One night at a rock concert, a mysterious man dies while leaving a floppy disc with a member of the Rutz Detective Agency. Soon they realize the disk contains information about a deadly new weapon under development. The heroes become involved in a game of political subterfuge and military espionage, hot on the trail of the killer!
Tokyo Vice (or Tokyo Project in its most recent release) is an hour-long flick that, had you never randomly come across it, you would never know existed. A late 80s cyberpunk action OVA which performs about half-decent for what it is: an 80s cyberpunk action OVA. No, really, there are no other ways to describe it. If you want to find a 60 minute run of averageness when it comes to 80s anime, Tokyo Vice is the perfect pick.
The story is practically all-stock. A guy stumbles into a rock concert and hands a college student (Junpei) a floppy disk (oh, the days when those things were considered high capacity!). Right before he dies, the guy tells the kid to give it to someone. This doesn't even qualify as a spoiler, so it's better to just tell you that it contains diagrams to highly advanced control systems--weapons related. Obviously, this sensitive information needs to be recaptured by its true corporate owners. The back of my clam-shell case wasn't kidding when it billed it as a Mission Impossible/Enemy of the State type of movie. Despite predating both of those live action films, you get that vibe the whole time.
For the 80s, there's nothing wrong with any of the artwork. In fact, some of it is rather cool (the robot, for instance). But that's also the problem. It's the same stuff you see in every cyberpunk movie coming out of this period. Aside from some stiff character animation in one or two scenes, the product of the higher-budget OVA creation is well displayed. The character designs are the same way. They're not bad to look at, but they're about as original as the plot of Star Wars. Few people today are going to find the muted city and high tech computers impressive, and the obligatory military helicopters go without saying.
The Japanese dialogue (the only dub I have access too) was --by even my English-speaking standards--not that great. You can tell. The hero of the story reminds me of a DBZ character impression (the usual shouts, murmurs, etc). The PI (Akira) and Keiko (the adult woman in the group) came through though, and I liked their performance well-enough. Don't even get me started on Junpei's sister though... The music is standard, but I give it credit for being upbeat enough to give some spice to the action scenes.
The kid enlists the aid of his friend Akira (whose uncharacteristic behavior in some scenes is the only thing that makes him interesting), where we also meet his kid sister (annoying as is typical), and the slightly sultry Keiko. Nothing special to see here, move along. Though again, Akira does offer some slight points, and I liked Keiko. The rest is stock, and not even inventive at that. Seriously, the background on any of these people is zero. It's as if this was meant to be the middle episode in a series or something. Either the writer's forgot or they decided to hell with character info in a 60 minute movie.
So now comes the important stuff.
-Originality; on all fields (story, art, sound) perhaps forgivable in the 80s, but that doesn't give anyone a reason to watch it
-Characters; my god, they could have at least given an interesting back-story to why this group of people are even friends!
-Sense of Timing; this movie has a very bad habit of drawing-out suspense until it dissipates, which does no credit to otherwise cool action sequences
But allow me to offer some more tidbits.
Why You Should Still Watch It:
-Quick-fix; the 60 minutes you spend watching this will not be too painful, especially if you've never seen the aforementioned live action movies with similar plots. If you're a real cyberpunk/sci-fi fan, it's also a way to expand your repertoire, or a way to avoid rewatching a more popular flick for the umteenth time.
-Cool stuff; there's a robot and a huge gun that look pretty nice. If everything else is stock, these items they actually bothered to invest some thought.
-Unintentional Hilarity; this may be common in the 80s, but it's also the best reason I can think of to recommend viewing a movie like this. You will be impressed with how many times the main character should be dead--make a drinking game out of it if you like.
At the end of the day, Tokyo Vice is a middle child in anime. It doesn't deviate enough to good or bad to be known for its quality or horrendous play. It's much like one of those B or TV movies that you can remember watching once, and never bothered to watch again. Trumped by its more noted contemporaries like Bubblegum Crisis (in terms of quality) and Angel Cop (in the other direction), Tokyo Vice will likely stay at the peripheral of even the most devoted 80s sci-fi fans. I can't really call that a shame in anything but principle, as I think all anime deserve a chance.
But on one last note, I will revert to a saying of mine when it comes to anime. If you never watch the mediocre and the bad, how will you ever know when you truly find the good? read more