Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jun 24th 2005
DVD 3: Chicks Combat Crooks!
Rio, Maya and Lilica continue their exploits as the Warriors, Tokyo's top-secret elite police force, but the all-female team may be in more danger than they realize. After a routine arrest aboard a cruise ship, their next task—a botched operation on a hijacked bus—sends Rio and Maya to the hospital. The administration wastes no time in finding replacements, but psychic-powered Lilica realizes that these armored killing machines are far different from her two friends. Once they learn what the police force really has in store for them, Rio, Maya and Lilica must fight for justice and turn against the very organization that gave them a purpose.
How many variations on hot-female-cop anime does Japan need? Actually, don't answer that, because you might end up having to watch Burn-Up Scramble. In a subgenre full of imitators and carbon copies, this show is exactly like the rest. Even the name of the squad is so generic that they sound like an American sports team. Burn-Up Scramble's one saving grace is a unique character who's interesting enough to deserve her own series, if she weren't pushed aside in favor of safe and formulaic storytelling. This 12-episode romp ties up loose ends neatly in Vol. 3, but does it matter at all if everyone knows what to expect?
Despite its lack of a strong fan following, the Burn-Up franchise manages to keep resurfacing over the years, and finally enters the digital animation age with Scramble. This latest series promises more of the same gunslinging action, and of course, beautiful young women showing off their big… weapons. The last four episodes close out like a typical action show: a big conspiracy is unveiled, a high-stakes urban battle ensues, and a lighthearted coda restores the status quo. Although it's pretty easy to follow, the whole plot sticks so close to formula that it erases any feeling of excitement or suspense. Even the big scary revelation is surprisingly simple, lacking the multi-layered double-crosses that make cop shows so compelling (and confusing). The series also tries to toss in some humorous situations and recurring gags, but the jokes ("Ha ha! So-and-so is really angry!") are about as effective as a pistol loaded with blanks.
It's easy to dismiss the cast of Burn-Up Scramble as just another riff on the action-heroine trio, and you'd be two-thirds right: Rio plays the energetic leader, and Maya handles situations analytically. Lilica, however, has a unusual role among the group—her psychic abilities allow her to "see" crimes happening elsewhere, which she scribbles on a notepad for the other girls to decode. Comparisons to Minority Report aside, it adds a refreshing dose of mysticism to an otherwise sci-fi themed show. While Lilica may be useless in combat and annoyingly shy, her turnaround in Episode 11 proves that there's some depth to her after all. Throw in some strong emotional vulnerability to offset her psychic power, and you've got an intriguing character lost in a show full of cheap stereotypes. If the next Burn-Up series were to focus just on Lilica, that would be a lot more interesting than anything else they've done, but don't count on it ever happening.
Although the tools of 21st-century animation are now available to the creators of Burn-Up, it basically gives the staff new ways of coming up with lazy shortcuts. The fight scenes are adequate, but certainly not eye-catching; the key frames and poses look loaded with energy but they're strung together by awkward motions that don't look like fighting at all. The sharply drawn but bland character designs appear to have been lifted from a late-90's anime, or worse, a How to Draw Manga: Pretty Girls manual. However, such artistic mediocrity doesn't stop the Warriors from appearing in swimsuits or flashing their lingerie several times an episode. Far less interesting are the backgrounds, which are mostly flat, textureless shapes that may have been passable a decade ago but look amateurish by modern standards.
Rarely does music make or break an action series, but Burn-Up Scramble's poorly recorded audio track actually kills off any excitement. There's some generic synth-pop and faux-symphonic scoring in the background, but the real problem is that the volume's too low to make any impact. This technical issue makes the action scenes feel far more lethargic than they ought to be, and it's a problem with sound effects as well—footsteps, collisions and explosions have all been dropped several decibels too low. It may have been an honest mistake with the DVD transfer, or something that went wrong during the original production, but either way it makes the series strangely quiet.
Recording levels are also a problem for the voice actors, at least on the English dub—anything louder than a raised voice sounds like it was shouted into a paper cup. Faced with personality-deficient cardboard characters, the actors at Bang Zoom! deliver appropriately wooden lines, and interestingly enough, they're quite liberal with the use of Japanese honorifics like "senpai." The Japanese audio, at the very least, avoids technical issues with voice recording. The DVD also features a cute interview with the Japanese VAs who play Rio, Maya and Lilica, along with production artwork and promotional commercials.
Burn-Up Scramble isn't bad enough to make you want to break things, but it's at the level where there's no real reason to watch it in the first place. It's a story that's been visited many times before, in a setting that feels way too much like everything else, and the ending goes exactly where it's supposed to. There's already plenty of decent hot-female-cop anime out there without having to resort to this one. If there's one reason to get the third volume, it would only be because you've already sat through the first two.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : D
+ Lilica's unique character and story arc lends some heart to an otherwise clichéd ending.
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