Plot: In the year 2808 in a technologically advanced yet dystopian future, three criminals, Sengoku, Gogul and Benten, are given an offer – they can reduce their sentences in the orbiting space prison by serving for the Cyber Police force in Cyber City. For every criminal caught, they’ll get a certain amount of time shaved from their individual 300+ year sentences. Begrudgingly, they accept the terms.
In order to ensure that they behave, they’re given special collars that will blow up if they fail to complete a mission within a certain time or if they go too far rogue (obviously there’s some wiggle room since this is an action show from the 80’s). This three episode OVA chronicles three individual cases – each one giving focus on one of the three.
Breakdown: Let’s just get this out of the way – yes, this premise is extremely similar to Suicide Squad. I can’t call Suicide Squad the ripoff because, technically, Suicide Squad came first. The first incarnation of the team came out in 1959 and the modern interpretation came out in 1987. This OVA came out in 1990. So, if anything, this is the ripoff.
However, I won’t say that either. I think, even with such similar main premises, the series is definitely it’s own thing. It has its own style, characters, setting and relationships to make it unique enough for me to not give it that damning brand. Maybe they’ve earned a disapproving finger wag, though.
Anyhoo, this is another one of those shows that you really just have to sit back and enjoy for its action and ridiculousness. I’m not one to say that bad shows should be excused in lieu of ‘just turn off your brain’, if you know my reviews you know that much for the most part, but there are some shows that are really just trying to have cheesy action fun. Cheesy 80s action fun. Come on, who could resist that? (It was released in 1990, but it was being made in the 80s so it counts)
Three criminals are serving 300+ year sentences in a space prison – Sengoku, Gogul and Benton. Each episode revolves around one of the three criminals.
Sengoku is the roguest of all. In fact, he’s basically babysat by the police robot, Varsas, who is constantly nagging him about police protocol, to which Sengoku rarely pays any mind. He has a real potty mouth as he hardly speaks a line without swearing. Also, I really want to have “Isn’t it your bedtime, motherfucker?” on a t-shirt.
Sengoku’s episode revolves around an emergency in a huge, ridiculous, insane, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking tower. This huge building that stands as the largest building ever made. Wanna know how tall it is? It’s so tall, with a friggin’ pole design, mind you, that it reaches up past the atmosphere INTO OUTER SPACE. If that’s not ridiculous enough, listen to this.
The emergency is that everyone in the building is trapped due to a hacker causing all of the systems to lock up as he goes in pursuit of one of the people who works there. As the perp is being combated by Gogul’s hacking skills, the target’s security and Sengoku, he gets impatient and shuts down a vital part of the building – two gyro disks that are quite literally the only things supporting the building. If disabled, the building….falls. No failsafes, no backups, no nothing. It will fall.
That has to be the dumbest construction design I’ve ever seen. First of all, why is a building that big even needed? We’re always building bigger skyscrapers, but having a skyscraper that reaches out into space balancing purely on two spinning discs seems far stupider than those houses from The Jetsons that balance entirely on a thin stick or two. Second, a power failure or hacker can instantly send the tallest building in the world tumbling down like a jenga game.
Think about that.
Something so minute could end up in the instant deaths of tens of millions of people. Not just the millions that supposedly work in the building (Yes, they actually state that millions of people work in that building), but the millions on the ground below who will all be crushed when the building falls one way or another, and the additional people who will die from the debris. Yeah, it doesn’t collapse in on itself, it falls in a random direction. Meaning miles and miles of buildings, in a highly populated city, no less, will be crushed ending millions of extra lives.
Crack up job, Mr. Architect. Crack. Up.
We don’t really learn much about Sengoku besides his character traits in this episode, but it is a pretty interesting story. Sengoku typically uses a gun as his weapon of choice (a gun that can only fire if the fingerprints of the person holding it match the registration for the gun, which is really an awesome idea…Little bit flawed but awesome), but all of the characters are given a retractable jitte as a weapon as well. His seems to be able to shoot out the blade part at his enemies.
Next up, we have Gogul, our resident techie/hacker. He’s blind, but he wears a special visor that allows him to see. No idea how he went blind, but he is. His episode involves him helping out an old criminal friend named Sira or Sara, I couldn’t tell. He’s on the run from the military since Sara was trapping him into testing out a new cyborg weapon. We learn a bit more about Gogul in this episode, but not much. However, we do learn that the trio are not the only criminals working for their freedom with the Cyber Police. We focus on someone trying to remove their collar through acquired inside intelligence on the technology, but they ultimately end up failing and perishing as a result.
Gogul doesn’t seem to have a main weapon. He uses his jitte and gun but doesn’t seem to have a specialty of choice since he’s mostly on the side doing techno-work.
Finally we have Benton. Benten’s main weapon outside of his jitte is a very thin and strong wire that can cut through basically anything like it’s nothing, which is pretty cool and fitting for his style.
And boy they broke the mold when it came to his character design.
What is even on his head? But I guess it’s all the same. After all, they needed someone with big poofy hair to complete their 80s hair band trifecta.
Benten’s episode is the oddest of them all. He’s investigating weird attacks where the victim is drained of blood and has two odd puncture marks on their necks. And yes, the very obvious answer is vampires.
However, it’s not a traditional vampire. Some scientist made a serum that allows him to live forever, but there’s a flaw. Something about not being able to replace hemoglobin or something. The point is they need to drink blood in order to maintain their immortality. In addition, this serum unlocks the person’s latent psychic powers such as telekinesis and teleportation. They can even be torn to bits and put themselves back together again in a completely different room.
Not only that, but the only way to kill them for good, besides I suppose starving them, is to stab them through the heart with an altered jitte.
Like Sengoku’s episode, we don’t learn much about Benten in this part. He comes across some woman he, I guess, used to work with or against back when he was a criminal, but they give us no information on what they mean to each other, what happened between them – nothing at all really.
In addition to not learning much about the pasts of these guys, you also never get an ending to their story. The OVA has three short stories or ‘files’ then it just ends. Surprisingly, there is no manga that adds anything more to it either.
That’s really my major problem with this series. I like the stories, the action, the characters, even if some aspects of this world seem ridiculous, but we don’t get to learn anything else about these characters in terms of their past or future. It’s hard to root for them to actually go free because they state several times that they are only doing this because it’s better than rotting in a jail cell. They seem to have every intention of going back to criminal work if they go free. The only exception is possibly Benten, but that’s unclear. They’re cool, badass characters, but you really just want them to stay as they are. They may break rules all the time, but at least they’re doing it towards noble means.
Finally, I really find it funny that they live in the year 2808 with robots and cyborg technology – Hell they live in a place called Cyber City and are the Cyber Police – but they still use floppy disks and look like they belong in an 80’s music video on VH1.
Art and Animation: The art has aged pretty damn well. It’s still very crisp and appealing even if Benten’s design is kinda kooky. Animation-wise, it’s not amazing but still pretty good.
Music: I actually really love the music for this series. The opening is so 80’s, especially with its low robot voice repeating ‘Cyber City’.
Voice Acting: English Dub – The dubbing actually stands up pretty well too. There’s some hokey acting, but it’s otherwise okay. The main cast is actually really good for the most part.
Bottom Line: It’s disappointing with its lack of insight into the past and futures of the main characters and really has no linear storyline, but if you’re okay with just having a few short stories involving crime solving, ass-kicking, robots and vampires, go ahead and have some fun! I know I did.
Additional Information and Notes: Cyber City Oedo 808 was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also directed Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, A Wind Named Amnesia, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Ninja Scroll. It was written by Akinori Endo, who wrote the screenplay for Battle Angel and 3×3 Eyes, and did writing work on series such as Inuyasha, Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory and Mister Ajikko. It was animated by Madhouse.
While an English dub is available, it is currently not licensed in North America due to the license expiring. It is, however, licensed by Madman Entertainment in Australia and Anime Limited in the UK.
Recommended Audience: No sex or nudity, but Sengoku has a real potty mouth. None of the characters are really shy in the cursing department, but Sengoku slings ’em out sailor style. In addition, the series can get pretty damn gory with people blowing up, limbs getting sliced off etc. 15+
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