In an updated (oh, 2038 A.D. or so) Mega-Tokyo, the Knight Sabers are a four-person band of powered mecha-suit-clad crime fighters who solict jobs from high-ranking officials (and occasionally lend a hand to the sometimes embarassingly lame AD Police department. The group's specialty are Boomers: artificial robots, sometimes indistinguishable from humans, who occasionally malfunction and run amuck, but more often are used for evil purposes.
Among the all-female team is Nene Romanov, a whiny little-girl stereotype that seems to be so common in Japan. She also works for the AD Police pushing papers, but mysteriously disappears every time there's a Boomer incident. There's also rock singer Priss, a motorcycle-obsessed hot-head who, underneath that tough-as-rock exterior, is actually a pretty sweet person who would stick her neck out for her friends. Linna, on the other hand, is an athletic, pleasant, and surprisingly normal girl. She is known for her aerobics, her love-life-from-hell, and her seemingly-constant underachievement.
There's also founder Sylia Stingray, who took it upon herself to form the Knight Sabers after her father, who developed the Boomers, was assasinated. As cover, she owns an upscale lingerie shop in the heart of Tokyo. Her little brother Mackie helps out the sabers with his technical expertise, although, beeing a teenager, he can also be found peeking at the girls changing.
Throughout the series, the main source of evil seems to be Genom, a Microsoft-like ruler of the Boomer industry. However, the backlash against them can be just as bad. The Knight Sabers agree that the world needs Genom to function, but that the company needs to be kept under control.
Bubblegum Crisis is, quite simply, an institution to the anime world. Probably the best-known Girls-With-Guns anime, this is also one of the best, boasting a staff including Ken'ichi Sonoda, Masami Ohbari, and numerous others.
Now AnimEigo has re-released the 8-part OAV series in three approximately movie-length volumes, with a much-needed update to the box art. While there's no new material here, it provides a great way to get the whole series in a nice collectable package.
The series was animated over a period of four years (1987-1990) and the earlier episodes are really starting to show their age. For the dubbed version, the voice-less copy of the studio masters had some severe audio problems, meaning that the entire audio track had to be redone. The sound effects and the music stay close to the original, as does the rewrite throughout.
The music is an element in and of itself in this series. 80's J-pop at its best, the songs range from the cool march-like rhythm of "Soldier Girl" to the heart-warming ballad "Say Yes!". At times slightly dated or inappropriate, the music is still a wonderful addition to the anime.
While the subtitled version is typical AnimEigo flawless translation and timing (albeit with minimal production values), and hence, has been received as such by the otaku public, the dubbed version met with harsh criticism upon its original release. Produced by Southwynde Studios (who will NEVER EVER live down the train-wreck dub job of Urusei Yatsura, or "Those Obnoxious Aliens", among a host of other atrocities) the dubbing includes the songs, which are really an essential part of the production. While at first, the dubbing is sloppily directed and fails to be believable, by the fourth episode, the cast seemed to have gotten the hang of it, and was pretty well-executed from there, with only occasional bad characters and slip-ups. (One notably bad one was the police chief, who sounded so bad throughout the entire series that it could have been mistaken for a fan-dub.) Unfortunately, the rewrite is so close to the subtitled dialogue, the characters speak too slowly and don't lip-sync well, and the whole feel varies from forced and amature-sounding to not bad.
The dubbed music's fate was similar. Again, very sloppily arranged at the start (the HORRIBLE Elvis-impersonator's rendition of Mr. Dandy left a stain on my mind), and then progressively getting better. The vocalists never do portray as much emotion as the Japanese ones, but the talent here is hardly of the same caliber. There were exceptions: English Version of "Say Yes!" was even better than the Japanese.
The series starts out slow, so wait until you've seen at least half of the series before deciding whether you like it or not. While sometimes predictable and cheezy, the Bubblegum Crisis series today still makes for some of the best Girls-With-Guns viewing out there. Whether you prefer dubs or subtitles, you'll probably walk away impressed.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
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