Cybernetics Guardian Anime Review
/ OVA / Action / 16-up
Uniformly awful in every way, except for some decent art.
...The Cliff's Notes version of Genocyber.
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US Release By
What's In It
- Superpowerful Fistfights
- Super Technology
- Little Robots/Battlesuits
- Just Plain Bad.
- Violence: 3 (significant)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 1 (mild)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
The first years of the 21st century saw revolutionary advancements in cybernetic medicine, but the year is now 2019 and the world's cities have not fared well. One example is the metropolis of Cyber-Wood, blighted by a vast lawless slum known as Cancer, filled with the poorest and most violent of the city's inhabitants. A new project, however, aims to bring justice to Cancer: an experimental suit of armor that will tap into it's operator's spiritual energy and allow him to peacefully apprehend the city's criminals. Piloted by John Stalker, the initial test should have gone smoothly. Unfortunately, there is a certain cult (based in Cancer, of course) that intends to bring about the resurrection of the god of darkness, and what better conduit than poor John. When the test goes wrong and John is kidnapped shortly afterward, his girlfriend and a hardened cop are on the trail, but what will they think when they find that their quarry has become an evil god?
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Cybernetics Guardian may look a bit like the "classic" M.D. Geist, but this awful action flick fails to live up to even that low standard. Squeezing a lot of story into 45 minutes was a bad idea from the start, and the inadequate writing does nothing to help. The terrible pacing manages to be slow moving and hurried at the same time, the confusing plot leaves you wishing for more action to break up the monotony, and there isn't anywhere near enough time to get attached to any of the characters. Almost disappointingly, it does pull off some dark, moody settings (though the animation is choppy and the action lackluster) and features a good heavy metal soundtrack, but neither are enough to save it from itself.
Not enough action for action fans, not enough gore for splatterfest fans, and nowhere near enough quality for dark cyber-fantasy fans, the only reason that you might find sitting through Cybernetics Guardian a worthwhile waste of 45 minutes is the cool art. Personally, I'd stay far away.
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Ooh, here's an original idea: Some bad men want to bring about the end of the world, so they get their god to take up residence in (or on, in this case) the body of some poor schmuck. Off goes his girlfriend to save him. Throw in a cool-looking cop and a skinny evil scientist for good measure, and you've got classic anime. Classic really awful anime.
At the top of Cybernetics Guardian's rap sheet you'll find a felony count of bad pacing. Whoever laid out the story must have been on some sort of medication that altered his sense of time, because it's halting, jumps around almost at random, and somehow manages to be slow moving and hurried at the same time.
It also manages to have worse than no plot at all: No coherent story and too much plot, both at the same time. Bad anime with a weird plot to loosely tie together the loads of action that the viewers really came to see is one thing, but Cybernetics Guardian offers lots of weird (read: confusing) developments without even close to enough action to break the monotony.
Ironically, the basic idea has some potential, but trying to cram the end of the world and the battle for one's soul into a 45-minute action flick is just foolhardy. Given a full length movie, things might have worked. Maybe with extremely good writing, the idea could've been squeezed into less than an hour and stayed watchable, but extremely good writing is a concept entirely foreign to this production. The short running time and abrupt start also makes it very hard to get a handle on, let alone feel any sympathy for, any of the characters, even the archetypal bad guys. Things get a little better near the very end, but a little better is still a long way from good.
But here's the real kicker, and it just happens to be the one crime Cybernetics Guardian doesn't commit: bad art. In fact, Cybernetics Guardian looks pretty darn good. Why is that bad? Because I spent nine tenths of the movie wishing that the cool art and character designs hadn't been wasted on such a complete mess. The characters are original, recognizable, and have a different, almost non-anime look to them. They're also kinda cool, particularly the cop (although the sleazy half of the villain duo looks like somebody gave him a 10,000 watt hair dryer and didn't warn him). The monster designs aren't quite as good, but aren't bad, either. The best part, though, is the background art: there's a good sense of the dark, ominous city, and the scenes and settings have a brooding feel, with a few particularly cool locales scattered around.
At least the animation looks cheap. The art has that smooth, '90s-era look that would have been a bit ahead of its time when this was made, but the '80s-era animation is decidedly not of the higher quality that usually accompanies it. The action is similarly lackluster, and doesn't even try for the pointless gore that helps sell similar films like M.D. Geist (one decapitated political candidate is basically the extent of it).
I've only seen the dub, but the acting is slightly above par compared to the rest of the production. The main characters sound passable, but in every case uneven at best. Musically, things are a little better; there are some good heavy metal tunes here and there, although they do little to help the mediocre action scenes.
Summing up, if good anime is your thing, don't watch Cybernetics Guardian. If bad action movies are your thing, don't watch Cybernetics Guardian, either. Really, just don't watch Cybernetics Guardian; I can't say it was all bad, since the art is actually kinda cool, but it has absolutely no other redeeming qualities. Unless you're a fanatic for dark settings and have the ability to completely ignore a storyline (or lack thereof), this is one to avoid.
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M.D. Geist and its sequel do the same convoluted story and action combo, though with much more gore and marginally more success in the sequel. Genocyber does a story even more like this, and much better (not exactly great, but definitely better).
Notes and Trivia
US DVD Review
USM's DVD, aside from Japanese and English stereo audio and English subtitles, features the standard set of extras for their newer discs: character galleries, "meet the creator," as well as a bunch of DVD-ROM features if you pop it in a computer: storyboards, character designs, concept sketches, the complete script, and the voice credits for both languages.
Not really awful, but probably qualifies for a 16-up on account of some graphic violence.
Violence: 3 - Plenty bloody when it gets around to it, but that isn't very often.
Nudity: 1 - Not significant.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Nothing worth mentioning.
Language: 2 - Some crude language.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
John Stalker: Bill Blechingberg
Leyla: Sharon Becker
Adler: Frank Sullivan
Detective Gordon: Peter Cascone
Priest/Dr. Volks: Alan Sklar
Additional Voices: Rik Giannola, Mari Keiko Gonzalez, John McMahon
Producers: Hidenobu Ohyama, Yoru Miura
Director/Original Story: Koichi Ohata
Screenplay: Mutsumi Sanjo
Music: Trash Gang
Produced by: Soshin Pictures Enterpirse Co., Asmik, AIC
Formerly available in North America from the late US Manga Corps on hybrid DVD, both alone and as part of a box set that also included the MD Geist movies and Genocyber, plus the soundtracks to MD Geist and Genocyber. Was originally available on subtitled and dubbed VHS.
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