What They Say:
Bean Bandit and his partner Rally Vincent are couriers for hire – transporting clients and delivering goods in his custom sports car “Roadbuster” for a hefty price. But when they are hired to escort a kidnapped girl named Chelsea to her home, they don’t realize they’re being framed for kidnapping as their former clients Semmerling and Carrie plan their escape with Chelsea’s father and the ransom money.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the English language dub, both of which are in stereo using the PCM formatting. The OVA is one that pays a good bit of attention to the engine sounds, the city beats, and other little incidental pieces to make it feel lived in and the payoff is definitely there. The score is one that’s totally appropriate from this period and it has a good bit of warmth overall and has a very clean and clear feeling to it as it runs through. Dialogue is fairly straightforward with what it does with a bit of placement from time to time but mostly just what you’d expect from an OVA that came out almost thirty years ago.
Originally released in 1989, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Animated by AIC and Artmic, there’s a lot to like in this with a good bit rate spread across the OVA and a very solid feeling to it. With it being nearly fifteen years since I saw this last on DVD it’s not something that I want to do a bit comparison on but the encoding here definitely brings the detail out in a better light with colors looking more fully realized instead of washed out that results in a much more engaging work truer to the original intention. The higher motion areas are very solid and problem free and overall this is a great looking encoding that captures the intended look and feel of the show in a way that just boggles for someone like myself that originally started off with the black clamshell box that the VHS came in.
The packaging for this release comes in a clear standard sized Blu-ray case, one that omits the “Blu-ray” logo along the top we usually get, with new artwork that we haven’t gotten with past releases. The front cover is a fun piece that has the main cast standing behind the Roadbuster with a simple city design behind them. It’s good to see more Sonoda artwork even if it just feels kind of weird with the characters all different sizes and placed as they are with the car in the foreground. The back cover gives us some illustration artwork from the past that’s done as a collage which works well as it bring back plenty of memories. The extras are clearly listed as are the production credits along the bottom. There’s no technical grid but the features of the disc are broken out decently for the most part. The reverse side has some good artwork as well that works better than the main cover in most ways, making me flip it pretty quickly.
Also included in the edition I got was a fun patch of Bean with his knife in mouth as he’s on the attack. We also get a good sized small poster with fresh Sonoda artwork of the main cast of characters in illustrated form that on the reverse side has an image of an action sequence from the show but also has all of the backers names across it. The “booklet” is a fun foldout piece that has a lot of sketch work, details about it, and a few full-color manga panels.
The menu design for this release is a little awkward and didn’t work too well for me visually as we get most of the screen given over to decent clips from the show while the navigation is along the left. That’s done up as a series of oversized license plates that have the selection itself along the top of the plate while the bottom has the quote from the plate from this particular state the show takes place in. It’s the plate numbers that distract as they all represent different things, with the THX-1138 really taking me out of it. Submenus load quickly and easily but there’s an old school look that doesn’t really click for me in this area, notably with the extras as it reminded me of old TRS-80 style font work.
The extras for this release will definitely please fans as there’s plenty to dig into it, notably with the three commentary tracks being the big thing. There’s also the inclusion of the trailer and the image galleries that we rarely see anymore.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Riding Bean is one of those shows that just fits in a particular piece of anime history for the Western fan. It may not mean much when you get to Japan to many, but here it was one of those early licensed releases from AnimEigo that connected because it was just so damn accessible. Coming at a stage initially where fans watched shows with either notes or no subtitles at all, it was a 48-minute OVA that you could figure out easily enough and enjoy because it takes place in some familiar American settings. It also didn’t hurt that it was coming from Kenichi Sonoda and his particular design style that really does just evoke the 80’s in many ways and translates well into this form of traditional animation.
The premise is one that’s simple and easy in its execution as it deals with Bean Bandit, a man that does the kind of odd jobs that exist out there for the underworld as a getaway driver. His current job is one that goes well enough, all things told, but not for the bank robbers that don’t get what they want and feel like they got stiffed on such a small score. But the truth of the matter is that the robbery was just a setup to frame Bean for the kidnapping of a young woman named Chelsea, the daughter of the Grimwood Conglomerate’s president. That has the police after him in a big way, which includes Percy, a copy that’s near fanatical in trying to catchin Bean and his Roadbuster car for quite some time now, as well as a number of corporate side security folks for Grimwood. All of it is designed for a bigger score by the robbers with a ransom and it goes in a fairly predictable but fun bit of progress from there as it’s basically two episodes worth of material if it was in TV form.
Riding Bean at the time of its release and in getting brought out here was big because of its accessibility, the score, and just the fun of it all because it was so open to getting into. The other reason it got a lot of attention was due to the car side of it as the Roadbuster is just a hoot to watch while Percy and his Shelby is just a delight. A lot of this was taken to the next level in attention to detail years later with Sonoda’s other work with Gunsmith Cats, which had some Bean appearances, but even here we get some very good stuff in just making it clear that the production team was focused on the right details and trying to capture it so that it was brought to life well. The mix of characters that are in this are just as fun, from Bean’s partner Rally that has to deal with his crap, to the way that some others are drawn in and given some decent growth, such as Carrie.
Riding Bean is the kind of show that if you put it in front of newer fans they’re likely not going to really get why it’s so popular among a different segment of fans. The property is one that’s familiar and has been done numerous times over the years in live-action form, including this year’s Baby Driver film in a lot of ways, but when it came out it was one of those crossover titles that you could largely show to non-anime fans and they’d realize that it’s not all kiddie stuff nor is it just tentacle porn. AnimEigo’s had this one in their stable for a long time and I’ve owned probably too many editions of it. While I’ll admit I wish they put out a VHS clamshell case of it just so that I could have a little bit more of that nostalgia, I’m glad that I now own what’s best to consider the definitive version of it. It’s one that I can easily recommend while knowing it’s not going to connect for a lot of people simply because nostalgia is driving a lot of it. At the same time it’s also something that just delivers a solidly fun fluff free work that engages the viewer with a whole lot of goodness.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A
Released By: AnimEigo
Release Date: July 2017
Running Time: 48 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.