Posted: 06/23/2011

 

Bubblegum Crisis Retrospective: Part II

by Jef Burnham




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Haven’t read Part I yet? Check it out here.

In Part II of our Bubblegum Crisis retrospective, I’ll be looking at Bubblegum Crash!, as collected in AnimEigo’s Total Crash DVD. This 3-episode, direct-to-video sequel to the classic, cyberpunk anime, Bubblegum Crisis was released in Japan throughout 1991, and aims to provide the story of the Knight Sabers with the conclusion that BGC was so tragically lacking. But can the Knight Sabers really bring an end to GENOM and the Boomers’ quests for world domination in a paltry three episodes?

I should think not. And it seems that Crash’s writers saw the immense difficulty in this as well. For in order to wrap up the series by the end of these three, 45-minute installments, the writers made significant changes to the series. The most glaring of these alterations at the outset of Crash is the downgrading of Boomers from the Replicant/Terminator hybrids of BGC to mindless labor droids. Their rampages, which the Sabers had initially banded together to prevent, are now the results of major malfunctions or viruses rather than their own sentient rebellion. In turn, this series revolves around the search for a second-generation, sentient Boomer that is indistinguishable from humans— something already present in the very first episode of BGC, mind you, but is glossed over here for convenience. While the amendment indeed works wonders in hurrying the story to its conclusion, this reinvisioning of the Bubblegum universe’s technologically robs the crisis facing Mega Tokyo of its gravity.

The second major change in Crash is the exclusion of the evil megaconglomerate, GENOM, from the series’ proceedings. It’s not that they take to the sidelines or that they somehow are no longer a threat. They’re simply never mentioned— not once so far as I could tell. And yet, in the opening titles of Crash, the GENOM Building can clearly be seen in the skyline of Mega Tokyo, serving as a constant reminder of the corporation’s omission.

Still, despite GENOM’s inexplicable absence, the writers manage to bring the series to a satisfying conclusion in Crash. The finale is appropriately colossal in scope with the Knight Sabers engaging in two epic encounters by the episode’s end. The first of these encounters, however, suffers a great deal from the aforementioned back-step in Boomer technology. After all, one can’t help thinking that the monstrosity they encounter at the episode’s mid-point could just have easily (and probably should have) been a Super Boomer like that which the Sabers encountered in the first episode of BGC. Still, in my mind, all these changes are forgiven with the subsequent reappearance of a key villain from BGC. This single tie-in to the previous series allows the creators of Crash to wrap up the story of the Knight Sabers in a way that is indeed true to the continuity of BGC in spite of their tendency to ignore it.

This is not to say that Crash is a particularly fitting follow-up to BGC, only that it provides us with the conclusion that BGC’s premature discontinuation denied us. While the quality of the animation certainly rivals that of the series proper, Crash simply doesn’t live up to the standards of its predecessor. And the primary discrepancy between Crash and BGC comes in the form of the low-impact, power ballad-heavy soundtrack given the sequel series. Yes, the rockin’, hair metal tunes of Priss and the Replicants are gone— replaced by a soundtrack of indistinguishable ballads, unfit to accompany the series’ battle sequences. As such, Crash never achieves the momentum that BGC had even as early as its opening episode.

In addition, the innumerable references to American popular culture that populated BGC, and kept our attentions glued to the screen in the hopes of spotting another of these hidden gems, are few and far between in Crash. The lyrics to “Scarborough Fair” flash briefly across Nene’s computer monitor and there are some none-too-subtle nods of Max Headroom and M.C. Hammer. And that’s about it.

One thing that can be said for Crash, however, is that, in spite its brevity, the writers manage to provide us with greater character development than BGC had. Unfortunately, many of these new revelations come to us far too late for them to be completely believable. It honestly comes across, in the suddenness of these developments, as though the writers were attempting to retcon the series by altering the character’s personalities to suit their needs. But this is not the case. It’s simply that we knew so little of the characters to begin with that any development of them beyond the stereotyping of them in BGC seems unnatural at such a late stage.

Ultimately though, despite any complaints lodged herein, Bubblegum Crash! is every bit the must-own series Bubblegum Crisis is, if for no other reason than it provides us with a much-needed, not to mention surprisingly satisfying, denouement to the saga of the Knight Sabers. Bubblegum Crash!, like Bubblegum Crisis, is currently available on DVD from AnimEigo. When compared to the exceptional 4-disc collection of BGC, however, Crash appears virtually without special features. Still, the release does include two image galleries, one of which showcases the settei, or model sheets, used by the animators in creating the series.

Check out Part III of our Bubblegum Crisis Retrospective, in which we’ll be looking at the BGC prequel series, AD Police, here!

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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