Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cybernetics Guardian

Having just come off the massive article that was G-Saviour, this one is going to be short and sweet, though I'd honestly love to make it longer.

The title of this OVA is actually Seijuki Cyguard/聖獣機サイガード, "Seijuki" meaning "Holy Beast", the "Cybernetics Guardian" part is actually a subtitle stuck on the Japanese release explaining the abbreviation. For whatever reason it became the name of the OVA when released outside of Japan, for this article it will simply be called Cyguard.

Make no mistake, Cyguard, like many 80s OVAs, is as braindead as they come (just not to the same excessive lows as Roots Search), but for that reason, it's a pretty harmless display of violence and sci-fi, the general norm of 80s OVAs, though it's not bad at all. This is one that I think is quite underrated, being the second directorial feature of Koichi Ohata, the man who will forever be notorious for angering anime fans everywhere with M.D. Geist (<3), it seems to have a bit of a negative rep against it. Being released in 1989, three years after M.D. Geist, it's a polished improvement, but not without a few faults. Most importantly though, it's entertaining, doesn't play itself up to be any bigger than it is, and delivers on being an enjoyable watch, it's just a shame this title isn't as well known.

Taking place in 2019 A.D. in the city of Cyberwood (a city that is as literal as its name makes it out to be, though it honestly looks good), a new material has been discovered (back in 1995 no less), known as Astenite, which absorbs human psycho-wave energy and is greatly beneficial when infused with technology, so things like medical treatment have greatly improved. SGC ("Central Guard Company", but oh well, Engrish prevails, I'm surprised the dub didn't alter this to something like "Sentry"), the primary user of Astenite technology has been able to harness the instinct to survive as physical energy.

John Stalker of SGC is testing the Astenite Guardian, a mechanical suit designed by his girlfriend Leyla, which will perform bloodless and non-violent arrests on the citizens of the city's slum sector, Cancer (DEEP SYMBOLISM). Rival Adler, a rich snob with crazy purple hair (if you couldn't tell he was the villain from his pale skin tone and unusual name, then you're pretty stupid) just wants to kill all the violent paupers. With that as his motive, he has hired a cult to use their supernatural forces to deal with John; his suit is exploded while he is in it. Fortunately, John gets off with only being hospitalised with a few burns while Adler is furious about how he never died; in the night though, John is kidnapped by members of the cult, which gains the attention of a rough cop named Gordon.     

Gordon drops a tip off to Adler and Leyla that John is somewhere in Cancer, Adler believes there's no hope for him, but when Leyla shows that she's confident he's alive and tells him he grew up in Cancer, Adler makes his way down there in shock; he made the grave mistake of asking the cult of Doldo to deal with John and Astenite Guardian, the same cult who implanted the "seeds of evil" into John and several other children, in hopes of one day being able to awake their god of violence and destruction, Saldo. These other people however have consequently died, and John seems to be the cult's last choice, so Adler has ultimately led them to him by asking them to dispose of him, instead they landed him in a place in which he's easy pickings. Adler, being the ignorant sod he is, just wants to kill John for coming from Cancer; he fails to, as John has already inherited the entity of Saldo and is now going on a rampage, while Leyla must find a way to purify him before Adler can go all out with a weapon of his, the "Genocyber".

The plot thankfully does not feel jammed together though certain things are not so obvious at first, its biggest downfall is that it is paced so that the silver-armoured "pure" Saldo starring on the box does not get a lot of screen time, instead we mostly see John in the evil version of the armour; granted, this is just as entertaining, but it still would have been nice to see more of the abilities of the pure armour. It feels as if the whole thing is really setting up for a bigger story (as the ending heavily hints toward), but unfortunatley, Cyguard never got a follow up (if Geist got one, this surely could have too, but alas). There really isn't a lot of characterization but that doesn't harm it too much, especially as this is a one-shot OVA. If this was a full series, I would have liked to have seen the characters be more devloped, particularly the cop character Gordon, just because he seems so cool. Despite this, Cyguard is an entertaining 40 minutes of violence, nicely original character designs, some superb art direction and smooth animation; much like the original M.D. Geist, there are some fantastic mechanical designs at work here, the Saldo armour is brilliant. The dub isn't too bad, there's nothing great but there's a few decent performances, I'm just glad it's not as bad as the dub in M.D. Geist II: Death Force. There's quite a funny scene of a mayor during his campaign in this, in which he gives quite a blatantly ridiculous talk of how Cancer needs love, only to his have head torn off.

While there unfortunately was no sequel, a model kit of the pure Saldo armour was sold in Japan. Also, this review cannot be ended without mention being made of its music; Cyguard features a gloriously awesome, 80s heavy metal soundtrack by Trash Gang that sounds utterly fantastic, I had to buy their album. I'm pained to say though it appears to be their only work, even though there is a song in the OVA that does not appear on the album, as it's some truly great metal material, I can only hope they formed into some other band. Additional music in Cyguard sounds pretty good too, but it looks like none of it was ever released. It's a shame there's not a lot on this OVA, it should really be recommend to fans of cyberpunk and anyone just looking for a quick, enjoyable title.
  • Mechanical design: 4/5
  • Heavy Metal: 5/5
  • Strikingly obvious symbolism: Yes we get Cancer is a shithole Mr. Ohata

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