Reviewby Theron Martin, May 12th 2005
Time Bokan OAV
When a new Time Bokan TV series is announced, a call is put out for villain teams from the earlier Time Bokan-related series to gather for a contest to determine who will be the new villain team. Seven teams of villains come out of retirement for the contest, among them the Dorombo team from the series Yattaman. Their competitors are not the only obstacles to the ultimate success of the Dorombo team, however, as the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and other heroes also stand ready to stop them—as long as the task doesn't get too boring, that is.
The original Time Bokan was a mecha/sentai series popular enough in the mid-to-late '70s to spawn several spin-offs and a couple of OVAs, none of which (to my knowledge) have ever been released in the States. All were action/comedy series aimed at younger audiences and centered around goofy humor, the kind of thing you might have seen Hanna-Barbera produce in the same time frame on this side of the Pacific. Thus it shouldn't be a surprise that this 2002 OVA revival is patterned off of one of the more memorable Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning productions of the late '70s, Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. (Raise your hand if, like me, you can remember being entranced by that show every Saturday morning while growing up!) That series was a nostalgia trip which allowed Hanna-Barbera to pull out many long-time characters, place them in teams, and pit them against one another in various slapstick competitions. Tatsunoko Studio repeats the premise in the first episode by drawing villains from many of the series under the Time Bokan umbrella and pitting them (and their distinctive mecha) against one another. In the second episode the winning team is assigned by their old overlord to steal a power source from a city inhabited by heroes of various '60s and '70s-era Tatsunoko series. This, of course, allows for the inclusion of numerous cameos, of which ones from Speed Racer, Casshan, Tekkaman, and Gatchaman might be recognizable to American fans.
And that's precisely the problem from an American perspective: this OVA is loaded with cameos which American fans are unlikely to recognize and appreciate. It's hard to enjoy the fierce lampooning of heroic characters if one doesn't recognize the characters or the series they're from. One of the few parodies American fans will get is a savage treatment of a certain anime character from the early-to-mid '90s who has been intensely popular on both sides of the Pacific. The treatment of the other heroes may be just as deliciously mean, but (except perhaps for Gatchaman) the lack of the average American viewer's familiarity with those characters dooms those jokes.
Since this OVA is essentially a nostalgia trip, the producers decided to retain the artistic and musical styles of the time in which the series originally aired. This results in a production whose music and character designs are dated and simple by current standards. It is interesting to note how formulaic the villain teams are: each one consists of a rail-thin, huge-nosed techie guy, a squat thuggish guy, and a shapely young woman who (in most cases) is taller than both male characters, seductively dressed, and seems to be mostly eye candy in function. It's also fun to laugh at how garish and ridiculous the mecha designs are by more modern standards. The artistry otherwise isn't that bad, and the animation, while not up to par with the better recent series, is certainly an improvement on what would have been seen in the '70s.
The opener, closer, and musical themes are all typical of '70s anime and are unlikely to be memorable. The English dub isn't awful—it sounds like the English voice actors were at least trying—but the voices aren't always a good fit and places where characters must shout or scream sound painfully strained. The biggest stylistic departure is Tommy Yama, the race announcer in the first episode, who is given a Howard Cosell-like voice in the English dub. This would have been a fine adaptation had the VA not lost track of the distinctive Cosell tone and cadence in a couple of places. Although the English script doesn't stray much from the subtitles, overall I have to recommend the sub to the dub on this one. (It's also easier to keep all the similar-sounding names straight by seeing them in print.)
Although the violence in Time Bokan is strictly at a cartoonish level, it does have some fan service. Each episode has one scene of frontal nudity, some racy content, and parodies of panty shots, so there's a reason why the packaging is marked for a 13+ age group.
Extras on the DVD are limited to company previews, a trailer for this OVA, and an art gallery mostly composed of still shots. The chapter divisions are odd, with openers and closers run into the adjacent chapter rather than being separated into their own chapters—an annoying setup for those wishing to skip past or to them. The original closers are retained, with a secondary closer tacked on at the end which provides the English credits. Although voice credits are listed with both the English and Japanese VA listed under the name, the English performers for some minor roles aren't credited.
Fans of “old school” anime are likely to greatly appreciate this throwback tribute to one of the most popular mecha franchises of the '70s. It is unlikely that newer fans will get much out of this volume, however. Given how dependent enjoyment of this series is on knowing about (by American standards) obscure anime titles, I am surprised that the Time Bokan OAV ever got licensed. Had the opportunity to pick up this series come along in 2005 instead of in 2004, I doubt the contracting anime market would have accommodated it.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : C-
Art : C-
Music : D+
+ Some good jokes, as long as you know the characters.
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