published in Empire No.63, Sydney
Babes in suits. It's a mainstay of male titillation the world over, derisively pointed to as a particularly Japanese puerile fascination. Sure - anime is heavily populated with such figures, but they usually are ironic takes on the bimbo. Furthermore, the characters in those suits are more fleshed-out (in the literary sense) than most Western live-action cinema's attempt to portray 'strong women'.
The women in the seminal Bubblegum Crisis are not only strong: they're a self-empowered kick-arse well-rounded team. The creation of one of the original otaku kings, Kenichi Sonada, this infamous hit from the late 80s is now released in a special DVD collection. In one sense, it stands the test of time in a retro way. Replete with very 80s big-hair new-wave stylistics (films like Walter Hill's faux-rock Streets of Fire are an unacknowledged influence), it creates its own hermetically sealed style world. It's a lot of fun and some band will soon enough be doing an 80s J-rock anime-style video clip.
But in another sense, Bubblegum Crisis retains its original emotional thrust. The Knight Sabres are 5 women with emotional schisms - especially tough chick Priss. They dress up in their tight hugging hard-suite as a symbol to protect themselves from a harsh futurist world beset by renegade deprogrammed robots (boomers). These undercurrents give the series a genuine life beyond those amazing stilettoed power-suits.