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Monday, June 3, 2013

Sillypunk: Cyber City Oedo 808

Last night* I saw a film called Frances Ha. As the first twenty or so minutes of the film passed, I said to myself, "I'm gonna love this movie!" As the movie came to an end, I had no idea whether I loved it anymore. Most of that movie's working parts are hard to discover at first, and it's something that really deserves to be looked at more closely.

Frances Ha, however, does not have a scene where she fights a psychokinetic robot on top of a massive radio tower by punching it in the face. Cyber City Oedo 808, does.

Really, there's not a lot I need to say about it other than that.

Actually, while I love it for its craziness, and as weird as it is to say, there's nothing novel for an anime of it's vintage to be crazy like this, especially one of Kawajiri's. The thing that makes Oedo stand out is that unlike many (or even most) anime of that sort, Oedo is unironically good. Kawajiri has a good eye for imagery and his workmanship is very solid. Some anime from that time are enjoyable despite themselves - because nobody really knew what they were doing and were trying crazy things to make up for their 30,000 dollar budgets - but this is good because Kawajiri can draw from that same well of craziness and has the talent to make it work.

I might be making a mistake by associating it with a lot of those other anime though, because despite the punched-up Manga UK dub, it's actually not nearly as violent or lewd as a lot of its contemporaries, including Kawajiri's other work. While there's certainly blood, and the heroes are criminals, it's actually not that dark. It's not misanthropic, it's not misogynistic, its heroes are likable, and there's never any real risk of the heroes dying. As far as anime of its ilk go, you could almost call it a lighthearted adventure.

One of the things that makes it work is the Manga Entertainment dub. Since this was the period when publishers saw anime's biggest obstacle being the age ghetto, Manga overcompensated by inflating the age rating with added profanity completely absent in the original Japanese script. The result, in this case, is not strictly a good dub, but in a lot of ways it is a good script rewrite. Here's a line from the original Japanese with its subtitle script translation.

「長谷川十蔵、心配すんな。あんたの思う壺にはまってやらあ」// Don't worry Hasegawa, I'm swallowing your bait.
Here's the dub line.
"Okay, okay, I don't wanna buck the trend. I accept your most generous goddam offer."
Now to be fair, the subtitle script doesn't really capture the spirit of the original.「あんたの思う壺にはまってやらあ」is a hell of a lot more brusk than "I'm swallowing your bait," but even so, the English line is just plain better. Even if the dub is ridiculous, it's still by far the most enjoyable way to watch the OVA.

So where does this leave Cyber City Oedo 808 standing?

On a space elevator, fighting robodogs that fire lazors from their maws.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to read the Cyberpunk 2020 SRD again.

*not actually last night anymore

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