In the year 2808 in future Japan, criminals who are serving long sentences are being given second chances. They're being offered to work as Cyber Police, with their mission being to capture or kill other criminals. In exchange for their services, the former criminals sentences are reduced after each mission. However, each of the former criminals are forced to wear a collar around his neck. These collars are set to explode should the mission not be completed in the specified time by their handler, or should they attempt to remove them.-summary
Cyber City Oedo 808 is another one of those great ideas, that ended up being completely wasted. I remember coming into this one with very high hopes only because it was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri; the mastermind behind well known classics such as Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. My fascination increased once I learned this was one of his earlier works, because that was when he was really creative. Anyone remembers Neo Tokyo?
Right from the very beginning, I was immediately hooked to the style of the series. The series began with an introduction to the three main characters named Gogol, Bentan, and Sengoku. The intro had me believing this would be something special. These three men were introduced through the shadows. They were foul mouth and mysterious, with a rap sheet of crimes that only the worst criminals could possibly have. I mean these guys were serving sentences in the 300 year range, with murder and assault being at the top of their crimes. They just had to be top of the line nasty pieces of work. Unfortunately, outside of how much they curse. You don't really get a feel on how "bad" they are. The characters are very bland, with their personalities being too much alike, in which, I found this to be a real problem. To be straightforward, these thugs didn't live up to their reputations.
The series contains three episodes with each of the former criminals being a main character in his own story, while the other two are reduced to side characters. This wouldn't have been a problem had the characters been more diverse. I saw absolutely no sense in starring three characters in separate stories who were carbon copies of each other. Any of these guys could have performed each others missions with almost no changes to their episode storyline. Kawajiri fumbled big time there as well as in the plot, by choosing to go the route of an action fest. Perhaps he should have delivered an in-depth story utilizing top notch character development, while also using the exploding collars as the central plot device. I also think that the focus should have been on only one character. That particular approach could have made for far better storytelling when considering the length of the series.
The stories themselves are rather formulaic, with some type of dilemma taking place, which ends with a final battle against a deadly threat. Kawajiri appeared to think that he didn't have much to work with here. Therefore, his approach was way too simple minded, and this story was just so much missed potential. The plot during these stories aren't great, but they have a fair share of suspense, and touch on government conspiracies and wild ambitions. Despite what you may hear elsewhere, there is a bit of imagination used here, with the third episode being the best. Even though I would also consider that episode as missed potential too.
The artwork and backgrounds have a gritty feel to them, which compliments the feel of the series well. However, I find the animation to be seriously lacking, with the bulk of the effort going towards the subpar action scenes. Fans of Kawajiri's trademark gore and dismemberment should be careful here. His over the top and creative action scenes are almost completely absent here.
Overall, Cyber City is a disappointment. Although it does deliver on some of its sci-fi elements. The weak story and poor characterization does it in. The way I see it, any other character type could have filled these roles. It necessarily didn't have to be criminals doing life sentences. In all seriousness, a cop with a clean record and a filthy mouth could have gotten these jobs done. If dirty talking mouths determined ones toughness. Then there's a strong possibilty that the whole world would be invincible. The OVA has a 149 minute runtime.
-Some decent stories
-Action scenes aren't very good
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Japanese 1997 anime
Anime and Manga
Director: Hayao Miyazaki; Release Date: April 15, 2003