Crusher Joe - the OVAs
Back in 1983, the original Crusher Joe was considered an exceptional piece of sci-fi moviemaking, and it did a lot of business in its own right. However, it's best known as the launchpoint of a certain crazy duo known as the Dirty Pair, whose exploits have been seen in various TV series, OVAs, and movies over the last 15 or so years. Despite the popularity of the Crusher Joe movie, the only animated extension of the story was seen in two 1988 OVAs, "The Ice Prison" and "The Final Weapon: ASH". It's not all that surprising that the Crusher Joe universe eventually came to a halt, since its style really belongs to another era of anime. Whereas the Dirty Pair series was able to radically change its style to appeal to a new audience, Crusher Joe never did...and though I think it's sad that there aren't more stories to be told, I'm rather glad that Crusher Joe didn't go through the overhaul to become more "with the times." It's got its own place in anime history, even if the OVAs don't quite live up to the fame of the film (which honestly I am still waiting to see).
The Crusher Joe universe revolves around an interstellar special forces team that handles problems that planetary governments can't tackle on their own. Joe is the leader of the group, which includes a bulky cyborg hybrid Talos, the brash but smart kid Ricky, the cute and sweet but still tough Alfin, and the annoying robot Dongo. Together, they can solve virtually any problem once they've been recruited. In the first OVA, Joe's team is hired to try and rescue political prisoners that have been forced to work in an icy moon. The moon has gone adrift and will crash into the planet without the Crushers' help. However, those hiring the Crushers have a bit of backstabbing in mind, and it's up to Joe and the crew to try and stop the fate of not only the prisoners but the millions waiting on the surface. In the second OVA, the Crushers are called in to stop an insurrectionist group from capturing a superweapon...but again, there's more to it than that, because the military has plans of its own. If that weren't enough, a bunch of self-replicating robot drones programmed to destroy all human life get in the way of friend and foe alike!
Brass tacks down--this show looks old. For a show made in 1988, it looks very much like the television shows from the early 80s such as Macross, Orguss, Dirty Pair, et al. That's OK by me, and if you liked the design work on the original Dirty Pair series, then by all means dive right in--the look is virtually identical. However, it does look worn against anything made within the last eight years or so, and new fans might find it very dated. The animation is fine, never looking too magnificent but never really looking bad either. Unless you are really into retro anime, that won't be your draw into the show.
The draw for Crusher Joe is the story, and both of these OVAs have quite a bit of story, as well as quite a bit of action. Although each one drags in short spots, they are very enjoyable straightforward science fiction. They have little in the way of humor, which sets them apart from the antics in the similarly themed Dirty Pair. The stories are not particularly unique, but they are told well, and there are certain surprises along the way that keep the viewer engaged. I was a little disappointed in that the characters really didn't develop at all during the course of the two shows, but perhaps they were developed more fully in the film. I simply don't know. Meanwhile, the score is striking in that it is not JPop, but energetic symphonic music that hearkens to Space Cruiser Yamato or, more recently, Super Atragon. It's not particularly compelling in and of itself, but it's a nice change of pace.
I will make two beefs about the first OVA. I mention these things only because they really brought down my enjoyment of what was an otherwise fine show. About every 3 to 5 minutes, there is the most annoying eyecatch in the world. The visual itself is just the show logo, which is fine...but this scratchy voice comes on each time with it and goes, "Crrrrrush!!!" It's annoying and pointless. There are far better ways to denote the passage of time. Thankfully, it was nowhere to be found in the second episode. The other problem is Dongo, the annoying robot I mentioned earlier. He plays virtually no part in the show, but he appears from time to time to tell the crew the status of things and to giggle uncontrollably. Imagine Jar Jar laughing after each sentence, and you'll understand what I'm talking about. Again, someone learned a lesson, because Dongo was mercifully toned down in the second OVA. On the whole, the second OVA felt far less forced and far more enjoyable.
My final verdict--if you don't like older anime, you've probably not even made it to this point in the review. If you enjoy good hard sci-fi and don't mind 80s animation styles, you'll likely enjoy these OVAs. They aren't anything extraordinary, but they are fun, and they remind fans like myself of an era in anime when storytelling won the day over cute but substance-less designs.
Crusher Joe: The Ice Prison -- violence, mild language -- B-
Crusher Joe: The Final Weapon -- violence -- B+