published in Empire No.67, Sydney
They look like glam-drag mash-ups from a stage production of Mad Max II. They behave like messed-up yakuza gangsters from 70s Japanese cinema. And the music sounds straight out of 80s rock scores for the likes of Top Gun and Streets of Fire. Welcome to Cyber City Oedo 808 - a classic 90s cyber-punk 3-part series, now on DVD release.
Hardened criminals Shunsuke, Goggles and Benten are allowed to work off their 300 year sentences if they agree to join the Cyber Police and hunt down the most psychotic of law-breakers. The series' production design has that delirious feel of Bubble-era Japan, when skyscrapers, computers and technology were envisioned to re-invent the new Japanese metropolis. Of course, the world view in this type of hard-sf cyberpunk anime is always cynical, and while the production design looks great in its painterly splendour, the Cyber Police trio have nothing but disdain for its city of the future.
Cyber City Oedo 808 is a limited 3-part series, with each episode devoted mostly to one of the convicted trio. Shunsuke is your classic delinquent rocker gun dude, always fired up and ready to rumble. Goggles is a hulking behemoth of a computer expert, capable of hacking into any system. Benten is a wildly androgynous ice-cool killer equipped with a retractable wire weapon which he uses in feats of balletic 'wire-fu'. Each episode provides vividly colourful portraits of their drives and obsessions, portraying them in bold strokes appropriate to this style of anime.
Amazingly, early 90s anime is already bordering on 'retro', but this is only because the development of styles and tones in anime especially in the last 10 years has been astonishingly fast. It's best to not view Cyber City Oedo 808 in terms of the latest wave of computer-aided anime: the coolness of this title lies in its 'hip-because-it's-square' state. If you can enjoy big hair, you'll love it.