If you’ve watched anime for a while, you know not to judge a show by its title. Cowboy Bebop doesn’t sound like it’s going to be about intergalactic bounty hunters, and Tiger & Bunny doesn’t bring to mind superheroes with corporate sponsorships. So it’s understandable that an anime called Bubblegum Crisis isn’t immediately going to sound like a love letter to 80s sci-fi films, packaged with hard-suited biker girls and an awesome soundtrack.
If you are good with context clues, you are probably picking up by now that yes, that is exactly what Bubblegum Crisis is: eight episodes of the best of the 80s, done up in a rough, neon cyberpunk setting.
The series was penned by Toshimichi Suzuki, who had originally set out to remake Toho’s 1982 mecha anime film Techno Police 21C. But after a meet-up with anime and music producer Junji Fujita, a new idea came to life. The action moves to a divided post-earthquake MegaTokyo in 2032, where biomechanical “boomers” are on the loose. A special unit known as the AD Police are in charge of bringing them down, but thanks to bureaucracy and infighting, this doesn’t happen.
Enter the Knight Sabers: four young women (one of whom happens to be the daughter of the creator of the boomers) who take it upon themselves to hunt down these rogue boomers. Starting to sound familiar? Hang in there.
The first episode kicks in with an awesome 80s rock anthem: “Konya wa Hurricane,” performed by Knight Saber Priss Asagiri. See, the Knight Sabers have to do side hustles in between saving Tokyo. And for Priss, that’s being in a band. Called Priss and the Replicants. She’s also got a boyfriend named Leon…
Still with us, Blade Runner fans?
Yeah, the whole eight-episode series is a massive love letter to the formative futuristic sci-fi of 1980s Hollywood. Two big scoops of Blade Runner, a cup of Terminator, and a dash of Streets of Fire make Bubblegum Crisis the familiar-yet-unique story that it is. Heroes hunting down rogue humanoids created by a giant organization? Check. (GENOM, in this case.) But in Bubblegum Crisis, the action includes motorcycles that can transform into robots and power suits that can shoot lasers. You’ll get your cyberpunk fix and then some.
But what about that name? It all ties back to the futuristic setting: a Japan divided not only geographically, but culturally, with the greatest disparity between social classes in a century. It’s, to quote Suzuki, “a world in crisis, like a chewing-gum bubble that’s about to burst.” Makes sense when you put it that way.
Bubblegum Crisis also features work from character designer Kenichi Sonoda (Gunsmith Cats, Riding Bean, and Otaku no Video) and mechanical designer Masami Obari (Iczer One, Dangaioh, and the Super Robot Wars original units). And those awesome tunes were composed by Koji Makaino, who composed for The Rose of Versailles, Combat Mecha Zabungle, and Studio Pierrot’s early magical girl series. A perfect storm of anime talent!
Sadly, Bubblegum Crisis was cut short from its its intended 13-episode run, and now exists as an 8-episode OVA. The good news? That means you can watch it all over a weekend (or a really dedicated day). Grab some snacks, turn the lights down, and get ready to relive the 80s!