What They Say:
In a gritty dystopian future, a team of convicts-turned-cops stands guard over the innocent. Three men, Sengoku, Goggles, and Benten, have been offered a deal: hunt down and destroy their former allies in return for a reduced prison sentence. But if these ex-cons fail to complete their mission within 24 hours, their booby-trapped collars will explode, executing them and leaving the city defenseless!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. In stark contrast to the NuTech release where you could actually hear the Japanese track “underneath” the English track, the CPM release corrects this problem with a much better sounding pure Japanese stereo mix. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no troubles otherwise with it. We listened to the English track in a few places and noted no issues with it either.
Originally released in 1990, the transfers here look quite good with lots of solid colors, no cross coloration, and only some minor breakup during some of the hazy blue night time skyline sequences. Mad House was on a roll around this time with their OVA quality releases and this one shows it nicely with broad strokes and very distinct style and look. Like most other CPM releases, the opening and endings are unaltered with the original Japanese text which is then followed-up by the English translation.
The packaging presentation for this release hands the old looking material as best as it can as there’s little in the way of distinct artwork available for individual episodes as the captures here go for the really fuzzy cut and paste look. While you can’t get away with the character not looking its age, the way it’s done here just doesn’t inspire you to check it out. The back cover continues the trend that’s on the front with the “From the X of X”. There’s a single animation shot here that shows the trio of the series and a brief summary of the premise. The rest of the cover is given over to the various technical elements. The reverse cover, which has artwork that would have worked better in color and on the front, has a shot of the trip together underneath the chapter selections. The other panel provides bilingual cast information and a rundown of the basic production credits.
The menu layout here uses the typical SF-feeling borders to provide one half of the menu as a series of clips while the other half is split into three boxes where varying clips play, all to the vocal song from the series. The selections menu, over the smaller boxes, is the typical selections that once more have the problem of selecting a language equating starting the program. Other than that, the menus are decently done and have good access times.
The extras here are unsurprisingly weak, with just a trailer for the show and just over two minutes worth of a video gallery that has mostly stills from the show and a few pieces of artwork. You’ll even forget that there’s another extra here since the commentary track by Kawajiri is located in the audio selection section. We didn’t get an opportunity to listen to this, but have enjoyed Kawajiri’s talks in the past.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cyber City is a rather entertaining three part OVA series that was released at the beginning of the 90’s, with each episode running about 45 minutes or so. These were originally released on one volume back in 1999 under a sublicense to NuTech Digital but eventually return to CPM’s hands where they cleaned up, tweaked, and released it. The downside is that instead of getting all three OVAs together in one volume, they’re spread across three discs and end up costing more than the original release. Thankfully, they did eventually bring it together into a complete collection.
The plot is straightforward in the setup here. We’re introduced to three cyber criminals, Sengoku, Benten and the horribly named Goggles. All three of these criminals are doing time in a high-security lock-up for an average of about 300 years each. But their warden has given them a chance to earn their freedom. By taking on the role of police that specializes in cyber crimes, each of them will get a reduction in the years they owe for every A class criminal they catch. While this may not seem like a lot to some, when you consider that they all live in ‘Cyber City’ Oedo, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across a lot of criminals that are talented.
The look of Oedo is quite interesting, it’s like they took the way Akira looked during an early introduction scene and decided to eliminate the glitz and then double the size of it. The city is monstrously tall; so much that one building reaches high into and above the clouds. Everything in the city is controlled by machines to ease the lives of the humans within, so they take advantage of it by doing all sorts of criminal activity. So with the three former criminals now signed up to fight on the side of right, they get the kooky uniforms, the same bad haircuts and an intelligent robot minibar that follows them around and makes sure they don’t break any further laws.
The opening episode is focused heavily on Sengoku, though Benten and Goggles do provide backup as the story gets underway, about a criminal whose set things his way to kill everyone in the city, which is resulting in all sorts of evacuations and mass shutdowns. One of the group’s liaison partners are even trapped in an exterior glass elevator some hundred or two stories above the ground. With all the technology at their fingertips, it’s actually fairly easy for them to discover who’s behind the plot, which then shifts the show to the attempts to infiltrate the building and take out the criminal.
When Cyber City hits its second episode, that takes the focus on Goggles, the rougher and more hacker oriented member of the trio that’s been hauled out of prison to serve as cops in the city of Oedo. As explained previously, each of them has a few hundred years of prison time to do but they can whittle it away with each cybercriminal that they capture. And since they’re really still just inmates on a work release program, they all continue to wear their collars that have timers and triggers for exploding and killing their wearer.
In fact, the show kicks off by having Goggles watch his latest prey, a fellow criminal who’s also wearing a collar, trying to take his off by going through all the fuses. The criminal had just swiped some critical information and leaked it out to his buyer for fifty million and is now trying to ensure he lives to enjoy the money. From what clues that they gather initially, Sengoku and Benten end up making their way towards sneaking into a military installation where they can find out more about the material stole and the buyer as well as dealing with another case about stolen body parts that may be related. Goggles sets himself to take a bit of time off and just relax in his comfortable mobile van. But as things go, his rest time is pretty minimal.
An old partner of his, a woman on the run from the military police and ends up coming across his van and takes refuge in there. Goggles fools the cops into thinking he’s clean, especially since he’s got some status as an actual cop himself, but manages to just hold them off for a bit. As it turns out, she’s stolen some highly classified material that she didn’t realize was as secret as it was and the military is after her with all its effort now. Goggles manages to break down the information and finds out some plans that will eliminate not only the need for him but for cops in general in the city, something that his boss is highly interested in. This sets things into motion for a game of cat and mouse as Goggles is set up to deal with this new threat and to basically save the future of the city.
This episode of Cyber City plays out pretty well for its running time, basically taking the feel of an hour-long action/drama episode. Everything in it is nicely self-contained so you can pick up any volume and really not get lost. This one makes out a bit better than the first episode in that that episode had to deal with a few minutes worth of introduction and exposition of the premise. This one just goes right into the storyline and does a decent job of weaving three different incidents together into one plot that has the trio working together in their own way. Kawajiri doesn’t spend much time with fluff in these kinds of stories so it’s telling exactly what you need to know for the show.
The third episode of the Cyber City trilogy focuses on Benten, which is given as each episode has had its character focus. The story is pretty interesting at that. Various geneticists are being killed with an almost amateurish style but in a way that’s close to causing a panic. Their bodies are being drained of blood and giving rise to speculation about a modern day vampire roaming the city. There doesn’t seem to be any common bond between the victims beyond their genetics backgrounds as some of them have gone on to higher practice and some have sunk quite low. Due to the possibility of the public really freaking out, the trio’s boss puts this as their priority job and all three go their separate ways to investigate things.
As was done in previous episodes, the lead character takes on the bulk of the investigation and the other two end up in support roles. Benten’s given the lead and starts going through his usual array of contacts to try and find more of a connection while the others go about their own methods. Clues begin to pile up and Benten starts making a connection where a group of patients in cryosleep are being used to test illegal medicines. This pushes Benten against one of the more powerful citizens in the city and puts him in the targeting scope of quite a number of people. Benten’s own allegiances get challenged as well when one of the cryosleep patients turns out to be roaming the city and is responsible for the killings, but she has her own agenda to deal with and he ends up wanting to help her in his own way.
This final story plays out in a similar respect to the previous ones so there’s little surprise there. If anything, that’s been one of the failings of this series. While it’s filled with plenty of good moments and some great animation for its time, each of the episodes are so strikingly similar in plot execution that you could mix them up and it’d all still make sense. While not bad for the first or maybe second episode, by the third episode you know exactly what to expect and can predict it pretty easily. I like the idea of giving each character their own episode to shine, and obviously, the series was sold that way, but the plots are just far too interchangeable in execution to really stand out on their own.
If there’s a real downside to the show, it’s that its part of an older genre of dubs. Listening to that while writing the review, I’d forgotten just how profanity-laced it is. The language alone must have raised this from a 13 to a 16 rating.
Cyber City isn’t a bad series by any stretch but it’s a good formulaic tale with some interesting visuals and a few remnants of the 80’s character design standards. What’s done in the three OVAs would probably work out as a good basis for an extended TV series with some larger plot to it as there’s plenty of material to work with. Some great talents worked on this series and their efforts definitely show through, but it’s a series that’s essentially lost to the passage of time with few remembering it and few wanting to revisit it. I definitely enjoy going back to some of these as I plumb the depths of my collection from time to time and this series always holds a weird little place in my heart.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: March 8th, 2005
Running Time: 149 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
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.