Bubblegum Crisis: Cyberpunk Perfection at its finest!
Following the Kanto Earthquake that destroyed Tokyo, the seemingly philanthropic Genom corporation introduced its “Boomer” androids that rebuilt the fallen city into MegaTokyo with Genom’s tower rising above it all. As Genom takes an interest in converting their coveted product into weaponry, a mysterious group of vigilantes known as the Knight Sabers take a stand to fight Genom as they test their new weapons against innocent citizens and unleash devastation that the police aren’t to prepared to combat!
Since I’m going through my list I would be shocked if I didn’t mention this one sooner. My #3 frequently vies for my #1 spot, which it would frequently gain along with vast amounts of worship and obsession. SO much obsession that I went on to purchase production cels, multiple versions of the original OAV series, the TV series, the follow-up OAV series everyone else hates, the spin-off AD Police OAV and the manga it was based on, the god-awful AD Police TV series and the recent Parasite Dolls movie based… somehow in the same collective Blade Runner style universe.
Let’s pop into a bit of Bubblegum Crisis… After the cut!
(Opening to Tinsel City, the first BGC OAV episode)
Bubblegum Crisis was an anime dream come true made by the best talent in the business on a rotating musical chairs set of artistic talent and direction, not to mention the most awesome 80’s anime pop/rock soundtrack in existence. It consists of 8 OAVs (Original Animated Video or alternatively, OVA = Original Video Animation and either one REALLY just means it’s direct to video). Primarily the story is made up of 2 main story arcs tied directly to Genom, the only company that produces Boomers, robots that can think and act like humans and after their triumphant debut following the vaguely referenced earthquake that destroyed Tokyo, they rebuilt the city in what they now call MegaTokyo. The primary story arcs are established in episodes 1-3 and 5&6. The other episodes are efforts vaguely tied to the core story, but stray heavily focusing on specific characters.
BGC is at its core an homage to Blade Runner, it’s the story of an all-female group of mercenary/vigilantes and their attempt to combat the evil android-making company known as Genom. The Knight Sabers, as they call themselves, consist of:
– A rockstar named Priss who heads up a band called (no joke) “Priss & The Replicants” making the the Blade Runner relation as obvious as possible. She is the primary protagonist in the series and acts as the other half of the group’s muscle along with Linna.
– Sylia, a lingerie shop owner who is both financier and engineer behind the Hardsuit powered armor the girls wield after she had weird blueprints for them downloaded into her brain by her father making her genuine humanity a constant matter of debate among nerds. Her borderline robotic behavior and cool, calm tones don’t help these theories.
– Linna, an aerobics instructor who swaps careers almost as often as she swaps out boyfriends evens out the brute force that the girls bring to the party. She gets relatively little development except for her desire for revenge and revisiting that revenge. Mostly when she’s not avenging dead people, she’s an airhead and the only group member stuck with lugging the other girls around in her off hours.
– Nene, their inside source on the AD Police and a terrorist-threat level computer hacker whose prowess in the battlefield is as effective as her whining is on her social life. Least developed character in the lot since her time to shine is literally when the axe fell on the series.
There’s also Sylia’s genius/pervert brother, Mackie Stingray and the einstein-looking Dr. Raven who runs a gas station that produces transforming robot motorcycles and cars that thirst for murder like any typical gas station does. Then there’s Leon who is pretty much stalking Priss by fortunate accident when he isn’t playing off the super gay advances of his partner Daley, his character is especially relevant because he’s our protagonist for the AD Police prequel and acts as the eye of a “concerned citizen” viewing the Knight Sabers from a uniquely supportive position in an organization practically devoted to killing them for taking their jobs (eliminating rogue boomers without the heavy collateral damage to life an property).
(The “Rock Me” music video used lazily as a trailer by anime asstards, AnimEigo.)
But wait! There’s Boomers! The most important McGuffin in the entire franchise! Boomers are essentially Replicants from Blade Runner (artifically designed humans with enhanced abilities, but short life spans) without the pretense of being organic, but then there’s some sci-fi techno-babble about them containing organic elements or some crap. Who cares right? The real question is… Can you %*#@ it? And answer is, YES. Yes, you can. Although, the question becomes… would you want to? I mean, they can rip you arm off an beat you to death with it if a wire crosses so obviously the most horrifying staple in Boomer related deaths is frequently the sexing boomers or “recreational boomers,” hell the more cognitively advanced ones called “Sexaroids” are practically vampires anyway so if you’re REALLY that keen on sampling the product of a love machine… then have at thee!
They can mimic human form and they’re frequently chatty little fuckers so I guess they come with personalities included making it difficult to distinguish a Boomer from a human until they do something spectacular to indicate they aren’t human like sprouting tendrils, shooting lasers, visibly bristling with weaponry, exploding, screaming: “Oh my god! I’m a boomer!” or the primary “boomer indicator” would be that their skin bubbles and tears off as they grow in size and become rampaging blue, sinewy gorilla-like things that can fly and kill stuff with great enthusiasm, though there’s several exceptions to that rule as well. The one weird thing is how inconsistent they become in their construction because there’s nothing to tell them apart from humans at the beginning of the series and periodically boomers will show up that are obviously robots and no more human than toasters. In the follow-up series the boomers are clearly just robots that turn into monsters, but none of them have the spark of humanity that made this particular series compelling or made the friendships and conflicts so intriguing. Not being sure who was and was NOT a robot (including the main cast!) was a real thrill, it was cool enough of a plot idea for the recent Battlestar Galactica to steal so why not, right?
I think that’s what has made associating the spinoff items with this masterpiece of anime awesomeness very hard for me to do. De-humanizing the Boomers takes out a very important plot point making them toasters and blenders that talk and become monsters so it becomes US versus THEM rather than integrating what essentially boils down to a race of sentient androids mass produced into willing slavery for our convenience and suffering in silence. It’s something that makes you think and that’s really the benchmark of good sci-fi, something that makes you THINK and leaves you with a head full of wonder. And 80’s pop music. That also helps.
(Seriously, Leon WILL break your heart. I speak from experience. He’s too much man for you, look away. LOOK AWAY!!!!)