In the future, mankind has colonized the bleak expanses of the moon. Cities now stand proudly where there was once only desolation and emptiness. But there are alien forces that do not want mankind to succeed and only one man can stop them. He is a member of the Bounty Dog Investigation Unit, a high-tech cybernetic mercenary team.
I got into anime at a very odd time. Anime like Dominion Tank Police, and Akira were still big and being kicked around, and hence some of the earliest stuff I saw. Dragon Ball Z , Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Cardcaptors were on TV and I watched in amazement (well can’t say I even liked Cardcaptors but hey I wasn’t picky back then). I saw a few episodes of Robotech (although they were reruns of course I’m not old enough to have seen it’s original airing), I even was lucky enough to catch Serial Experiments Lain on TechTV. This was a magical time when people
still thought Jungle De Ikou was funny (well I still think it is but I’m probably the only one). During this time anime seemed mystical and could do no wrong. I ended up both watching the older stuff on VHS (but only borrowing them from friends I really had no idea where I could buy this stuff nor did I have the money) and the “newer” stuff on TV. I should not need to point out that the tones of both of these types of anime are vastly different. I can define the tones easily, the stuff I saw on VHS was mostly ultraviolent or in some way crude, and the stuff I saw on tv was usually more child friendly or at least of a less violent nature. There was no such thing to me as a “bad anime”, it was all good. During the late 90′s I heard Bounty Dog mentioned once or twice, but paid it no mind. By 2003 however my attitude toward anime was changed, I now was a full fledged anime fan and understood not all anime was good. This is also the year Bounty Dog was released on dvd, a title that seemed familiar to me, but when I read this review of it I decided to stay clear of it. By then I was buying DVDs quite frequently (We got a DVD player in 2000 and I spent all my money on either anime dvds or video games from that point forward). I vividly remember reading that review when it was published. What’s the point of all this? Well I finally got to watch Bounty Dog, and it most definitely fits in with the stuff I watched on VHS back in the day, however it is not nearly as violent as other stuff I remember from that time. I was half expecting this to be a total disaster of a movie, much like the god awful Psychic Wars (I am going to destroy this in a future review), but it turned out it was a decent sci-fi story. Sure it’s nothing groundbreaking, but I enjoyed it. I might have liked it a lot better if I saw it in the 90′s, but it’s still worth a watch today. Sure is yellow though…
Yoshiyuki Otomo is a member of a group of freelance spies committing industrial espionage against the Constans Corporation, on orders from a rival corporation (that we never learn the identify of this rival corporation is probably for the better considering the short running time of this two part OVA). The Constans Corporation is primarily in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the first lunar city (encased in a glass bubble). Yes this is a tale about the colonization of the moon. Yoshiyuki’s team includes his boss the very serious Shoko, and Kei. Yoshiyuki seems very preoccupied, his girlfriend died some time in the recent past and this still weighs heavily on him. I can’t tell you much more about these characters, because the anime simply didn’t tell me much about them either. I figure Kei is some type of mechanical export, but that’s just speculation. I just love the opening scene of this OVA and the song that plays afterwards. It sets up the story pretty well and just excited me. The three spies are on a spaceship to the moon (that looks much like an airplane) and Shoko is trying to blend in. She’s all perky, cheerful, bubbly, and teasing. If there’s one aspect of her character that is explored (I admit very lightly) it is the great acting ability she has, to pretend to be an obnoxious tourist so well. Yoshiyuki is way to preoccupied by his laptop, and Shoko warns him that he doesn’t look much like a tourist with his nose buried in his work there. Kei just seems to sit on the plane and not do much, just like he does for the rest of the anime. Anyway the three spies are on the moon investigating Constans Corporation, with the approval to commit sabotage if necessary. Their client believes the Constans Corporation is currently arming the moon (weaponizing space has been outlawed), and this could give Contstans a giant advantage if it is true. The spy trio’s client has detected an unusual amount of “electro magnetic electricity” (surely that’s a thing) coming from the moon. But as the plot unfolds we learn that the truth may be much stranger and involve ancient alien ruins discovered by the company and possibly a surviving alien or two (à la Total Recall). While investigating the cause of the high levels of ”electro magnetic electricity” and the Constans Corporation, our heros run into goons sent from the corporation. These mooks, and the company itself are not evil, and the show makes a very big point about this. In fact it does so so strongly that at times I feel like the spy trio are really the bad guys. The thugs sent from the company are ordered not to kill the spies, and try to capture them alive. Their multiple entanglements with the spies over the anime put this to the test, and they never resort to killing anyone, even when their own men are killed by the spies. While investigating the company the spies learn many secrets, all much larger then the industrial espionage they are committing. Personally I like how the mystery of the true explanation of where the moon came from, the source of the strange ”electro magnetic electricity”, the engrossing spy story, and the story of Yoshiyuki’s girlfriend all intersect. There isn’t one explanation but many things going on, all grander then the characters involved. In addition to all this there is a cute girl who keeps appearing to Yoshiyuki and then quickly disappearing, almost magically.
There’s plenty of cool tech to go around in this 90′s sci-fi OVA. A favorite of mine is the really cool laptop Yoshiyuki uses in the first scene, that puts out tablets to shame. There’s also plenty of cool spy gadgets, like secret tape recorders in pens, tiny hidden explosives, and really cool cars. Not to mention the really neat monorail system. The story being told is very 90′s, much of it reminiscent of the original Total Recall film staring Arnold Schwarzenegger (which is a film everyone needs to see). In fact I’d say significant parts of the plot are lifted straight from that movie and the original novel it is based on, with anime twists, and these are the very best aspects of the movie. I must say there’s something about 90′s sci-fi, even the less than stellar ones that resonates with me. The story is well written (mostly), as I mentioned the way all the plot elements intersect is quite satisfying. Toward the end of the anime however things start to fall apart on the writing side. Some of the mysteries are still unanswered and so are dealt with in a sloppy exposition by a character while on the move . Now exposition in between action scenes, when the characters are on the move is not impossible to do well (After all that’s pretty much how Terminator explained everything to us). But here it just seems lazy and well frankly poorly thought out. The characters, as I mentioned before don’t have much to them. They’re pretty shallow creatures. In fact I found myself being attached much more to the corporation then the spies, because they seem like a nicer group of people.
The main problem of this anime is none of that though. The major thing wrong with Bounty Dog is the color palette. What the hell happened here? Everything in this entire anime looks all washed out. It is all piss yellow or puke green shaded. It all looks ugly! The art designs look good, in fact I love the technology and the character designs are good. The animation is alright, although minimal at times. But the color of it all is garbage! Did they run out of other colors? Were they trying to save money? Are they trying to make the show look cool by coloring it all yellow? Whatever the reason for it, it looks horrible. I hate this piss yellow colored stuff. It doesn’t help that the video quality on Manga Entertainments DVD is terrible (and as I’m sure you all know I’m never one to complain about that). Even Manga Entertainment’s DVD menus are this ugly yellow. Eww keep it away from me!
The music of this anime is a huge strength. The soundtrack is quite good, it seems somewhat inspired by Total Recall and other early 90′s sci-fi, and I must say it is all very catchy and listenable. The dub for this anime is another Manga Video job done in London, England (with American accents) and directed by my favorite, Michael Bakewell. While this dub is not his very best work, it lives up the high standards I have for Mr. Bakewell’s dubs. While there are a few curses in this, they are used very rarely and are entirely fitting. Peter Marinker plays one of the important corporate big-shots, and once again does a magnificent job. Whenever he speaks it’s like a lesson to other actors as to how to act. He makes the corporate big shot seem likable, realistic, human, and understandable. Yet he still makes you get the feeling that this guy is working on some morally grey projects for the company. Stephen Grat plays Yoshiyuki and he seems a little bored at times. But he fits the character well enough. He’s great during the more subdued emotional scenes, but does overact a bit during the more in-your-face scenes. I liked his voice, and thought it matched the character well. Shoko is played by Toni Barry, who I’ll always remember as Leona Ozaki from Dominion Tank Police. Just like her performance in Dominion, she does a top notch job. Toni Barry is perky, cheerful, excitable, and fun when she’s pretending to be a tourist and does this wonderfully. It is all an act, and you figure this out quite fast however as the real Shoko is deadly serious, and firm. And Toni Barry captures this aspect of her personality perfectly as well. Teresa Gallagher (the President’s daughter Sayaka Rama,in Demon City Shinjuku) plays Ines, the girl who keeps mysteriously appearing and disappearing over the course of the OVA. Teresa Gallagher again gives a great performance, interpreting this mysterious girl as cute sounding, odd, adorable, shy, but knowledgable person. I really like how perky and playful she can be at times too. She’s even better in this then in Demon City as I liked the American accent she put on here as opposed to her real real British accent that she used in Demon City. I also recognized Bob Sherman’s voice as one of the executives at Constans Corporation, and again he does a terrific job. Some of the minor characters seem bored and this is a problem. Many small roles seem a little cheesy, but never enough to ruin the dub. I liked the small sci-fi touches they added like computer voices on the phone, in the backgrounds, futuristic news reporters and such. There’s also a few jokes early on, one involving an 87 year old women who is rather eager to let you know that she “remembers when Clinton was President” (which was probably a funnier joke in the 90′s). The dub also seems a little liberal, making references to very American things a few times (the Superbowl being one of them). I can’t confirm this though because for some reason there is neither a Japanese audio track or subtitles. I do not understand this. What the hell Manga Entertainment
No one else seems to even like this anime a little bit. And I understand why they hate it. But it’s not that bad is it? I’ve tried to sit through MD Geist but could not, I barely finished and totally regretting the train wreck that is Kai Doh Maru (how did an anime so bad even end up on US television multiple times?). I watched some of Night Shift Nurses at my friend’s house once and that was so bad from time to time I get vietnam vet-like flashbacks. Although I came home that day, a part of me is still fighting the battle in that forbidden hospital ward. There were eggs…Oh god why where there eggs?. Usually eggs don’t go there, but there they were, oh please tell me why did she have eggs!? ….uh…As I was saying…Garzey’s Wing is one of my favorite horrible anime series (a great DVD to pop on when you have people over and play in the background), and I saw Psychic Wars 3 times now, an OVA so bad I want a refund and I have’t even purchased the damn thing yet. I am convinced on each time I watched it I lost more neurons then if I had spent the time sniffing airplane glue and then following that up with a bit of binge drinking. So I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to god awful anime. I know I’ve been pretty harsh on this at times, but I still think it’s central story is solid and really worth a watch. It has major problems that’s for sure, but there’s plenty here to like too. Some of the problems like no Japanese audio and the yellow color scheme just boggles the mind. Other problems like a rushed final act with cheap exposition, and undeveloped characters are easier to overlook. I think this anime is a good way to kill an hour. It never wanted to be more then that either. This is an anime that if it had more time to finish off the story in a proper way, and develop the characters could have been really good. They even could have added some more interesting themes. Instead it just sort of lies there. Well at least it is entertaining. Much like Total Recall you’re never sure how far the conspiracy goes, or if there is one at all. What is really going on on the moon, and how are aliens involved? This aspect is the part of the movie that works the best. One important thing to mention is that while most of this isn’t very violent or sexual, there is one or two brief scenes of nudity. Also the one scene that is violent is pretty horrible. At one point in the anime Yoshiyuki beats the living crap out of 2 girls with his bare hands. He ends up punching one of them to a bloody pulp, and then smashing her head into a wall until she slowly dies in agony. The other one gets beat up and then violently shot to death. This is a little tough to watch. I mean I’m all for violence but the way in which he beats the living daylights out of a girl seems abusive. The dvd for this is still easy and cheap to buy off Amazon. For the cheap price it’s worth it. Just don’t spend too much on it. Why did I end up writing so much about Bounty Dog?
(review originally posted: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bounty-dog/ )
Bounty Dog had massive potential, the chance at being magnificent. It's diverse in its sci-fi attributes, carrying things that can be found in Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Prometheus, etc. What it also carried, however, was a 50-minute run-time. That's the key issue with this OVA, the fact that it shouldn't have been an OVA in the first place.
The setting is similar to what you'd see in Cowboy Bebop, mainly the movie Knockin' on Heaven's Door. In the future, we have colonies on the moon living in dome-glass structures with the ability to control weather, along with having many other technological advancements. While it's the
future, much of it carries a light modern vibe, much like Cowboy Bebop. It's a future of advancement, yet it's also an economic landscape where not everything is of top-notch quality.
This is all carried out in superb animation with even more superb detail. The work on design really paid off, creating a believable, futuristic environment. They carried this out to such a level that if the team behind Bounty Dog were to translate all of their technological designs to a live-action Hollywood movie, there wouldn't need be much work to be done on building the universe, as a large portion is there in deep detail. However, this doesn't continue into the functioning and lite history to these designs, as the OVA is still held back by its run-time.
Another thing to applaud is the sound design as a whole. The opening has a catchy low electronic tune with some vocals, yet does not carry an ending theme or an ending period for that matter. Time is valuable here, and they have to make use of every minute they have. To the music in the series, it's also at least above average, but I would consider it good for its setting. This OVA was created after the 80's, yet the soundtrack does feature some trumpet-sounding, electronic tunes. That isn't all it has, however, as the OVA also carries some slower electronic tracks that carry slightly different vibes. The soundtrack might have not been able to carry over as well as the visual design, considering there's not any orchestrations, but it's very serviceable where it's at here.
The story is another thing that should have been applauded, but can only be appreciated in reality. The story itself isn't original, but it's formed together from an interesting mash of parts of plots from different sci-fi hits. It may spoil if I were to directly name which ones are related, but there are several I could name right off the bat. The story has all of these elements to it, and had the potential to go into them with more depth and create more meaning. Instead, the time-limit of 50 minutes made them have to act differently. This is a real shame, as what we have here has some wonky pacing issues that skims over some moderately important details that one may have wished to be better explained, or that one was simply confused by the lack of explanation. In fact, it may even require more than one viewing to properly understand everything that occurred with this pacing. That was a part of my experience with Bounty Dog, but it should be noted I was working with the subbed version.
Briefly towards the voice-work, the dubbed version was a bit unsatisfactory in its execution. I usually work with dubs as I'm not a fan of reading, but I just felt the dubs weren't treating everything in a way that made it as believable as the Japanese voices. Online there is mainly only the dubbed versions available, so if that's what's bugging you, I would recommend looking for the subtitled version even if it's a tad difficult.
Bounty Dog features not only a believable world, but reasonable inhabitants. It should be appreciated that no-one in Bounty Dog lacks basic common sense. Even when a mass of citizens or side-characters are shown having reactions and discussing, they treat situations in a way that you would expect. Not only that, but the "heros" of this story are not overpowered in any sense. They're just like anyone else and can be beaten by an unnamed individual on the side. They're trained mercenaries which would make them skilled, but they are still beatable. This isn't presented that much as the entirety is still only 50 minutes, but it's noticeable.
A downside to the characters of this OVA is the lack of development. There is an attempt at some development in the main character, but the story speeding by makes that attempt lack any weight. The other characters suffer even worse from this, making those closest to the main feel only a tad more familiar than a no-named, one-liner character. This leads to more disappointment towards the length. However, when these characters interact in the OVA, they still do so reasonably.
Bounty Dog has the start of the creation of a potentially great universe to it, but that isn't gone into detail in this OVA. Sadly, due to obscurity, this OVA never led to a further release of the same universe. What we have here is a visually-detailed short-film that briefly relates many aspects of other more famous science-fiction stories. It does rush the story, but simultaneously, it treats the viewers with respect that they're intelligent enough to follow along with no crutches. It's a refreshing feeling, but is still heavily accompanied by disappointment. Bounty Dog is definitely worth the watch for its moderately short length and its overwhelming amount of quality. The story is a bit generic, but is interesting in how it relates many different elements. I would appreciate any continuation of this world in even an unrelated side-story. I want to see more, but that will likely never happen. There may be some hope with searching other works by the staff, like how the character designer for Bounty Dog happens to have been also involved in every iteration of Ghost in the Shell. That would be the first place to start (possibly even being a spiritual successor to what we have here).