Bubblegum Crisis depicts a near-future world where a large cooperation, Genom, is trying to rule the world. In this dark future where militarized bio-mechanical humanoid weapons, called “boomers”, attempt to destroy the lives of ordinary civilians, the police are inept and the politicians are corrupt and unwilling to do much, if anything to stop it. Only a small group, known as the “Knight Sabers,” using advanced powered exoskeleton-armor try to stop them.
Bubblegum Crisis is a darkly-themed anime in the vein of movies like Blade Runner. The anime explores what is good and evil and what defines humanity. The entire series deals with these hard-to-tackle issues without actually answering them, but instead leave them hanging for the audience to make up their own minds.
The OVA is filled with so much greatness that its hard to pin down anything in particular. One thing that I did like was the variant opening scenes. Each episode opens with a different scene that gets right into the story as the credits roll by with a different musical score each time. I prefer this kind of seamless integration of opening credits with the actual narrative as it makes watching the “credits” worth it.
The eight episode OVA box set includes the digitally remastered episodes with production notes by the creators. While getting voice actor commentary is somewhat common, getting detailed information from the creators on the DVDs is rarely the case. It would have been better had they been recorded interviews rather than translated notes, I still enjoy being able to find out the inspirations for the series. The rest of the extras were a mixed bag though. The art, while nice, would have been better if I would have been able to scroll back and forth through it at my leisure while still listening to their background song and the music videos were really just the segments from the series that had music in the background.
Despite its age, Bubblegum Crisis still packs a punch. If anything, it shows just how much better at plot development some of the older series are in comparison to many of todays. Bubblegum Crisis's plot is multilayered and multi-faceted. Rather than providing a divide between good and evil, Bubblegum Crisis shows the protagonist as something other than just good. Often the Knight Sabers take on jobs for the very organization they fight showing that while they may have noble ideals, they are still mercenaries.
The series really delves into the relationships between human and boomer several times portraying the victim as the boomer. The series even goes so far as to liken the forced usage of them as slave labor. In many instances though it's not the boomers who are the most cruel as they often are following orders, but the humans who betray their trust in others. The only boomer that comes close to that appears almost human himself further blurring the question about who the real monster is.
On another level Bubblegum Crisis also deals with what is the proper balance. The Knight Sabers are mercenaries who at times take jobs they prefer not to. However, the technology created by Genom is what allows many to live in a more convent world. While the series was cut short, the lack of a clear resolution in its own way gives the impression that there really is no good answer; that the world is filled with grey areas.
The thematic setting of Bubblegum Crisis, a neo-noir cyberpunk future, also plays out well with most episodes showing the ultimately futility and cruel fate of the word around them; even when the Knight Sabers succeed, their victory has a price and is never a true victory. However, the last two episodes kind of went against the noir theme by having everything wrapped up nicely putting a more positive spin on the series; that eventually the small gains do add up. Other underlying themes throughout the show, perhaps brought on by the lack of a true ending, are also present such as relationship between man and machine and at what point the proper balance is. There are also many unanswered or unresolved questions such as who sent Sylvia the information to allow her to build the armor for the Knight Sabers or the underlying relationships between Priss and Leon and Nene and Mackie and others. Bubblegum Crisis truly is a work of art.
ComicsOnline gives Bubblegum Crisis a 5 out of 5 rouge boomers destroyed.