As I’m sure most of you know already, I’m a super fan of the 80’s. One of my favorite TV shows of all time is VH1’s I Love The 80s (please release this on DVD!), nearly all my favorite movies are from the 80’s, and I almost always have 80’s music blasting. It’s like the soundtrack of my life. Anyway my love for the 1980’s does not ignore anime made in that decade or anything, oh no. A few months ago I came to the conclusion I might have run out of anime from the 80’s to watch! Just the thought is frightening! Of course that was before this was recommended to me on twitter. Now Gunsmith Cats has been on my radar for years, but this Kenichi Sonoda adaption was pretty unknown to me. I’m embarrassed to say that I really didn’t know about this before I was told to watch it. But I’m very happy I saw it. On to the review…
This anime starts off with an exciting and wild robbery, before the thieves jump in a getaway car and their driver, Bean Bandit, guns it. We’re then witness to a gripping, enthralling, and wonderfully choreographed car chase through the wild streets of Chicago (and it’s not even the best one in the movie)! When they finally escape the police, we learn that the thieves messed up big time. The bag of money they stole was mostly small bills, and they didn’t have close to the amount they thought they did. In fact they only stole enough to pay the professional driver his cut. They ask the driver if he’d like to be their getaway driver again, but he less-than-politely declines, claiming he won’t work for amateurs. The next job Bean get’s involved with is returning the daughter of Mr. Grimwood, President of some giant conglomerate, back to her home (she was in danger of being kidnapped and so her bodyguard ran away with her). Bean and his partner, the sassy Rally Vincent, end up getting framed for the kidnapping of the girl, and so they’re on the run! In addition to all this Bean has a life-long rivalry with a Chicago police officer, Percy, who’s always trying to capture him. The guy is Bean’s Zenigata. He’s always one step behind, obsessive, willing to do crazy things to capture his man, and a little over the top. He’s quite a good cop in his own regard, but he’s nothing when compared to Bean. Well that’s the plot in a nutshell.
One of the best aspects of this show is all the cool cars, and car chases that happen! The 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 is showcased in the movie so much you’d think Shelby kicked back a little money to Sonoda. But no, he’s just a car guy and this is obviously his favorite car. It’s also the car Rally Vincent uses in Gunsmith Cats (a future review). In this anime it’s the police officer, Percy, who uses the car to try and get an edge on Bean. Personally if we’re talking about Shelby, I think the Shelby Cobra (the 427) is an even nicer car then the GT500 , although that’s nothing to sneeze at either. Bean’s car is a completely customized, and frigen cool too. And even the tractor-trailer is given some respect in this film. Takeshi Mori knows how to direct these types of scenes. The guns are paid attention to as well, although this isn’t as gun-pornish as Gunsmith Cats. Still it’s just another great aseptic of the film. And the gun fights are great! Now I’ve never been to Chicago but I’d say the animators re-create the city really well, and this is a perfect setting for the film. The great artwork really brings all this out. It just has a really cool look to it. The colors are lively and it’s pretty well animated.
This is an exciting action movie through and through. It’s very much in an American action movie style, and this works to the show’s benefit. The show is just a non-stop thrill ride from the second you start the DVD. I had a lot of fun watching this. And it’s not at all a dumb movie either, in fact it throws a few twists at you. I found the plot to be a real strong point. Although there is a pretty big coincidence that happens that seems forced. I imagine the call was made because of timing issues, but they play it off well and it becomes a funny scene. The characters in this anime aren’t exactly deep, but they’re fun and likable. Bean is just a really cool guy. He may be a get-away driver, but he’s not a bad person, just a man for hire. He does his job, and plays neutral to the politics surrounding him. Deep down he’s a nice guy, it’s just he doesn’t show it much. That’s not to say he won’t defend himself though, and when he does you can bet he kicks ass. This is the type of guy you’d like to hang out with. Not to mention he’s tough as a mule. The other character, including the villains just have great action movie personalities. Nothing to really complain about here. The female villain is in a lesbian relationship with a minor, and things get a little risqué when the minor is playing around with their hostage. But I think this just made the film edgier and works to its advantage. It may make a few people squirm, but it never goes to far. My favorite aspect of the film however is the 80’s style and flavor of it all. While not too in your face about it, you’ll know this came out in that decade when watching it.
With a soundtrack straight out of the 80’s, you get such wonderful tracks as “Running the Road” which sounds like “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, or the one the sounds like the theme for the fake commercial for Soul Glo in Coming to America. One background theme even reminds me of “We are the World” a little bit. Oh so very 80’s! The rest of the anime may take some sips of the 80’s, but the music takes a full chug of the of the decade and I’m thankful for that. And of course you have the main theme, “Road Buster”, which is completely flawless. The soundtrack is so 80’s-licious, so catchy, so upbeat that you will hum along with it, guaranteed. And did I mention the songs are all in English? Some may call the soundtrack goofy, I call it music. Better then that stuff that plays on the radio today imitating music. Get off my lawn you kiddies! Ah-hem… The dub is pretty good too. This has to be the best dub Animego put out, which doesn’t mean much. While I admit the Bubblegum Crisis dub still holds out well today, everything else Animego had dubbed is either “pretty bleh” or hentai quality (by this I mean pure crap). Southwynde Studios, the ADR studios used for this and BGC seemed to know what they were doing. God save us if I hear another In Tune Music dub though. J. Patrick Lawlor plays Bean in this. I admit his first few lines are a bit awkward, but other then that he was quite good. Brennan MacKenzie is pretty damn good as Rally. She sounds sassy enough, and in charge enough to counter Lawlor ‘s Bean quite well. She might be my favorite of the dub. David Kraus is a little over the top as the police officer, Percy, but I liked it. I didn’t really like Adam Guzman, who plays Percy’s Assistant. He felt kind of goofy. But taken as a whole, and considering this is a very early dub, it’s really good.
This is an anime I highly recommend . It has great replay value too. It’s less an anime, then just an animated 80’s car chase movie. Which is not a sly attack on anime or anything. It’s just this feels very western to me. Given the setting and how much Kenichi Sonoda likes Hollywood action movies, I’d say this is intentional. The music, art, animation, characters, and plot all come together here to give you a real great experience. It has a real sense of humor about itself . And it’s even a little sexy. It’s not a deep movie, nor is it a gory ultraviolent horror flick. Instead it’s a top notch car chase and gun slinging action movie. And I like that a lot. Gunsmith Cats may get all the respect these days, but don’t knock Riding Bean. The 80’s flavor this OVA has to offer us just really excites me. Do check this out! Why did it take so long for me to see it? Animeigo released this, and you can buy the DVD on their website for under $10.00 which to me is a steal. I’m glad this is still in print, but I’m sure it wont be forever so buy it when you can.
Note: My apologies, but an earlier version of this review was posted instead of the final product! Ignore what you read, and read this one instead please!
Positives: Great story, cool, fun characters, good art/animation and music, very 80’s, car chases
Negatives: May be too dated for some, one plot coincidence unlikely , squirming relationship for some (not me though)