“Riding Bean” (1989) is a fast-paced, stick-shifting T&A-soaked hi-octane anime joyride!

By on June 6, 2018

Kenichi Sonoda’s Riding Bean follows a day in the life of “Bean Bandit,” a.k.a. “the Roadbuster” (his real name and age are unknown), a Jay Leno-chinned driver-for-hire in Chicago’s underworld, working for either outlaw bad guys or cops/good guys (just as long as they pay him the big bucks for his high-in-demand services).

Watch the testosterone and T&A-soaked Riding Bean — one online reviewer called it “a masterpiece of gratuitousness: gratuitous violence, gratuitous nudity and gratuitous chin” — and other Eighties Anime titles, including the Bubblegum Crisis series, on Night Flight Plus.

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Directed by Yasuo Hasegawa, Riding Bean was released on February 22, 1989, with a run-time of 48 minutes.

Along the way, the headbanded Bean is accompanied by two trusty sidekick females, tall Rally Vincent — a bounty hunter, gun shop owner, and weapons expert — and her tiny pal, Minnie May, the cutest explosives expert on the planet (she insists she’s over eighteen but she made us feel a bit pedo).

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Bean Bandit has a reputation for being a quick getaway driver with incredible skills: think Baby in Baby Driver (2017) or Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive (2011), or Jason Statham’s character in The Transporter (2002).

He drives a custom-made monster-machine nicknamed “Buffalo” (“The Buff”) and a tricked-out ’69 Chevy Corvette.

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The film opens with Bean waiting for two criminals robbing what appears to be a shopping mall, taking a mostly-nude orange-haired babe hostage in the process.

Bean’s skills behind the wheel mean he’s also the first suspect that comes to mind when ten-year old Chelsea Grimwood, the daughter of the president of the Grimwood Company, an electronics conglomerate, is kidnapped.

It turns out Chelsea is not the real target of shady criminals, though, it’s her wealthy CEO father, and the story proceeds as Bean and the foxy Rally battle ruthless kidnappers and clueless cops.

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Riding Bean feels very much like an ’80s Hollywood action flick, with lots of bloody shootouts, fast-paced, stick-shifting hot-shit car action and naughty, NSFW sexy stuff.

The John Belushi-Dan Aykroyd comic-action 1980 blockbuster, The Blues Brothers, in particular, inspired Riding Bean.

Not only were parts of that movie’s chase scenes rotoscoped for Riding Bean, but a license plate on a car we see in a parking lot is “BDR 529,” the same as the Bluesmobile.

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We feel we should also note the cheeseball ’80s soundtrack by jazz fusion keyboardist David Garfield and his band, which deserves either a few sincere slow-claps or derisive laugh-tracksguffaws, weren’t not sure which.

Read more about Riding Bean and Kenichi Sonoda below.

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In 1984, at the age of twenty-one, Kenichi Sonoda — 園田 健 (Sonoda Ken’ichi) began working in Tokyko as a manga artist and animation character designer.

His work as a dōjin artist (同人 or doujin) soon gained notoriety for its foxy female characters, which caught the eye of Hideki Kakinuma, and led to a job opportunity at Artmic.

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Soon, he was creating character designs for the sci-fi anime meta-series Gail Force (1986).

He also designed the Knight Saber characters — an all-female team of hi-tech vigilantes — for the late ’80s cyberpunk anime/manga franchise, Bubblegum Crisis (also streaming in our Eighties Anime section on Night Flight Plus).

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Sonoda thought too many manga stories were set in New York City, and Chicago was being overlooked, citing Al Capone, prohibition gun battles and its reputation for tough cops as reasons why he based Riding Bean in the Windy City, a city he’d never visited personally.

He also wanted to have his anime feature a lot of guns, but since Japanese citizen’s can’t really own weapons in Japan — unlike America, where the populace possess too fucking many guns, including automatic weapons — he had to draw from photos published in Japanese firearm magazines.

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He wasn’t able to fire a real gun until he came to the United States for Animecon ’91 and went to a firing range, where he shot all types of weapons.

Sonoda was a very “hands-on” participant in the Riding Bean anime, working as an original writer, supervisor, character designer, mechanic setter and storyboarder (manga artists rarely work on anime storyboards).

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Sonoda worked at Artmic until 1991, but the Riding Bean anime series was ultimately left unfinished after the manga was cancelled four chapters in by the Japanese publisher Monthly Comic Noizy.

Sonoda had a falling out with Toshiba EMI over the anime series, and Riding Bean ultimately ended up as a short OVA (Original Animation Video) and “pilot” episode for his next anime project, Gunsmith Cats.

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Gunsmith Cats starred two of the tough female leading ladies from Riding Bean: a redesigned Rally Vincent and her pal Minnie May.

They both continue fighting drug gangs and extortionists in Chicago’s mean streets, and Bean also made a number of appearances, but the focus was mainly on the females.

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Sonoda worked on Gunsmith Cats from 1991 until 1997, and he also developed the OVA sequel, Gunsmith Cats Burst.

Recently, Sonoda decided to revisit the world of Riding Bean, declaring his intention to “write a brand new original intense action packed story in the way that drew the fans into the series in the first place.”

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As many creative artists do these days, Sonoda created a “Project Bean Bandit” Kickstarter campaign.

Launching on May 18, 2018, his Kickstarter raised ten million yen ($91,300 US), with the campaign’s first 48 hours.

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Sonoda hopes to screen the new Bean Bandit anime film at Anime Central 2019, and Sonoda plans on distributing it as both a Blu-ray and digital download for fans all over the world.

Watch Riding Bean and other Eighties Anime titles on Night Flight Plus.

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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.