The reboot of the beloved Bubblegum Crisis 2033, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (BGC 2040), is 90s Mecha anime that uses a seven year intermission in a franchise as an excuse to retell a futuristic, feminine 3 musketeers. The premise is as follows: a huge earthquake that ravaged Tokyo has almost disappeared from the public’s mind, and a new sense of normalcy is about to settle in.
This normalcy involves the technologically advanced androids, boomers, taking all the lower caste jobs, such as cashier, waitress, construction worker, custodian, new employee training and management assessors, but, it seems these androids have a bad habit of going rogue. Enter the Knight Sabers, a privately-run rogue boomer assassination squad. These unsung street heroes become the focus of the censorship bureau. The narrative follows Linna as she finds the mysterious Knight Sabers and joins their ranks.
BGC 2040 has decent character development with its main cast of characters. Linna acts as the viewer’s introduction to this literary world as she is a “country bumpkin” with no street smarts or familiarity with boomers and is the newest member of the Knight Sabers. Playing off of Linna’s ignorance, Nene provides exposition dealing with the Knight Sabers.
Pricilla, or as she is known Priss, contrasts her two sisterly teammates as the streetwise loner with a rebellious attitude and apathy to the human condition while leading her team to victory. As the founding member, Sylia represents the mother figure, the jaded warrior and regretful initiate of the conflict. Each character, even if archetypal, was more developed than expected as there were ten times as many character arcs than episodes, and many were given to the secondary character.
By far the best character development happens to the series’ background characters. In particular, an episode that gave an insight about the impact that boomers had on the everyday citizens centered on characters that would never be seen again, and yet they were fully developed characters with motivations, psychological scars and character arcs.
The friendships between the main girls are very believable and develop in a very natural way, especially when considering the personalities that define each of the girls. The progression of these relationships was developed through character arcs, but only between the female characters. Most of guys are points of drama, plot points or hollow stand-ins for the antagonist.
A few token male characters are actually three dimensional characters with amazing character arcs. With the especially interesting arc with Detective Leon, it touches on role reversal and how traumatizing it would be for a guy to play the “damsel in distress” while Priss has to play his knight. This is not done in a feminist way, but rather portrays the unfair advantage that Leon fights to the last possible moment, leading all of the AD Police against a city full of rogue boomers.
The plot point hindering the instantaneous creation of a hard suit for Leon was explained long before the issue came up; the issue being that the hard suits followed the neural pathways of the original test subject, which happen to be Sylia’s mom. The neural similarities of the four girls explain their friendship to a degree and how they can relate their motivations to becoming Knight Sabers in a cohesive way.
While there were overall inconsistencies in character development of the entire cast, the world building consistency contributed to the drama and suspense of disbelief. The world centers around the newly rebuilt Tokyo and how the social caste system now depends on service boomers. The existence of boomers is integrated into the narrative background in the dialogue, the public reaction and the visual backdrop. Speaking of the visual attributes BGC 2040 tries so hard to be a manga, with the cinematography being similar to the paneling of one.
The animation in BGC 2040 is decent 90s animation with great colors and 2-D rendering, instead of the more recent 3 dimensional. Creating movement and action dynamic, line work leaves a good impact.
Unfortunately, the English dub version does not match the dialogue with the lip movement and facial expressions, inserts original songs in rather poor taste and places many periods of awkward silences throughout the narrative, mostly due to the constantly messing muting of soundtracks. However, where the English dub does not know what it wants to be, the English sub version knows exactly what it is as it was the more or less original. The dubbing fluke was due to the struggle that ADV Films went through in its early years.
As a literary piece, this holds up as 13 serialized action-packed adventures and 13 chapters of a science fiction epic with oddly placed scenes of semi-naked woman. I do not know what was considered cleverly placed fan service in the 90s, but what I believe was supposed to be fan service was just odd.
In the third to last episode, Priss has a beautiful interior monologue while running to fight the main antagonist. As this happens, her Mecha suit and the background fade to black and she is naked running with bust sculpture proportion within the one-sixth far right-hand corner. I do not think this was thought out very well. All in all, this anime would entertain old anime fans and action fans somewhat; there is no philosophical questions properly addressed, so there is not much for the Accel World and Heroic Age audience.
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Kimberly Joy Ward