Who here has watched The Animatrix? Ok, looks like a lot of you are nodding yes. In The Animatrix, there was a segment called Program that was written and directed by a man named Yoshiaki Kawajiri (he also wrote my favorite segment “World Record”). In the program, Kawajiri’s two mainstays of action scenes and character designs show through; almost as if he had been excelling at these very two things for years; in fact, over twenty-five years. Yoshiaki Kawajiri and John Carpenter (interestingly enough a personal favorite of Kawajiri’s) share this similar relationship. They are both long working directors that have pretty large filmographies, with a few choice works that are considered their best. I have not seen these, opting to watch almost every else but their most famous work. Kawajiri is known predominately for such titles as Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, and Demon City Shinjuku; but what I am reviewing is non-other than the 1990’s OVA, Cyber City Oedo 808.
Cyber City Oedo 808 takes place in the not too distant future of 2808 where crime is getting out of hand. Chief Hasegawa has gathered three cybercriminals, men with multiple life sentences on their head, and has given them an ultimatum. Work under him as part of the Odedo (formally Tokyo) cyber police taking in criminals, earning years off their sentences. From there, each episode of Cyber City Oedo centers on one of these threes newfound profession (which I might add comes with a police Jutte). The opener to each episode of Cyber City Oedo showcases these men’s police records and felony charges. First up to bat is Sengoku, the haphazard tough-guy with a pissed off attitude that sports a Pompadour with a ponytail in the back. Second is Goggles (it is pronounced the same way you would say Golgo in Golgo 13), a Mad Max (or Fist of the North Star, take your pick) looking thug with a visor and hacking skills that are not to be beat. Third and last of these three is Benten, who I consider to be the male equivalent for the character Cis from Program, but with a predilection for gymnastics and monofilament wire.
Data 1: Time Bomb
Sengoku takes center stage with the first episode, starting the ball running by jumping a car off of a drawbridge and landing on an escaping ship. This escaping convict was not expecting Sengoku to be on his tail. After contacting Hasegawa at his office with a job well done, Sengoku tries to relax. Unfortunately for Sengoku, Hasegawa calls him up to handle a crisis at the city’s tallest skyscraper (I am talking higher than the clouds here). There are 50,000 civilians stuck inside this skyscraper, prisoners of a malfunctioning computer mainframe. See, Sengoku is sent to find Dave Kurokawa (called a “Shit Hot Programmer” by Goggles), the man thought to behind this skyscraper incident. So it is up to Sengoku to drag himself up to that skyscraper and take Kurokawa in, all this before Hasegawa is motivated to blow up the collar on Sengoku’s neck (oh did I mention that all three of them have these silver collars that Hasegawa has the ability to detonate with the press of a bottom).
Best one liner: Adios Boozo. This time I am downloading you straight to Hell.
Data 2: The Decoy
Goggles episode starts with the Mad Max hero tracking down another cyber criminal turned cop. Goggles finds him trying to remove the collar that also rests on Goggles’ neck. Figuring if the collar can be effectively removed, then Goggles could free of Hasagawa’s leash. But things go wrong, and Goggles dream of freedom blows up just like the man’s head when things do not go as planned. While this is going on, Sengoku and Benten are on the case of a mysterious murder. Goggles runs into Shara, his previous “women in red” partner in crime, hiding from the military. The military finds them and chases them down. See, they need to bring Goggles in to test their latest cyber cop replacement, Project Molcos. Project Molcos with its Force Push attacks and Go-Go Gadget extendo cyborg limbs is the pride of Staff Officer Mashiba’s military influence. Let me just say that Goggles is going to have a hard time with this one.
Best one liner: Together we can beat these limp dicks.
Data 3: The Vampire
It is finally Benten’s turn. The final episode starts with Benten approaching a woman watching the night sky. He reassures her he means no harm by presenting his Cyber Cop badge and then they start talking about the stars. She, a woman, who looks like she would fit perfectly in a Yoshitaja Amano painting, finds it disturbing how long it takes for a star’s light to reach Earth. She considers a lifetime’s worth of moving for nothing a terrible curse. After that she disappears. The next day starts with the body of a researcher found dead with teeth marks in his neck. Benten believes that this researcher along with other recent researchers was killed by a vampire. Benten does some detective work and interviews all kinds of people. From Chinese Medicine men, to gun makers, and even mobsters, he discovers that Shuzo Saionji, Honorary Chairmen of the Saionji Medical Foundation, hired all three of the dead researchers. Now it is up to Benten to find out what the connection between Shuzo Saionji, the killing, and the women from before; all while being hunted by his old friend, a bounty hunter by the name of Cari.
Best one liner: Sengoku- Hey Benton-don’t crap your pants if you see a Vampire out there. Benten- Get lost. You wouldn’t recognize a goddamn vampire if one jumped up and bit you on the end of your fucking dick.
As you might have noticed, I have been taking one liners from each episode of this OVA. Now on certain shows, I will prefer the dub over the sub, even though I am predominately a sub guy. The English dub of Cyber City Oedo has a special place in my heart; considering that it is part of a long line of Manga UK’s dubs that went through what is called fifteening. (Fifteening is when an anime is bumped up to a fifteen plus rating by way of adding unnecessary profanity.) Take for instance the scene in episode three where I got that quote from above. In Japanese, that conversation was completely different.
Pros: Cyber City Oedo has some really nice nuances that stood out. Take for instance the way every character is shown to be a mix of multiple ethnicity. They are part African, Asian, and Caucasian in some way. I liked how even thought each character has their own episode, the other two still were not left out of the picture.
Cons: Rewatching the series, I realized that episode one is a step below in enjoyment from the others. I thought that it was better than it was, but it was overshadowed by the other two episodes. The DVD does not have the British made opening done by Rory McFarlane. Now while I do love the Japanese opening, the British one has its own charm.
Central Park Media, when they were still around, had the rights for Cyber City Oedo. But since they are gone and no one has picked it up again, the copy I have is part of a dying breed. Now, thankfully these DVDs sit on the “of print means going super cheap” instead of the “out of print means raise the price up tenfold” spectrum. Amazon has it for as little as the cost to ship it. This is one of those times where I suggest just watching it online though. Cyber City Oedo 808 is worth the time investment, it excels at showcasing Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s work as a director.
Great review. This is one of my all time favorites. I’ve ran out of ways to say “this is really good…this is great. this is excellent”, but I’m glad others have tried to show that yes it is indeed great. It’s my favorite Kawajiri piece, although all his stuff is good, this is his magnus opus. His other most famous piece is Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which CPM loved to remind everyone he did. Everyone tends to forget he was the screenwriter too. He wrote the screenplay for for A Wind Named Amnesia (a real masterpiece, but very different stuff) and Biohunter (a top notch horror anime that’s quite well written and has interesting characters [when are college professors the main characters in ANYTHING?]). Yes Kawajiri had a lot of talent. Someone give this guy money and let him direct some new stuff plz.