Tokyo Vice Anime Review
US Release By
In the Tokyo of the future, hotshots Akira and Junpei have dealt with the weak job market by forming a freelance detective agency. Joined by Junpei's sister Kumiko and the team's well-connected resident tech, Keiko, no case is too tough for them. Nor day job, for that matter: Akira moonlights as a rock singer and Junpei is an unassuming college student in his free time.
Things get interesting when some poor fool walks into one of Akira's concerts and dies in Junpei's arms. Of course, as dying engineers are apt to do, he gives Junpei a disk to deliver. Though the rest of the team would rather just hand it over to the police, Junpei is determined to deal with the matter himself. Unfortunately for him, there just happens to be one of those big, scary corporations after the disk, too. This particular one is into heavy robotics, and that's a bad thing when you have something they want. After they do a number on Junpei and kidnap his sister, it's up to the remaining two team members to deal with them. But when things get really ugly (what better way to test that shiny new assault bot than on some unsuspecting intruders?), will the battered Junpei be able to save the day?
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Tokyo Vice is too-classic '80s anime. The story is as cliche as it is tried and true, and it stands out only in how little there is to distinguish it. It's got old-school action, decent '80s J-rock, formula drama, a recognizable cast of characters--the cool guy, the rebellious kid, the cute girl to get kidnapped--a mysterious disk, and an evil corporation with an astoundingly incompetent experimental military robot. It repeatedly corners a hero, then points its gatling gun menacingly at him for several minutes while an important conversation goes on. The only significant deviations from the norm are how little setup there is of the team and characters, and that Akira the rock star/P.I. is a little more human than most. Keiko is the stock mature '80s woman, but also has just enough personality to be likable.
In all, Tokyo Vice is exactly what you'd expect from an older cyberpunk action flick: Average '80s animation, average '80s art, a tried and true plot, and nothing more. If you can't get enough of old-school cyberpunk like Bubblegum Crisis or really like '80s action movies, then you might well enjoy it. As for the rest of us, it'll be a mildly entertaining diversion for the unintentional humor at best, and more likely a complete waste of time.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Tokyo Vice (aka The Tokyo Project) is classic '80s anime. A bit too classic--the story is as cliche as it is tried and true. Bubblegum Crisis went there, as did any number of low-budget action movies made in a variety of countries. It stands out only in how little there is to distinguish it.
The plot isn't badly done--there are bad bad guys, cool good guys, a smattering of suspense, and big chunk of action--but none of it has any substance. Conspicuously absent are character introductions or any backstory on the team. This means one of two things: Either it's based on something and it's assumed that we know them, or we were intended to pick it up along the way and it's just written badly. Actually, I'm going to go with a third possibility: It is so cliched that they figured "Why waste screen time and money explaining the setup since it's all a rehash anyway?" In any case, although it is a little disorienting for the first couple of minutes, you shouldn't have a very hard time filling in the blanks, and there doesn't seem to be much to miss.
About the only thing that stands out at all are the characters. Junpei is the stock young hero, replete with really frizzy hair, and his sister is... well, the hero's ditzy sister. Akira, however, is not quite as cool as he should be. Sure he's a rock singer and a smooth pistol packin' P.I. to boot, but he's also a tad more human than that; in a couple of scenes, he has these embarrassed reactions that break down the image just enough to set him out from the crowd. Keiko looks like every other cool, mature anime woman in an '80s show, but also has just enough personality to be likable.
That's pretty much it as far as deviation from the formula goes.
Visually, Tokyo Vice fits in perfectly with its peers--classic, rough-edged '80s style art and animation. The character designs are as unoriginal as everything else, but don't look bad at all. The two main bits of tech--the big, bad robot and a big, bad gun--are actually surprisingly cool. Elsewhere there's some good ol' '80s "high" tech--simultaneously futuristic and a little too clunky.
Getting back to that robot, there's a nice long action sequence centered around it that looks better than some of the other rather stiff fights, but is a marvel of uneven pacing. About three quarters of the "fight" is spent talking or staring down the robot; it has a tendency to corner a hero, then point its gatling gun menacingly at him for the next two or three minutes while some important conversation goes on. The "experimental" nature of the robot could be used as an excuse, but the evil corporation must have some major AI bugs to work out. Unintentionally humorous, if you're heckling.
The Japanese voice acting is passable. Again Akira and Keiko stand out; for as much as she has to say, I particularly liked Fumi Hirano's performance as the latter (against type, at that--she's the voice of Lum). Kumiko (voiced by relative unknown Manami Komori), on the other hand, is a little weak, and the backup characters are standard. Junpei (veteran Kazuki Yao) has lots of shouting and grunting to do, but that's about it.
The music (is it a rule that at least one character in all '80s cyberpunk must be a rock singer?) is about standard for the period. But, since there's plenty of it and it does have a solid rock beat, it succeeds in kicking the action up a notch.
In all, Tokyo Vice is exactly what you'd expect from an older cyberpunk action flick: Average '80s animation, average '80s art, a tried and true plot, and nothing more. If you can't get enough of old-school cyberpunk like Bubblegum Crisis, or really like '80s action movies, then you might well enjoy it. As for the rest of us, it'll be a mildly entertaining diversion for the unintentional humor at best, and more likely a complete waste of time.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Bubblegum Crisis did the same thing, and did it better. Another worthwhile series that shares the P.I. heritage with a healthy dose of not-so-serious is City Hunter.
Notes and Trivia
The original title is Tokyo Vice, which Media Blasters' original VHS release (one of their first, in fact) used. It has since been re-released on DVD under the alternate title "The Tokyo Project" for some inexplicable reason.
A little bit of weirdness: If you have sharp eyes, you may notice flashes of what looked like text onscreen every once in a while. If you bother to freeze-frame it and have too much time on your hands, you'll see that your eyes weren't playing tricks on you. They appear to be questions about the story, thrown onscreen for one frame during an explosion or something. The last one, for example, asks something about the hero's big gun. I haven't been able to find out what they're doing there, but it was probably a contest or something similar when the video was originally released in Japan.
Keiko is one of Fumi Hirano's relatively small number of anime roles outside Urusei Yatsura, for which she provided the unmistakable voice of Lum.
US DVD Review
Media Blasters' DVD (oddly retitled "The Tokyo Project") includes both English and Japanese soundtracks, but lists no extras.
Not much unsuitable for the younger viewer, other than some pretty serious (but not terribly graphic) violence. Maybe 13-up on account of the violence, if not 10-up.
Violence: 3 - Several gunfights, but a low body count and not a lot of blood.
Nudity: 0 - Nothing much.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nada.
Language: 1 - Again, not worth mentioning.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Junpei Toma: Kazuki Yao
Akira Nagareyama: Kaneto Shiozawa
Keiko Yamazaki: Awa Hirano
Kumiko Toma: Manami Komori
Politician: Shuichiro Moriyama
Sakamoto: Shigeru Chiba
Chief: Jun Sasami
Okazaki: Kosuke Obayashi
Kurata: Kanetaka Arimoto
Professor's Wife: Mika Doi
Kusumoto: Tomohiro Nishimura
Announcer: Toshio Horiuchi
Female Professor: Toshino Takamori
Manager: Shin Aomori
Receptionist: Hiromi Yokota
Controller: Kazuo Oka
Director: Masao Yamazaki
Script: Masao Yamazaki
Character Design: Kenichi Onuki
Mechanical Design: Osamu Tsuruyama
Co-Mechanic Design: Koichi Ohata
Animation Director: Osamu Tsuruyama
Art Setting: Mitsutake Nakamura
Director of Photography: Nobuyuki Sugaya
Music: Corioka, Masami Sato, Ichiro Nagata, Yoichi Ishida, Tetsuya Hayakawa
Theme Song: Masaki Kyomoto
Produced by: Polydor/MTV Inc
Available in North America from Media Blasters on Hybrid DVD (retitled "The Tokyo Project"). Was also available on subtitled VHS under the original title.