There’s nothing quite like having a glowing quote from the site owner on the cover of this release to put a little pressure on anyone reviewing it again later – but while some parts of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 certainly deserve such rich praise, the whole package is a little bit lacking in places.
What They Say:
The Apocalypse is coming – and only four women can stop it! Get ready for the ultimate assault on the senses as the wildest action series to ever roll out of Japan is reborn with the state-of-the-art animation and a thunderous rock-and-roll soundtrack! In the aftermath of the great earthquake, one ruthless corporation stands ready to take over the devastated city of Tokyo with an army of synthetic monsters. Only a single band of female mercenaries opposes the monolithic power of Genom!
Armed with the most incredible combat suits ever designed, the Knight Sabers wage a desperate war in the shadows, combating the monstrous by-products of technology run amok with courage, sweat, and blood! Don’t miss the fury as Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 explodes onto DVD in this exclusive box set!
Audio is presented in English and Japanese 2.0 versions. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Dialogue is clean and easy to pick out against the background effects, and for the most part, is locked to the centre of the soundstage. Effects are a mixed bag – there are some great pieces of music here (Priss is in a band, after all) and these are well-presented, making good use of the available channels. Some other background themes and effects are quite repetitive and grating, though.
Originally airing in 1998, the video here looks good. With most of the action taking place at night or in otherwise dark locations, there’s not a huge amount of background detail, but the characters themselves are well detailed and what colour there is is bright and vibrant. Action scenes are fluid and add a feel of quality to the animation, although the transfer seems slightly soft-focus in places, which spoils the presentation a bit. The final two episodes were originally released as OVA episodes and benefit from a slightly higher quality of animation than the rest of the series. Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format with a single English-language subtitle track provided, while English and Romaji lyrics for the opening and closing themes are hardsubbed onto the video.
All six volumes of the original BCG2040 release are included in a ‘brick’ package that’s roughly the same width as two standard keepcases. The front cover features the four girls in a variety of poses from the opening sequence, with their hardsuits in the background – definitely a nice piece of artwork. The back has an image of Priss along with ADV’s promotional blurb, a few screenshots and a technical information panel. As something of a bonus the cover is reversible – the alternative front cover features the Knight Sabers lined up in their hardsuits, with Priss again featuring on the reverse along with a listing of which episodes are on which discs. While ‘brick’ packages don’t really appeal to everyone, this set is quite well presented.
Instead of re-authoring the series for this collection, ADV have used the same discs that were used for the original release. The menus used change from disc to disc, and definitely get better as the series goes on.
- Discs 1 & 2 have a clean version of the opening sequence playing in the top section of the screen, with hardsuits to either side. The menu options are arrayed along the bottom of the screen giving direct access to each episode & extras. Submenus are provided for language setup and scene selection.
- Disc 3 features a slideshow of images of the girls running on the left of the screen, with the menu options listed down with right. The Extras menu features Priss, Sylia appears on the Language setup screen while the Scene Selection screen features a montage of clips from the show.
- Disc 4 uses the same main menu / scene selection pages as volume 3, only with Nene on the Extras screen and Priss on Languages
- Disc 5 features a static menu, unlike previous volumes, with an image of Nene putting on her hardsuit on the right of the screen and the various options on the left. Priss appears on the Languages screen (looking down on her cleavage from above), Episode select has a series of clips from each episode, and a rampaging boomer hogs the Extras screen
- Disc 6 has the same basic style as disc 5, but with an image of Priss, Linna and Sylia flying towards the screen. The languages screen features Galatea in her early boomer form, while her adult version features on the Extras screen along with one of the girls in their new-model hardsuit.
The only real criticism I have of the menus is that those used on the early volumes were a little crowded for my liking. In all cases, they’re responsive and easy to use.
Between the six discs in the package there’s a reasonable selection of extras on offer, although apart from the Voice Actor profiles there’s nothing that’s really out of the ordinary. It’s good to see that the VA profiles give equal coverage to both the Japanese and English cast. My player exhibited a glitch with the extras on disc 4 – you can’t return to the Extras menu from the Mobile Pit page as the ‘Extras’ button just reloads the page. You can work around it by using Menu button on your remote, so it’s not a serious issue.
Disc 1: Character Profiles (Priss, Sylia, Linna & Nene); Image Gallery (selection of screenshots from the series)
Disc 2: Character Profiles (Daley, Leon, Mackey & Nigel)
Disc 3: Character Profiles (Quincy Rosenkroitz, Brian J Mason, Meisio Henderson)
Disc 4: Vehicle Technology (KLS-1 – Priss’ motorcycle, Moto-slave, Mobile Pit) – production sketches of the various pieces of kit.
Disc 5: Original Character Sketches, one page each for Nene, Linna, Sylia and Priss
Disc 6: English VA profiles of Hillary Haag (Nene), Kelly Manison (Linna) and Christine M Auten (Priss) plus Japanese VA profiles of Natsuko Rio (Linna), Satsuki Yukino (Sylia) and Yu Asakawa (Priss)
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Following a devastating earthquake, the city of Tokyo has been speedily rebuilt with the help of boomers – artificial humans created by the mighty Genom Corporation. But while the boomers are publicly presented as being a boon to humanity, they have a darker side – more and more of them are becoming mad, turning into rampaging beasts. While the AD Police are officially tasked with dealing with boomer problems, vigilante group the Knight Sabers have taken the job of dealing with mad boomers upon themselves.
The Knight Sabers are Priss Asagiri, rock-band singer and general kick-ass woman; Nene Romanova, an AD Police operator and technical whizz; Linna Yamazaki, an office-lady by day who’s been wanting to be a Knight Saber since the day she heard of them; and Sylia Stingray, leader of the group and daughter of the scientist whose work led to the creation of boomers. Sylia has a deep-down hatred of boomers, to the point where her personality seems a bit unstable.
The series itself is split into three main chunks. At the start, it’s very much boomer-of-the-week territory with a style of story-telling that wouldn’t be out of place in a magical girl series – each episode starts with a day-in-the-life story around one of the girls, at some point a boomer will go mad and the Knight Sabers appear on the scene to take care of the problem, much to the annoyance of AD Police detective Leon McNichol. The connection between Leon and the Knight Sabers (and Priss in particular) is something that develops over the course of the series and is great fun to watch, but while this early stage of the show does a lot of good work developing the characters and setting the stage for later events, it can also feel quite repetitive. Mechanic Nigel (the creator of the girls’ hardsuits) and young boy Mackey (‘younger brother’ to Sylia, although there’s more to him than is at first apparent) are also introduced here, and are two characters that are worth paying attention to.
By episode 13, the story has moved on to its second stage, as Sylia begins to search for the ruins of her fathers’ lab, determined to destroy something or someone that had been entombed there when the earthquake that destroyed Tokyo struck. This is the stage of the story that inspired the AoD quote on the packaging, and it really does live up to those words. Genom Corporation’s involvement in events comes more to the fore here, as it’s revealed that Genom exec Brian Mason has been manipulating events from behind the scenes to push Sylia into uncovering her father’s lab. What Sylia wants to destroy, Mason would very much like to get his hands on, and so it transpires that Galatea – a young girl who looks like Sylia and has the power to control machinery, including boomers – is released from her tomb and falls into Mason’s hands.
Events here move so quickly that it’s hard to keep up, and it’s very easy to just get lost in the story and keep watching episode after episode. Between the action scenes there’s a lot of information given out, some of which causes friction between some of the lead characters that adds to the feeling of events spiraling out of control. Eventually, Galatea breaks free of Mason’s influence and unleashes her ability on the city, quickly tranforming it into a boomer-infested wasteland.
The final arc of the series sees Priss, Linna and Nene finally attempt to take on Galatea directly. This is meant to be a real race against time – Galatea must be defeated before she’s able to spread the phenomenon she produces across the world – but the way parts of it are presented really make the pacing feel a bit off and remove any sense of urgency from the storytelling. For example, when Galatea heads into orbit to take control of an orbital station to help spread her phenomenon, a good half-episode is spent with the girls traveling up to orbit in the Skyhook and otherwise doing very little. The use of flashbacks and visions in this part of the story, plot devices that weren’t used before, also feels a little out of place.
My only previous exposure to Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 was by watching a few of the early episode from the series a few years ago – taken on their own with no knowledge of where the story was going, they hadn’t really impressed me. Seeing the series as a whole now has improved by opinion of it a lot, but I would still say that it’s far from perfect.
The centre segment of the series is what really makes Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 shine – for 8 or 9 episodes it’s a real rollercoaster ride that just keeps hold of you and won’t let go. Unfortunately, the episodes either side don’t have quite the same appeal as they suffer from some dodgy pacing and rely more on your attachment to the characters to keep you watching, rather than any great storytelling. For the price of this set, though, those are forgivable faults, and the good parts are so good that it’s definitely worth checking out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Profiles, Image Gallery, Vehicle Technology, Original Character Sketches, Voice Actor Profiles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: ADV Films UK
Release Date: May 16th, 2005
Running Time: 659 /nubytes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28″ widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.