This Week: Cyber City Oedo 808, Apocalypse Zero, and Angel Cop
Cyber City Oedo 808
In the commentary track for the remastered edition, it’s mentioned it would cost at least triple the amount to make Cyber City Odeo 808 today to the same standard, which is a shame because this is such a solid OVA. 80’s-style cyberpunk animation indulgence to an extent where you either get on its bus or stand on the curb, but it’s going to drive on regardless, and I’d say just watching the intro sequence pretty much tells you if you’re going to love where it’s going.
Characters are pretty much off the shelf (Big Guy With A Heart Of Gold, The Pretty Guy, The Hot Blooded Leader, etc), but they are never aggravating because of it. They’re well executed in their standardness, and it allows them to romp around the world and let it have its own distinct flavor and character around them. Battles with undead hackers, psychic military androids, sabertooth tigers with laser cannons in their mouths that were cryogenically frozen on a space station, that sort of thing. Background paintings are entrancing with layers of detail and make for superb sets, while character animation is consistently attractive and there are routinely swell moments showing it off. The very next project Yoshiaki Kawajiri directed was Ninja Scroll, and it shows.
With each of the three episodes giving a different member of our lead team the spotlight, it provides enough material to explore several different scenarios and give everyone their own chances to shine in unique ways, and it ends before it wears itself out. I feel it’s a highly digestible little after-work or weekend afternoon miniseries, when you aren’t necessarily looking for something deep but would fancy a solidly enjoyable popcorn munching escapade. The staff clearly had a blast working on it, and a lot of that shines through.
Apocalypse Zero (Kakugo no Susume)
For all its infamy, this is a remarkably difficult little two episode shock-gore production for me to break down and synthesize. It’s not good, don’t get me wrong. But I’m consistently caught up by the notion that it is so completely intentionally, and if I should actually give it points for achieving its “goal”.
To its credit, it jams its accelerator to eleven with the first major enemy. Hamuko, in her ridiculous multi-ton, mostly naked, BDSM and clown makeup style as she pops people like tubes of toothpaste and whatnot, making consistent sexual references both as verbal retorts and twisted physical weapons pretty much sets the stage for the other primary enemies in the show. The whole production is incredibly self aware of itself in its exuberance; folks yelling out all of their Stock Ridiculous Attack names to a ludicrously-eye-winking degree, using a simpler/comedic animation style that would be more expected in a kid’s morning television program, etc. And to then use all of those to delve into a hyper sexualized gore fest.
A shock site ceases to be shocking if you stare at it long enough though, and the same applies here. It can only scramble to attempt to outdo itself for so long (though I admittedly have a strong stomach for this sort of thing). Each episode seems to drag on for an eternity, as they’re longer than normal run times with really no story or characters to care about latching on to. Even the credits last far longer than normal.
Even as an absurdist meta commentary though, “intentionally bad” still makes it a pretty abysmal sit through.
One of those productions that routinely ends up on “Worst Anime Of All Time” lists, and I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that view. When it came out domestically, it was one of the maybe three or four anime your video rental store had. I’d argue it’s really more akin to a very large bowl of stale corn flakes; bland, with no real dynamic flavors or textures, and you tend to be absentmindedly wondering when it’ll be finished every few chunks of the way through.
To its (small) credit, one never feels things are spinning their wheels; I might not care about what’s going on, but I recognize that it at least is consistently moving forward. Possibly too consistently forward, actually.
As a conspiracy laden action-drama, its narrative is choked with so many competing topics of cybernetic soldier research, communist terrorists, rouge psychics, competing Japanese government wings, The Great Jewish Capitalist Puppetmasters who took over America and want to destabilize Japan’s economy and turn the nation into an international nuclear waste dump (!) and there just isn’t time for it to deal with it all. And yeah, I’m dead serious about that last one cropping up in the script; it had to be emergency scrubbed to all hell in international translations. I used to be in an environment where I had to consistently listen to a large amount of Art Bell’s super late night radio show Coast to Coast AM, and Angel Cop’s plot is about as penetrable as anything one could expect from a random caller on an episode of that.
The dialogue just becomes so much white noise, it becomes difficult to latch on to much of anything. The show occupies a weird time and space anomaly where its own blandness mixed with its incoherence actually probably saves it from teetering completely over into the very lowest level of the abyss. Your eyes just sort of glaze over from its shenanigans after a while, you stir the bowl of stale corn flakes around, and it eventually really does end. And, fittingly, it’s completely anti-climatic.
It does have what I imagine is the single most lovingly animated destruction of a human head in anime, a few seconds with so many frames I imagine someone had to have spent literally weeks on it to make the shot that anatomically detailed and fluid. So I guess there’s that.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.