When I was first discovering “Japanimation” (as it was referred to) in the early 1990s, the name Bubblegum Crisis kept popping up over and over again. After searching high and low at every video rental establishment imaginable, I finally came across some well-loved copies of the series at a Tower Video, and I was immediately in heaven. Bubblegum Crisis lived up to the hype, delivering big time, with plenty of style, action, and even a little fanservice to set my teenage heart aflutter.
Now, 25 years after the series debuted as an Original Video Animation release in Japan, it is still just as invigorating to watch as ever. Like lead protagonist Priss’s puffy hairstyle, some elements of the series have not necessarily aged quite as well as I would have hoped, but the bulk of Bubblegum Crisis is still just as fantastic as I remembered it to be. The series follows a group of vigilantes called the Knight Sabers who wear sleek and formidable mechanical body suits that allow them to quickly dispose of rampaging robots and other similar threats that prove too difficult for the city’s police force.
It’s pretty amazing how great Bubblegum Crisis still is. The cinematography is top notch. I still get goosebumps during the opening episode, which cuts between scenes of Priss’s band performing in a night club and a rampaging “Boomer” robot going ballistic in the city. The police are unable to put an end to the havoc and when the Knight Sabers finally arrive on the scene and save the day (or night, in this case), it’s enough to make viewers cheer out loud.
Unlike most modern anime releases that heavily rely on computers to aid in the animation process, the artwork in Bubblegum Crisis is completely hand drawn and, in my opinion, that is to its benefit. There is a certain charm in the imperfections that come from doing everything the old fashioned way and I believe it adds a lot more life and personality to the presentation than slicker production methods allow. That is, Bubblegum Crisis’s animators had to rely purely on artistic skill to pull off many of the visual tricks that computers provide today and I’ve caught myself rewatching scenes frame-by-frame just to appreciate the artistry.
Another notable facet of Bubblegum Crisis is that it was ahead of its time in terms of its “girl power” vibe. Despite a few moments of fanservice, such as a scene in which the characters shop for panties, as well as the occasional bits of brief nudity, the series celebrates the smarts and strengths of the Knight Sabers above all else. Given the age of the series, some slight traces of sexism can certainly be found, but all things considered, Bubblegum Crisis does an outstanding job of presenting admirable women that defy stereotypes and prevail against overwhelming odds.
Bubblegum Crisis is well worth adding to any collection. Though viewers who have grown up on the slicker production values of today’s anime releases may not appreciate Bubblegum Crisis at first glance, I’m confident the charisma and quality of the series will win over new audiences in no time. Bubblegum Crisis is one of the main reasons I’m an anime fan today and I’m sure it’ll be a series I revisit regularly in the future. And who knows? Before long the corny hairstyles and fashion sense of Priss and the rest of the Knight Sabers may actually be back in vogue!
Bubblegum Crisis: Remastered Edition
directed by Katsuhito Akiyama, Masami ?bari
450 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, Box set
Company Age Rating: 13