Review: Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 (1999)

Directed by:
Cast: , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

Bubblegum Crisis 2040 is based on the classic Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crash, a Blade Runner-styled series from the late eighties/ early nineties. This new chapter is what used to be described as a remake, but these days that lacks the requisite syllables and is now termed a ‘re-imagining’. The major elements from the originals make a return: the original biker chick and surly rockstar, Priss; Sylia their slightly crazed coordinator and of course the, ‘when good robots go bad’ Boomers.

Frankly, I was expecting a by the numbers sassy girls in combat armour but what I got was, sure – sassy girls in combat armour – but a whole lot more. Prepare for socks to be knocked off.

The character designs of Bubblegum Crisis 2040 and animation are razor sharp, perfectly complemented by a rich palette of solid colours: deep blues, purples and reds. Characterisation is delivered with an effortless minimalism, relying on a look, a gesture or a word. This simplicity delivers subtle and nuanced performances. When Sylia smashes her keyboard in fury screaming that, “People are insane to trust Boomers”, then stares at her bloodied hand, you have to wonder who has a firmer grasp of the crazy stick.

The pacing is spot on. The series dispenses with typical, self-contained early episodes of many other shows to deliver a story arc that sees the recruitment of Linna into the Knight Sabers. The viewer’s learning curve matches that of Linna’s as she uncovers packets of information about team Saber.

A greater depth is also hinted at with subplots involving the origin of the rogue Boomer behaviour, Sylia’s hatred for the robots and most disturbingly, the head of Genom Corp’s creepy expressions of Boomer love.

The English dub also has a lot to recommend it with the breaking tones of Nene, the third member of the Knight Sabers, a stand out.

Bubblegum Crisis 2040 is the complete package. Polished and assured, there is such an underlying confidence in the design, storytelling and characterisation that I couldn’t help but be utterly absorbed by it.

Hear that sound? That’s the tearful farewell to my tax return.

8 dystopic futures out of 10.
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