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.