Megazone 23 Part II
Six months after the events of Part I, Shogo Yahagi remains on the run from the police. He falls in with a huge biker gang called "Trash" that has chosen to revolt against the authorities, who have bigger fish to fry: an invasion from an unknown source that threatens to destroy everything they know.
In the review for Part I, I was able to tout that film as an 80s classic. How about the rest of the series? Not so much. You see, the creators decided to amp up the sex and violence for Part II, which would've been fine if they'd kept the character development and storytelling level even with the original film. Unfortunately they really haven't done well with either here.
The new characters in the Trash gang are little more than caricatured biker gang stereotypes - the butch chick, the giant "suicide squad" guy, the hotshot, the goofball sidekicks, the too-cool-for-himself leader ... and you'd be forgiven for forgetting the character's names, because I sure did. You'd also be forgiven for not recognizing the three remaining characters from the first episode (Shogo, Yui, and antagonist B.D.) because their character designs have changed immensely - Yasuomi Umetsu (later infamous for Cool Devices Operation 7: Yellow Star and Kite) was ostensibly tabbed to give the series a "less anime-like, modern makeover" which paradoxically leads to the animation looking murkier and older than its year-older predecessor. Granted, six months on the run can take a toll on dye and hair gel, but Shogo and Yui just don't look as distinctively 80s as they used to ... while military man B.D. suddenly sprouts silver hair and earrings for no discernable reason. And no, we never find out what happens to Yui's roommate Mai from the first episode, who her shadowy father was, which is puzzling seeing how she was part of the core cast before - she's just gone forever.
If you've seen the first episode (and if you haven't, then you are hereby warned off as I'm about to post spoilers for it), you know that this isn't *really* 80s Tokyo, but a gigantic colony ship called the Megazone 23 ... and they're not alone, as the interstellar military finds out to their (and the viewers') horror in a needlessly gory scene where an entire defensive fleet (crewed by obvious red shirts) is annihilated by the enemy ship's mechanical tentacles. Yeah, you read that right - you get several minutes of footage comprised of military men getting literally impaled and/or ripped to bloody shreds onscreen. And right after that? Shogo and Yui reunite and reconsummate their relationship. Again, onscreen, in fairly graphic detail (about as graphic as a non-hentai title can get). Even the product placement is more "adult", with Heineken and Budweiser replacing McDonald's and Dagger of Kamui ... though not, apparently, Yui's Onyanko Club jacket ... 'cause nothing says badass chica like pop idol group merchandise!
Darker and edgier then? Clearly, yes. But what about the storytelling? Well, honestly, a lot of it doesn't particularly make sense. I'm not entirely sure what the point is in maintaining the 80s masquerade when there's clearly post-80s tech assault vehicles trolling the streets of Tokyo and failing (badly) at limiting the activities of a biker gang that has attained control of precisely one piece of military hardware. Whole rafts of characters (like BD's "control room" crew) appear and are summarily forgotten along the course of the film, and there's an extended bit about a police lieutenant who doggedly pursues Shogo, only to be cast aside in yet another anticlimactic "final showdown" between Shogo and BD that proves as meaningless as their first meeting.
There's also some revelations about the nature of Eve (hint: NOT just an idol singer, and yes there's a counterpart) and the opposing "alien" ship Dezalg that are rather predictable - and the ride there is rocky as heck because the writers have left behind some plot holes that you could easy fly the Megazone through. Certainly, the sci-fi aspect of this film is simply not handled with nearly the aplomb of the first film, and the vast majority of this show involves the Trash gang facing insurmountable technological odds to succeed improbably ... while the Megazone military does the same and fails spectacularly (despite the Dezalg never, ever actually showing their faces during the course of the film).
In addition, the final scene between Eve and Shogo contemplating the fate of the human race is kind of like the most bizarrely surreal date ever, complete with what appears to be aerobic dancing (artificial intelligence idol singer in spandex!) and a romantic walk in the beach, set to the philosophical ramblings of a biker punk. And the denouement is almost too clean, with the Trash gang (including folks assumed fatally wounded) somehow magically reemerging for a "happy ending" that is actually utterly horrifying when you realize its implications for the rest of humanity. The fact that Part III is set five hundred years later should tell you that this installment of the series has literally trashed the setting.
Now, is this all bad? Not precisely. The animation is still pretty good for its time, and Shogo and Yui are a likable enough pair to root for (even if they're hard to recognize at first). And for all that they're a passel of cliches, the Trash gang are still kind of fun to watch as they blaze their way improbably through Fake Tokyo. But as revolutionary as the first episode was, Megazone 23 Part II is more of a rebel without a clue -- there's too much time spent shooting pool and screwing around, only for a massive deus ex machina to come and completely change everything we know about the show and its universe in sole favor of the designated "good guys". It's all really rather unsatisfying, but this is all we get, given the massive time leap before Part III.
Unless, of course, you really like 80s biker punks.
From the changed character designs to the relentless stream of adult-oriented content, Megazone 23 Part II takes a strong step back due to an emphasis on adult content at the expense of storytelling and plot. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: ABSOLUTELY NOT FOR CHILDREN. It's clear the creators intended to make this as inaccessible to younger viewers as possible. There's a lot of onscreen violence and gory character deaths, including a semi-major character whose brains are seen leaking out his head. Shogo and Yui have an extended sex scene that does everything but the closeup and climax shots. Lots of smoking and alcohol consumption.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Megazone 23 Part II © 1986 Victor Entertainment
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