Anime of the Past: Bubblegum Crisis

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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Bubblegum Crisis is an OVA series that saw its original release spread across five years, from 1987 to 1991.  Animated by AIC and produced jointly by Artmic and Youmex, a total of eight episodes were released.  The sci-fi action series is set in a futuristic Tokyo dubbed Mega Tokyo; a city that has been reshaped by a massive earthquake, and in which the gargantuan corporation Genom holds sway.

The series focuses on four young women who work together as a team called the Knight Sabers.  Wearing combat armor called hard suits, they work together as mercenaries and fight against the proliferation of weaponized androids, commonly referred to as boomers, and their creators within Genom.  The four protagonists, Sylia, Linna, Nene, and Priss, come from vastly diverse backgrounds, but as a team, they prove to be more than adept at fighting off boomer threats.

A boomer having a bad hair day.

If the name “Priss” sounds familiar to you, it might be because it was also the name of a character from the 1982 Harrison Ford sci-fi film Blade RunnerBubblegum Crisis actually references the film in both overt and subtle ways.  When she isn’t busy with her Knight Saber work, the Priss of Bubblegum Crisis is the lead singer in a band called the Replicants.  “Replicant” is the term used for androids in the Blade Runner universe that are disguised as humans so well that it requires a specialized test to determine if a suspect is in fact artificial or human.  And to circle back around, boomers bear nearly impeccable human disguises, much like replicants (though boomers are much more apt to shed their human skin while in battle).

Over the course of the eight episodes, the Knight Sabers battle boomers, both from Genom and other adversaries.  They also tackle unrelated missions such as stopping a rogue driver using a special car to murder bikers.  Common threads carry over from episode to episode, introducing us to villains such as Genom executive Brian J. Mason and the CEO, referred to only as Quincy.  The Knight Sabers also get help from Leon, a detective in the AD Police with romantic interest in Priss, and whose attitude generally allows him to accomplish a great deal more than the average cop.

The antagonists. Mason on the left, Quincy on the right.

Unfortunately, while the plot builds in an interesting direction, like Fire Emblem, it was cut short.  Details as to why are sparse, at least as far as I’ve been able to find on English websites in the time I’ve had to search.  However, they’re also the sketchy sort of sparse that only Wikipedia can provide.  (Though, I did get a little bit of secondary sourcing from Anime News Network, but even that isn’t much.)  What my beyond amateurish sleuthing can tell you is this; after production of the eighth episode had concluded, Artmic and Youmex had a falling out, and as a result, the primary storyline was left unfinished in its original form.  The final episode, one of the lighter entries, focuses on the Knight Sabers’ fight against a lunatic terrorist that attempts to destroy the AD Police building, leaving the conflicts with the greater villains unresolved.  Artmic went on to produce Bubblegum Crash, a three-episode sequel meant to continue the story, leading to a legal battle with Youmex.  When all was said and done, Artmic bankrupted in 1997, Youmex took on their debt, and then was merged back into its parent company Toshiba EMI in 1998.

All that fighting over these ladies.

But all of the real-world legal drama aside, the eight episodes of Bubblegum Crisis that were produced are top notch.  The character and mecha designs are stylish and memorable, and the animation direction has a very cinematic feel to it, with plenty of interesting camera angles highlighting the choreography of the action.  Of particularly special note, however, is the soundtrack; each episode features its own opening and ending theme, and many of the vocal tracks are sung by Kinuko Ohmori, Priss’s voice actress as well as a professional singer.  The songs were localized for the English dub, with their vocals credited to “The Replicants.”

Bubblegum Crisis remains a classic of the genre.  Despite the dated nature of its sci-fi universe (think 2033 by way of 1987), it’s still held up on the strength of the four leads, its entertaining writing, and the solid direction of the action.  It’s easy to jump in, and though it doesn’t really have an ending, the ride is a fun one while it lasts.

Bubblegum Crisis was released on DVD in North America by AnimEigo.  The DVDs contain both an English dub as well as the original Japanese with subtitles in English and French.  The series is not rated, but the publisher suggests it for ages 13 and up.  It contains brief nudity, violence, and some mild adult situations.

About Justin Graham

Justin joined Oprainfall through…belligerence. (Note to others: This is not a good way to get noticed. This sort of thing only works once.) When he’s not writing about games or waxing nostalgic about anime older than a large portion of the site’s audience, he can be found playing JRPGs or beating up lots of dudes in Dynasty Warriors.




  • João Munhoz

    bad hair day haha