Bubblegum Crisis

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Or: 'What if Joan Jett and Coco Chanel became New Wave terrorists?'"


One of the groundbreaking anime series to come out of Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bubblegum Crisis is a Film Noir / Cyberpunk epic with superhero subtexts (especially Iron Man), heavily influenced by the films Blade Runner, The Terminator, and Streets of Fire.

In the early 2030s, the world economy (and some of its politics) is controlled by the megacorporation GENOM, whose primary product is the boomer—humanoid robots that can be manufactured for any purpose from cheap labor to prostitution to heavy combat. Opposing GENOM and its plots are the Knight Sabers—four women in astoundingly advanced powered combat suits, led by Sylia Stingray, the daughter of the scientist who invented boomer technology and who was murdered by GENOM's agents when they stole it.

The meaning of the title is obscure. Most commentators believe that it refers the point in blowing a bubblegum bubble where it has equal chances of exploding all over your face or collapsing limply. The mid-21st-Century society depicted in the show appears to be approaching a similar crisis point.

Originally plotted for 13 hour-long episodes, Bubblegum Crisis was forced by a mixture of budget issues and internal politics between the two studios producing the show to cease production with the 8th episode (which wasn't an ending at all). A 3-hour sequel series, Bubblegum Crash!, is believed to be a compressed version of the plot of the remaining five episodes, but is generally considered to be inferior to the original.

In 1990, a Prequel series, AD Police Files, was released, featuring Cowboy Cop Leon in his early days on the force, five years before the start of BGC.

It was "reimagined" in 1998 as the TV series Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, but the result bears almost no resemblance to the earlier show. It kept the Broad Strokes of the premise and the hardsuit designs, but broadly changed the character designs and personalities, and went off in a different direction from the original series. This version began with Linna as an Office Lady who moved to Tokyo to join her heroes, the mysterious Knight Sabers.

In 1999, a second AD Police series: AD Police: To Serve and Protect, was released. A third OVA focusing on the AD Police, Parasite Dolls, was released in 2003.

In 2008, the company AIC announced that they'd signed an agreement to let a Singaporean studio begin production of a live-action version of Bubblegum Crisis—which has ballooned into a coproduction between six countries (including Australia and China), planned for release in 2012. It has yet to materialize.

Tropes used in Bubblegum Crisis include:
  • Action Girl: All the Knight Sabers, but mostly Priss and Linna.
  • Age Is Relative: Believe it or not, but Linna is only a year older than Nene in the OVAs.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The rogue boomers -- maybe; it's unclear whether most of them were accidents or "field testing" by GENOM.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The third OVA episode "Blow Up" starts with Mason sending a military-grade Boomer at Sylia's Silky Doll store—and none of the Sabers are able to suit up in time to fight it.
  • Alternate Continuity: The OVA series, AD Police OVAs and Crash form one continuity, while 2040, AD Police TV and Parasite Dolls are a separate universe.
  • Analog Punk: Bubblegum Crisis is set in 2032, but generally has music, fashions, hairstyles, and technologies that all look like copies from or extrapolations of the 1980s, such as "retro thrash" songs that sound like Jim Steinman wrote them, all-in-one computer-monitor-keyboard units like the original TRS-80 personal computers and personal fax-video phones.
  • Arm Cannon, Breath Weapon, Combat Tentacles, and Chest Blaster: Boomer weapon options. Knight Sabers may have Arm Cannons and/or the Power Fist. Sylia carries a Blade Below the Shoulder. Linna's hardsuit has microfilament hair ribbons that cut through steel!
  • Armed Legs: Priss' Powered Armor has contact-triggered explosives on top of both its feet. And rockets on both ankles. Attack sequence; 1). Jump. 2). Kick. 3). Activate rockets for rocket assisted kick. 4). Explosives go off once Mecha Mook receives kick to head. 5). Get dustpan to sweep up remains of mook.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: In the first OVA episode and the last episode of Crash, the only way to stop fusion boomers is by destroying their original bodies inside the huge accumulation of matter they've assimilated.
  • Autobots Rock Out: Quite a lot of the series carnage is set to rock tunes. Then there are the official videos for those songs. It could even be argued that the entire OVA series is a series of Music Videos with a bit of plot hung around them.
  • Battle Butler: Kou, to Reika, in OVA episode 7.
  • Big Bad: Several—GENOM, Largo, Quincy.
  • Biker Babe and Badass Biker: Priss; Sylvie is only a little less badass.
    • Technically, Linna and Sylia also count as both are pretty handy on a Motoslave of which both have their own colour coded ones (in addition to Priss' red one). Linna often rides hers in tandem with Priss on missions. Nene, on the other hand, is only seen riding her pink Motoslave once, and she never transforms it. She rides around on a scooter in civilian life.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Mason has a trio of Boomer Robot Girls in the episode "Born To Kill", capable of performing Genom's wet work off the clock, and even going toe to toe with the Knight Sabers.
  • Body Horror: An important aspect of the OVA Boomers' design that was unfortunately absent from 2040's Boomers.
  • Bottle Episode: One episode of the AD Police TV series is set entirely inside a bar during a hostage standoff.
  • The Brigadier: Leon, sort of.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: A one-sided example, but Mackie is oddly interested in watching his sister changing clothes.
    • It's later implied that Sylia might be a robot herself, possibly making them Not Blood Siblings.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Most of the characters have names (and appearances in some cases) that suggest they're of mixed ancestry, but they still all speak Japanese and are pretty obviously Japanese culturally. Part of this has to do with the show's genre and Japan's take on impending multiculturalism (well, for The Eighties at any rate).
  • The Captain: Sylia
  • Chekhov's Gun: In ep. 2 of the OVA, Linna takes Irene's engagement ring after Boomers kill the young woman, as a memento to remember her friend.. This comes into play later, in ep. 7, when Linna gives this ring to Irene's sister, Reika, aka Vision, to convince her not to take up the leadership of the Hou Bang group and pursue further vengeance against GENOM.
  • Cool Bike: The Motoslaves.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience - Each Saber has a different colour that identifies than and, for 2 of them, carries over to their Motoslave (Priss has a red Motoslave, and Nene has a pink one that was only seen once).
    • Sylia, White/Bluish-white and Blue
    • Priss, Blue and Red
    • Linna, Green and Orange
    • Nene, Purple and Pink, later Red and Pink after the Mid-Season Upgrade
  • Combat Stilettos: Both the Sabers' powered armor and their Motoslaves in robot / armor mode have these. God knows how the Sabers manage to do much more than walk in theirs, as they have the same basic design as a ballet boot.
  • Compressed Hair: In the OVA, Priss and Nene are sometimes seen pinning their hair up before putting on their helmets, but not always.
  • Conspicuous CGI: The cityscape sequence that introduces each episode of Bubblegum Crash!.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Just about everyone in GENOM.
  • Cowboy Cop: Leon
  • Cut Short: With ye originale OVA. The eighth episode is a Mid-Season Upgrade episode which focuses on Nene and wasn't intended to be the end at all, but various factors made it the last produced episode of the first OVA series.
  • Cyberpunk: One of the defining anime examples, which takes heavy inspiration from one of the big trope makers.
    • Interestingly, though, there are at least shades of Post Cyber Punk throughout pretty much all of the various incarnations of the franchise. The Knight Sabers aren't dedicated to "the destruction of Genom" (with the possible exception of Priss) but rather to the much broader ideal of peace and social justice. Also, even though they're often rather ineffective, the AD Police (as agents of the State) are not villainous at all, and the two major male characters who are AD Policemen are explicitly heroic (not to mention the fact that Nene is a data analyst and part-time traffic cop for the ADPD, and she openly loves her job). And, generally speaking, the tone of the original OVA at least is pretty positive - the Sabers can make a positive impact on the world, Genom can be stopped, etc.
    • And it is strangely dry compared to other works influenced by Blade Runner.
  • Da Chief: Chief Todou
  • Darker and Edgier: The AD Police OVA series, set five years before the original BGC OVAs, shows a much grittier MegaTokyo with more pervasive crime and urban decay, more graphic sex and violence, and people with more obvious-looking cyberware.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Basically what the eighth OVA episode amounts to, focusing on Nene and developing her character substantially. (This ends up being a weird capstone for the original OVA series, since the run wasn't supposed to end there.) Linna also gets some focus in the second episode, but to a much lesser extent.
  • Deus Angst Machina: The D.D. Battlemover. Everything about it is ridiculously contrived in order to force Priss to kill Sylvie. (For specifics, see Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds on the YMMV page.)
  • Development Hell: The Live Action Adaptation, originally announced in 2008 for a 2012 release. Don't hold your breaths, folks.
  • Die Hard on an X: Lampshaded by Jeena Malso in the AD Police manga when she finds herself trapped in a building beng taken over by terrorists.
  • Dirty Old Man: Dr. MacLaren.
  • The Dragon: Brian J. Mason, Madigan, others.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Or rather, a radio tower in Adama's case.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Sylia
  • Engrish: Oh good lord, absolutely infamous for this too. Almost none of the English in the show escapes without some kind of error. A lot of neophyte anime fans in The Eighties were introduced to the Engrish concept via this show.
    • A fair bit of it was so bad as to become memetic in the days prior to widespread Internet access, particularly anything that showed up on Nene's computers. SYLIA WANTS YOU is just one example.
      • The greatest example, probably, is when you see Nene's assignment to the "Fist Shift." I didn't know Raoh worked for the A.D. Police.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Sylvie, Sylvie, Sylvie. Justified in-story by her background as a purpose-built sex slave.
  • Evil Minions: Various boomers.
  • Evil Twin: A set of three Boomers dolled up as fake Knight Sabers in one episode of the OVA.
  • Fake Band: Priss and the Replicants, Vision and the Revengers. The OVA Knight Sabers sing as a group on some songs and are seen playing instruments in the "Asu e Touchdown" video, but they're not canonically supposed to be an in-universe band.
  • Fan Nickname: "About to Die Police"
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Bubblegum Crash!, Soldier Blue and Bubblegum Crisis: Grand Mal in the eyes of some fans.
    • It doesn't help that the main arc of Crash! totally contradicts the most popular arc in Crisis [the Red Eyes arc], and is also presented in a manner that is internally contradictory; Priss' experience with Sylvie and Anri and subsequent character development is completely ignored, an intelligent Boomer is suddenly a radical new thing [as opposed to Crisis where Boomers could easily pass for human, far more so than the 'advanced' one in Crash!], and yet it still uses the Largo character who was involved in all the events it ignores and is, um, an intelligent Boomer.
    • Some secondary source materials suggest Adama was unique for having a fully mechanical brain capable of advanced AI rather than one reliant on boomer biotechnology. No clue how this is really justifying the trope though.
  • Five-Man Band: If you count Mackie. Possibly a Four-Temperament Ensemble if you don't count him: Priss is Choleric; Lina is Sanguine; Sylia is Phlegmatic; Nene is Melancholic, though rather more cheerful than most.
  • Flamboyant Gay: Daley, apparently one of the earliest anime examples. OTOH, 2040!Daley is more of a Invisible to Gaydar.
  • Future Spandex: The Knight Sabers, underneath their power suits, wear form-fitting outfits. It's also justified, as it's explained that the outfits serve as a neural interface between the user and the suit.
  • A God Am I: Largo
  • Going Critical: A threat of such an incident is part of the plot of the final episode of Bubblegum Crash, "Meltdown". The title of this episode is also a Spoiler Title.
  • Government Conspiracy
  • Gratuitous English: On signs all over. For instance, the "Lanjary" shop. And the songs.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: In one episode, there's a danger that military boomer technology might get sold to... the communists! Granted, especially given where the show is set this could still sort of work, but it's very obvious which kind of "communist" they're talking about.
  • Gunship Rescue: Mackie in the "Knight Wing" during OVA episode 6.
  • Hand Cannon: Leon's oversized revolver that is almost effective against Boomers.
    • And to really drive it home, this revolver can fire RPG rounds.
  • Honey Trap: Used on Dr. MacLaren by Vision as part of her revenge for her parents and sister. Includes Room Disservice by multiple parties.
  • Hot Springs Episode: There was a rejected script proposal for one of these. Word of God says that the script eventually resurfaced as an episode of one of director Hiroki Hayashi's later projects: Tenchi Muyo!. This Usenet post attempts to reconstruct the original storyline.
  • Humongous Mecha
  • Idol Singer: Vision (AKA Reika Chang) in OAV 7.
  • I'm Going for a Closer Look: A frequent way Priss gets into trouble.
    • This is the code phrase for A.D. Police helicopter troopers to indicate that they're about to die. You're in a helicopter with a minigun on it. Why would you ever go in closer?
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Boomers explode out of their human skin to show their robot form. One boomer is wearing a suit when he transitions and is still wearing the suit once he's a robot.
  • In the Style Of: Most of the songs in the original OVAs, especially "Konya wa Hurricane", are deliberate homages to the work of Jim Steinman (who wrote the songs for the movie Streets of Fire, an acknowledged influence on the production team).
  • Intrepid Reporter, combined with Dark-Skinned Blond: Lisa Vanette, a young photographer introduced in the last OVA episode.
  • It's Personal: It's extremely easy to make it this way for Priss, even when it was Linna's friend, and is pretty much the theme for most episodes of the OVA. Parodied with Lisa's vendetta against the Sabers for destroying her camera.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: There in some ways, given the show's roots, but oddly inverted in a sense: while the world does seem to be largely under the heel of various kinds of zaibatsu, nearly all of the top-level executives in the show are westerners, implying that Western influence took over originally Japanese megacorps and made them their own.
  • Killer Robot: To quote Zoogz, "Genom assumes no responsibility for your domestic boomer going on a psychotic murder spree."
  • Kill Sat: The first episode centers around a stolen Kill Sat controller, and Kill Sat strikes are important events in later episodes.
  • Lighter and Softer: MegaTokyo looks surprisingly clean and shiny in the eighth OVA episode.
  • Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places: Linna, implied.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: Hardsuits, motoroids, motoslaves, powered suits, battlemovers.
  • The Men in Black: Most of Genom's Boomer Mecha-Mooks have human disguises that fit this trope.
  • Meta Mecha: The Motoroids/Motoslaves, which transform from Cool Bikes into both robots and exoskeletons for the hardsuits.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: To the hardsuits. Especially "funny" in the original - they spend all of Nene's Day in The Limelight getting their suit upgrades and clearly preparing for a major confrontation narratively... and then the show ends!
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: For a rebellious Biker Babe who plays in a hole-in-the-wall bar, Priss's music ranks surprisingly low: not more than about 4-5. (Adam Warren's characterization of her music as "retrothrash" is at odds with this.)
  • Mr. Fixit: "Pops" Doc Raven.
  • Multinational Team: If you count base ethnicity rather than actual citizenship. Specifically, Priss seems to be part-American, Sylia is at least part British or otherwise Western European (unless you consider the Grand Mal comic canon, in which her name is really Stengovich), Linna seems to be straight-up Japanese and Nene has some blatant Russian/Eastern European background, if the name didn't clue you in. See But Not Too Foreign above.
  • Mysterious Informant: Fargo
  • New Neo City: MegaTokyo, of course.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dr. McLaren looks suspiciously like Walt Disney, and the new AD Police chief in Crash is clearly based on George H.W. Bush.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Archetypal example.
    • Exception: when has Sylia's midriff-baring high-collared sleeveless blouse worn under a business suit ever been fashionable?
  • Non-Singing Voice: The English dub cast for the OVA.
  • No One Could Survive That:

Largo has fallen, on fire, into a deep chasm, and exploded.
Nene: We did it! But... do you suppose he's dead?
Linna: He's got to be. Nobody could survive a fall from this height.

  • OC Stand-In: Madigan, the female Genom executive who appears in the Largo arc.
  • Off-Model: The character art in the first OVA episode is distinctly cruder than in the rest of the series.
    • Subverted in OVA 7: director Satoshi Urushihara draws the characters in his own Signature Style instead of following Sonoda's model sheets, but that episode has some of the best draftsmanship in the entire franchise.
  • The Ojou: Sylia and Reika.
  • One-Winged Angel: The boomers Hulking Out of their skin.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future, along with Technology Marches On: Sylia's car has a full-colour fax machine, but cellphones seem quite rare (she does have one, though). Computer equipment in general seems bulky and antiquated by early 21st century standards. Video pay phones seem to be the usual method of communication.
  • The Other Darrin: Ryoko Tachikawa replaced Kinuko Oomori as Priss in Bubblegum Crash.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The 'vampire' stalking Megatokyo in one episode of the OVA is in fact an old-model Boomer that uses artificial blood in its internal systems. Who has a friend with a big leak or something. Also more or less a Lesbian Vampire.
  • Paintball Episode
  • Playful Hacker: Nene
  • Plot Leveling: Perhaps it was a mistake to introduce Kill Sats and runaway Nanotechnology in the first episode, since these are the most powerful weapons that could realistically exist in this setting. Further into the franchise, the technology becomes increasingly cartoonish and superhero-like, such as the Boomers used by Dr. Miriam in OAV 8 and Largo in Crash, and the upgraded hardsuits in Crash and 2040. Also see above under Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.
  • Police Are Useless: With three exceptions.
  • Powered Armor
  • Promotion to Parent: Sylia, with Mackie.
  • Rape and Revenge: In the fourth OVA, J.B. Gibson rebuilds his car into an instrument of revenge against the motorcycle gang who, it is implied, raped his girlfriend.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The antagonist in the episode "Red Eye's" [sic].
  • Redshirt Army: The AD Police, yes, but the ones in helicopters are specifically screwed.
  • Robot Girl: Sylvie, Anri, other sexaroids, plus Mason's bodyguards.
  • Robotic Reveal: The first OVA episode.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Guest characters frequently get killed in order to invoke It's Personal, including Cynthia, Irene, Sho's mother, all five of the Sexaroids, Dr. Yuri and Adama.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: Sylvie and Anri
  • Sentai
  • Shadow Archetype: The Largo-Sylia relationship.
  • Slow-Motion Pass-By: Priss recognizes Anri as the driver of a car she just happens to pass by on her motorcycle.
  • So Last Season: Dr. Miriam builds customized Boomers to defeat the Knight Sabers' current hardsuits, only to find that they've already upgraded their hardsuits when he deploys them.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "This is the look of the true victor!" Said by both Corrupt Corporate Executive Brian J. Mason and his "reincarnation", Largo.
    • In the English dub, during Largo's confrontation with Leon, he calls Leon "little puppy," which he also called him as Mason.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The second original OVA closes out at a graveyard, with a wide shot of many gravestones and mourners... then immediately kicks in the upbeat '80s anime pop music. Both the shot and the music remains constant throughout the end credits. Not quite putting The Fun in Funeral, but...
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Boomers vs. Voomers vs. Buma, anyone?
  • Spider Tank: The GD-42 mecha, piloted by Reika and Kou.
  • Stripperific: Vision's stage outfit, also the Knight Sabers' spandex thing worn under their power armour.
  • Superhero: The ladies are basically a quartet of Iron (Wo)men. However, Sylia has more in common with Bruce Wayne than Tony Stark.
  • Super-Hero Origin: Given the above, the OVA is oddly notable for avoiding this; we never actually get around to seeing how the team got together, and the first episode is practically In Medias Res. At best we get some vague hints about Sylia's reasons for wanting to assemble the team in the first place, but how in the world Priss, Linna, Nene and Sylia all fell in together (when it seems highly improbable that they'd all meet by chance) is never even remotely explained. It seems like they were building toward addressing this in the original series (it would've been a logical segue from the team-building of OVA ep8), but, well...
    • Even more interestingly, none of the "direct" sequels to the original OVA bother answering this either, not even Crash! or AD Police. The only part of the franchise that details anything like an origin for the team is 2040.
    • The music video for "Touchdown to Tomorrow" ("Asu E TouchDown") in Hurricane Live shows a few glimpses of it. It makes Nene's recruitment clear enough (hey Playful Hacker, that woman whose files you're in WANTS YOU), but still leaves a lot of questions about the exact circumstances and motivations around Priss' and Linna's recruitment.
      • Worse, it counts as All There in the Manual, since Hurricane Live was a separate product and not widely distributed outside Japan until AnimEigo's DVD collection was released.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
    • The music from the first scene of the first OVA is based on the opening theme from Blade Runner.
    • The intros to "Victory" and "Akuma to Tenshi no Kiss" are derived from different parts of the intro to "Nowhere Fast", the opening theme from Streets of Fire.
    • The guitar riff in "Say Yes" from OVA 7 resembles U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name".
    • "Konya wa Hurricane" is very clearly an attempt to create a song In the Style Of Jim Steinman, particularly those from Streets of Fire.
  • The Tokyo Fireball
  • Took a Level in Badass: Nene in Crash.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The Hou Bang from OVA episode 7, "Double Vision".
    • Triad Princess: Reika Chang, though Linna was able to convince her to give up being the Hou Bang leader at the end.
  • Transhuman: The OVA had numerous hints at Sylia being this.
  • Universe Compendium: R. Talsorian's RPG sourcebooks serve this purpose, even if you don't use them to play the game.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The music videos for several songs mostly consist of these.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Word of God (in this case, Kenichi Sonoda) says that the stripes on the legs of the hard-suits is specifically meant to invoke this.