It’s No Secret Megazone 23 is a Classic

The title logo for Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret.

The title logo for Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret.

In my entire life I’ve only seen one biker gang. Problem is, the members of the gang were polite Iowans, so they weren’t all that intimidating.

Sometimes it’s amazing looking back at the production quality of anime from the 1980s considering the tools available to animators today. While there is a certain appeal to the crystal clear animation of modern productions, I have a certain fondness for cell animation, especially in anime films and OVAs (original video anime) from the 1980s. This was probably because studios were willing to put more time and funds into those productions and, if this was the case, it was apparent in the final product. However, this doesn’t mean the narrative was always rock solid. When I wrote about Megazone 23 Part I, I mentioned how there were a few issues with pacing, character development, and character relationships. Though still an entertaining OVA, those aspects worried me before I watched the second installment, Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret (メガゾーン23 Part II 秘密く•だ•さ•い Megazone 23 Part II Himitsu Ku Da Sa I). Thankfully, those issues were far less prevalent in this episode, but they were replaced by a gap in where the story began in comparison to where Part I ended. There was also a drastic shift in the animation style that had me wondering whether or not I was actually watching the second installment of the series.

When looking back on Megazone 23 Part I, despite the setting being an idealized version of 1980s Japan, chiefly Tokyo, the story was an interesting action-mystery. Yet, it suffered from a relatively fast pace. Thus, when watching the OVA, the quick narrative jumps between plot points made it difficult to follow. This also compromised the relationship dynamics between a handful of the characters, particularly the romance between the protagonist, Shogo Yahagi, and the heroine, Yui Takanaka. Though these issues detracted from the viewing experience to a degree, the OVA was still entertaining. However, seeing as Megazone 23 has four installments, I was worried these same issues would be prevalent in the later episodes.

Undoubtedly, even though some of these issues were still present in Megazone 23 Part II, they were far less noticeable as compared to the first installment of the series. This was especially true in regards to the characters, as only four, Shogo, Yui, Eve Tokimatsuri, and BD, returned. Granted, they were the main characters of Megazone 23, yet for the purposes of Megazone 23 Part II, it made the relationship dynamics far simpler to understand since the viewers could easily recall how these four characters interacted with each other: Shogo and Yui were lovers; Shogo and BD were enemies; and Eve was BD’s prisoner. The added benefit of understanding the four characters’ relationships with each other was that it removed the need for viewers to be quickly introduced to a number of ideas central to the story. Thus, all that had to occur in this OVA was for the characters and their ideals to come to a head.

Yet, we were introduced to a handful of new characters as well. While this did slow the pacing in the beginning of the OVA, the motivations informing the characters were far easier to understand. For example, the opening scene of Megazone 23 Part II featured a biker gang, Trash, at odds with the police. Though it wasn’t patently clear what role Trash played in the story at first, we soon came to understand they, too, were at odds with the government as was Shogo. Though not explicitly stated, I believe it had to do with the war the government joined in Part I and both Shogo and the gang didn’t want to take part in the jingoism the government was flooding Tokyo with. Thus, they banded together to fight the powers that be. Narratively, not much else had to be explained in regards to the relationships the characters had with each other and therefore it’s understandable why more time was spent on bringing the conflict to its climax instead.

Shogo Yahagi, and  Yui Takanaka's clear change in design.  Left: Part II, right: Part I

Shogo Yahagi, and Yui Takanaka’s clear change in design. Left: Part II, right: Part I

The quick introduction to the new characters also accelerated how quickly each new plot point was presented. However, Part II felt like it was running at a much slower pace than Part I. This was because much less emphasis was placed on the action scenes and far more on exposition, not necessarily narrative exposition, but exposition between the different characters. That’s not to say a great deal of time was spent on the exposition, but instead that the exposition helped viewers better understand the characters’ motives. As such, we saw scenes in Megazone 23 Part II that established such things as Trash plotting—though it’s mainly partying—in their hideout, why Shogo hadn’t contacted Yui in half a year in a very personal scene, or why the chief of police, Yuichiro Shiratori, felt it was his duty to bring Shogo to justice. Ultimately, the exposition quickly introduced new ideas to the story, but without making it feel as though the plot was moving forward at a rapid pace.

The one major issue I had with the narrative, though, came within the first few minutes of the OVA. There was a distinct gap in where the first installment of Megazone 23 ended and where the second began. For those who haven’t seen Megazone 23 Part I, the OVA ended with Shogo’s failed attempt to rescue Eve and he was shown walking down the barren streets of Tokyo. One would assume the story would pick up soon after those events, but instead we were treated to a scene of Trash riding through the streets of Tokyo. The lack of context left me bewildered with the opening scene of Megazone 23 Part II because it felt as though I was watching a completely different series. Even though it’s addressed later in the OVA how the current story took place six months after the events in Megazone 23 Part I, having that knowledge from the beginning would have greatly helped me understand the context of what was happening earlier in the story.

My confusion was compounded by how the character designs were altered from the first episode as well. It’s very difficult to explain, but the character designs from Megazone 23 Part I had a far rounder appearance, with big, flashy hair—as was the style in the 1980s—and, for lack of better description, the deigns looked as though they had an art style from the early 1980s as well. But in Megazone 23 Part II, the character designs were far more akin to those seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A good comparison of the art in Megazone 23 Part II would be to the anime film Akira. Yet, as odd as this may be, I felt the production team made the right decision in changing the art style because, whereas Megazone 23 Part I encapsulated the consumer culture of Japan in the 1980s, the art design in Megazone 23 Part II captured the rise in popularity of miscreant groups in that same era.

When examining some of the series that gained a wide appeal in the mid-1980s, while a large portion are series fans of anime and manga will instantly recognize—such as Saint Saiya, Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Touch, and so on—there was a subset of series that focused on troublemaking teens. In fact, one of the most popular TV drama series of the era, Sukeban Deka, and the popular film series, Be-bop High School, were adapted from manga series with the same respective titles. Of course, there was also the highly successful film Akira in 1988. So, while at first the animation in Megazone 23 Part II was inconsistent with the previous installment, it wasn’t trying to capture the same gloss of consumerism as the first, but instead present the gritty lifestyle Trash and Shogo experienced while they worked to undermine BD.

I very much want to say Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret was a vast improvement over Megazone 23 Part I. But, I can’t. At best it’s only a slight improvement. While many of the new plot points were better incorporated into the narrative, there were still some that jumped out of the blue and had me question what prompted the screenwriters to do so. Conversely, the character dynamics were far better laid out for audiences, making the plot far easier to understand. Some people may find the change in character designs disheartening, and I did at first, but I appreciate how the shift also altered the presentation from the glamorous life of the Tokyo we think of to the drab world of hoodlums. However, as much as I may criticize Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret, I thoroughly enjoyed it throughout. I encourage all who saw Megazone 23 Part I to watch this installment as well as you too will not be disappointed. I should point out, though, despite Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret being only the second installment of the series, it does close one story arc. Thus, those not interested in watching the two parts of Megazone 23 Part III can stop here and be satisfied.

Work Info
Title:
Megazone 23 Part II Please Give me Your Secret (メガゾーン23 Part II 秘密く•だ•さ•い Megazone 23 Part II Himitsu Ku Da Sa I)
Under: Victor Entertainment, Artland
Official Site: N/A
More Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megazone_23

Advertisements

, , , , , ,

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: