Sonic Soldier Borgman
Imagine if you stepped into a theater five minutes before an action movie ended, and you wound up seeing everything right after the grand finale and all its wonderful explosions. You might be able to figure out what just happened, but you'd probably want to see the excitement that had just come minutes before. Now extend that epilogue to an hour and a half, and you have what's contained in the two Sonic Soldier Borgman releases in the West: Lover's Rain and The Last Battle. Actually, they aren't bad pieces of entertainment, but by themselves, they are woefully inadequate.
Although Lover's Rain was released a year after The Last Battle in Japan, it's best to watch it first, as it chronologically comes first in the storyline. As Lover's Rain unfolds, we are quickly introduced to Ryo and Anice, two surviving members of the Borgman team. From the opening credit crawl (if you're paying close attention), we see the apparent finale of the TV series where Memory, another of the cyborgs, sacrifices herself to save the team. Ryo has been mentally ripped apart by her death, and rather than relying on Anice, who desperately wants to help him, he pulls farther away. It becomes clear that if Ryo cannot break free of his anguish over Memory, it may very well destroy him. This episode is very melancholy in nature, though it ends well. Meanwhile, The Last Battle takes place a few years later, and is far more action-oriented. It seems that somebody is attempting once again to create cyborgs, and the remnants of the Borgman team are the natural choice to find out who's behind the scheme. Tension between Ryo and Anice and their relationship still rules the day, but this episode gives us a lot more combat and physical rather than mental conflict.
Released over 10 years ago in Japan, both of the installments show their age in their animation styles. Although I like mid-80s character designs very much and found the actual look of the characters nice, the artistic quality ranges from almost great (especially on close-up shots of the characters) to barely mediocre. The juxtaposition gives away the limitations of the budget, and most younger anime fans will find it a real problem. The music is minor 80s J-Pop at best, and though it is not bad, it isn't impressive either.
What is incredibly frustrating throughout both shows is that they are flooded with references to the original television show, and these OVAs are not intended to continue the story but to serve as a wrap-up of sorts to the characters. In particular, Lover's Rain needs the emotional weight of the TV show's ending to carry it. Without knowing who Memory was or why she died, Ryo's internal struggle is made much less poignant. Although the story is not bad on its own, it is simply incomplete to the viewer who hasn't seen the original. Nevertheless, Lover's Rain still connected with me on a basic level. Meanwhile, while The Last Battle relies much less on the original's history, it like Rain before it raises questions for the viewer who hasn't seen the TV series, and though it moves at a quicker pace, it is less engaging. The Last Battle is perhaps the better of the two for an uninitiated viewer, but that's not saying much, particularly when the rest of the production isn't captivating; frankly, I enjoyed Lover's Rain more because there was more depth to the characters, but I suspect many would disagree with me.
Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that it's very possible to create a show that is entertaining and understandable to a new audience while serving as an epilogue to a long-running television series. For example, the series Orange Road concluded with Summer's Beginning, a great film despite the fact that the main romantic triangle from the television show was resolved in the original film I Want To Return To That Day. If Sonic Soldier Borgman had been done in that manner, it would have a much wider appeal. However, it simply can't appeal to that broad base--it is too narrowly focused.
Lover's Rain and The Last Battle are not bad anime per se. It's quite possible that fans that couldn't get enough of Sonic Soldier Borgman will enjoy these, and the one good thing that came out of them is that now I am actually quite interested in seeing the original series. Alas, that seems all but impossible, and so we're just stuck with a couple of OVAs that show off the potential of an original show we can't get in the West. What a shame.
Sonic Soldier Borgman: Lover's Rain -- violence -- C+
Sonic Soldier Borgman: The Last Battle -- violence -- C