Prefacing this review comes the prerequisite warning I place in front of a lot of reviews I do of anime from the nineties; I grew up on nineties science fiction anime and can appreciate the character archetypes and the themes that are the meat of adult-oriented shows from the period. Thus, I have a soft spot for an anime like Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040that, while flawed in some respects, I still think is a semi-intelligent, entertaining romp through an underdeveloped science fiction world.
It’s the year 2040 (duh) and Linna Yamazaki has gone from her comfortable life in the country to a crazy life as a businesswoman in Tokyo. Almost immediately she drops a hamburger when a rude motorcyclist drives by and rather than let it go, she chases down the motorcycle like a nutcase. Eventually she meets up with the motorcyclist, Priss, who belongs to a Power Ranger-esque group known as the Knight Sabers. Linna ends up joining them in their fight against rampaging boomers (the anime’s name for robots).
For me, the anime starts pretty slow and formulaic, introducing a diverse foursome while also opening up the world. Typically this works but I found the world to be pretty generic and only contain a few sci-fi ideas sprinkled throughout to justify the main plot. At one point Linna plugs a magazine into a machine which turns last month’s issue into this month’s. Great idea and all, but it’s a pointless few seconds that could have been replaced with anything. It’s like the anime is reminding you that it’s in the future.
The main futuristic tech you’ll see in this show are the hardsuits the girls wear (essentially power armor) and the boomers. Otherwise, it’s a pretty weak, pseudo-cyberpunk world. I use pseudo because it doesn’t have a lot of the trappings of the genre aside from robots and that main idea that permeates nearly every piece of cyberpunk fiction: “What is human?”.
Otherwise, the computer technology is archaic and outdated even now (yes, I can forgive a series from the late 90’s from not having a grasp on future tech) and about the only thing that the series brings to the table as far as science goes is the idea of bio-technology. The boomers can attach to other metal surfaces and interface with other technology through bonding. They can also change forms and develop mental links with human beings.
All this research came from Dr. Stingray, father of Sylia, one of the main characters. He was a dick and did all kinds of awful research on his own family, creating a sentient boomer that could destroy the entire world after interfacing every boomer into a single hive-mind. And that’s where the plot really starts.
Get past the first six or so episodes of getting you integrated into this world and the plot isn’t bad at all. It contains a lot of generic ideas but it comes across as entertaining, especially with the case of girls we spend our time with.
Linna is a fish out of water goody-goody and probable lesbian. While the series focuses a lot on her at the beginning, it starts to focus more on the interesting characters later on. Priss is a nineties biker-girl/punk rocker who hates the police and treats everyone like garbage…because punk never dies or something. Then there’s my favorite character, Nene, who works for the AD Police as a communications expert and acts like a child despite being an eighteen year old tech genius.
Sylia is the one behind the Knight Sabers and is another pretty thin character. She’s the dominant leader type who hides all kinds of secrets that dictate her entire personality. And that’s about all you need to know about her.
Later on in the series there are a few romantic threads, one that is pursued to a somewhat satisfying conclusion and the other just there because the plot needs a reason to throw in existential questions about the meaning of life.
Despite all that, I thought the characters were an entertaining group that elicited a chuckle or a grin as well as made me have feelings toward the outcome. They’re not as three dimensional as they could be, but they’re still good company.
I especially enjoyed Leon, a police officer who is trying to get with Priss. There’s something about the girl who hates cops making out with a cop that makes me blush. Then again, it shows character development as well which isn’t prevalent in many of the characters, another failing of the show. By the end, Priss is actually the most well developed, if only because I feel the writers wanted you to see Priss as the babe of the show. Nene gets a lot of attention but nowhere is she shown to be a badass, she’s more like a whiny nerd and doesn’t grow beyond that. And Linna is just too generic to be entertaining (same with Sylia). So by the end, I guess Priss is the only well-rounded character.
Also by the end you’ll find the series has a problem. It sets up some villains at the beginning, gets rid of them, then replaces them with a plain-jane creature with little personality. While the ending is certainly large-scale and epic, it also has very little emotional impact. The person who should be killing the villain and showing emotion sits it out and leaves the other three to engage in the arbitrary final boss fight that…isn’t that exciting.
So after a lackluster finale, you’d expect at least an epilogue that wraps everything up but instead we’re given one of the worst endings I’ve seen in a long time.
The next paragraph is nothing but spoilers.
Instead of showing everyone get back together, Tokyo getting rebuilt, Nene finding a job, and Leon getting some from Priss, we’re given an ending that I think means Nene, Linna, and Priss are dead. So they return to Earth, Linna and Nene stuck on a tropical island (and naked) and Priss stranded in a desert (and naked) and…that’s it. No rescue? No reunions? I’m given to think they all died naked. Even a single lines of Sylia saying “I wonder if we can find the girls” would have been nice. But instead, I’m assuming she figured them to have died.
The animation is pretty good for the time, though there are a lot of lower-quality scenes sprinkled throughout (and some especially fucked up faces as well). As far as music is concerned, the opening and endings are okay while the music in the show is the same three tracks over and over. Not much to talk about here.
The terrible ending and poor world development aside, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is very entertaining, has a few memorable characters, and brings up some classic tropes of the genre (though doesn’t explore them enough to really matter to the whole product). It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a simple science fiction/action story with a couple badass female characters and just enough intelligence not to have me leave saying “all girl Power Rangers meets Psycho-Pass/Ghost in the Shell”. Instead, the show can stand on its own as a nice, easy introduction into cyberpunk anime. After watching this, you can move into the heavy stuff. Or, if you aren’t too big into the heavy handed philosophy and science of the aforementioned series (Psycho-Pass and GiTS), then you’ll still find something to enjoy in Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040.
This title deserves a little bit of background information because it's got a rather sordid and colorful past. The original version of this show was dropped by one production company only to be picked up and sued by another production company for breach of contract. As a result, the story/series Bubblegum Crisis (2033) was never truly finished (going through a long drawn out legal process), it had a few OVA's to try to correct that but was never well done or received. 2040 is essentially a remake from beginning to end of the story proper. It did spark several spin offs during that period, but I have not yet tried to sit and watch those to see how they relate to the reviewed title. Prior to this review I sat down to watch this show for the 2nd time in 10 years, it was still enjoyable the 2nd time around thou the length of interum time probably has a lot to do with that.
It's got a slightly slow start but there is definitely a story being told here, one of men playing god and the cute girls cleaning up after them. That's extremely simplified but in the end that's what it boils down to at the beginning. Things take bizarre turns and sadly unrealistic plot devices kind of stumble things forward towards the end. While this did pull me out of the story a couple times, it didn't really ruin the show, just someone with a logical mind is going to stop and go "how is that even possible...". Besides that minor issue, the rest of the story is quite good, progression is steady, and information is given in crumbs at times and half a loaf at others. Fight scenes were not their strong point sadly, it wasn't all bad just wasn't the focus of the show as far as I could tell. I mean who's fighting a monster then suddenly decides to stand still and stare dumbfounded at the monster while it charges at you... You're in the most advanced piece of hardware humanity has to offer, it makes you run faster, jump higher, hit harder and you're going to stand there and let the giant tentacle monster grab you... seems legit. [/sarcasm] Hello forced plot device, how unpleasant to make your acquaintance, again.
Honestly... for a 1998 era, this had both good and bad points. I gave it a bit of leeway because it was originally from the '80s and so some of the designs were already slightly outdated and even so, it did have decent artwork through most of the show, rarely did it resort to still pans and I never saw it try to draw horrible crowd animations which usually resembled blobs sliding across the terrain during this era. Even the girls had some noticeable differences in their looks other than just their hair.
Explosions sounded like they went boom, crashes crunched, music played... ok there was a lot more to the sounds in this one than I'm letting on. One such point would be that one of the main characters was a singer in a band and they would actually show her performances from time to time. What I found interesting was how they integrated it into the story, but I digress. They didn't shove her singing horribly down your throat, just that it was part of her character and it was tastefully done.
So, here's where what I would consider it's true strong point but not it's only worth while side. It had a large, varied, and interesting cast of characters thrown at me. Some of them were borderline delusional and one outright insane in my book. Some grew exponentially throughout the show, some barely changed at all. Some characters you hated, some you loved, some you couldn't figure out, while others were an open book. What I found was truly key on this point will also be considered a spoiler so I can't really explain too much further than to say it's among a rare few shows that I hold in high regard for it's depiction of "good vs evil".
So, really this show had it's issues but because of the show as a whole I found it too hard to fault it for it's shortcomings and as such got a slightly higher overall rating than would average out from the rest. It has a much deeper story than many would suspect just by looking at its page here on A-P. Even some of the characters have a lot more depth than it seems at the beginning. The show starts rolling and it never really lets up the whole way through. It's not the biggest and the best title you will have ever seen, I can't lie and say you'll love it no matter what. I will say that the show is worth watching, especially if you're a fan of 80's style anime, like a little romance with your action, and a little mystery in your plot.
Bubblegum Crisis 2040 is quite an oddball series, it was something I really enjoyed watching simply for the fact that it's rather unique and there's just not a lot out there quite like it. Simply put it was a nice break from your everyday typical anime, harem, mecha, comedy, fantasy, whatever.
2040 is an indirect sequel to the original Bubblegum Crisis (sometimes with the additional "2032" or just "OVA" thrown at the end there). They're alternate versions of each other therefore nothing is really connected, other than the fact that they're different stories with some of the same characters in the same setting and whatnot. Because of this I'll make a few comparisons here and there between the two. The biggest difference between them is that the OVA was mainly episodic based and 2040 is not, containing more of a single overarching plot.
STORY: The year is obviously 2040 where Tokyo has been reborn after a devastating earthquake that took out the majority of the city, to rebuild such a complex place once again humans needed something to help them. A powerful company by the name of Genom comes into play here and introduces the "Boomers", humanoid mech's built with the sole ideal to help rebuild and restore the most technological advanced city in the world, in which they ended up calling Mega Tokyo. These Boomers came in many packages, some would look like giant trackers of sorts that handled construction, while others would look totally identical to human beings, handling jobs such as a receptionist and whatnot. However being built in such haste the Boomers were not without their fault and at times, went berserk causing chaos and destruction throughout the city, but Genom had such a strong hold on Mega Tokyo that nobody could bring about the end of the Boomers construction. In an attempt to stop these outbreaks the Advance Police Forces, or AD Police for short, was born. Genom ends up taking things even further by diving into illegal trade and develops combat Boomers and various other things, eventually becoming quite an issue. Can the AD Police alone stop this crisis?
In comes Sylia Stingray, daughter of the infamous Dr. Stingray who helped build the foundation of the Boomers in the first place. However, she wants nothing more than to see the end of their production and very existence for unknown reasons. She is an incredibly wealthy billionaire with a close friend Nigel whom is an incredibly skilled engineer and mechanic. She gives birth to the powerful mobile armor dubbed "Knight Sabers" that can only be worn by a very select few women. Fate eventually brings all these girls together in an effort to fight against the Boomers. Originally it was nothing but a friendly competition between the AD Police and the Knight Sabers, but eventually things start to go deeper. What really caused the earthquake that happened many years ago? Is their a source to all the Boomer outbreaks? Where exactly do the Knight Saber suits come from? What is Sylia's true motive? All these questions eventually come into play as the story becomes more than just straight up action against Boomers.
But that's also where the series slightly derails, about a 3rd or 4th of the way in they throw the philosophical card at you and the show ends up trying to be "deep". Luckily, it doesn't seem to go too over the top with this and doesn't try to shove tons of silly ideas or anything down your neck. The ideals and questions presented are nothing that'll really make you scratch your head over, but at the same time they shouldn't completely bore you out of your mind either. Regardless I clearly believe they could've taken a different route and thrown out the last arc of the story here for something much better. The main thing I got out of these last parts was the emphasis on self discovery.
CHARACTER: The character development is definitely a huge improvement compared to the OVA and overall done very nicely. However (I'll blame the last story arc), you are kind of left wanting to see them develop a little more towards the end, like they were just a little unfinished or something. But anyways, each main character here definitely has their own traits: Priss is the rogue whom does as she pleases and doesn't like people holding her back, Lina comes off as the strong willed girl who will do anything to get to the top, Nene is the odd and spunky younger one that should never be underestimated when it comes to the technical stuff, and Sylia is the cheerful yet oh so mysterious leader whom might leave you in the dark at times, but you'll get your answers eventually. Okay, so they all don't sound incredibly interesting on paper here but they certainly do change throughout the series mainly for the better and the odd bunch does manage to eventually cope together very well, they make an excellent team. At first the series focuses entirely on the rookie Lina and I actually liked this direction, however the focus later shifts back to Priss and is handled pretty smoothly, but it's almost annoying that in the end Lina is the one character that you're kind of left wanting to know more about, not to mention she ends up being "alone" unlike the rest of the crew. Also I have to stress the fact that while Priss may seem like the typical ignorant "I don't speak to you because I don't care" kind of character done way too much in anime, she does soften up a bit and let out emotions, she does develop and change. Also, every character got a makeover and in all honesty I prefer them all over the originals, just simply put I guess. Though yeah, Lina's headband was awesome.
Aside from this a handful of other characters return like the mysterious villain Mason, Sylia's younger brother with a lost past, and most noticeably the head of AD Police, big shot Leon whom loves to hate the Knight Sabers. Just like the rest of the main chicks here, Leon's character gets fleshed out a lot more here than it did in the OVA and even in the spinoff AD Police Files. There's actually a lot of humor revolved around him and Nene's interactions (with her being a AD Police operator of sorts). Just don't call him "Leon-chan"! And overall, you can expect some great humorous moments throughout the show. Some might be really cheesy at times, but they never feel too tacky or pointlessly thrown in. Along with this you can also expect some romances though the scenes with these elements are a hit or miss, some worked, and some just felt really awkward.
ART/ANIMATION: In all honesty I was really impressed with the animation here and the character designs mainly for its time and for being a full length normal series. I really don't think there's a lot of late 90's early 00's releases that faired too well in the art/animation department. This was the time when some companies were trying new things, some were throwing in horrendous CG (at the time especially), a lot of the hand drawn detail was being lost, but none of that is really the case with 2040 here. They did an excellent job with the fight scenes, never throwing in some of those annoying panning images, or repeating scenes relentlessly, and this isn't an older show where you'll get the characters mixed up or anything like that, I'm sure we've all seen some of those?
Being a cyberpunk series one should definitely expect a darker, futuristic, more downbeat, gritty setting and they definitely nailed that aspect pretty well. The atmosphere is easily there. Overall though, it's not quite as inspired and incredibly detailed like the original OVA. I'm assuming it could be because of budget differences with this being a longer series or just the fact that, a lot of older cyberpunk shows are superior when it comes to the art and detail even compared to newer releases, a lot more hand drawn stuff when into them. If you're expecting some epic Blade Runner-esque influences here, well you'll see some here and there, but influences are not nearly as prominent as they were in the OVA and other older cyberpunk anime. All in all, the series manages to give off a great darker and even sometimes depressing vibe, which is good enough.
Boomers/Mech Design: Unfortunately this is another slight downfall when compared to the original. The Boomer designs in this one were really not that inspiring at all and rather generic, even when they got bigger and more powerful, they weren't that detailed or interesting as the stuff you'd see in the OVA. In the OVA there was typically a single super powerful Boomer per episode and they were always incredibly detailed and really creative, but here you could almost classify all the enemies as just "typical robots" or whatever. After watching the OVA and then this afterwards, this was probably one of my biggest disappointments actually. The same can be said about the Knight Sabers second suits that they end up getting here towards the end of the show... not to mention the way they had to put them on, was just downright weird.
MUSIC: Everyone who knows anything about the Bubblegum Crisis OVA series knows that it was pretty infamous for having a rockin' big hair styled metal soundtrack with tons of vocal tracks that, while aged and so "totally 80's", really gave the series a lot of its charm and character. Sadly, this is where 2040 suffers quite a bit. Fans of the original going in expecting anything to match up to "Hurricane Tonight" or whatnot will probably be very disappointed. Yes, Priss does have a few vocal tracks here and there and while they're certainly fun, they don't stand out very much on their own unlike a lot of the tracks from the original OVA.
The actual background OST here is mainly a mixed bag. I thought some of the darker and slower tracks typically played at more dramatic, mysterious, or emotional segments fit the mood pretty well, but there's really nothing offered here in this department that manages to be really memorable when it's all said and done. It's certainly not bad but, after something like Bubblegum Crisis' OVA you'd surely expect to find a top notch OST here and sadly that's not really the case.
MAIN ISSUE? At times the show probably could've taken itself a little more seriously and done well, instead I thought there was an issue with a few scenes that just ended up being anticlimatic. This happened a lot during difficult situations or when the Knight Sabers took on incredibly powerful Boomers, when you think all was lost, they sometimes end up doing something that seems so incredibly simple you'll wonder why they didn't do so in the first place. But hey, overall this is really just one of those fun laid back shows that's all about the action, the quirky characters and odd humor, and the cool setting. So I wouldn't say that's a huge deal if you go in with a cool head here.
OVERALL: Bubblegum Crisis 2040 was again, a really great break from the norm with some solid production value to back it up. If you're a sci-fi buff that likes a lot of action, especially when it's women kicking some ass, with a fairly straightforward plot that won't make you think too much, then you should definitely be in for a treat here. If you liked the original OVA any bit at all I highly recommend watching this series as well to compare the two. They both have their ups and down when you pit them together but if you liked one at all, chances are you'd get some enjoyment out of the other. Bubblegum Crisis and its sequel are excellent series that surely inspired other cyberpunk anime that followed them, not to mention several spinoffs including stories revolved around the AD Police and Parasite Dolls stemmed from here, while both aren't groundbreaking in anyway, it does go to show how successful the OVA and 2040 were. Good ol' sci-fi anime.
Where to start? Okay, the year is 2040, the place is post-giant-earthquake-Tokyo. Humans have created robot slaves (called Boomers) to do most of the manual labor, and every now and then - one of those boomers goes crazy and starts rampaging around the city, this is when the Knight Sabers (an all female team of vigilante power suiters) come in and beat the... robot shit... out of it.
The story has potential, but instead of really building up, it just sort of enters a preset conspiracy plot to which I admit to not fully understanding. The first half basically follows a woman named Linna Yamazaki and her quest to join the Knight Sabers and (when she finally does manage to join) her getting used to her new job of fighting giant rampaging robots.
The second half is basically the plot unfolding: why the Boomers go rogue, what that big earthquake was about, who stole the cookie from the cookie jar. This is where it starts to get kind of boring, I just want to see girls in power suits fighting robots damn it, and the incentive to care about the looming plot isn't too great considering its mediocrity.
I'm somewhat bias because I happen to like that older style of anime over the look-the-same kind of deal we have going on today, although the art and animation can falter here and there, and might look silly at times, bad animation isn't something to worry about should you want to watch this anime. I'd say it is perfectly acceptable.
Sound isn't good or bad, the intro is somewhat memorable, the background score of technoy-industrial is okay and fits the mood, if somewhat overused. The voice acting is fine (English and Japanese), sound effects are fine.
I found the characters to be rather boring for the most part, they don't really grow much, and they just aren't very interesting in the first place. Also, although supplied with a reason for an all female team, I can’t help but feel the real reason all the Night Sabers are female is because, unlike men, they look good in skin tight body-suits/power armor, which at a base level I appreciate, but at an intellectual level, I find quite silly.
You get a tough-girl named Priss (not quite as one dimensional as I make her sound), a motorcycle driving, rock band singing woman with a chip on her shoulder.
The leader of the group is Sylia, a mostly calm woman with some clashing anger problems.
A younger woman named Nene who is some sort of hacking pro (meh), she is kind of annoying but kind of cute too I guess.
The last member of the team is Linna, who is basically the main character; there really isn’t much to say about her.
Then there is a cop named Leon, who is angry at the Knight Sabers for doing a better job stopping the boomers than his anti-boomer wing of the police. Nigel, the mechanic for the Knight Sabers (who ironically acts about as human as the machines he makes). Some forgettable extras. The Bad Guy, and the other Bad Guy.
If you’re looking for a strong plot with above average characters, I don’t think you’ll find it here, but if you just want to see skin tight power suited girls fighting robots, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. The anime is kind of silly but it has some heart too