Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (バブルガムクライシスＴＯＫＹＯ2040) is a 26-episode cyberpunk series from 1998-1999 by Studio AIC, a remake of the 1987-1991 OVA Bubblegum Crisis (see more below for that)
After a mysterious earthquake levels Tokyo, Genom becomes a powerful influence providing their artificial organic lifeforms called Boomers to rebuild and act as a labor class to humanity. However, some of them occasionally run amok, and even the specially created AD Police are at a loss to stop them. Lina Yamazaki travels to Tokyo for employment but also hopes to join a vigilante force called the Knight Sabers, who pilot powered suits to destroy these rogue Boomers. (From ANN)
There’s an altogether rarity of female focused sentai shows, for the most part they get done as magical girl shows and while they use some of the same tropes its not really the same thing, so seeing what is out and out a sentai show, and cyberpunk to boot, already starts Bubblegum Crisis off on the right foot. It lets its girls outright kick ass without the frequently dulling down that magical girl shows often apply to their fights, and to kick ass with powered cybersuits making for some cool, slick action pieces.
While the girls themselves are somewhat stock characters for this genre they are well done stock characters who are likable to spend time with, and Prissa manages to transcend the “gruff loner” archetype almost solely on account of being a punk rock singer which gives her way more personality than any of the Power Rangers. Sylia, the boss of the Knight Sabers, also has a lot of shady dealings going on in her backstory which opens up a lot more compelling development there in the shows second half.
Sometimes just being competently done is all you want from a show, especially one which is just enjoying being an homage to the past (the Blade Runner references are STRONG in this, and moreover cyberpunk as a genre was pretty dead by 1998) making for something thats fun to watch if not exactly going for anything deeper.
Being a 26-episode series from 1998 has some inherent flaws, notably plotting which is not as tight as one can expect from a show today. There are a number of episodes early one which are for all intents and purposes filler, only barely doing anything with the characters and not affecting the plot much beyond a monster of the week just in case you forgot Genom was an evil company- and this being a cyberpunk show you shouldn’t forget the giant conglomerate company is evil as thats kinda the whole point of the genre.
As mentioned above the overall plot isn’t super deep, any casual viewer of any kind of media will pick up on its twists in advance and there isn’t any greater point its trying to make. The biggest problem of all this is an ending which can charitably be called “open”, resolving the central conflict while leaving the future of the girls kinda vague. A sequel series was planned only to be cancelled1 and there’s a bit of a feeling that some points were meant to be resolved there.
Weeb Level: Low. Its all bright 90s colors (well dark 90s colors) so you wont forget you’re watching an anime, but its about a group of adults and channeling way more cyberpunk tropes than pure anime ones.
Content: Some mild fanservice. A lot of action without too much blood or gore, some very mild body horror though as when the Boomers go crazy they tend to transform into partial monsters.
Worth Watching: Seek it out if you like sci-fi action stories and/or want a cast of strong women. Watch it if you want a bit of a throwback to the 90s or like sentai shows. Skip it if you want your shows to have some kind of message or deeper meaning to them.
Where to watch: Originally released by ADV the license has actually changed hands a couple times and is now owned by Funimation with it available to watch on their site as well as pay-per-episode on Prime. There are a couple versions of the DVDs out as well because of this so its fairly easy to find those for cheap.
BONUS- Bubblegum Crisis (1987)
I had wanted to cover these series for a while, and a not-insignificant reason I hadn’t done so till now was I wasn’t sure which one to do as both Tokyo 2040 and the original 8-episode OVA are very good in their own ways while being rather distinct from each other. I’ll spare you a full summary of this and just give you a rundown of the changes between the two:
The Knight Sabers are all already a team at the start of the show here and have been working together for a while; moreover they act much more as mercenaries taking on jobs2 than pure vigilantes. There’s a bit more of a lighter tone here with the characters who actually have more depth, Prissa especially is far less angst-y or sullen, and the sense of team camaraderie is stronger for it. The music is pretty banging, good enough the original DVD release had an entire disc that was a concert video from a tour they put on.
On the other hand the plot is actually a bit weaker. There are two 3-episode mini arcs with their own villains and then two standalone episodes before the run just stops cold due to production issues so there’s no real closure to things. They tried to correct this by making a sequel, Bubblegum Crash, which… sorry Chris but Crash sucks. Being an OVA and from the 80s the fanservice is a bit more pronounced with a couple very quick shots of actual nudity, and the violence is also much more pronounced.
The OVA is streaming on Prime (albeit as part of a trial with some service I dont recognize) or on TubiTV for free. I strongly recommend the TubiTV option.