Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040
There are some anime that should be remade, and others that should probably be left untouched. Which shows actually deserve a reworking, however, is a debate left up to fans. It's clear that wherever there's money to be made, the animation studios love a sure thing, and there's no clearer way into an otaku's pocket than through recreating a beloved program. Just look at the Tenchi Muyo variations, the new Vampire Hunter D movie, or the countless Gundam variations, and you'll see the desire to cash in. At first glance, BGC: Tokyo 2040 appears to be another attempt to resurrect a series many fans consider to be one of the best ever made. However, by the end of the four episodes that make up the first DVD, I was surprised and pleased to find that this was a completely different take on the Knight Saber mythos. There may be characters and concepts from the first show, but this is something uniquely surprising.
BGC: Tokyo 2040 focuses on the character of Linna, a young woman who has just moved to Tokyo to seek her fortune. Though she has a gruntwork job in a corporate headquarters, she really wants to see if the rumors about the Knight Sabers are true. Supposedly, this group takes on boomers--robots that appear almost human--that for whatever reason go nuts and rampage, but there's no real coverage of their exploits. Likely, it's because they are an embarrassment to the AD Police, the group that is actually supposed to take care of renegade boomer activity. As the story progresses, Linna becomes intertwined in the destinies of the caustic Priss and the other Knight Sabers as it becomes clear that the Genom Corporation may be behind the rash of boomer renegades plaguing the city.
Comparing the two series in artistic styles isn't exactly fair, since BGC was an OVA series, whereas Tokyo 2040 is a television show. Nevertheless, 2040 has nice character designs and some really great artwork throughout the first few episodes. The character designs are quite a bit different from the original, thought the hardsuit designs are almost identical to the originals. Frankly, I love the new designs on virtually every character, save perhaps Leon, who just doesn't feel quite right. Meanwhile, the show has kept up on its most famous aspect: its music. The show scores with a modern alternative rock soundtrack and an extremely catchy opening theme song. The strong background music continues throughout the show, as one would expect, and it is not a disappointment.
Ultimately, what you think of Tokyo 2040 will likely be determined in large part by your attitude towards the original Bubblegum Crisis OVAs. Although some consider it sacrilege to badmouth what is considered a classic series, I've never been a huge fan of BGC. Though the music from the original is fantastic and the atmosphere is cool, ultimately the show failed to generate as much excitement for me as it did for others. I really didn't think that the second and third OVAs had much point, and though I liked the fourth one quite a bit, I never got farther than that. The main reason I think I lost interest was because I found that the characters got lost in the cyberpunk atmosphere, the murk of Blade Runner streets and sounds. I also never thought Priss was a character worthy of so much attention. Tokyo 2040 takes what I disliked about the first series and fine tunes those areas. The characters have plenty of time to be more defined, with Priss playing an important role without slamming the spotlight. The atmosphere is also not quite so important in defining the series. The city is no longer a replicant's paradise but rather a bright, shiny city of the future. The end result is that the show doesn't have the "intentional cool" of its predecessor, but it's a lot more well-rounded, engaging the viewer at a level beyond the original. What's also impressive is that, for a show that features a lot of early character development, there are plenty of action sequences that are most impressive. Although I don't have any complaints about the series so far, because the show is creating a full story arc, it's frustrating to not be able to see more of the show now. My rating reflects that just slightly, since it's still possible that the show won't end as well as it started.
All around, I think Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 shines, at least from its opening four episodes. If you've never seen the original series, this should be a must-have. If you loved the initial OVAs, well...put aside your preconceived notions and enjoy the ride.
Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 Vol. 1 -- violence, mild language -- A-