“Bubblegum Crisis”: This late 80s anime series was influenced by “Blade Runner” and other NF faves

By on February 24, 2017

Over on our Night Flight Plus channel, we now have an 80s Anime category, where you can watch all eight episodes of Bubblegum Crisis, an original video animation (OVA) that was initially produced for the straight-to-video market between the years 1987-1991.


The Japanese-made anime series follows the exploits of a kickass all-girl vigilante foursome, armed with unique power armor suits, who battle the forces of the corrupt mega-corporation called Genom in a futuristic, earthquake-destroyed MegaTokyo.

The series was heavily influenced by Hollywood-made sci-fi movies of the 1970s and ’80s — including some of Night Flight’s favorites, like Blade Runner (1982) and Streets of Fire (1984), among so many others — and combines several of the same uniquely 80s-era obsessions and fears that gave rise to the cyberpunk cult genre.

A short list of those would include fear of nuclear annihilation, hate for unfeeling mega-corporations and fear of rapid scientific and technological developments, a dystopian urban society degenerating into chaos, and the necessary knowledge of post-apocalyptic survival (which reminds us, we still hate robots).


Add to all that a combination foxy chicks, rock ‘n’ roll tunes and anime, and you’ve got the formula for Bubblegum Crisis all figured out.

Originally, one the BGC series creators — Toshimichi Suzuki — had intended to create a different anime series for the Japanese design studio Artmic (short for Art and Modern Ideolgy for Creation), remaking the 1982 Toho Studios film Techno Police 21C, but after a chance meeting with Junji Fujita of Youmex during a wrap-part of another project, the two men decided to collaborate on what later became Bubblegum Crisis.

There are a number of storylines involved in Bubblegum Crisis — often abbreviated as BGC — but essentially here’s what you need to know: the futuristic cyberpunk animated series is set in the year 2032, which, we’re told, is seven years after the Second Great Kanto Earthquake has split Tokyo, Japan, into two, culturally as well as geographically.

In its place, a powerful multi-million dollar mega-corporation, Genom Corp., has stepped in and helped to rebuild Tokyo into a sprawling and gloomy new metropolis, called MegaTokyo, but we see in the very first episode (“Tinsel City Rhapsody”) that the city government of MegaTokyo is hopelessly mired in corruption.

According to a spin-off anime series, AD Police: To Protect and Serve, the first earthquake happened in 1999 — which was then twelve years into the future when the series was first created — and was said to have destroyed Tokyo for the first time, leaving the city a desolate wastleand before it was re-built as “Genom City.”

This three-part follow-up OVA series — released in 1990 — was considered a prequel series in the BGC universe, of which there have been many sequels, prequels, sidestories, and related anime projects, even a TV series, and the overall popularity of BGC has spawned a series of comic books, video games, and even a role-playing game.


Back to BGC: Aiding in the restoration of MegaTokyko are bio-chemical cybernetic androids, or cyberoids, which called “Boomers” but they used to be called Voomers (for Voodoo Organic Metal Extension Resource, which we realize spells VOMER).

This series/race of mechanoids were initially designed and mass-produced by Genom to order to aid mankind — for multiple purposes, everything from cheap manual labor to prostitution to heavy combat — but much like the cyborgs in Terminator, and the replicants in Blade Runner, these cyberoids are now running rampant, destroying everything in their path.

Sometimes they are working alone, while other times they are under the orders or control of ruthless villains, who have turned them into deadly instruments.


The AD Police — which apparently stands for “Advanced” Police — are a heavily armed anti-terrorist/ anti-robot crime force, trained to deal with Boomer-related problems — have two different alert systems, one (called Sequence “N”) for whenever the Boomers go on “Nano-Stampede,” and one called Sequence “B,” which is for normal Boomer attacks, when they attack randomly.

The AD Police are overwhelmed, however, which is why they’re aided by four young female vigilantes who collectively call themselves the Knight Sabers.

The Knight Sabers are actually members of a glam rock band who play synth-heavy pop-rock, called Priss and the Replicants, who are led by lead singer and biker babe Priscilla “Priss” S. Asagari, a moody 19-year old ass-kicking badass who takes charges in battle situations (she’s also involved in a love/hate relationship with pretty boy AD policeman Leon McNichol).


The actual leader of their vigilante gang, though, seems to be Sylia Stingray, who owns the Silky Doll lingerie shop. She is also who is the daughter of the scientist who once worked for the Genom Corp. before he was murdered by Genom’s agents when they stole his Boomer technology (Sylia, who is kind of a calculating mastermind type, might also be a Boomer herself!).

Along with the other two Knight Sabers in their fearsome foursome — athletic and gradeful aerobics instructor Linna Yamazaki and quirky AD Police computer hacker and traffic cop Nene Romanova — they all wear hi-tech, skin-tight dark blue armored exo-skeleton type combat suits, called “Hard Suits” (kinda like Iron Man).

The Hard Suits feature a laser gun and explosive charges in their gloves (called “knuckle bombers”) and the suits also connect with the motorcycles they ride (called “Motoslaves”) into an automated modular core system to which different types of heavy weapons can be added.


The Knight Sabers pretty much do what all superheroes do, which means they fight against the villains, which for BGC includes Quincy, the Chairman of Genom; Quincy’s right-hand man, Brian J. Mason; and an obnoxious Boomer named “Largo.”

The relationships on the show are fairly complicated, with lots of twists and turns, and the plots are fairly straight-forward; for instance, the first episode — “Tinsel City Rhapsody” — involves the Knight Sabers being hired to rescue a little girl from her kidnappers.

One of the best aspects of the series, which deserves to be singled out, is the musical soundtrack: in addition to the catchy Japanese-sung glam-pop songs by Priss and the Replicants (mostly sung by Ohmori Kinuko), there is also an exquisite hard-driving score composed by Kouji Makaino.

The characters — including the four female leads — were designed by Kenichi Sonoda, while Masami Obari created the mechanical designs (he would also go on to direct episode 5 and 6 in the series).


The title for the series, according to Suzuki, was meant to reflect a world in crisis, which in his words he imagined was like “a chewing-gum bubble that’s about to burst.”

BGC was also originally planned to be thirteen episodes, not eight — the series was going to be divided into two main storylines, each of them comprising six episodes, with two side stories planned for an additional episode — but legal problems arose between the two companies which jointly held the rights to the series, Artmic and Youmex, and so it was discontinued before all thirteen episodes could be made.

The legal issues that beset the Bubblegum Crisis lasted until the late-1990s when Artmic were fully liquidated by 1997 and bankrupt by ’98, and Youmex was absorbed into Toshiba EMI, although BGC (as well as most of Artmic’s titles) are now the intellectual property of AIC (Anime International Company).

Bubblegum Crisis was initially created for the direct-to-video (both VHS and Laserdisc) market, initially, and were first released by the AnimEigo company in the U.S.– in Japanese with English subtitles — in 1991, followed in a few years by an English-dubbed version of the series in 1994, also released on VHS and Laserdisc.

As for airing on TV, the series — which does contain depictions of violence, adult language, and brief slightly NSFW nudity — was eventually broadcast on a PBS affiliate in San Jose, California (station KTEH) in the 1990s, and then aired over the STARZ cable network, sometime in the year 2000.


In addition to episode one of Bubblegum Crisis“Tinsel City Rhapsody” — all seven of the remaining episodes in the original BGC anime series — “Born to Kill“; “Blow Up“; “Revenge Road“; “Moonlight Rambler“; “Red Eyes“; “Double Vision“; and “Scoop Chase” — are all available on our Night Flight Plus channel.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.