Anime fans who witnessed the early-to-mid 1990s UK anime boom will need no introduction to ‘The Guyver.’ Released on VHS way back in the day by Manga Entertainment, the original OVA series cemented itself as a fan favourite, and even led to sufficient interest for a couple of low-budget licensed American live action films.
Indeed, The Guyver is one of a handful of notably long-running manga series over in Japan. So long-running, in fact, that it has been a source of frustration for some that the original OVAs were never able to tie up the loose ends of the ongoing series. Fast forward some years, though, and we arrive at this ADV Films release of ‘Guyver: The Bioboosted Armour’, a more expansive 26 episode show which represents the most expansive and complete animated re-telling of the story to date.
In the first episode, we’re introduced to Sho Fukumachi, your typical anime schoolboy hero-to-be. He lives with his father, obediently attends school, and has a crush on his best friend’s sister, who, naturally, only has eyes for somebody else. So far, so depressingly average. Until, one day, Sho and his best friend Tetsuro discover a strange object in the nearby woods. Unbeknown to the two boys, what they’ve discovered is an experimental Guyver unit, a weapon system derived from alien technology. The next thing we know, quicker than you can say ‘don’t put your face near that, it’s got an alien in it’, Sho finds himself bonded to the alien organism contained within the unit, and encased in a powerful suit of biological armour. This – does it need to be explained? – is the titular Guyver, an artefact that bestows great power onto its host.
Having made this shocking, life changing discovery, Sho and Tetsuro are forced headlong into a world they previously knew nothing of. Pursued by a mysterious organisation calling themselves CRONOS and their army of Zoanoid creatures, the friends must contend with an evil conspiracy that has lain hidden from mankind for centuries. Along the way they’ll find allies in unexpected places, and Sho will learn to harness the Guyver unit’s formidable power.
By this point in the review, you’re probably either rolling your eyes or wondering if this could actually make for fun viewing. So what’s the show really like?
Well, to start with, we’re presented with a series that boasts very obviously TV grade animation, but it’s done well. While there’s nothing here of dazzling quality, Guyver is pretty smartly presented. There’s some particularly well-integrated CG, as well as one touch I’m particularly impressed with: the entire show is graced with some really gorgeous painted backgrounds, favouring washed colours and inks. This gives it a very distinctive look and helps it to stand apart visually from other shows with similar production values. We’re not looking at an especially costly production, methinks, but what’s been done with the budget is really quite classy, understated, and tasteful. The score for the series is quite nicely handled too, providing a decent sense of suspense and tension in places, without resorting to annoying spot music elsewhere as some other shows might.
The Bioboosted Armor is the sort of show that has substance over depth, the storyline and its development having just enough muscle to satisfy without going anywhere truly stellar. But what’s here is very capably staged for the most part, and more fun than the initial premise might suggest. There’s a neat vein of character development and interaction that lends a solid support to the crash-bash fight scenes, with a few genuinely interesting leads.
Fans of ultra-violence and action won’t be disappointed, either. This show is surprisingly violent, with severed limbs, eviscerations and even the odd impaling being quite common occurrences during the series’ many confrontations.
One thing’s for sure, though: If you’re looking for a mind-blowing, soul-stirring, profound or beautiful anime experience, you’re best off looking elsewhere. Because, while Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor may be good fun, it isn’t great art. What we’ve got here is a solid action-adventure, no more, no less. The script creaks in places, there’s a few noticeable plot holes and contrivances, and you may just find the frequent cries of ‘YOU BASTARD!’ and ‘I’LL SEND YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL!’ quite grating after a while. They’re certainly over-used, as is the device of having the latest more-powerful-than-the-last Zoanoid to face the Guyver suddenly launch into a detailed explanation of the attack he’s about to use, mid-battle. All part of the fun, perhaps, but it does make the show feel more than a little kids-y in places.
Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad. While the script feels pretty functional, the dub cast do a superb job with it, reciting some pretty hokey dialogue with conviction and gusto. Chris Patton, who sometimes feels over-used and crammed into a dub for the hell of it, is well cast as Sho, bringing a good sense of innocence and bewilderment to the role. Luci Christian does her usual dependable thing as Mizuki, Sho’s love interest and brother to Tetsuro, who is brilliantly perfomed by Lowell Bartholomee. Between their efforts and a script that already goes in a few quite interesting directions, things turn out to be pretty darned good fun.
Perhaps the best way to sum the show up is to say this: Some shows are sophisticated and polished, but lack heart or energy, while others lack great sophistication but make up for it with a high fun factor. Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor, is a healthy example of the latter.