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Bubblegum Crisis Ultimate Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

WP_20141223_16_07_08_ProWhat They Say:
The groundbreaking anime series, subtitled in English and French and dubbed in English, released on Blu-Ray with a boatload of extras!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio comes out pretty strong for the Japanese track. The English track is a bit softer, even during the dubbed songs, but both play out pretty well in the audio systems.

Video:
I compared the most recent DVD version of the first BGC volume AnimEigo had released to this blu ray disc and the colors weren’t as saturated but the picture was remarkably clearer and generally brightetned. The detail was crisper and many more tidbits stood out as a result. The aspect ratio was generally the same but a tad wider than before. This held true for both the OAVs and the enclosed extras. The subtitles on the previous DVD version were alternatively colored for different characters in a given scene and had think black outlines for definition. For this set, there are alternative colors but the definition lines are considerably thinner and don’t block out the picture as much. On the third disc are a set of extras that are in standard definition as opposed to HD, but still looked decent for playback here.

Packaging:
Different levels of funders received different items per tier. The review I’m doing is of the basic set which comes in a hard-paper slim box. One side has the four Knight Sabers without their helmets and the Bubblegum Crisis masthead taking up the lower thirds. The back side has Priss inside her Hardsuit (though this may be spelled “Hard Sun” in the 6th episode) as well as her weaponized transforming cycle, the “Motoslave.” The discs come inside a clear plastic case designed for three discs. There’s a reversible cover designed so that each one of the four Knight Sabers can be prominently shown on the front at a given time. Backers were also given a set of postcards with artwork on them as well as a commemorative coin with heroic Priss on one side and villainous Largo on the other.

Menu:
The menu is mostly an intricate series of computer graphics simulating a set of gears and wheels in motion. The list of playback options is placed vertically on the left side. An intermittent neon green outline rotates through several of the main characters with two of their pictures and their personal data.

Extras:
The animated music videos were remastered for HD placed on the first disc containing vocals from all the OAVs. Interestingly, the videos are in random order instead of corresponding chronologically to the OAVs. The Third disc has the Huricane Live 2032 which is a collection of music videos but is left in standard definition as are all the other extras. This goes for the Hurricane Live 2033 which is a mixture of live concert footage performed by the four seiyuu who voiced the Knight Sabers (Yoshiko Sakakibara, Kinuko Ohmori, Michie Tomizawa, Akiko Hiramatsu) as well as more of the anime music vids. There’s also another short vid entitled Holiday in Bali where the ladies all hang out at an island resort, and more live music videos are performed. Also there are audio and subtitle options, line artworks, colored / filled in artworks and credits (where crowdfunding lists can be found).

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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bubblegum Crisis is a staple of classic American anime fandom. Though the series was created in the late 80s as part of the OAV (Original Animation Video) boom, it was the early 90s when the videos got their biggest boost in the U.S. when AnimEigo imported them and fans took to them. The series had just the right mix of 80s j-rock music along with mecha and sci-fi themes influenced by the American movie Blade Runner.

The opening sequence of the first video builds slowly as we see folks heading out for a night on in the city where heavy construction is taking place on the Syd Mead-emulated Genom building. Advance technology and graffiti are everywhere and some folks live better than others. The music gradually gets faster and loud as popular rockers Priss and The Replicants start their first set with the theme setting Kon-ya Wa Hurricane. Meanwhile, a working robot known as a Boomer begins to go out of control and tears through the armored officers known as the AD Police. Alternatively we see four women going through their lives as they hear about the Boomer and eventually leave to put on their personal armors (more advanced models than the ADP and privately provided by their leader, Sylia). The rest of the group includes Nene the police dispatcher, Linna the free spirit, and Priss, the rock band lead singer. This opening battle is our introduction to the group known as the Knight Sabers.

The first three volumes (Tinsel City Rhapsody, Born To Kill, Blow Up) have these ladies interceding when Boomers either go out of control or are expanding in the name of profit over human welfare. Usually at the center of this is either Quincy, the GENOM CEO or Mason, his lead corporate officer. These volumes are usually emotionally hard on Priss and Linna as they become involved with people who are seen as collateral damage in the encounters. Sylia meanwhile, is the determined leader, who brokers deals to get the KS paid for their services, often at the behest of the Government who are trying to learn about their hardsuit technology. Sylia though (along with her younger brother Mackie) have their own reasons for wanting to take down GENOM as the show progresses. The crew also has to deal with an AD Police detective named Leon MacNicol who gets rather curious about the Knight Sabers’ identities while trying everything to get a date with Priss.

The fourth volume entitled Revenge Road moves away from GENOM for a bit as the ladies must deal with a madman who’s built a super fast car (with a mind of its own) to take revenge against a motorcycle gang. It’s an interesting story as we get a clearer glimpse at Mackie’s inventive genius alongside Doctor … We also get to see the group doing some training in their downtime. This and the previous volumes were directed by Katsuhito Akiyama (Sol Bianca, Thundercats).

The 5th and 6th volumes (Moonlight Rambler and Red Eyes, respectively) are the highlight of the collection as the animation and mecha design ramp up considerably. The battles against GENOM take an interesting turn with the appearance of Largo, a being who has his own agenda against both GENOM and the Knight Sabers. Initially, the focus is on a pair of female “sexaroids” who’ve escaped from a space station to get a better life on Earth. In “Red Eyes”, though a new challenge is added as impostors posing as the Knight Sabers themselves begin attacking various places. Priss becomes emotionally embroiled in these events, while some interesting aspects about Sylia start to surface. As to the mecha and action in these episodes, the running joke among BGC fans is “Mackie’s been working overtime.” Director and designer Masami Obari left a lasting impression in these volumes that was very hard to follow.

Then we come to the next volume “Double Vision” which shows a new character with a familiar face. The Knight Sabers are hired by GENOM this time to protect their scientist from a mechanical monster who has attacked their office. It turns out one of the attackers, Irene, is not only a premiere rock singer named Vision but had a sister who was murdered by GENOM people some time back. This same sister also was a friend to Linna, who understandably has serious mixed feelings throughout the episode. It’s a decent bit of action.

The final one is entitled “Scoop Chase”, about a young photographer who catches the Knight Sabers during their training and tries to expose more about them. Nene gets the most focus this time around. Unfortunately though the animation isn’t as good as previous volumes and problems behind the scenes led to this being the end of the series instead of the 13 episodes intended.

The series encompasses much of what was cool about the advent of the OAV (Original Animation Video) format in the mid to late 80s. The format was designed for works that were too intense for TV and might not have had everything necessary to have highest quality animation for theatrical release. Also, much like contemporaries Macross and Megazone 23, the combination of music and mecha was a big enticement for prospective buyers back then. There were also character designs of pretty tough women from Kenichi Sonoda (Gall Force Eternal Story, Riding Bean) who had become popular by this point as well as initial mecha works by Shinji Aramaki (Mospeda, Megazone 23) who loved inserting variations of motorcycles into such shows.

Bubblegum Crisis is also a great big “what if” in anime fandom. What if there had been consistent direction and storytelling all the way through? What if everything had been allowed to proceed to its full conclusion? Would Priss have been too reckless and gotten killed? Was Sylia a boomer or something else? Alas we’ll never know (even if Bubblegum Crash is supposed answer some of this). Still, as the hobby grew more popular an accessible in the 90s, this series was one of the most popular around as people willingly paid $20-$30 per volume in the VHS days. As video formats have evolved over the years, fans have remained loyal to the series due to the engaging 80s music, action and story potential that was shown.

Producer Robert Woodhead acknowledged that loyalty during the crowdfunding process by being communicative about added perks per tier and keeping folks informed at every turn; so the final product was a pretty nice result for basic buyers, while higher people received extra copies, keychains, posters and other niceties. The blu ray sets have nice picture and sound and have been very solid releases worth the initial investments.

In Summary:
As a long anime fan, it’s been fun to anticipate this series being released and to stand beside many fellow fans I’ve heard about and sometimes traded with on the underground and convention scene. Seeing so many familiar names pop up as backers in the credits tab was a genuine delight. The experience was worth the price and blu rays remain fun to watch. Having blazed a trail by going this route of distribution, here’s hoping AnimEigo releases another good series this way with the help of long time fans.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: AnimEigo
Release Date: December 2014
MSRP: Variable $40 -$250
Running Time: 335 min
Video Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC (27.90 Mbps)
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1
Review Equipment: Samsung 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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