Megazone 23 is a good, but derivative ’80s anime science fiction production which owes a lot of its notoriety to a broken deal. The show was originally in production as a TV series, and may have been doomed to the mists of history like so many others, had the producers not backed out shortly after production started. The animators decided to make the best of the situation and edit together the bits of episodes they had into a movie, which they released directly to video, making Megazone 23 one of the earliest OVA series.
Shogo is a rebellious teen who loves riding motorcycles. One day, he comes across a super-high tech, bright red motorcycle that has the ability to transform into a humanoid robot. This, of course, makes him a target of the military.
The first episode has been compared to the original Matrix. This is because of the overarching plot line in which Shogo discovers that the city he lives in, which he believes to be Tokyo in the ’80s, is actually contained on a massive spaceship some 500 years in the future. The makers of the Matrix make no secret of anime’s influence on the movie, but deny that this particular title was one of them. But that’s what happens with movies that draw on a lot of genre cliches, the ideas and concepts just kind of float around in the ether, and can’t really be tracked to a single source.
Part one is a solid story, though since it’s cobbled together from pieces of a failed TV series, it just kind of ends mid-climax. It’s aided by its imaginative use of genre tropes, and character designs from Haruhiko Mikimoto (Macross).
The second and third parts have a different feel from the first. Part one had a ‘fun’ aspect to it. Most of the movie involved Shogo playing with his ‘new toy’ and scenes in pseudo-Tokyo played out like a romantic comedy, with Shogo pursuing a wannabe idol singer and helping her friend make an amateur movie.
The second two parts are very serious in comparison and feature new, more-angular character designs. In part two, Shogo now leads a biker gang, which is waging a mild war on the authorities (mostly in the form of petty vandalism). The gang is on a mission to find Eve, the artificial idol, who we know from part one is the avatar of the system controlling spaceship Tokyo. She’s been suppressed by the military in their attempt to take control of the ship.
Part Three of Megazone 23 is in two parts that together tell one contained story. It takes place hundreds of years after Part Two. One city ship has made it back to Earth, but the system controlling it has yet to deem humanity worthy of living on the planet, and thus keeps them confined in the city walls. It’s up to a new rebel (this time a hacker, not a biker), Eiji, to fight the power and free mankind from its computerized oppressor.
Megazone 23 is a fun little series that will greatly appeal to fans of older anime like Macross or Gundam. There’s not a lot of depth to it, but the plot is interesting, and I like the progression in time between episodes. The characters are archetypal ‘heroes,’ but they’re likable enough. We can look back on the series now and complain that we’ve seen the story a million times before, but remember that at the time it was made, it had actually only been done four or five times prior.
It was released on DVD by ADV films. Each part gets its own disc and looks and sounds good. The opening titles are left in Japanese, while the closing credits (against a black screen) are changed into English.