One of the groundbreaking anime series to come out of Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bubblegum Crisis is a Film Noir / Cyberpunk epic with superhero subtexts (especially Iron Man), heavily influenced by the films Blade Runner, The Terminator, and Streets of Fire.In the early 2030s, the world economy (and some of its politics) is controlled by the megacorporation GENOM, whose primary product is the boomer — humanoid robots that can be manufactured for any purpose from cheap labor to prostitution to heavy combat. Opposing GENOM and its plots are the Knight Sabers — four women in astoundingly advanced powered combat suits, led by Sylia Stingray, the daughter of the scientist who invented boomer technology and who was murdered by GENOM's agents when they stole it.The meaning of the title is obscure. Most commentators believe that it refers the point in blowing a bubblegum bubble where it has equal chances of exploding all over your face or collapsing limply. The mid-21st-Century society depicted in the show appears to be approaching a similar crisis point.Originally plotted for 13 hour-long episodes, Bubblegum Crisis was forced by a mixture of budget issues and internal politics between the two studios producing the show to cease production with the 8th episode (which wasn't an ending at all). A 3-hour sequel series, Bubblegum Crash!, is believed to be a compressed version of the plot of the remaining five episodes, but is generally considered to be inferior to the original.In 1990, a prequel series, AD Police Files was released, featuring Cowboy Cop Leon in his early days on the force, five years before the series.It was "reimagined" in 1998 as the TV series Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, but the result bears almost no resemblance to the earlier show. It kept the Broad Strokes of the premise and the hardsuit designs, but broadly changed the character designs and personalities, and went off in a different direction from the original series. This version began with Linna as an Office Lady who moved to Tokyo to join her heroes, the mysterious Knight Sabers.In 1999, a second AD Police series: AD Police: To Serve and Protect, was released. A third OVA focusing on the AD Police, Parasite Dolls, was released in 2003. For a time there was talk of a sequel series, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2041 that ADV Films would have been more involved with in terms of production and story, but it never materialized. This project probably died when ADV went bankrupt and reorganized itself into Section 23 Films.In 2008, the company AIC announced that they'd signed an agreement to let a Singaporean studio begin production of a live-action version of Bubblegum Crisis — which has ballooned into a coproduction between six countries (including Australia and China), planned for release in 2012. Fan reaction seems to be skeptical (especially with the reported $30 million budget), yet hopeful — especially with the possibility of another anime revival as a tie-in. However, the lack of news suggests the project entered Development Hell.The most recent installment in the franchise is a one-shot 2012 Light Novel, Bubblegum Crisis: Hard Metal Guardiansnote Or "Carbide/Super Steel Guardian Angels", which reimagines the story High School AU style.Additionally, AnimEigo ran a very successfulKickstarter to fund a Blu-ray release of the original series. Additionally, the original series and Tokyo 2040 are available on Hulu.
This show provides examples of:
Acoustic License: A great example in the Tokyo: 2040 series episode "Minute by Minute". Priss and Leon have a quiet conversation together... while speeding down a highway on motorcycles. No evidence of radios here, and in fact it's even crazier because Leon is wearing an open face helmet while Priss's helmet is totally enclosed, which would muffle her voice even if they were at a dead stop.
Action Girl: All the Knight Sabers, but mostly Priss and Linna.
Actually a Doombot: GENOM's CEO in the OVA is never found on-screen; it's always an android impersonator. Which is good because this saves his life.
Adaptational Badass: While many people debate whether the original or new series is best, what they don't debate is that Linna took twenty levels of badass in 2040. While in the original series she was a ditzy, materialistic and (to most of the series' plot) inconsequential character, in 2040 she's a much more down-to-earth girl with a strong personality and a hidden intolerance to authority. A big part of her character in the new series is how being a Knight Saber lets her cut loose and be more true to herself than she can be when in the civilian world. She has such a strong personality, she actually manages to impress Priss, of all people, and when she joins the Knight Sabers she becomes their close-combat specialist, Priss's Lancer and her full equal in combat ability.
Nene also got a bit of a bad ass upgrade in 2040 - in the original OVA she was content to watch the action from the sidelines while working her hacker magic, and the few times she had to engage in physical combat usually ended badly for her, while in 2040 she's much more aggressive and usually handles herself better when in combat (though sometimes things still don't work out for her).
Adaptational Sexuality: While only in the subtext, in the original OVA, Priss had no interest in Leon but was almost certainly hot for Sylvie. In 2040, by contrast, she's Tsundere for Leon and doesn't appear to reciprocate Linna's affections (though Linna also liked at least one guy during the course of the show) while being infatuated with the soft spoken mechanic Nigel. Conversely, Linna and Nene's subtext (though in 2040 they were usually more like surrogate siblings until the series finale), and Sylia's textual bisexuality, were added in 2040.
And in 2040 Linna is only a year older than Priss - who is supposed to be nineteen years old.
In general a lot of characters both in the original and 2040 don't look their intended ages. Sylia is 23/24 but looks to be in her early 30s, the 2040 Leon looked to be early mid 30s but was only 24, etc.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The rogue boomers in 2040; it's unclear whether most of the rampaging boomers in the original series were accidents or "field testing" by GENOM.
Alternate Continuity: The OVA series, AD Police OVAs and Crash form one continuity, while 2040, AD Police TV and Parasite Dolls are a separate universe.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The third OVA episode "Blow Up" starts with Mason sending a military-grade Boomer at Sylia's Silky Doll store — and none of the Sabers are able to suit up in time to fight it.
2040 has a more full-scale invasion of the Sabers' base once Galatea starts the Robot War.
Animation Bump: The quality of the OVA's animation improved noticeably between "Moonlight Rambler" and "Red Eyes".
Armed Legs: Priss' Powered Armor has contact-triggered explosives on top of both its feet. And rockets on both ankles. Attack sequence; 1). Jump. 2). Kick. 3). Activate rockets for rocket assisted kick. 4). Explosives go off once Mecha-Mook receives kick to head. 5). Get dustpan to sweep up remains of mook.
Ascended Fangirl: The 2040 version of Linna came to Tokyo because she'd become a fan of the Sabers and wanted to join them; because of her encounter with Priss and other lucky breaks, she succeeded.
Attack Its Weak Point: In 2040, boomers can only be destroyed by attacking their core, a small red sphere embedded somewhere in their body. In the first OVA episode and the last episode of Crash, the only way to stop fusion boomers is by destroying their original bodies inside the huge accumulation of matter they've assimilated.
Autobots, Rock Out!: Quite a lot of the series carnage is set to rock tunes. Then there are the official videos for those songs. It could even be argued that the entire OVA series is a series of Music Videos with a bit of plot hung around them.
Technically, Linna and Sylia also count as both are pretty handy on a Motoslave of which both have their own colour coded ones (in addition to Priss' red one). Linna often rides hers in tandem with Priss on missions. Nene, on the other hand, is only seen riding her pink Motoslave once, and she never transforms it. She rides around on a scooter in civilian life.
Bodyguard Babes: Mason has a trio of Boomer Robot Girls in the episode "Born To Kill", capable of performing Genom's wet work off the clock, and going toe to toe with the Knight Sabers.
Body Horror: An important aspect of the OVA Boomers' design that was unfortunately absent from 2040's Boomers.
Bottle Episode: One episode of the AD Police TV series is set entirely inside a bar during a hostage standoff.
Break the Cutie: The second AD Police OVA is told from the viewpoint of an idealistic young policewoman who is trying to prove that the serial killer in the episode is human (both to the police and herself) while struggling with the decision to replace her right eye with an artificial one. The episode ends with her going under the knife, narrating that this was the story of how she lost part of her humanity.
Nene undergoes this in the 2040 episodes My Nation Underground and Woke Up With A Monster when her bratty arrogance finally comes back to bite her in the ass after she tries to play match maker between Priss and Leon, earning her a long overdue scolding from Sylia for endangering the team's secrecy, and then gets her ass handed to her in a boomer fight when she tries to rush in and beat the boomer by herself in a misguided attempt to prove herself.
But Not Too Foreign: Most of the characters have names (and appearances in some cases) that suggest they're of mixed ancestry, but they still all speak Japanese and are pretty obviously Japanese culturally. Part of this has to do with the show's genre and Japan's take on impending multiculturalism (well, for The Eighties at any rate).
Priss starts using ore instead of watashi as a first person pronoun, which she hadn't done beforenote or at least not on a regular basis, although she did use it from time to time, such as in the last scene of Revenge Roadher voice actress was replaced. Her animosity to the idea of Adama being a boomer who thinks exactly like a human is inexplicable considering her previous relationship with Sylvie.
Chekhov's Gun: In ep. 2 of the OVA, Linna takes Irene's engagement ring after Boomers kill the young woman, as a memento to remember her friend. This comes into play later, in ep. 7, when Linna gives this ring to Irene's sister, Reika, aka Vision, to convince her not to take up the leadership of the Hou Bang group and pursue further vengeance against GENOM.
Cool Car: In the OVAs, Sylia drives a replica (according to the artbooks) of a red 1954 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing. Her 2040 counterpart has a Porsche 911, but it only appears in two episodes.
The Gryphon that episode 4 of the OVA is centered on is also a very cool, highly customized vehicle. It just happens to be owned by someone completely insane.
Color-Coded Characters - Each Saber has a different colour that identifies than and, for 2 of them, carries over to their Motoslave (Priss has a red Motoslave, and Nene has a pink one that was only seen once).
Combat Stilettos: Both the Sabers' powered armor and their Motoslaves in robot / armor mode have these. God knows how the Sabers manage to do much more than walk in theirs, as they have the same basic design as a ballet boot.
Compressed Hair: In the OVA, Priss and Nene are sometimes seen pinning their hair up before putting on their helmets, but not always.
Conspicuous CGI: The cityscape sequence that introduces each episode of Bubblegum Crash!.
Contrived Coincidence: Several. After Sylia mentions Sexaroids, Nene (who doesn't know Sylvie is one) wonders if they're as pretty as Sylvie. Priss spotting Anri and Largo is covered in Slow Motion Pass By. This is also how clues get picked up in the first two AD Police OVAs.
Cross-Popping Veins: Near the end of the 2040 series, Linna and Nene are riding behind Priss on her motorcycle; all three of them are wearing hardsuits. Linna and Nene get cross popping veins on their hardsuit helmets, which then detach and float away on the wind. The cartoonishness of this scene qualifies as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
Cut Short: With ye originale OVA. The eighth episode is a Midseason Upgrade episode which focuses on Nene and wasn't intended to be the end at all, but various factors made it the last produced episode of the first OVA series.
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Discussed in the AD Police OVA, with two episodes revolving around cyborgs going insane, and other characters worrying about the consequences of having smaller artifical organs installed. It's also revealed in Episode 2 that anyone who replaces more than 70% of their body with implants is legally considered a "Boomeroid", meaning that the AD Police can terminate them with extreme prejudice if they step out of line.
R. Talsorian's Bubblegum Crisis RPG books expand on the humanity-loss phenomenon: "Boomer Syndrome" has various causes, ranging from purely mental to actual mechanical malfunctions in the implants, and over time can cause such delightful side effects as phantom pain, mood swings, emotional disassociation and terrifying hallucinations. One of the worst, though, is "cybermorphosis", which occurs with implants that incorporate recycled Boomer tech: occasionally, the self-repair functions of the Boomer parts will reactivate, causing severe pain and disfigurement as the implant attempts to "fix" itself. This eventually happens to The Ripper in the AD Police OVA.
Interestingly, though, there are at least shades of Post-Cyberpunk throughout all of the various incarnations of the franchise. The Knight Sabers aren't dedicated to "the destruction of Genom" (with the possible exception of Priss) but rather to the much broader ideal of peace and social justice. Also, even though they're often rather ineffective, the AD Police (as agents of the State) are not villainous at all, and the two major male characters who are AD Policemen are explicitly heroic (and Nene is a data analyst and part-time traffic cop for the ADPD, and she openly loves her job). And, generally speaking, the tone of the original OVA at least is pretty positive - the Sabers can make a positive impact on the world, Genom can be stopped, etc.
Darker and Edgier: The AD Police OVA series, set five years before the original BGC OVAs, shows a grittier MegaTokyo with more pervasive crime and urban decay, more graphic sex and violence, and people with more obvious-looking cyberware.
A Day in the Limelight: What the eighth OVA episode amounts to, focusing on Nene and developing her character substantially. (This ends up being a weird capstone for the original OVA series, since the run wasn't supposed to end there.) Linna also gets some focus in the second episode, but to a much lesser extent.
Deus ex Machina: OAV 6 "Red Eyes" has two notable examples — the new Typhoon II Motorslave shows up with Priss's new hardsuit just in the nick of time to save Priss from Largo and his Hyperboomers, and the prototype MSX-01 Motorslave equipped with a surface-to-orbit anti-satellite laser cannon was never previously established.
Die Hard on an X: Lampshaded by Jeena in the AD Police manga when she finds herself trapped in a building being taken over by anti-corporate terrorists (the leader of whom happens to be one of her ex-boyfriends).
Engrish: Oh good lord, absolutely infamous for this too. Almost none of the English in the show escapes without some kind of error. A lot of neophyte anime fans in The Eighties were introduced to the Engrish concept via this show.
A fair bit of it was so bad as to become memetic in the days prior to widespread Internet access, particularly anything that showed up on Nene's computers. SYLIA WANTS YOU is just one example.
Enhance Button: The last notable element of Blade Runner that the original OVA didn't borrow shows up in episode 7 of 2040 instead.
Even the Girls Want Her: Sylvie, Sylvie, Sylvie. Justified in-story by her background as a purpose-built sex slave.
Evil Twin: Arguably, Galatea from 2040. Also a set of three Boomers dolled up as fake Knight Sabers in one episode of the OVA.
Expy: Sylia, Galatea, Mackie and Kain Smith (Linna's boss) in 2040 look almost exactly like Ifurita (OVA version), Ifurita (TV version), Makoto and Jinnai, respectively, from El-Hazard: The Magnificent World.
The AI newscaster that appears in Crash! bears more than a passing resemblance to Max Headroom.
Fake Band: Priss and the Replicants (and Sekiria, the 2040 version of her band), Vision and the Revengers. The OVA Knight Sabers sing as a group on some songs and are seen playing instruments in the "Asu e Touchdown" video, but they're not canonically supposed to be an in-universe band.
Fanon Dis Continuity: Bubblegum Crash!, Soldier Blue and Bubblegum Crisis: Grand Mal in the eyes of some fans.
It doesn't help that the main arc of Crash! contradicts the most popular arc in Crisis [the Red Eyes arc], and is also presented in a manner that is internally contradictory; Priss' experience with Sylvie and Anri and subsequent character development is completely ignored, an intelligent Boomer is suddenly a radical new thing [as opposed to Crisis where Boomers could easily pass for human, far more so than the 'advanced' one in Crash!], and yet it still uses the Largo character who was involved in all the events it ignores and is, um, an intelligent Boomer.
Some secondary source materials suggest Adama was unique for having a fully mechanical brain capable of advanced AI rather than one reliant on boomer biotechnology. No clue how this is really justifying the trope though.
Future Spandex: The Knight Sabers, underneath their power suits, wear form-fitting outfits. It's also justified, as it's explained that the outfits serve as a neural interface between the user and the suit.
Game Face: While the Boomers from the OVAs were heavily derivative of Terminators, an important difference is that Terminators only lose their skin through injury, while Boomers intentionally have to burst out of their skin and expand their bodies when they go into combat.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: In one episode, there's a danger that military boomer technology might get sold to... the communists! Granted, especially given where the show is set this could still sort of work, but it's very obvious which kind of "communist" they're talking about.
Groin Attack: Priss knees an uncooperative ADP crowd control trooper in the groin when he refuses to let her pass so that she could slap a boomer in Episode 2, "Born to Kill" of the original series.
Guinea Pig Family: In Tokyo 2040, Professor Stingray created the Boomer prototypes Mackie and Galatea by implanting their cores inside a young Sylia's brain and letting them learn its structure. He created the cores by dissecting his wife's brain — which is why it only worked with Sylia.
It's Personal: It's extremely easy to make it this way for Priss, even when it was Linna's friend, and is the theme for most episodes of the OVA. Parodied with Lisa's vendetta against the Sabers for destroying her camera.
Japan Takes Over the World: There in some ways, given the show's roots, but oddly inverted in a sense: while the world does seem to be largely under the heel of various kinds of zaibatsu, nearly all of the top-level executives in the show are westerners, implying that Western influence took over originally Japanese megacorps and made them their own.
Killer Robot: To quote Zoogz, "Genom assumes no responsibility for your domestic boomer going on a psychotic murder spree."
Kill Sat: The first episode centers around a stolen Kill Sat controller, and Kill Sat strikes are important events in later episodes.
Everyone has them, even some third-world countries and there are enough of then in the orbit to pull a Code 666 on the whole planet like Snake Plissken did.note In The movie, Snake did fire all EMP-satellites at once and switch off the whole planet. The satellites here could, if fired all at once, annihilate every corner of the planet. Yes, nukes became obsolete.
Meta Mecha: The Motoroids/Motoslaves, which transform from Cool Bikes into both robots and exoskeletons for the hardsuits.
Midseason Upgrade: To the hardsuits in both the original series and 2040. Especially "funny" in the original - they spend all of Nene's Day in the Limelight getting their suit upgrades and clearly preparing for a major confrontation narratively... and then the show ends!
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: For a rebellious Biker Babe who plays in a hole-in-the-wall bar, Priss's music ranks surprisingly low: not more than about 4-5. (Adam Warren's characterization of her music as "retrothrash" is at odds with this.) 2040!Priss may get up to level 6 with amateurish punk songs like "Bug List".
Multinational Team: If you count base ethnicity rather than actual citizenship. Specifically, Priss seems to be part-American, Sylia is at least part British or otherwise Western European (unless you consider the Grand Mal comic canon, in which her name is really Stengovich), Linna seems to be straight-up Japanese and Nene has some blatant Russian/Eastern European background, if the name didn't clue you in. See But Not Too Foreign above.
Exception: Sylia's midriff-baring high-collared sleeveless blouse worn under a business suit has never been fashionable in the past, but as the years pass it's starting to look increasingly plausible that women may dress like this in the future.
Linna: He's got to be. Nobody could survive a fall from this height.
OC Stand In: Madigan, the female Genom executive who appears in the Largo arc.
Off Model: The character art in the first OVA episode is distinctly cruder than in the rest of the series.
Subverted in OVA 7: director Satoshi Urushihara draws the characters in his own Signature Style instead of following Sonoda's model sheets, but that episode has some of the best draftsmanship in the entire franchise.
One-Winged Angel: The 2040 boomers do this when they go rogue, becoming distorted mockeries of their "normal" states (see the waitress boomer). The boomers in the original OVAs Hulking Out of their skin also qualifies.
Three words: Microsoft Excel 2040 (which looks less like Excel 2007 and more like Excel 2000.)
Our Vampires Are Different: The 'vampire' stalking Megatokyo in one episode of the OVA is in fact an old-model Boomer that uses artificial blood in its internal systems. Who has a friend with a big leak or something. Also more or less a Lesbian Vampire.
Pink Means Feminine: Sylia humiliates Priss with this trope in 2040 episode My Nation Underground when the tomboyish biker loses a bet to her flighty boss, forcing her to be photographed wearing an ugly pink dress while Nene and Linna laugh at her and mock her.
It made more sense in the original Japanese language version (where Priss wanted Nene kicked off the team for digging into her personal life) than in the English language version (which changed it to Priss wanting Nene removed from the team for her own safety).
Comes back to bite Sylia, Nene and Linna in the ass when Priss temporarily quits and refuses to help them due to Sylia lying to them and abusing their trust.
Incidentally, pink tends to be a prominent color in Nene's hardsuits and 2040 indicates that she and Linna both own and wear at least one set of pink underwear each.
Plot Leveling: Perhaps it was a mistake to introduce Kill Sats and runaway Nanotechnology in the first episode, since these are the most powerful weapons that could realistically exist in this setting. Further into the franchise, the technology becomes increasingly cartoonish and superhero-like, such as the Boomers used by Dr. Miriam in OAV 8 and Largo in Crash, and the upgraded hardsuits in Crash and 2040. Also see above under Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.
Plucky Office Girl: Linna's day job in 2040. In the OVAs she was an aerobics instructor (turned stockbroker in Crash).
The Boomers' metallic skulls with glowing red eyes are reminiscent of the Terminator's endoskeleton. In 2040, the nanotech-based second generation hardsuits resemble liquid metal in their initial state, like the T-1000.
The weapons the AD Police carry are clearly the pulse rifles from Aliens. The way Sylvie kills the last Doberman with Weaponized Exhaust is also a reference to the first Alien movie.
All of the episode titles for 2040 are the names of rock songs and/or albums.
The mere existence of Priss (and her backing band, the Replicants) needs to be mentioned here. Especially since she first appears to us as a wild-haired blonde. (The joke is that it's a wig.) Leon is also named after one of the replicants from Blade Runner.
AD Police headquarters is a cylindrical building like the police headquarters in Blade Runner as well.
The female head of Genom security is named Madigan, a possible Shout-Out to actress Amy Madigan who had a supporting role in Streets of Fire.
BGC features a red-haired Romanova. A certain hardsuit-wearing hero features a red-haired Romanova as a secondary character. Hilariously, though, the two could not be more dissimilar otherwise (Nene is a Playful Hacker who isn't that great at the physical violence while Black Widow is, well, a bigger Action Girl than Priss).
A neon sign in the background of the first episode reads "MZ 23". Megazone 23 was AIC's previous project before starting BGC.
The AD Police's Roadblock "truck" in Revenge Road is named Lulu Belle. That's Bogart's tank in Sahara.
So Last Season: In an unusual example of this happening to a villain, Dr. Miriam builds customized Boomers to defeat the Knight Sabers' current hardsuits, only to find that they've already upgraded their hardsuits when he deploys them.
In the English dub, during Largo's confrontation with Leon, he calls Leon "little puppy," which he also called him as Mason.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The second original OVA closes out at a graveyard, with a wide shot of many gravestones and mourners... then immediately kicks in the upbeat '80s anime pop music. Both the shot and the music remains constant throughout the end credits. Not quite putting The Fun in Funeral, but...
Space Elevator: Tokyo 2040 has a "skyhook" connecting Tokyo and an orbital power satellite play several important roles in the plot. Genom is building a network of tunnels beneath Tokyo to store energy released by the satellite, which are put to other uses by both Mason and Galatea. Sylia also tries to use the energy discharged by the skyhook to power a BFG so she can try to fry Galatea while she's still Sealed In A Can. (It doesn't work.) Before the end, the Knight Sabers have to hitch a ride into orbit.
Super Hero Origin: Given the above, the OVA is oddly notable for avoiding this; we never actually get around to seeing how the team got together, and the first episode is practically In Medias Res. At best we get some vague hints about Sylia's reasons for wanting to assemble the team in the first place, but how in the world Priss, Linna, Nene and Sylia all fell in together (when it seems highly improbable that they'd all meet by chance) is never even remotely explained. It seems like they were building toward addressing this in the original series (it would've been a logical segue from the team-building of OVA ep8), but, well...
Even more interestingly, none of the "direct" sequels to the original OVA bother answering this either, not even Crash! or AD Police. The only part of the franchise that details anything like an origin for the team is 2040.
Why don't we see the Motoslaves after OVA 6? They would have come in handy fighting Reika's Genki battlemover, and they could have taken on Miriam's Boomers without needing the hardsuits to be upgraded.
Whole Plot Reference: AD Police Files episode 3, The Man Who Bites His Tongue, is this for Robocop. It's also a perfect example of doing this right; rather than simply feeding off the popularity of Robocop and cribbing the plot, it is a much darker and more serious exploration of what would happen in that scenario.