When two malfunctioning combat androids are accidentally unleashed on a "Terminate at All Costs" mission against the unsuspecting granddaughter of their creator, an entire city becomes the battleground and not even the military may be able to stop them! The girl's only hope: Sybil, a freelance journalist who's out to get the scoop of her life, if she can somehow keep both herself and her subject alive long enough to file a report. But first, she has to remember to put her clothes on! Co-directed by legendary manga master Masamune Shirow (GHOST IN THE SHELL, APPLESEED) and visionary director Hiroyuki Kitakubo (JO JO's BIZZARRE ADVENTURE, GOLDENBOY,), it's a tour de force of violence and mayhem on an epic scale as two damsels in distress and two deranged battle robots face off, girl vs. mecha style, in the all-time anime classic: BLACK MAGIC M-66!
A tight and tense little OVA co-directed by none other than Masamune Shirow. It focuses on just a small but interesting part of the Black Magic manga and expounds upon the basic story with some great animation and exciting action sequences. The music is pretty good, too.
Generally fluid animation compliments great character and mecha design. This will not blow you away, but it's good enough not to be distracting and the visual ideas carry it above other similar stuff.
Simple and straightforward plot and not much excess. The story is a set-up for the action here, which is OK by me since it doesn't
spend a lot of time dressing up as something it's not. The characters are basically fun, especially Sybil.
This is around the closest anime has gotten to the "Predator" franchise, in this case with a bit of "Terminator" mixed in. The story is pretty simple, as one could imagine from that comparison, but a good story isn't a necessary element of the thriller genre. The way Black Magic M-66 goes about it is also pretty unique to anime in that the way it works is very similar to live-action thrillers of the time. There isn't any common anime tropes or symbols and the experience feels more focused, and a bit serious, because of it. This OVA also contains one of the most intense
scenes I've witnessed in anime, while I couldn't say the intensity level is as consistent throughout.
The animation is also great and gets more lively as the OVA goes on. The animation isn't the best looking though as when there is a lot of motion, the shading will tend to be taken out to save on resources. That doesn't make what's here bad, but it doesn't make what's here fantastic either. Even so, there are some fantastic scenes in this anime that are done in a relatively creative manner. I found the art style nice and it treated everything in a proper way to make it all a bit believable for an anime thriller. The machines move and act like machines, and they're given a bit of an unpredictable functionality that makes them a tad eerie. There are also many moments where multiple people will move about on screen, along with vehicles and ships. The designing of the futuristic setting is also well handled, while not too original. What I found most interesting was that a number of the futuristic flying vehicles still had propellers and wings that gave the ships a moderately unique and cool look.
The direction and the sound do well to keeping the atmosphere feeling deadly with some good work on sound effects. To the music, there's a lot of fast and loud electronic beats that should be expected from an 80's thriller. I watched this OVA in english dubs, and I can report that they were better than average for the most part. However, while most actors did well, there are two stand-out bad actors that sadly have a somewhat concurrent place in the run-time. I was able to forgive that though as the other actors were doing a fine job.
The story is, again, average to what one would expect from an 80's thriller. However, the characters that occupy the story aren't bad in their interaction. There are plenty of side characters that I found myself fairly interested in, but sadly more so than the main character for much of the time. The main character has basically zero back-story to her and basically no personality. She serves as the doer and is kinda like a Ripley character with a camera. If it was just her starting out she may have been more interesting at the beginning, but she was stuck with a pointless side-character for some time whose contribution to the enjoyment was in the light negative - feeling like a talking brief-case she had to carry about with her. That character doesn't have much screen-time in reality, but so does the main character in a way as she has a close amount of time compared to some side characters. Overall, the characters serve their purposes and act reasonably for the most part, but are in no way developed or all too interesting on their own. When considering the situation around them though, there is still some interest to be had.
Black Magic M-66 is a cool thriller for anime that is one that's also actually able to pull it off well. Many thriller anime focus on gore as the eerie part, but that doesn't connect much of the time (Elfen Lied, Another, etc.). What they usually forget to do is keep the atmosphere done well and have the monster act mysteriously. It couldn't be said that the machines in this OVA act "mysteriously" though the whole time, but more so in the first half. The second half is where the relation to "Terminator" becomes more apparent than that of "Predator", and also the way in which the robot acts changes in a slightly plot-convincing way. Even so, there is a light bit of reasonability to the sudden change in the robot's abilities and even if there wasn't, it isn't really necessary to take the story too seriously in that aspect. Although, some situations do arise where you think the robot has won if it acts like it was before, but it instead acts much like a Frankenstein monster of older black and white movies. Still entertaining, and surprisingly still a bit thrilling in certain moments. Black Magic M-66 is an old anime thriller that those who want something a little different from the usual should check out.
This is what the Terminator would have been if it sucked shit through a crazy straw like 3, Salvation, and Genesys. Fortunately its more reputable than all three of those films put together even with an overall average of four. This is mostly because I love the style of 80's cyberpunk art. There's no difference between reporters and commandos who run around the well-painted and expansive cityscapes. The killer machines are the catalysts for interesting and over the top action sequences. It suffers from being dated but the progression of animation only separates the film's movement from the rest. But what little characterization is given
to the robots comes across in their uncanny-valley creepy doll faces, and each sequence which features them is intense and, well, terrifyingly mechanical.
But a few interesting fight scenes are practically null from being thrown into this world with little to no context. The plot is all over the place and confusing. Who the robots were designed to kill is all over the place, and pretty conveniently antagonistic. While the fight sequences are choreography in animation, the film's story seems like a contrived excuse to make them. The film could have had some intrigue into the military complex society the that it looked to explore initially. But nope. We're not gonna develop the soldiers or commanders beyond cannon fodder for action scenes. Oh the reporter? We won't characterize her with motive but your motive is to see her get her clothes off right? Okay cool we'll introduce her that way right. If you can see our characters' asses that means you're invested? Cool.
But then the entire film turns into a drawn out chase scene that ends with the journalist and the granddaughter surviving FALLING OFF OF A LITERAL BUILDING. While again, the robot's presence made it redeemable, but having no investment in the characters made it seem even more contrived and difficult to care about. If cement would have crushed anyone it would be no different than when all the faceless troopers were killed. I saw this film on a whim and I would pass. It strives to be okay but its hand, dramatically outstretched for better writers and care in its plot, is quickly sucked into the quicksand of its own flawed writing. Pass.
I’ve had conversations with some people who have either general or diverse opinions over older anime. There are tons of older anime series, but people will either pass them off or think they are all like Dragon Ball. It's to be expected because the majority of them are outdated. But there is a difference, I think, between "classic" and "outdated." As for Black Magic M-66, I believe it fails to reach any sort of “classic status” and as always, I plan to explain my reasoning behind my claim.
Released in the year 1987, Black Magic M-66 as a whole is somewhat... well, FRUSTRATINGLY mundane. Of course,
it was directed in part by Masamune Shirow, and he did the Appleseed, which was awesome, (maybe I’ll review that one) so I don’t understand how M-66 came out as a bad anime. Well, it IS of the typical type of anime ova-- a cyberpunk, action-based free-for-all that delivers a lot of blood and gore and horrible plot structure with hit and miss characters, yet, these ovas usually contain decent animation and value that aspect over all things, despite their crappy music and a butt load of major issues with the ova itself. So, now I wish to address those issues.
The story begins by showing a fighter plane flying through a storm. The next thing you know, this plane that was introduced only ten seconds ago goes down and explodes into a billowing ball of fire, crashing into the trees, and (finally) hits the ground hard. The title screen is shown, then, a naked girl appears on screen and walks out her house unclothed….
...It only took one minute for this ova to throw me for a loop. I know that barely anything happened yet, but the things that did happen are complete B.S. I feel that there are no aims to ovas like this, because all they do is show of horrendous plots and titillate nude women (no pun intended) and fanservice for the majority of the show.
Moving on, there seems to be more going on in this ova than what seems to be, but actually, that’s the main problem with this one. There’s too much crap thrown into the beginning of the anime and as a result, it distracts from the important elements of the plot and ruins the entertainment factor. All in order, there’s the spectacle of an explosion in the first 30 seconds of the anime, the title screen is dropped, a naked girl is immediately thrown into the focus of the camera and all she does is scribble on some film containers and go streaking. Next, some government people are in the forest where the plane from earlier crashed and we learn where the M-66 robots come into play. But after a brief introduction and explanation of the components of these robots, they story shifts and continues to shift between the main characters Sybil and Leakey, then onto the military grunts, then to a girl with barely any clothes on (seems to be a recurring theme in this anime), then to a weird professor, then all of a sudden the military is back in the forest, and apparently Sybil is too, and gets captured. Then a bear is shown dead with its blood and ribs pouring out, and the M-66 robots begin to do random things and kill anybody they see in the forest, and then we jump-cut back to the apprehended Sybil about to be killed before FINALLY the heart of the story takes place and the robots start to wipe out the military forces. Afterwards, the characters find out that the aim of these combat robots is to kill the professor’s granddaughter, named Ferris, shown briefly in a bra and panties moments ago. And all that happens in roughly 15 minutes.
Now, I’ll admit that there was a pretty solid twist that starts off the action, but I only have one small complaint. I have but one, tiny, miniscule problem with this…
Everything I explained previously about the story of M-66 is arbitrary.
I didn’t spoil the anime nor did I ever hint of a climax. I’ve only BEGUN to explain the opening of this anime. That is absurd!! This is what ruins anime ovas, a bunch of useless, unimportant garbage thrown into opening scenes and information and actions that are irrelevant to the main plot! M-66 might hold the trophy for the worst opening ever in an anime because there are so many unnecessary things thrown into it. Ovas are only so long, too, so you’d think that more time would be spent on developing a decent story, but M-66 goes off the deep end and flounders its writing. Between those first 15 minutes, there are so many things introduced, so many random events happening, and so little time for any narration or explanation that the story is incomprehensible. The frequent scene switching and jump cuts screw the flow of the story over even more. The only worthwhile part to this is watching the soldier at about 14 minutes and 52 seconds into the anime being turned into visceral. Yeah, keep rewinding that over and over. It’s better than sitting through the rest of M-66. M-66’s opening story is very flawed; it’s like watching Genocyber all over again…
Buuuuuuut Genocyber was 100% bad… and I have to say that… the latter half of this anime is quite decent. I’m actually impressed. They didn’t screw around when the better scenes came along. There are many points that drive home the suspense and those are periods while watching that I really hoped that Sybil would make it out to the end alive with the girl Ferris, who ends up being a target of the killer robots. The drama works with many of the more intense action scenes and I’m sure that you would agree that everything falls into place well in some moments of this half of the ova.
Surprisingly, there are actually very few “action” scenes in this ova that aren’t just a robot killing a bunch of military grunts. However, the scenes that exist are worthwhile and very well done, despite this being just one of those ovas that are just an excuse to show copious amounts of blood onscreen. It doesn’t hinder the experience much this time around, and by the time Sybil has to keep Ferris safe from the renegade combat robots, the “excuse” is justified: these robots are going to tear up anything and everything that stands in their way in order to complete their goal. However, the resolution to the story is unsatisfying, and does NOT justify what I went through watching the beginning of the story, which was a lot of bewilderment and confusion.
Moving on to the characters, I think they suck. Sybil is the only interesting one, but only because she’s a bit comedic and if I ignore the moment where I see her nude in the first 60 seconds of the anime, I dare say she’s kinda cute. The professor who created the M-66 robots is too dumb to live; In fact, he’s probably even worse than the people in the story who go up to the super-powered killer robots and fight them out of free volition. Why do I think so? He let these killer robots get close to his only granddaughter, and one of them became familiar with her and went apeshit, so naturally it wants her dead. The plot of M-66 is all the professor’s fault. Leakey is seemingly Sybil’s grunt worker. He’s uninteresting. Ferris is the professor’s granddaughter and she’s very annoying, and I don’t like her. And there’s a Major of the military and some other military guys who help out or go against Sybil, but the thing is that this story spends zero time on character development. Although, for Sybil’s character development, it’s all decked out for fanservice. There are plenty of one-shot characters as well, who usually die right after they are introduced since they take on the M-66 robot bullheadedly. The plot simply leaves characters dead and just goes right on into the action. I guess getting to the point is not a bad thing for an anime and in an ova, there’s hardly any time to pull out anything good like what FMA does with its characters. Unfortunately, this anime fast-forwards to the action at a bad place. This anime should’ve gotten to the point right after the title screen and THEN explained it’s characters if need be, instead of crapping all over its introduction and skipping the character development so that they can focus on the action.
Looking at the sound of this ova, the acting is fair. The dub is certainly far from fair, but it’s not as atrocious as Lily C.A.T. or Violence Jack. It’s tolerable, and if subtitles bother you as much as they bother me, try the dub. Otherwise, stick to the original Japanese audio and dialogue. The closing theme is actually a wonderful song by Kitahara Yuki. If a song from an anime makes me feel like searching for it in Google, I think it is pretty good by default. For me, it’s a memorable song, but the rest of the score is disappointing. Most times, the music is ignorable, because the music doesn’t stand out much, but other times (the final scene on the rooftop for example) the music does not suit the mood of the situation. Outside of that, most of the score is unimpressive.
M-66 looks visually unimpressive as well and not just because it’s an 80’s ova. Lily C.A.T. is garbage, but it had fluid animation scenes and stunning (and gory) designs of its monsters. Comparing M-66 to Lily C.A.T., the animation seems to be done on the cheap for most of the ova and the most important parts have an art style that is just like standard animation for an 80’s anime. The blood from the dead people and animals looks more of a magenta color than bright red. The robots are interesting characters on their own, but look like nothing more than the dolls you see in the windows of clothing stores with wigs on them. The animation isn’t flawed, but it fails to impress.
For the most part, every aspect of Black Magic M-66 is generic. The outstanding aspects are usually the worst parts. If you didn’t catch everything I explained or need a bit more clarification as to why this anime ova is a piece of crap, in my opinion, I’ll gladly clarify on my points, which is something M-66 never does once.
Story: (3) Quite appalling. There is no consistency for much of the beginning of the anime, with random events occurring left and right, and the way the story introduces the combat robots only confuses me more. This story doesn’t pull itself together until 30 minutes have passed. It’s a 45-minute ova…
Art: (5) Not good, and not up to par, even for an 80’s anime ova. Even though this was released prior to Lily C.A.T., that’s not an excuse.
Sound: (5) It’s plain and mediocre. Can’t say much about it. I do find some solace in the theme by Kitahara-san.
Characters (2): This ova has a severe lack of character development overall. They all felt very loose, at least the main characters did. Other characters don’t even last that long before they meet their doom. I don't consider the androids characters either.
Enjoyment: (4): I only enjoyed three things about this ova: the ending theme, Sybil’s humor, and again, minute 14:52. The guy just takes a hit for the team. That scene will stay in my head for a long time to come.
OVERALL: I bless Black Magic M-66 with a 4.
Between the surprisingly good action and chase scenes, horrible characters, and a mediocre score, I could’ve just passed off this as an average ova series and considered the flaws mentioned very miniscule actually. But the thing that destroys the entire flow of the ova and the enjoyment factor is the horrible beginning. I don’t need to say much else because you know how I feel about it. I don’t like it. It’s as if Shirow wasn’t thinking when he directed this. Outside of the suspense, there is not one quality aspect to the rest of the story since the ending is sub-par and most of the plot is pathetic, with its crappy beginning and incessant portrayal of men being turned into ludicrous gibs by the robots. It wears on your patience FAST! It's not enjoyable in the least; it’s BELOW AVERAGE! The flow of the story of this anime is bad, cased closed!
Once again, this is the part of my review where all the exaggeration ends and the seriousness begins. I don’t think I can speak for people from the 1980’s when I say that this story is flawed. It was a different time back then, and most ovas have come a long way in huge strides. But the point of this review is to review the anime ova and see if I could recommend this to people out there, not to focus on reviewing other periods of time or other people’s tastes. However, when it comes down to me labeling M-66 as “recommendable,” I don't think that I will do that either…