Cyber City Oedo 808

Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990)

This is a classic (and fairly violent) OVA series and one which I suspect most cyberpunk fans are at least aware of, but is definitely worth watching if you like the genre but have never had the chance; it’s probably online somewhere by now but I’m not sure who streams it.

For me, so much of Cyber City Oedo 808 feels wonderfully connected to the 1980s (no surprise considering the release dates) whether it’s the assumption that floppy disks will be part of the future or the big hair and heavy metal theme song, or the old school blue palette used for night, it has so many things that I tend to be fond of.

At the same time, in terms of plotlines, the anime is a little more fantastical, even mystical – considering the way machines and computers infiltrate humanity, but especially when I think about episode 3 (Crimson Media) which features the ‘vampire’ storyline.

But in all the big ways it’s definitely science-fiction.

For one, there’s a crime-ridden, megacity-setting where the power of technology is used to both monitor and maim. Cyber City Oedo 808 also makes extensive use of futuristic weapons, equipment and vehicles, and conventional ideals of what it is to be human are abandoned. It’s not a long exploration of those issues though, since the focus is firmly on action, technology and sometimes the gore (directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri)… so the anime is not setting out to be philosophical perhaps, but I felt like there was plenty of room to consider those aspects if I wanted to.

Cyber City Oedo 808 follows three convicted criminals who have been offered the chance to commute their sentences by hunting down and executing other criminals. Each lead basically gets their own episode, though they do operate (somewhat grudgingly) as a team at times.

I quickly alluded to this before, but as a Yoshiaki Kawajiri film, there is a bit of fan-service when it comes to the detail on the violence, but in a way, it seemed like both less and more than what you’d see in things like Wicked City or Ninja Scroll.

With each episode, the storytelling is really focused; I felt like I was in good hands when it came to info around setting and character motivation too, and I hadn’t realised that Akinori Endo also did screenplays for Armitage III and Battle Angel, which was cool.

I love each storyline and so it’s hard to choose a stand out without going into spoiler territory, but since Benten is my favourite character, I reckon I have to go with the menace of Crimson Media, complete with its quieter moments. (You can also see a real echo of Benten’s own temperament in ‘villain’ Media, but again, I don’t want to drift into spoilers here!).

5 Stars

Tension stays pretty high in part due to these ‘kill switch’ collars that ex-convicts must wear.
This guy always makes me think of Vic Rattlehead.

GunxSword (Gan Sōdo)

GunxSword (Gan Sōdo) 2005

The taciturn hero* is certainly one of my favourite types, so having ‘Van of the Dawn’ fit that mould was nearly all I needed to confirm that I’d enjoy GunxSword – that, and this post from Scott at Mechanical Anime, which got me interested in the first place 🙂

This anime is one I missed when it was ‘current’, and it lands during what I think of as one big wave of anime popularity in the mid-2000s, back when things like Bleach and Naruto were dominating.    

But this isn’t as neatly defined as those shows. GunxSword is hard (but fun) to categorise, and I’m not sure I’ll manage it fully but I think it combines action, mecha, western, science-fiction and comedy in a fairly wild, ‘try anything’ approach, with the episodes held together by a strong quest narrative.

Two main characters, unlikely duo Van and Wendy, are searching a semi-dystopian world, looking for ‘Claw’ – the silver-tongued manipulator and psychopathic villain. Van for revenge and for Wendy, it’s more of a doubt-filled search, as she struggles to learn why the shadowy Claw has abducted her brother.

These twin threads pulled me through the episodic and the connected episodes alike. Hints and clues were spread out nicely, interwoven with character-building episodes, as the cast expanded quite steadily. And GunxSword becomes a real ensemble by the final confrontation too, which is something I loved because I like to see heroes bounce off those different character types.

Even though the story is ultimately serious and at times basically adult rather than aimed at teens perhaps, there’s a lot of oddball, even goofy stuff. More, the mix of mecha and gunslinger feel allows a heap of classic western/samurai tropes to sit along side the huge struggles of huge robots**.

I think of this especially with the range of characters that Van and co encounter on their travels, like Captain Kaiji, or the mafia don’s kid (and that car!), even Wendy’s turtle or Carmen99’s yoyo are small examples that would sell the idea of the show as a comedy – well, those and above all else, the moustache-fetish guys.

(But when you look at the relationship between the lead characters, the series is a bit more like a drama, and most folks are perhaps ruled by their doubts or their flaws, but somehow manage to pull together.)

Now, it’s hard for me to be certain of this, but fifteen years ago, it seemed that studios and other backers were a little happier to take risks on works that weren’t adaptations. Not sure if that’s a fault of my memory, or a lack of wide viewing habits on my part, but I don’t know if anything quite like GunxSword would get a twenty-six episode run today. (Maybe it’d be more of a single cour, a ‘see what happens before we commit further’ kinda thing?)

GunxSword is often compared to Trigun and there are definitely similarities in setting, and in the wandering, the episodic feel and at times goofy humour, but the tone and use of technology are certainly different here. (The OST is also more varied too).

So, is this one for you?

Hard to say… if you prefer dead-serious kinda mech anime than probably not, but if you’re after something fun, this might be worth chasing down.

4 Stars

* Having said that, Van can be a straight up jerk too, and it can take him a little long to see beyond his pursuit of revenge.

** On that note, I really liked the way Gorō Taniguchi revealed the scale of the robots/armour throughout too, especially via choice of angle and camera position in many of the battles.

Ah, Michael revealing his true colours.
Classic design

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 12)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Okay! Another series final – this time No Guns Life wraps up and I’m left kinda desperate for a further season one day.

I feel that mostly because all 24 episodes of No Guns Life seem to be set-ups for something that cannot possible happen within 24 episodes.

There’s just so much more story! And I fear I won’t get a chance to see it. (Especially because I don’t have the shelf space to start collecting the manga, and thus my hope is that Madhouse green lit more.)

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this ending episode as much as I’d hoped – but that doesn’t mean I thought it was bad, not at all. (It was interesting to get some backstory on Pepper for instance).

And there was a bit of welcome focus on comedic stuff and the switch in colour palette was refreshing, but the finale wasn’t an explosive finish, even if I appreciated an important reveal in there.

Still, as I said before – I really do want more No Guns Life one day.

DECA-DENCE (12)

Deca-Dence 2020

Yay for a big finish!

So, whether some things were easy to predict in the finale doesn’t matter so much to me, since they were fun, and I got an upbeat ending too! Plus, my curiosity is high now, upon seeing the changes in the aftermath.

Interestingly, I enjoyed this ending more than that of the other show I’m currently writing about on an episode-by-episode basis, which is No Guns Life.

I am also (due to the length of time and repeat exposure perhaps) growing accustomed to the visuals of “Tanker + Cyborg within the one frame” now, so I guess I’m onboard fully, despite much initial resistance 😀

And, based on the ending, I can see room for more story and I wonder if – based on this interview that Lyn mentioned to me on twitter, maybe a film sequel in the future?

(It was fun to review a seasonal show as it streamed, but I don’t know if I could handle doing two this October. Maybe just one will be enough :D)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 11)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

After a fairly large recap for an intro, and a bit of recapping within that kinda impacted the pacing for me, the fight between Juzo and Seven kicks up a notch or two.

At the same time, there was a little widening of the focus to bring in other players too, and to give Pepper a chance to make a mess of things.

Maybe there are a few cracks in Seven’s resolve too, enough to weaken him – but I think the most important thing I picked up with episode was basically confirmation that those two have essentially gone rogue.

Not much else that I think needs highlighting for me, other than my feeling that the over-sized arms as weapons could be a touch comical… but then, is it really any more odd-ball than guns as heads?

Nope 😀

DECA-DENCE (11)

Deca-Dence 2020

Stakes are definitely getting higher – as they probably should, now that the season draws closer to its end.

And while the new Gadoll threat brings with it not just echoes of the God Warriors in Nausicaa, but also a horde of offspring to trouble the Tankers and Gears alike, I still found myself enjoying the comedic bits most.

Again, I’m hoping that next season there will be a chance for characters to explore a bit but for now, it feels like the episode is using the pause before the big showdown to offer a few light moments.

Kurenai’s drinking was one of course, and the mistaken identity moment, but I’m mostly thinking about Natsume and her reaction to seeing the cyborgs, plus her attempt to imagine what Kaburagi really looks like. I won’t spoil it here, but I definitely laughed.

(It was also satisfying to be offered a small resolution for he and Minato, and I remain very curious about Jill’s past. Ready to see how the gambit she and Kaburagi have come up with plays out too.)

However, I spent a bit of time after the episode thinking about stuff ‘behind the curtain’ as it were, re: the way both Natsume and the viewer are being eased into the eventual moment when she and Kabu finally meet face-to-face.

I still think the two art styles are not complimentary… but this interview with some of the Deca-Dence team explains nicely why the ‘cute’ choice was made, and intellectually I like the reasoning, but at a gut-level I feel the clash between the two styles.

Anyway, to finally get to the point – I like this episode’s approach to revealing the cyborgs for several reasons, one because we get to see Natsume process the idea of cyborgs in general first, and two, this implies that she won’t have to ‘waste’ time doing too much adjusting when she does see Kaburagi in the next episode, which I think will need to pack a lot in to set up the next season.

And finally, I liked it because this way, we didn’t have to rush her onscreen response to the cyborgs either, as might have happened if it was part of the final ep.

A little sad that next week is the final installment for now, but also feeling a touch relieved because I don’t know if I’m cut out for reviewing multiple seasonal shows at once 😀

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 10)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

So, I didn’t get the big confrontation I was hoping for on Kronen’s behalf, but I’m sure he’ll be in action again soon.

Instead, aside from a bit more of the struggle between Juzo and Seven (and a quick check-in with Mary) it’s mostly a long flashback where we meet Juzo’s Hands and see events that made him who he is today.

As the audience is meant to be, I think most of us have been quite curious about certain details in his past and so I was glued to the screen here. Feels like my old (obvious) prediction that the Big Bad was not going to be dealt with this season has been accurate.

I guess it’s Seven instead, who will be the main antagonist after all, which is, in a way, a little disappointing. He’s no Victor for one, but then, he (and Pepper) are at least more interesting than Cunningham 😀

DECA-DENCE (10)

Deca-Dence 2020

Another short post – I’ve little to complain about, an episode to take stock and to process things is exactly what I was hoping for.

And as you may have seen elsewhere online, this is a classic shot from the car – I couldn’t avoid including it 🙂

Ultimately I don’t think I have much to say again – after the reflection, things started to build up again, especially at the end, with a new rather large threat. I was also excited to see that there was time for a little back story re: Natsume’s father, something I’ve been curious about for a long time.

I remain hopeful that next season there will be some exploration of the real world – maybe that’s the end point here, as whoever survives what’s coming, set off to find something else?

Gangsta

Gangsta (2015)

Mafia-style stories can be an incredibly hard sell for me in many ways, since I tend not to enjoy the idea of glamorising career-criminals via entertainment media.

But Gangsta isn’t a straight-up crime drama either because there is a little something more going on – namely the human experiment angle, that and the fact that one of the lead characters is deaf, which was a welcome change from typical action heroes.

Having said that, this series still features vaguely super-hero style fights at times, so typical action conventions definitely dominate. Nic and Worick are memorable leads, and while they don’t get a chance to be fully developed, I think it’s clear they were going to get even more dimensions – even, or especially – Alex, who does function as more than eye-candy sometimes.

The villains are fairly strong too and the setting is distinctive – or at least, I enjoyed its general Italian-look for sure. I think you could argue that the super-human ‘Tag’ aspect to the world-building was going to escalate far too quickly for the pacing of a story that definitely needed more than one short season to tell. For me, that meant that some of the action-sequences and associated tension tapered off because characters seemed a little overpowered for so early on.   

But basically, I was pretty happy to see something a little different in this unfinished story from Manglobe and Shūkō Murase. I know that Gangsta sometimes comes with a little asterisk next to it, as ‘the series that no-one liked and which killed Manglobe’ but of course, that’d be a little simplistic. Manglobe certainly did close up shop [a few details here] and some of the vitriol directed to this short series is due to the ‘ending’.

And if there had been a second season, this would be a cracker of a cliff-hanger… but alas, it was not to be.

Like the majority of anime out there, there is a manga luckily, and so if you wanted to keep reading to catch more of the storyline then you’re all good. However, as usual with me, I’ve written about the anime since that’s all I’ve got 🙂

4 Stars*

*This might be me being my usual generous, uncritical self, but since the Gangsta anime is a truly unfinished story, I wanted to add this note about the lack of resolution, since I’m certainly on record as saying that endings are vital.

The selective colouring in the opening I liked a lot.
There’s probably a touch more sexualised stuff and violence than in typical shounen anime, so it’s more firmly in the seinen age-bracket.

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 9)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Yes! Kronen is back 😀

The action is escalating, as are the stakes and risks too, so I’m still enjoying this half of the season. I’m also expecting the narrative to check in with Mary soon, though we’re mid-battle at the end of the episode.

A few surprises in episode nine, and some handled… differently than others, but overall the tension is rising toward that big finish I’ve been craving. I’d really like to see a few characters drawn into the struggle more directly for the next few episodes, chief among them Victor.

As I feel like I’ve said many times before, I hope this does get a second season so a few scores can be settled, especially things that I don’t think there will be time for right now.