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"Burn-Up Scramble" Vol. 1: Fourth Time's Not the Charm

The year is 2005, Atlanta. Due to globalization and market expansion, animé has evolved. But so has its darker elements. Drama has become increasingly sophisticated, but with a growing amount of light-hearted anime threatening to topple the towering pile of angst anime companies have accumulating since EVA, Geneon decides to take action. They retool their law enforcement animé Burn-Up and create a new series with a license to destroy everything fun and amusing in cartoons. Its elite squad of buzzkills, dubbed The Warriors (no relation to the movie The Warriors), don’t even respond to the needs of the common, action-oriented fan. They aren’t trained to resolve any situation with swiftness or with diligence. This fan is disappointed.

Episodes included on this disc:
Episode 1: “Warriors Strike at Dawn!”
Episode 2: “Defeat The Mobile-Robber Madgunder!”
Episode 3: “Warriors, Five Seconds ‘Til Detonation!”
Episode 4: “Crash! Seventy Thousand Kilometers in Tokyo!”

The latest envisioning of the Burn-Up world follows the W and Excess iterations. A special branch of the police is dispatched using extreme force to deal with extreme crimes. Barely leading the team is the always-down-on-her-luck Rio Kinezono. Backing her up are gun-crazy, brash Osakan Maya and computer whiz Lilica. While dodging the desperate Yugi, Rio manages to save the day (in spandex!), and we at home get to enjoy a hysterical and action-packed cop show of the future.

Well… at least that was how things used to be.

Just as Burn-Up W/Excess completely redesigned the original Burn-Up! cast, Scramble also gives them an overhaul. The problem is that, in this case, the previous iteration really hit the mark with its characters. In W and Excess Rio’s ditzy attitude was perfect and Maya was great as an Osakan with an almost illegal fetish for guns. Lilica was the pink-haired kid who could hack her way into anything and Yugi was the slacker who just wanted to get into Rio’s pants.

Apparently the formula that worked so well wasn’t worth keeping, so they have completely reworked the art style (and characters) for the worse. Gone are the stylistic ’90s near-future designs, replaced with the “Standard Grade Modern Animé” stock design #18. Rio is now too pretty for her luckless life. Maya has gone from having a rough and rowdy Osakan attitude to match her obsession with guns to being a very quiet young girl with less vibrant hair. She’s still obsessed with guns, but without the nearly sexual electricity. Lilica is no longer a computer genius but instead a psychic constantly questioning her friendships and abilities. Yugi, who used to be a coworker who wanted to sneak a peek at Rio, is somehow elevated above her in this version, and actually becomes less of a spaz and more of a gentlemen. Well, it looks that way until he asks Rio to de-robe for an investigation. In Excess, this would have been funny, but now that he’s a superior and she has to listen to him, it’s slightly disturbing, especially considering the series has a much more grounded feel this time around. Designs in general are more realistic but don’t gel all the way: Some of Rio’s intense angry moments just seem out of place now, and the silly spandex outfits are now just slightly-more-realistic-looking silly spandex outfits.

Therein lies the problem. This franchise is meant to be a silly take on cops with some sci-fi action stuffed in between. In Scramble most of the silliness is gone and the episodes slow to a crawl at times. Maya’s been lobotomized, Rio’s less hyper, and Lilica’s just plain creepy.

If the intent was to bring the series into the 21st century, it’s odd that they have take a disturbing turn back to the ’80s for inspiration. The intro has a narration reminiscent of something from Charlie’s Angels or Miami Vice, while the episode titles contain very low-budget synth music, bad fonts, and Technicolor backgrounds that serve up a jarring contrast with the episodes themselves.

Extras include a reversible cover, credit-less intro and ending, a line art gallery, and Geneon previews. Nothing extravagant here, especially when only four episodes are included.

It seems like something got scrambled in this recreation. What was once one of my favorite guilty pleasures is now alternately a bad cop drama or a weak comedy. The series doesn’t know where it wants to go, and I’m not sure I want to be aboard for the ride.

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