Anime and Virtual Reality

Ho Lin, Brown University '92

Bubble Gum Crisis offers plenty of moments in which the characters are transported into different, electronically simulated (or stimulated) environments. Take the pool-flashback sequence in episode 1 in which Sylia relives her father's death and the subsequent "dumping" of the hardsuit information into her brain, or the similar sequence in episode 3 in which she sifts through her files in her computer room, visuals and memories flooding through her mind, mirroring Mason's dump of his brain patterns into the Genom data banks at that same moment, or the passages in episode 4 in which the revenge-crazed Gibson updates his car into a symbiotic interface, blending his mind with the machine and creating something more responsive and deadly. And of course, there are the Knight Sabers' hardsuits themselves, through which outside stimuli are channeled and interpreted for the women inside through their visors, heightening their perception of the environment around them. Boiled down to its simplest terms, it is like being at the controls of a mobile video game.

There is also the cyberpunk obsession with technology, whether it be something as (apparently) innocuous as the upgrading of Priss' bicycle, the computer programs that wake Sylia up in the morning and pick out her daily newspaper, and the hand-held interface which allows AD Police officers to comb through dozens of world news files in the space of a few seconds, to the dangerous "black box" laser satellite controller, or Gibson's modified Griffon, or the "D.D." battle-mover which interfaces with combat Boomers. Technology's destructive potential is emphasized, but its helpful aspects are noted as well.

But what makes Bubblegum Crisis stand out is the fact that it can be enjoyed as a piece of entertainment as well as for its cyberpunk elements. One can watch it on the level of a fast-paced, sharply edited futuristic adventure and enjoy the characters and the scenery designs, but the themes and paradoxical questions are there for those who wish to look for them. Perhaps it is the best example yet of pop art co-existing with the postmodern avant-garde.