BUBBLEGUM CRISIS 2040 (1998)

 

Format: 26 23-minute episodes on six DVDs, available as a Perfect Collection in one multi-DVD case

 

Rating: PG-13: Mature (BN, AC, GV)

 

Type: Sci-Fi (cyberpunk)/Action

 

American Production: ADV Films

 

Japanese Production: JVC/AIC

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B

Story:

B

Writing:

B

Character Design:

B+

Mecha Design:

B+

Animation:

A-

Artistic Merits:

B+

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

A-

Songs:

B

Opener:

A-

Closer:

B+

 

 

Humor Content:

C+

Action Content:

B+

Drama Content:

B

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

B

 

Synopsis

      A dramatic update of Bubblegum Crisis! (Hereafter referred to as BGC.) It is the year 2040, and Mega-Tokyo has been rebuilt in the wake of a devastating earthquake several years earlier. This has been accomplished in large part due to robots called Boomers, which have been created and marketed by the mighty Genom corporation. Boomers occasionally go rogue and undergo monstrous transformations for (supposedly) unknown reasons, however, and incidences of this happening are on the rise. Although the paramilitary A.D. Police exist specifically to deal with rogue Boomers and Boomer-related crimes, they are often ill-equipped for the task they are assigned. Competing against the A.D. Police are the Knight Sabers, a mysterious band of female vigilantes who use top-of-the-line (and form-fitting!) combat suits to disguise their identities and deal with rogue Boomers on their own terms – and much more efficiently than the A.D. Police, to their consternation. They operate under the direction and guidance of Sylia Stingray, an outward high-end boutique operator who is the daughter of the man responsible for designing the technology behind Boomers and has her own vested reasons for wanting to see Boomers destroyed. She relies on Nigel, a scientist-turned- mechanic, for her tech and the moody rock band singer Priss and energetic hacker/A.D. Police operator Nene for field assignments. A third field agent, the athletic Linna, joins them when she comes to Tokyo seeking to join the Knight Sabers and manages to impress all involved with her determination. But will she be enough to help the Knight Sabers triumph in the face of resistance from the A.D. Police, the machinations of the Genom corporation’s president and vice-president, and the return of secrets from the past best left buried? More importantly, will dashing A.D. Police officer Leon be able to win Priss’s fickle heart?

 

The Long View

      Before reading further you may wish to refer to my review of the original BGC.

 

      In an ambitious move 2040 has taken the characters and basic premises from the defining cyberpunk series of the ‘80s, reworked and updated them, and fit them into an expanded storyline that contained some elements of the original plots but is mostly new. The result is a dynamic and highly entertaining sci-fi action/drama that may not be as novel or ground-breaking as the original BGC but is still a distinct improvement over its predecessor series in most respects. What it might lack in originality it makes up for with improved graphics, dialogue, and character development. It also carries a bit lighter tone than the original, which may or may not be a Good Thing depending on your viewpoint.

      The differences between the original BGC and 2040 are apparent almost from the first beat of the opener. Whereas the original series was driven by '80s rock music and pop ballads, 2040 has a hard rock sensibility to both its music and style. Also, the original series was made completely using cel animation, while the new series was clearly done on computer. This gives the artwork a brighter and more vibrant look, removes the rough edges, and adds a good deal more expressiveness; some of the characters (particularly Priss) now say a lot more with just a look than they ever could have with words in the original. Everything visual about the series, from the look of the city to the interior of the AD Police tower to the characters to even the coloring of the Hard Suits themselves, gets an update in the process, and usually it’s for the better.

      Another major improvement is in character development. All of the main characters from BGC carry over but get far better fleshed out here, and we get to see quite a bit more about their backgrounds and motivations. In the process some details have been changed. Sylia, who now has flowing bluish-gray hair, has become more the guiding will behind the team than an active member (she rarely suits up), and she is far more forceful and obsessive about dealing with Boomers that she ever was in BGC - but she has good reason to be this way, as we discover. Priss’s attitude is even more hard-edged but otherwise her character is more or less the same gruff, mercenary persona she had in the original. Nene’s childlike cutesiness and incessant snacking are more pronounced, but otherwise the only significant change to her is her appearance (she now has short blond hair and more rounded features). Linna, though, is totally different. Originally a rather bland aerobics instructor, she is now a strong-willed and fiercely-determined “country girl” who came to Mega-Tokyo to work as a company sales rep while seeking out her dream of joining the Knight Sabers. Her hair is also different – brown instead of black – and she has a more obviously athletic build. All that remains of her original BGC character is that she is the most physically fit Knight Saber.

      Among supporting characters, Leon also gets a significant overhaul. He is now far more convincingly studly in appearance, more intense and less lackadaisical, but he does have his trouble with women; he can’t seem to catch Priss’s attention, and has to tolerate Nene going around calling him “Leon-Poo.” (A creative adaptation of the original “Leon-chan,” which would be a demeaning reference to an adult man in Japanese. His interactions with Nene account for some of the most entertaining exchanges in the whole series.) His partner Daley is more obviously gay, and more professional in appearance, but otherwise the same as in BGC. Mackie shows up in this series, too, but not until about halfway through the run, and Mason is back as one of the chief villains. A new character is Nigel, a sullen mechanic who’s actually responsible for the design and construction of the Hard Suits and has clear past ties to both Sylia and her father. Also new is Sylia’s old English-style butler.

      The feature of 2040, as with the original, is the Hard Suits worn by the Knight Sabers. These colorful, custom-fitted suits are designed specifically for female pilots and provide enhanced strength, speed, and agility in addition to serving as heavy combat armor. They all have boot jets which allow them to jump hundreds of yards from building top to building top (a change from the original, where a wearer could actually fly in the suit) and each has a special attack form: Priss’s has concussive pads on one fist that allow her to punch with enormous power, while Nene’s can shoot energy darts and has advanced computer-hacking capabilities and Linna’s is equipped with molecular whips that can slice through even steel girders with a flick of her head. Sylia’s suit, when it finally appears, is equipped with retractable swords and a stealth suite that effectively allows her to turn invisible. More importantly, the suits are far more advanced than anything anyone else has due to Sylia inheriting her father’s research notes (and Nigel’s allegiance) when her father died in the Great Earthquake years before. When the Hard Suits are trashed about halfway through the series, they eventually get replaced with even more advanced and powerful suits for the battles of the closing episodes – and my, do the Knight Sabers need them by that point!

      The Boomers that the Knight Sabers and A.D. Police must fight have also changed significantly. In the original series, Boomers were more or less cyborgs and could pass as human before revealing their true natures. In 2040, however, even those Boomers cast in humanoid form are still distinctly robots until they go rogue – at which point they become mindless monsters.

      The plotting of 2040 is well-done, keeping the story moving along at a brisk pace until about the midway point, at which time the series drops all pretense of pseudoscientific merit and drops off the scientific deep end as some stunning secrets about the past are revealed. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it transitions the series to become almost more of a superhero tale from that point out than straight sci-fi. The action never lets down, however, and most of the characters are given their chances at suitably dramatic scenes. Occasionally a more poignant episode breaks out and distinguishes itself, such as one episode dealing with an unfaithful wife and the operator of an underwater construction Boomer. This is helped greatly by some fine English vocal performances and a killer techno-based soundtrack. The opener is dynamite itself and the closer is quite respectable, too.

      The rating for graphic content is mostly due to intense violence and mature themes; although the action does occasionally bloody, it’s never a major issue. What little nudity there is in the series is restricted to brief shots in a couple of the late episodes.

      BGC 2040 is a series well worth taking a look at, particularly if you're a fan of sci-fi/action anime.

 

DVD Extras

      All DVDs are fronted with company previews (the set-up ADV used prior to 2003) and include a Spanish language dub. Each also includes one significant Extra, which varies from volume to volume; earlier ones have Character Profiles, later ones include equipment profiles, concept art on the main characters, and partial filmographies for lead seiyuu and English voice actresses. The format for the DVD menus varies substantially as the volumes progress (later volumes use a much more standardized format than the first couple), as does the menu screen art.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Sylvia Stingray

Laura Chapman

Priss Asagiri

Christine Auten

Nene Romanova

Hillary Haag

Linna Kamazaki

Kelly Manison

Leon

Jason Douglas

Daley

Chris Patton

Nigel

John Gremillion

Henderson (the butler)

Phil Ross

Mason

Andy McAvin

Chairman Rosencranz,

    Dr. Stingray

John Swasey

Maki (Mackey) Stingray

Spike Spencer

Galatea, young Sylia, minor roles

Kira Vincent-Davies

Mason’s secretary Boomer,

    minor roles

Carol Matthews

 

 

 

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