Bubblegum Crisis is a cyberpunk series from AIC, you may remember them from such titles as Sasameki Koto, Viper’s Creed, OreImo and Battle Athletes. It’s also one of those uncommon series where the anime is the original work rather than being based on a game, manga, light novel or something else. The series has had media based on it including video games, a western comic book from Dark Horse and even a tabletop RPG. So what is it about this OVA that enabled it to grow into a full blown franchise? Let’s take a look and see.
Our story takes place in a not too distant dystopian future. There’s a rise in crimes involving robots called Boomers and there’s a corrupt multi-national corporation called Genom, because dystopian stories always have to have corrupt corporations. I wouldn’t be surprised if Genom sent an ordinary worker into space for no reason and forced him to watch cheesy movies while monitoring his mind. Genom may very well be involved in many of these crimes for their own purposes. Unfortunately, the AD police force charged with handling Boomer crimes isn’t quite adequate to the task. Fortunately, the Knight Sabres, a female vigilante group, is there. Possessing powerful technology and highly skilled, the Knight Sabres take up the fight against Boomers. Each episode tells the tale of one of the Knight Sabre’s adventures, either fighting Boomers or taking on tasks for money. The story isn’t particularly unique, but it is compelling. Those episodes that do tie into each other directly do so in a clever way, the world is fascinating and I like that there are positive aspects of Genom instead of it being just another needlessly evil corporation in a dystopian cyberpunk story. The basic premise has been done a huge number of times, but this does provide a creative and unique take on it. There are some issues with it, however. The most obvious being that the Knight Sabres are kind of crap at safeguarding their secret identities. There are several cases when they should be found out, but aren’t. For example, there’s a scene early on where they go in their armour to hear about a job from a military group. After leaving they notice a satellite’s tracking them. So they meet up with their mobile base under a bridge, ditch the armour and exit out the other end. In spite of no one else being near that bridge or having gone under it, they are not found out. No one watched the footage and thought it was strange that these two women mysteriously appeared right when the Knight Sabres vanished? There are also quite a few episodes that focus on a situation involving someone who just happens to coincidentally be closely connected to one of the Knight Sabres. This is a group of mercenaries/vigilantes, you don’t have to give some contrived reason for them to get involved.
The characters in this are mostly really well handled. All of the Knight Sabres get episodes focusing on them and all of them get character developing moments. The characters are largely complex and interesting. They also have some great interactions with one another. There is one notable exception, Mackey. Mackey is the younger brother of the Knight Sabres’ leader, Sylia. To call him incredibly obnoxious would be an understatement. He’s a perverse little worm who’s there to serve as an errand boy and perv on the Knight Sabres, including his own older sister. In fact, she’s the one he pervs on the most. Fortunately, he isn’t a major character, but the few scenes that feature him are frequently downright unpleasant.
The art is very meticulous. It’s a bit dated, but you can tell a lot of effort went into getting all the details right and making the world expansive. The action sequences are suitably epic, the tech is really cool. It just looks excellent. That being said, there is one issue with the art. That’s right, there’s excessive fan-service. There are semi-long scenes of the ladies changing into their suits for the sole purpose of getting some nudity into the OVA. Frankly, they could have done one changing scene and had it make sense since it does show you something about the way the suits work, but it isn’t something that needed to be seen multiple times. There are also some fan-service costumes at several points and some other scenes that have little purpose aside from titillating the heterosexual male portion of the audience. Because that’s totally worth interrupting the fluidity of the narrative for. Wait… what?
The cast in this is really good. Hiramatsu Akiko, Sakakibara Yoshiko, Oomori Kinuko and Tomizawa Michie are all great in their roles as the Knight Sabres. The music is excellent. Each episode has about three or four songs and they’re all really damn good.
The ho-yay factor is a 5/10. The relationship between Priss and Sylvie is pretty homo-erotic. Nene admires other girls’ beauty on multiple occasions, as does Linna. There’s also some flirtation between two men in the AD Police, Leon and Daley.
That’s Bubblegum Crisis. All in all, it’s a really good OVA. The voice acting and music are top-notch, the story is really good, the art is great and most of the characters are really well done. Its biggest issues are Mackey, the occasional story element that doesn’t work, Mackey, excessive fan service and Mackey. Still, it is a great cyberpunk series and I do recommend checking it out. My final rating is an 8/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Slayers Return.