Anime Review: Megazone 23 – A Cynical, but Important Anime

Koi ni ochiru Sentimental hajimaru wa….

Megazone 23 is a Japanese mecha franchise created by Noboru Ishiguro, written by Hiroyuki Hoshiyama and Emu Arii, and directed by Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Kenichi Yatagai, and Shinji Aramaki. The animated 3-part OVA was released in 1985 and was considered the first financially successful OVA to be released in Japan. It is no doubt an influential series.

It tells the story of Shogo Yahagi and his girlfriend Yui Takenaka as Shogo stumbles upon the mysterious Motorbike Mecha Garland, the enigma surrounding the idol Eve Tokimatsuri, and the hidden truth about the world they live in. It turns out that the world they live in is a gigantic spaceship called Megazone 23, built to move humanity away from earth as the earth recovers from the man-made pollution, humanity exiling itself due to the sins they have committed to their home planet. Now, the ADAM system that’s been keeping track of humanity is about to judge humanity whether they can return to the earth, or be purged as a cancer. Shogo, who’s been chased by the government forces must face this bleak society that has been manipulated to live in a fake world, handle the truth and the enemies chasing him, all while trying to keep Yui safe.

Visual-wise, Megazone 23 holds up well enough into the modern age, part 2 and 3’s visuals being vast improvements to part 1. The wispy visuals of 1980’s mecha in part 1 underwent major change into more realistic art styles in parts 2 and 3, with part 2 being very, very powerful in visual detail and has one of the smoothest animation of the 80s-90s era anime. It is also worth to note that Hideaki Anno, and Ichiro Itano, very well-known names in the world of mecha anime, also work on Megazone 23 as animators in this OVA series; their talents no doubt have contributed to the beautiful and detailed animation of Megazone 23. Character designs of part 1 and 2 although went through major changes, are still very distinct. The designs of Shogo, EVE, and BD are simple and concise, they exactly tell the character’s personalities and the themes they carry. Do remember that Megazone 23 contains explicit scenes, is very bloody, and is absolutely not for young viewers, Part II can be unsettling for some viewers due to the violence and gore.

Story-wise, such a bleak, revelatory premise about a fake world and impending doom requires an unconventional protagonist: He has to question the world he lives in, risk his life in dangerous confrontations against government forces, and must realistically suffer from the consequences of his actions in a world that is facing doomsday. Shogo is a different protagonist than most would expect, he fights for himself and the people closest to him. Certainly not your typical law-abiding citizen or goody-two shoes. He hangs out with punks, and is not afraid to fight the military, knowing that he is greatly outnumbered. Shogo is an outlaw who rebels against society and social order – the fabricated one but only a few realized. But despite his recklessness and machismo, Shogo is not The Terminator, nor is he Kira Yamato, butchering enemies left and right. Here, we have him struggling in his fight against BD, an enemy military commander who is a better pilot than he is and the story unfolds in unexpected ways. Even in Part III, where the protagonist shifts from Shogo to Eiji Takenaka, the scenes retain the ability to keep us interested as the mystery unfolds before the protagonists.

Music-wise, the 80s citypop tracks in Megazone 23 are well-arranged and superb. Tracks like Himitsu Kudasai, Senaka Goshi ni Sentimental, and Lonely Sunset are sung by the singer Kumi Miyasato (depicted as EVE’s songs) and delivered beautifully throughout the OVAs. Himitsu Kudasai, for example, is played during a bittersweet and important moment of the story. Even the instrumental BGM Rock Cafe is catchy and has a distinct 80’s rock vibe to it, said BGM making it into Super Robot Wars D when Megazone 23 debuted in the mecha strategy RPG
Franchise as the theme music of Shogo and his Garland.

The concept of a simulated reality depicted in Megazone 23 has been explored in movies such as the popular Matrix franchise, the Canadian movie Existenz, or the popular video game 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Like those titles, Megazone 23 explores the consequences of living in a fabricated reality and the consequences of ignorance. As the characters on both sides struggle by the sudden change they encounter, time is running out for them. It is interesting to see what stories like these explore in a science fiction perspective, on how technology is depicted and how it interacts with, and changes the lives of people; sometimes as weapons, tools for survival, or to the detriment of them and society. The variety of technologies, stories, and characters depicted in science fiction or in mecha-themed works brings into perspective what the authors want to convey, what is the point of their stories, and how the audience interacts with Megazone 23 or similar-themed works, exploring each unique works, the themes, and messages they convey. 

That being said, the point of Megazone 23 is that it is a cynical anime, apocalyptic in tone, and skeptical of human potential. Part 3 striking the strongest warning of all with the antagonist Won Dai, strongly implied to be Shogo, wanting to wipe out humanity. Corrupted by the system he is now part of after he landed on earth, He seems to have no regard for the lives of humans. Declaring that they only repeat the sins of their predecessors, he is preparing to bring humanity doom, the same doom he experienced on Megazone 23. Even the idealist Shogo became corrupted by the system he leads when he’s older. Megazone 23 asks questions like have things changed? As we grow older, has society progressed? Have we at least lessen the pollution we create? Have we become corrupted by the very things we hated when we were young? Megazone 23 points these questions at us and makes us think on how we figure out how to make things right in our small, daily lives.

At this point, It is no simple endeavor to describe the depth of Megazone 23 and the message it carries. Whether you like mecha or not, Megazone 23 is a critical look on humanity and the systems they create, and a must watch for those who want something different on their watchlist.


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