Bubblegum Crash is a three-part continuation of the eight-episode series Bubblegum Crisis. Both series are distributed by AnimEigo.
In the year 2034, humans are becoming accustomed to the use of Boomers, androids with various abilities and functions that assist with human tasks. Boomers that carry out civilian tasks—such as construction workers, maids, or bellboys—are distinguishable as such by their appearance. However, some Combat Boomers are designed to look human and they only reveal their mechanical forms when engaged in battle. In conflict situations with such Boomers, humans can don powered hardsuits in lieu of utilizing guard or assault androids. The AD (Advanced) Police are called in to deal with Boomer-related incidents, but they are often ineffective, hampered by bureaucracy and inadequate equipment. To effectively clear up rogue Boomers, the people of MegaTokyo rely on the Knight Sabers, a mystery group of mercenaries in state-of-the-art hardsuits.
Bubblegum Crash is best understood as a sequel to Bubblegum Crisis. In my opinion, the series has very little merit as a stand-alone because it relies so heavily on the previous work. While the first episode does provide some context for the setting and main characters, it is assumed that viewers have watched Bubblegum Crisis and are already familiar with the Knight Sabers, AD Police officers Daley and Leon, and Largo/Mason. As such, there are few character-establishing moments and the main characters resemble brief sketches of different archetypes: tomboy, money-grabber, mysterious leader, and childish hacker.
New viewers will be confused about important issues, such as Sylia’s motivation for creating the Knight Sabers. The Knight Sabers have an agenda of their own: obstructing Genom, the global mega-conglomerate that is involved in the development, production, and distribution of legal and illegal Boomers. This is only apparent in Bubblegum Crisis, however, and to the unfamiliar viewer, the vigilante group may seem to be randomly targeting violent Boomers. For viewers of Bubblegum Crisis, short and unexplained references to a new Department Chief of AD Police, Linna’s change of career, Mackie’s departure for Germany, Priss’s almost-debut as a professional singer, the overhaul of Sylia’s lingerie shop, and the invention of a new type of Boomer are all contributions to a sense of change and development. In the final episode, the feeling that people are moving on as the world changes makes Largo’s bid for Sylia’s allegiance more significant, as well as significantly more threatening. It is doubtful that new viewers will get more than a sense of clichéd megalomania from Largo and his scheme to overthrow humanity.
Visually, Bubblegum Crisis looked very similar to Blade Runner in terms of its cityscape and dark, stark atmosphere accented by neon. Bubblegum Crash is slightly brighter and sleeker as we are shown many high-maintenance facilities, such as an airport and an expensive resort complex. However, it maintains the same overall look, especially in the more run-down areas of the city. The series’ hairstyles and fashion are of the 1980s and 1990s, interesting in hindsight when coupled with imaginary future technology, such as credit chips and handheld computers with paper printout. The design of police and Knight Saber hardsuits are well-thought out and attractive, while Combat Boomers all look like the Terminator, especially when their skins come off. Viewers should be aware that this series contains violence and nudity.
I would recommend the Bubblegum Crisis/Crash series to lovers of cyberpunk, especially those who like older works like Blade Runner (film) or Neuromancer (novel). I might also suggest it to fans of Sailor Moon as a “horizon-broadener,” especially to those who also enjoy science fiction; while there is very little romance or strong emphasis on emotions, the team dynamics within the Knight Sabers are quite interesting, and the cast of the series mainly consists of strong female characters. I would not, however, recommend Bubblegum Crash before (or over) Bubblegum Crisis.
The AnimEigo DVD contains three episodes of Bubblegum Crash with Japanese and English audio and subtitle options, as well as some original artwork. The soundtrack is excellent and vies for the viewer’s attention throughout.