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The Fine Print
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Bubblegum Crisis © Artmic/Youmex
Why this '80s cyberpunk classic still speaks to American anime fans. By the Editorial Staff.
It's no secret that Bubblegum Crisis is one of the most popular anime releases ever to be released in America. To American fans, especially those who first discovered anime in those early days of English-subtitled releases, BGC was often the first one to really "click." Something about it just seemed right - the team of women fighting a desperate war against monstrous menaces, the slick mechanical designs, the dystopian megalopolis, the pounding pop-rock soundtrack. Taken in all, Bubblegum Crisis seemed the dream combination of animation, music, beautiful girls ala Charlie's Angels (without the overtly sexist angle) with visuals out of a science fiction movie such as Blade Runner and the action-packed battles of a superhero comic. It's hard to imagine such a production not being popular.
The genesis of the series was described by creator/producer Toshimichi Suzuki as part of his original intention to remake an earlier production, Toho's 1982 movie Technopolice 21C, using his current staff and new talent. But a chance meeting with Junji Fujita of Youmex during the Iczer-One wrap-up party led to an exchange of ideas and the two decided instead to make Bubblegum Crisis. The ideas behind BGC were not unlike those in so many science fiction movies of the 1970s - fears of rapid technological development and humanity's own ignorance and apathy to the ultimate use of these new technologies.
With these ideas as their backdrop, the assembled staff pulled together something like magic. Kenichi Sonoda, the character designer for the previous Gall Force series and later, manga artist of the popular Gunsmith Cats, provided the look of BGC's female leads. All attractive, tough and sexy in their own individual way, each character fufilled a role in the team Priss, the tough leader in battle situations. Sylia, the team's elegant and calculating mastermind. Linna, athletic and graceful. Nene, the team's insider at the A.D. Police and computer expert. All combined to form the perfect unit for combatting Boomer crimes - like Batman, only broken up into separate roles and personalities.
The mecha designs were important as well. Mecha designer Masami Obari was at that time already well on his way to establishing himself as a top of the line animation director and mecha designer, although he would later be better known as a character designer, and later director, for game animation such as Fatal Fury and Battle Arena Toshinden. Obaris' designs for the muscular, mechanized Boomers showed off his own speciality.
Another part of BGC's recipe for success is the hard-driving score of original rock music created for each episode. Thanks to the distinctive voice talents of Kinuko Omori - singer of most of the series' popular songs and original voice actor for the character Priss - the music for the show is nearly as popular, if not more so, than the series itself. Suzuki was later to comment that 1998's 25-minute music video Hurricane Live, was created to portray the genesis of the team that wasn't shown in video series story itself. A sequel music video, Hurricane Live 2033, was released in June, 1990.
The original series was followed up by an OAV sequel, Bubblegum Crash, in 1991. Along with altering the tone of the series, Crash altered the team's personalities as well. Priss (thanks much in part to a new, softer-sounding vocal artist) lost most of her streetwise edge, singing a sappy love song for her new record contract. Aerobics instructor Linna became a stockbroker. Sylia seems less the calculating team leader than before, while Nene became more confident and agressive. As a result, Bubblegum Crash is often considered less classic than the original eight-episode series.
The 1998-99 TV series Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 TV series changed the formula even further. This time, BGC is a 26-episode TV series produced by AIC, the studio behind Tenchi Muyo! The entire story is being retold from the beginning. Again, the characters have changed, and this time, their character designs have changed as well. Sylia is now an icy blond, and Nene is no longer a pink-haired moppet. The TV series starts with Linna, now a recent immigrant to Tokyo and new employee at Genom, and her chance meeting with Priss. Through Linna's eyes, we meet the Knight Sabers, and with her, we join the team, and learn how the Sabers work.
Will this version be as popular as the old? Only time will tell, but since Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 has the same elements that made the original so popular, but with a whole new staff and cast to give it a newly '90s edge, it seems only likely.