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Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 Complete Series – Anime Classics DVD Review

9 min read

Bubblegum Crirsis 2040 CoverWhile the corporate line is that the boomers are perfectly safe, these machines go mad quite easily.

What They Say:
Tokyo has become the epicenter of advanced technology, but at a dangerous price: its workforce is riddled with humanoid robots that tend to go on destructive killing sprees. That’s when four young women gear up in cybernetic suits to crush the defective droids. They are the Knight Sabers: heavy metal heroines battling an evil corporation’s bionic pawns while its grip on the city threatens to strangle humanity. In order to shut down the android uprising, these ladies flirt with a critical meltdown in an adrenaline-fueled death match between woman and machine!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release mirrors past releases as we get a solid bilingual release that has the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English mix is in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. The show is one that has a good mix of action and dialogue as well as music throughout the series, though not to the same level as the old OVA series. The action side has a good presentation to it overall though it doesn’t go too big in its original form while the 5.1 upgrade adds a bit to the volume overall. It’s a good forward soundstage mix for the action with the original material so it goes only so far. The dialogue and music conveys things appropriately as well with some decent placement and little in the way of depth while the music just works the whole forward soundstage to very good effect. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this twenty-six episode TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series is spread across four discs with seven on each of the first two and six on the second two. The show has a pretty good look to it as it comes at a time during its original airing where digital productions were starting to blend into things and not everything has held up well because of the mixed presentations. This show looks pretty good overall with the episodes per disc on it and the quality of the source material. Colors look very good here, solid overall with only some noise in the night time and other darker sequences. The show doesn’t have anything noticeable in terms of cross coloration but there is some line noise during panning sequences in the backgrounds. The show has held up well over the years and generally looks pretty good here.

This series is packaged in a single sized clear keepcase that holds the four discs on hinges. While part of the Anime Classics line with this release again, that branding is all kept to the spine only, allowing the front cover to look good. There’s no slipcover for this release either. The cover artwork changes things up a bit here from the previous edition as well with a black and white rough cityscape behind the characters, where the hardsuits are mixed in with the main characters in their skinsuits with a heavy light on them to brighten it all up. The logo highlights the Bubblegum Crisis side of its name as Tokyo 2040 is kept thinner underneath where you don’t really see it as easily. The back cover has a dark background to it but it uses that to its advantage as the character artwork has the girls in their skinsuits and the way the light was worked off of them gives it a very appealing look. The summary is almost painfully thin but it works to sell the basic idea of it all. Add in a few shots from the show and a basic look at the discs extras and you’ve got a decent looking cover here. Add in some hard to read production information and a slim technical grid. Though there are no show related inserts included, the reverse side has a good two panel spread of the main cast as well as the episode breakdown by disc.

The menu design for this release is simple but effective as it uses the semi-technical grid for its background with the star like aspect of it to give it a lot of darkness with a sense of light coming from it. This is highlighted by the character artwork that changings up with each volume where the characters are in their skinsuits with the light reflecting off of them. The layout is very simple because each disc only has the show itself on it outside of the fourth volume. The menus are quick and easy to load and submenus load quickly and without a problem. While there’s not a lot to the menus, they’re very appropriate for the series and have a good look that sets the mood right.

The only extras available on this set are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the final disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I had lightly gotten into anime in the mid 1980’s, my first purchased subtitled VHS tape came in the early 1990’s was Bubblegum Crash. And that got me into buying a whole lot of tapes and expanding my interest in anime in general. While Bubblegum Crash is largely considered to be terrible, it was beyond anything I had seen at that point and felt fresh and new. So when I went further back and discovered the Bubblegum Crisis OVA series which cemented it as one of my favorite shows of all time. So when several years later in 1998 a new series was created for TV around the core idea, I was completely behind it. Reworking the idea a bit and changing up the characters a bit for a new version was more than some expected or wanted, but it still works the overall idea well.

The general concept is that the series takes place in Megatokyo 2040, six years after a great earthquake destroyed the city and brought unprecedented hardships. What saved everything though was the introduction of a new robot called a boomer (or voomer) that was able to do all the hard labor work to rebuild the city. A huge number of boomers were brought into existence and after they helped rebuild the city, they began taking over most of the menial jobs in the city and slowly expanding a bit out from there. And the biggest benefactor of all this was the company fronting the boomers, Genom, whose chairman has decided to move to the next phase of their rollout by having them build a massive satellite in space that can collect energy, turning him into something of an all powerful god that can dictate and guide where humanity will go as it gets out into the stars.

With the control that Genom has, they’re able to hide something that’s happening more and more as some of their boomers are going out of control. The city established the AD Police to handle this, but the media blackouts make it seem like the AD Police don’t have much to do or are fairly incompetent. We get to see the struggle that they go through via the characters of Leon and Daley, a pair of pretty competent cops who lightly play outside of the rules. Seeing some of the simple but dangerous boomers go out of control sets the stage well but also shows just how much more dangerous it can become when it goes big as you’d have a whole city of them going out of control.

While the series could work easily enough with the police and the boomers, it has an added element that takes up another level. That comes in the form of the Knight Sabers, a secret group of people wearing hardsuits that has them mistaken as boomers themselves for awhile when it’s really a trio of women who are doing what they can to stop the boomer problems. The show deals with the through the eyes of Linna, a young woman who has come from the countryside to work in Tokyo and is fascinated by the Knight Sabers. She makes her discovery of who they really are slowly, but it plays both sides as we follow them as well. And the group is interesting as it’s lead by Sylia, a young woman whose father was the one who largely invented boomers but has some secret information about them. Along with her first recruit of Priss, a rock singer in a group who harbors a grudge against boomers, and Nene, and AD Police command center officer who broke into Sylia’s files, they are the active side of dealing with the problem as Sylia made a promise never to don the suits.

Bubblegum Crisis works a slow building storyline that deals with a threat to the whole world, but it spends most of the first eighteen episodes or so dealing with smaller issues while the world changing storyline operates behind the scenes at Genom. It gets the characters a bit more known to each other and expands the way the couple of stories weave together. The one that gets the most time though is that of Sylia due to her parental past that has a big connection to what’s going on in the present and with their mission in particular. Unfortunately, the other characters get the short end of the stick. Linna gets a bit more time than the others when it comes to their background and Priss only gets a bit of present day time beyond the rest as they let her music take the center stage. But the music pales considerably to previous incarnations which is one of the weakest points of the series. Priss does get some numbers here, but it’s nowhere near enough to really give it the definition that we had before.

The series does go big at the end with the storyline that was seeded at the beginning, but it lacks a real resonance to work well because there’s so much quiet time before it and it just feels out of place to send the team out into space. A lot of what hurts it is the newly introduced villain at that stage with Galatea. She brings a different aspects of boomers to life here, where there’s a more organic aspect to them, but she also takes it into a less than desirable realm with integration when it hits the satellite stage in full. It reminded me of the bad part of Spaceballs. Bubblegum Crisis can go big in a lot of interesting ways as we’ve seen from the prior incarnations, but it went a fair bit beyond what it should have and then you combine it with characters that you only feel like you know because of how they were in a different incarnation over a decade prior.

In Summary:
Revisiting the show again after a few years, it’s definitely an interesting experience, one that again leaves me wanting to see more of this world overall. There are a lot of things I like about it, from the designs to the fact that they do have more space to work with things and tell a different kind of story than the OVAs. While it didn’t reach the level it should nor do I think it managed the characters as well as it could, I did have a lot of fun with the show and getting a look at characters that I was very familiar with from repeated viewings in a different light. There’s a charm to the series that works and I particularly liked the changed character designs as well, though I can certainly understand why the die-hard fans didn’t like the changes. I do continue to recommend this series though as it hits a lot of good notes, has fun characters and some good action. It falters along the way and has some strangely long quiet periods before it goes into the final arc. It may not be the Bubblegum Crisis some grew up on, but it’s a fun show that takes place in an interesting world that I’d love to revisit again in full and new ways.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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