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Burn Up
Reviewed by Gabe Glick, © 2005

Format: Anime
By:   ADV Films
Genre:   Action
Review Date:   May 11, 2005
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

Burn Up is a name that be quite familiar to those who have been into anime for a while. Its sequel, Burn Up W, is well known for its nude bungie-jumping scene if nothing else. But this is a review of the original Burn Up OAV, and there's no nude bungie jumping to be found here. There's nothing else worthwhile for the modern anime viewer either, for that matter.

Burn Up, as you will see immediately upon inserting the disc into your DVD player, is very much a product of the '80s. From the limited animation to the (attempted) humor to the cheesy metal rock that starts blaring five seconds after the show starts, the entire production is soaked in the '80s, look, sound and feel. This is only a good thing if everything from that era makes you weep with nostalgia at the mere thought of the Golden Decade. For everyone else, though, this is a very bad sign. Apparently, things like character development, sympathy for the protagonists, villains with understandable motives, and suspenseful action scenes were not in style for action anime back then. Burn Up has not aged well in these last 20 years, and those of you looking for a quality anime rather than just an old, semi-famous anime would do well to look elsewhere.

The plot, such as it is, focuses on three female police officers, Maki, Reimi, and Yuka, and their videogame-like attempts to stop a corrupt businessman's sinister dealings and rescue the princess . . . er, young girls who have been kidnapped by his organization. Maki is the blonde firecracker of the department, who likes to shoot first and not bother to ask questions. Reimi is the pragmatic and cautious brunette foil for Maki's reckless and violent antics — except when someone has the misfortune to break one of her precious high-tech gadgets. And Yuka is the bubblehead with bubblegum-colored hair who is too young and foolish to be let anywhere near a gun, much less a police officer's badge.

Their opponent is Samuel McCoy, an American businessman in Japan doing horrible things, like kidnapping young girls and breaking their minds before he sells them off as sex slaves. During an undercover investigation of one of his nightclubs (after their chief naturally refuses to get involved without substantial evidence), Yuka gets kidnapped. It's then up to Maki and Reimi to go and rescue her and all the other young girls being held against their will. And that's it. That's the entire plot.

While the kidnapping and white slavery racket is a genuinely creepy concept that carries the potential for a suspenseful and intriguing story, Burn Up squanders it by being content to spend most of its time making lame jokes (such as Maki's "It'll be like shooting ducks in a barrel!" and Yuka's scolding Maki by calling her "young lady" when it's obvious that Yuka is the youngest of the three). The rest of this anime's running time is spent on blowing things up in only mildly entertaining action sequences. Both of these together effectively ruin anyone's ability to take the premise seriously, and infuse the show with an undeniable sense of utter cheesiness.

None of the characters are all that interesting to begin with, and not a one of them changes or develops in any way by the end, not even after Yuka has been stripped to her underwear and whipped while being interrogated by the bad guys. After she's rescued and safe, she even goes right back to the unfunny jokes with a "Hey guys, how about another undercover assignment? Just kidding!"

Given the obnoxiously cheesy nature of the show, it doesn't matter whether you watch the dub or the sub, as both scripts are filled with bad writing. However, at least the voice acting in the subtitled Japanese original won't inspire sudden bursts of laughter for entirely the wrong reasons, like the English acting does. Combining amateurish acting with a lackluster script, the dub cast of Burn Up wrecks any potential there may have been for the viewer to become involved with the story (such as it is).

At least the Japanese cast manages to salvage that a little. The only conceivable saving grace in the dub is solely for those who like their voice acting bad enough to make every other line seem like a throwback to campy live-action B movies. Yuka in particular sounds like a refugee from the Soft Porn School of Acting for Models. Given the age of the dub here (one of ADVs first efforts), it really shows the progress that's been made in American dubbing of Japanese animation in recent years, but that doesn't make it any easier on the ears.

Perhaps the one redeeming quality to be found in Burn Up is the impressive-by-80s-standards animation, at least for the opening scenes. The car chase that starts the show has some sequences that were, at the time this show was produced, notoriously difficult to animate by hand, such as an unbroken tracking shot that follows behind and above a police car chasing a criminal vehicle down a highway. Once the chase is over, however, the entire show's quality drops to a more average level, and it never really recovers. The producers apparently blew their wad entirely on the energetic opening sequence.

The sound, as you may have guessed, is also nothing to write home about, featuring apathetic 2 channel mixes on both the Japanese and English tracks

The only other potentially redeeming feature in Burn Up is its fanservice. While there are surprisingly no panty shots, there are more than a few closeups of, of all things, crotches, and it boasts one of the first gratuitous shower scenes in all of anime. However, that's pretty much all you get. The only frontal nudity shown is actually kinda disturbing, because it's a nude shot of one of the girls who have been conditioned into sex slaves, and she looks about as developed as a 12 year old boy. In other words, even for pervs, the fanservice in Burn Up is hardly a worthwhile reason to consider picking this series up.

At a mere 40 minutes in length, Burn Up is thankfully over quickly, but its short length also means that for the value-conscious anime purchaser, Burn Up again fails to deliver. With more and more anime DVD releases containing between three and six 22 minute episodes per disc, there is no reason whatsoever to spend over 20 dollars on this one. The complete lack of any extras (save trailers for other, more entertaining series) clinches it. If you've been hearing good things about Burn Up and think it's something you might enjoy despite what you've read here, I highly encourage you to rent, not buy. My guess is you'll be glad you did.

Revolution SF Contributor Gabe Glick is burning up over having to review this anime.

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