Down[r]oad is a perhaps adventurous film, containing a multitude of humour, cyberpunk genre conventions, raunchy and erotic scenes; a shounen aimed at mid-teens.
The plot is rather simple, in fact with much description I'd have ruined it for you. The main character Shirou, vies for the attention of a prestigious stripper, who leads him to a conspiracy. Things go boom, enemies become friends, and a whole lot of flashing colourful lights as per hacking and cyberpunk necessitate, thus proceed.
The animation has some direct conflictions; effort has been made to add detail to technological points, yet landscapes and characters often have a complete lack of detail. The
art style is extremely reminiscent of Akira; this is not surprising as Tatsuyuki Tanaka is a key frame animator for this project; he also worked on Akira. The style is maintained by Yoshinori Kanada however- a most famous and respected animator whose works have influenced many. The style creates a vitality and ebullient dynamism to the characters- however with a low-grade budget, little of the empathised genuineness can be felt in scenes. We most certainly feel like we are watching characters, not people. However, the main attraction of this movie is the cyberpunk details that have been envisioned. As per normal, the ideas portrayed are often impractical and bulky apparatus' that indeed do not even improve the standard of a persons life by very much.
Sound was a mixed bag. Bikers portrayed in the film led to a metallic and slight grunge influence in the soundtrack and music- and the actual recording quality of both sound and voices varied dramatically and at some points was almost incomprehensible. Sound effects were rather cliche, nothing special.
The actual characters were indeed stereotypes- but we can find these stereotypes repeated almost exactly throughout time. Even for its time there is nothing new. And there are no lengths taken to give depth to any of the characters. As such, characterisation is poor, or average, but it's not much of a detriment because the film relies on its action, humour, and eroticism, to create a fast-paced 47 minute action-thriller.
So overall, download delivers exactly what you would presume it does having read the very short synopsis. There are no surprises, perhaps the most surprising thing would be how lascivious some scenes are. The production, while not high-budget, manages to deliver a competent cyberpunk vision in a shounen style. It should be appreciated for that at least.
Download is an earlier Madhouse work that up until last week (at the time of writing), had never been translated. Well, now we've got some subs courtesy of Burger. We can finally watch this 50-minute OVA how it was meant to be viewed: in VHS quality with solid yellow subtitles.
To be honest, it's not great. The story, which centers around an email that kills its recipients, is largely forgettable. The main character is an unlikable sex-crazed teen, and he's accompanied by his formulaic pals Stripper Girl, Tsundere Sister, Gangster Pals, and Nerd Boy. This page tags the show as sci-fi and psychological, but the latter
just isn't true and the former is wasted potential. Instead of a full cyberpunk thriller, this OVA's definition of sci-fi is a nighttime city and head-mounted computers.
But that's enough bashing, let's talk about some of the positive stuff.
For one thing, the music. The decision to make most of the soundtrack honky-tonk American country music is a weird one, but the music isn't bad by any means, and hey, it's pretty unique.
For an early 90's show, the animation is pretty good. I won't bash the art and details too much; the current releases are low quality so it's pretty hard to make things out, but that's no fault of the original work.
All in all, I can't say that I'd recommend Download. However, I'm still really glad that it was subbed, and I'm sure it paved the way to all of Madhouse's great shows later on.