The roles of
women in shounen
anime have changed over the years. In many shounen anime women are
still used simply for decoration, but that trend is passing, as
can be seen in many anime. Some examples are found in Ghost
in the Shell,
Crisis. In this article, I will deal with Bubblegum Crisis
and it's not-a-sequel, Bubblegum
Crisis Tokyo 2040.
In 1986, the
first of the Bubblegum Crisis OVAs
was released. This OVA releases from this series continued until
1989. In 1990, two three-episode sequel OVA series were released,
Bubblegum Crash and AD Police Files. Then, from 1998
to 1999, a new Bubblegum Crisis television series ran on
Japanese television, called Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040.
This series is set to a new timeline and has slightly altered characters.
The idea, though, remains the same: four beautiful young women set
out to save the city (and therefore, the world) from out-of-control
From here on
in, I'll refer to the original OVA
series as Bubblegum Crisis (1986-9), while the later TV series
will be called Tokyo 2040 (1998-9). I hope that this will
head off some of the confusion inherent in talking about two different
shows with the same name.
The women in
Bubblegum Crisis are strong, sexy, and determined to do the
right thing. This doesn't change in Tokyo 2040, but one of
the things that does change is how the Knight Sabers are portrayed.
In Bubblegum Crisis, the Knight Sabers are mercenaries-for-hire
often hired by men in powerful positions, while in Tokyo 2040,
they are vigilantes, paid by Sylia (the leader of the Knight Sabers)
and often use men to gain information about their enemies. Bubblegum
Crisis is a series about strong women, but it still reflects
old ideas about the roles of women in society. This is not to say
that the series is anti-feminist, but that it reflects the reality
of the 1980s, while Tokyo 2040 reflects the reality of the
Let me explain.
In Bubblegum Crisis, Linna is nearly non-existant, but we
do see that she is an aerobics instructor, which is a traditionally
feminine occupation. In Tokyo 2040, however, Linna is a former
gymnast who works for Hugh Geit as an OL.
While this may seem like a regression in position, going from a
position of power as a teacher to just another OL, she is not satisfied
with her position. She fantasizes about joining the Knight Sabers
before, through sheer force of will, she makes that dream come true.
Priss is the
character that changes the least, in my opinion, in the transition
from Bubblegum Crisis to Tokyo 2040. She is a three-dimensional
character, strong and self-assured, in both series. Her career does
not change, though in Tokyo 2040 she does become more of
a loner, with no obvious friends. She also develops a relationship
with Leon McNichol, something she is completely adverse to in Bubblegum
Crisis and seems to be in love with Nigel. I think that her
relationship with Leon and the hints about her love for Nigel are
neither improvements nor degradations for her character. There is
no implication that she draws her strength from her relationship
with either man - she is definitely strong and self-assured all
on her own.
All in all,
the characters are stronger in Tokyo 2040 than they are in
Bubblegum Crisis. I see this as being a sign of the time
in which it was created, since people had a different idea about
what it meant to be a strong woman in the late 1990s than they did
in the middle and late 1980s. I should mention, though, that the
writers for Tokyo 2040 are not the same writers that created
Bubblegum Crisis. Tokyo 2040 fully accepts the fact
that it is set in a different universe, with a different timeline,
than that of Bubblegum Crisis. The differing character attitudes
may reflect the date of its creation, but this was also a choice
on the part of the creators, knowing that they wanted to stay true
to the concept behind Bubblegum Crisis, while creating a
new series that was entirely their own.
Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040
Ghost in the Shell
Bubblegum Crisis was heavily
influenced by Blade Runner (1982), an
adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream
of Electric Sheep? In the original OVAs, Priss is in a
band called The Replicants, which is what the androids in
Blade Runner were called. Also, two of the replicants
in Blade Runner were named Pris and Leon - two major
characters in Bubblegum Crisis.
All of the
episode titles for Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 seem
to be taken from song or album titles. This fits with the
way the show centers around Priss' life, since she is a rock
singer and songwriter.
In episode 4 of Bubblegum
Crisis, "Revenge Road", one of the major new
characters is J.B. Gibson, whose name seems to do double homage-duty
to both Mel Gibson (of Mad Max and Road Warrior fame) and
William Gibson, father of the cyberpunk genre of science fiction,
into which Bubblegum