Norio WakamotoMiki ItouShoichiro AkaboshiBurn Up
Burn Up!
Medium: OVA
Year: 1991
Director: Yasunori Ide
Writer: Jun Kanzaki
Keywords: anime
Actor: Kumiko Nishihara, Miki Itou, Yumiko Shibata, Hirokazu Hiramatsu, Norio Wakamoto, Shozo Iizuka, Hidetoshi Nakamura, Hideyuki Umezu, Ichiro Nagai, Rena Kurihara, Shinichiro Miki, Shoichiro Akaboshi, Yuri Shiratori
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 50 minutes
Series: Burn Up >>
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=533
Website category: Anime early 90s
Review date: 2 September 2014
It's a one-off anime OVA about a special group of mostly female police officers going up against organised crime, sex slavery and drugs. I quite like it. It's more memorable than most one-off OVAs and it has enough vim and enthusiasm to keep you watching happily despite the fact that it's not really adding anything to a very familiar genre.
It spawned remakes, sequels and even multiple continuities:
(a) Burn Up W (4 episodes, 1996) and Burn Up Excess (13 episodes, 1997)
(b) Burn Up Scramble (12 episodes, 2004).
Of those, I've seen the 1996-1997 versions, which in fact were among the first anime I ever saw. They're fun, but silly and mostly concerned with their heroines' cartoonishly huge boobs. In contrast, this original OVA is more grounded. The girls are a bit scatty, but they're also convincingly badass and the plot is serious. They're investigating sex trafficking. We meet victims, who say that they have two choices: discard your soul or commit suicide. One of the girls gets caught and tortured. This is more than enough to make you feel that it matters when the other two girls are leading an asssault single-handedly on the McCoy gang's headquarters.
The tone is the main thing that could have gone wrong. On the one hand, the gangsters are vicious and their crimes are sufficiently vile that careless writing could have made this OVA offensive and unwatchable. At the same time, though, our heroines are a carefree bunch who could at times be mistaken for airheads. They goof out about boyfriends. They're girly. There's nothing grim or hard-bitten about them.
It works, though. They're professional when the chips are down and unquestionably more serious than their Team Warrior incarnations in 1996-1997. They're also dangerous. Maki is something of a loose cannon, capable of firing what looks like a rocket launcher from her motorbike (yes) at a baddie's car, even though it has a hostage inside. (These girls have terrifying guns. For the finale, they get one that could saw in half a tank.) When asked not to do anything life-threatening, Maki's standard response is "yeah, yeah".
There's also maturity in the fact that one of them's in a normal, grown-up sexual relationship. Drama in general doesn't like stable relationships, but this appears to be one and there's something almost refreshing about it.
I slightly regretted the comparative prominence of male cops, though. Anime is usually full of strong female characters, which paradoxically is twice as true when it's sexist exploitation. If an anime's obsessed with boobs and panty shots, then it'll probably have five or six scene-stealing female characters for every straight male who could even be deemed passable. Team Warrior (1996-1997) are full of women, led by a woman and only have one man on the staff, who's a pervert who doesn't participate in missions except occasionally to get captured and need rescuing. This, alas, is more conventional. Team Warrior (1991) is 25% male (Kenji) and he's their boss. Above him is another male, who's also their boss. All other cops in Tokyo, in fact, are male. What's more, it's them who save the day at the end, when the writers can't think of anything clever to do and just have the cavalry show up for a big pitched battle.
The flip side of this, though, is refreshingly modest fanservice. There's only one brief nude scene and that's drawn realistically enough that you could call it elegant. The girls have normal bodies, instead of being drawn as if beach balls had been glued to their chests. When the baddies get their hands on Yuka, they strip her to her underwear and beat her... clearly not a barrel of laughs for the girl in question, but commendably modest in the exploitation stakes. You could almost call it tame.
In short, this is an anime you could recommend to female friends without having to screen the recipients or apologise in advance. (I'm not sure I'd quite call it recommendation-worthy, but least they'd find it watchable.)
This anime isn't deep, but that's hardly unsurprising at this length. It succeeds at what it's trying to do. It's entertaining and even sometimes exciting. It has good action scenes (including a lovingly drawn pre-CGI car chase). It has our heroines storming the baddies' mansion by driving through the French windows. They manage to be cool. The music works. Maki going berserk because the baddies shot her radio is funny. (She loves electronic devices, to the point where she buys things she can't really afford.) Our heroines perhaps get shot in the legs without dying a little too often for credibility at the end, but what the hell.
This anime isn't a big deal and I don't see any particular reason to seek it out, but it's reasonably enjoyable. It's not original. Quite good for what it is, though.