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Cyber City Oedo 808

is a seminal Cyberpunk anime set in the year 2808 in the megalopolis of Oedo (Tokyo). It was created by the acclaimed Yoshiaki Kawajiri who was heavily responsible for such shows as Lensman, Space Cobra and Goku Midnight Eye, Yoju Toshi (Wicked City), Jubei ninpucho (Ninja Scroll) and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. He was also part of the Animatrix project.

Plot

To combat computerised crime more effectively, the Cyber Police unit of the future Japanese city of Oedo has begun to employ hardened criminals with a history of hi-tech offences and other crimes such as murder.

Three such criminals are Sengoku, Gogl and Benten who are serving their 300-or-more year sentences in an orbital penitentiary. For duty served, each criminal will receive a reduction in their prison time. Desperate to get away from the boredom and monotony of jail life, they half-heartedly agree to the deal. They answer to police chief Hasegawa who keeps them in check thanks to an explosive collar that each criminal wears around his neck. Hasegawa can blow this collar from a distance and it will also explode if they fail to complete their missions within an allocated time period.

Although there are no specifics to what kind of society the series is based in, it is presented as very high-tech but also with a very dystopian feel. In the first episode for example, a man under pressure confesses to a murder (which he did commit) and which is responsible for the present crisis. This is enough for Hasegawa to order Sengoku to kill the man there and then without so much as a trial. When Sengoku fails to do so his sentence is increased.

There are three episodes, each one serving to focus more on the personal exploits of one of the three-man team. The UK release had different titles for these episodes than other markets did.

  • Episode 1; "Virtual Death" (aka "Time Bomb" or "Memories Of The Past"); Sengoku is sent to save 50,000 people trapped in Oedo's largest skyscraper after its central computer is mysteriously taken over. Along the way, he finds that the only suspect is a dead man.
  • Episode 2; "Psychic Trooper" (aka "The Decoy" or "The Decoy Program"); Gogl's investigation of a murder pits him against an experimental military cyborg as he tries to rescue his ex-partner. Of note is that during this episode we see at least one other cyber-criminal trying to (unsuccessfully) remove his collar, so we know that there are more than our three anti-heroes being employed by the Cyber Police unit.
  • Episode 3; "Blood Lust" (aka "The Vampire" or "Crimson Media" ); The freak murder of three geneticists leads Benten to investigate one man's quest for immortality, as well as finding a young woman transformed into a psychic vampire because of this quest.

Characters

  • Sengoku Syunsuke, who is very anti-social and a renegade, much to the chagrin of Hasegawa (see below). Uses a high velocity magnum as his weapon of choice and swears a lot. Fond of teasing Benten for his effeminate looks. Seemingly contractually obligated to be followed everywhere by Varsus (see below), who monitors his behaviour, keeping him in line while occasionally helping Sengoku out of tight spots. Sengoku is serving a sentence of 375 years, with a 0.005% chance of parole.
  • Gabimaru Rikiya, also known as Goggles. A blinded ex-heavyweight boxer, the punk-like Goggles is a brilliant combination of brains and brawn, being a musclebound expert on many subjects ranging from computers to medicine. He has an electronic visor for eyes, and wears a mohawk hairstyle. He is infamous as an expert computer hacker who once used his talents to hack into government datasites and hold them for ransom. Goggles is more stoic with his lot: he realises that hunting down cyber criminals is better fare than rotting away in orbital prison. Goggles is serving a sentence of 310 years, with a 0.013% chance of parole.
  • Merill Yanagawa, also known as Benten, seemingly a person meticulous in his job, whose main weapon is a mono wire which can cut through anything. A man of androgynous appearance, he's also an expert gymnast and something of an astronomer: He is often found to be reading bad omens from the alignment (or misalignment) of the stars. Benten is serving a 295 year sentence, with a 0.008% chance of parole.
  • Juzo Hasegawa, the Cyber Police officer responsible for controlling the cyber criminals utilised by the police. He possesses a device that acts as a communicator between police and the three cyber criminals: a dual detonation/reset device for the explosive collars and cigarette lighter.
  • Okyo Jonouchi, Secretary to Hasegawa. Romantically interested in Sengoku.
  • Varsus, the robotic liaison between the cyber criminals and the police. Often accompanies Sengoku Syunsuke (see above), to keep him in line, provide mission information and be on the receiving end of Sengoku's frustration and insults.

Influences

  • The explosive collars might be an influence from the movie The Running Man. Later, the use of the explosive collar was also a plot device used in the 1991 motion picture Wedlock aka Deathlock with Rutger Hauer and the 1993 motion picture Fortress then in the Koushun Takami novel "Battle Royale" (in the manga spinoff of the same name, the collar's design borrows much from Cyber City).
  • Oedo stands for Oriental Electric Darwinism Oasis; it is also derived from Edo, the pre-Meiji era name of Tokyo. 808 is a pun referring to the numbers of sections that 18th century Edo was divided into.
  • The weapon of the Cyber Police is often mistaken for a sai. It actually is a jutte, a weapon used by law enforcers during the Edo period. Note that the Cyber Police's jutte has a retractable blade which can also shoot. The jutte is not only a weapon but also the proof of its handler being part of the Cyber police. This is the reason why it is the only weapon common to all three protagonists.
  • Promotional pictures of Cyber City often show the three protagonists with cherry blossoms (sakura) floating in the air. As it symbolized the ephemerality of life, that flower was often associated with both samurai and kamikaze. The symbol is reprised in Cyber City, because Sengoku, Gogl and Benten can die at any moment. Yet, they are not facing deadly danger out of duty (giri) but to selfishly save their lives and regain their freedom.
  • Gogl fights the MOLCOS, a "psychic trooper" on a tower that looks much like Tokyo Tower, a popular location for many Japanese monster movies (kaiju).
  • Creative designers Yoshiaki Kawajiri & Masao Maruyama cite the films of John Woo and Star Wars as main influences on the design of the 3 features.

Game

  • 1991.03.15: CYBER CITY OEDO 808 獣の属性 (Nippon Computer System, PC-Engine CD-Rom)

The game is clearly quite rare, a least in the west, although there is video of it available on youtube showing that it does not follow the story line of the OVA and instead the creators of the game opted for an all new story seemingly keeping the main characters. There is no change in the violence quotient. It was released only in Japan with no English localization.

Voices

Sengoku, Bruce Martin (English)Gogl, Sean Barrett (English)Benten, Daniel Flynn (English)Hasegawa, Bob Sherman (English)Varsus

Media

Audio

The original British VHS release (also televised on Channel 4 circa 1995) features a more rock-centric 23 track score composed by Rory McFarlane not present on the US or Japanese versions, his score combined rock, electronica and ambient styles as the samples below demonstrate, it has been out of print for years and as such is very rare to find on CD but it is known to be available on the internet. Because of the more charged nature of the music in the UK edition score it is considered to be better suited to the ultra violent, dark and stylish atmosphere of the anime than the original, more pop like, Japanese score. Due to Manga Entertainment, UK losing the rights to the Cyber City series this edition of the score is unavailable on western DVD releases and remains available only on the old VHS versions from the mid nineties.

Track listing

  1. Space prison (2:40)
  2. Kill you (1:25)
  3. Car chase (2:07)
  4. Elevator (1:59)
  5. Murder (3:10)
  6. Amachi (1:32)
  7. Amachi dies (1:00)
  8. Diving (1:05)
  9. Gogul (0:56)
  10. Trucking (2:03)
  11. Arena (2:16)
  12. Body snatchers (0:36)
  13. Body vault (1:22)
  14. Top secret (1:16)
  15. Sarah (1:05)
  16. Duel (2:32)
  17. Molcos dies (2:39)
  18. Stars (2:37)
  19. Search (1:44)
  20. Cryogenics (1:22)
  21. Big cats (3:47)
  22. Vampire (4:30)
  23. Closing theme (3:13)

A sample of the UK edition opening titles.
Sample of the music from the UK version where Sengoku apprehends a criminal from the beginning of "File One".

Sengoku: "Varsass,[sic] raise the draw-bridge."
Varsus: "I can't do that without a reason."
Sengoku: "Because, shit-head, the fuck I'm supposed to arrest will be over the hill's and far away if you don't; OK?"
|
Cue from "File Two" where Gogl is drives his big truck through a special forces barricade and off a bridge.An atmospheric ambient cue from the beginning sequence of "File Three", with the vampire getting its first victim, which combines electronic, ambient and rock styles.
An electronica cue reminiscent of the popular House style of the early nineties from "File Three" with one of many dialogue samples from each episode included on the soundtrack.

Reception

When it was released it was a very popular and influential cyber punk manga series and that has not changed with DVD re-releases being very popular and being given good reviews, such as from Animeworld.com it also has a score of by 126 votes on Imdb as well as these quotes from sites below:
"... a solid cyberpunk thriller/horror feature with enough action and characterization to satisfy." - T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews|
"This is a really good Mad House quality OVA show" - Anime on DVD|
''"Oedo bears Kawajiri's signature proudly. Action fans will enjoy this show immensely."-The Anime Review|

Trivia

  • The end of File 1, Virtual Death, had Sengoku poised to murder Hasegawa. The first episode was intended to be a one off before success meant another two episodes and an inconvenient plot hole. The U.S. release, however, was changed to reflect this, instead showing two Chinese criminals.
  • Certain VHS copies in the UK were sold with "data cards" with the three main characters' vital statistics included on them.
  • Since its debut in 1990, creators Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Masao Maruyama are still unhappy that the opening title shot that spells "Oedo" does not evenly line up.
  • The original concept of Oedo was to be similar to the comedic "Lupin the III", but as the project developed the films took on a much darker tone.
  • All of the extensive computer graphics used in each episode were actually hand drawn since the production was made before the age of digital media.
  • Oedo was created shortly after "Goku: Midnight Eye" and shares many of the same production values.

References

External links

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