to enjoy and a few flaws that don't get in the way too much. Give it a go, see what you think. You probably won't be blown over with amazement, but chances are high you'll have a very plain good time all the same.
(just note that you should avoid the dub if possible. It's tolerable, but the songs are dubbed as well, and as a result suffer overall. Besides, dubs are always inferior to the original)
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