Things Change:
The Roles of Women in Boys' Anime

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, Kite, and Bubblegum 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 robots.

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 late 1990s.

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.

-Bonnie Bonifield Click to learn more about Bonnie


Bubblegum Crisis
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

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