Dec 232012

I don’t know, guys. Mad Bull 34 is cool and all, but it ain’t the over the top, ridiculous crazyfest I was led to believe. It looks like a generic cop movie from the late 80s went to the apartment of a cheap early 90s anime OVA, slept with it, pretended to pay the OVA for its services, stole its money, gave the money away to a battered OVA home, and then said OVA had a bastard baby and named it Sleepy.

This is pretty standard stuff, man.

This OVA series plays like a little history of cop movies from the 70s and 80s. The first episode is fairly low-key. Sleepy and Daizaburo go through the Lethal Weapon 1 motions– becoming partners, doing the unlikely buddies routine, and busting up some small-scale criminal dude whose motives were pretty forgettable. Toss in some anime-era-appropriate ultraviolence and some softcore porn shit and that’s all you get. Generic cop movie. Generic sex and violence. Mix it up. Bam! and stuff. It’s kinda like going back and watching some of those early 70s cop movies like Dirty Harry. A lot of those movies were pretty revolutionary at the time, but looking back they seem almost archaic at times. Still good stuff, but you see the more as building blocks rather than fully formed movies if you’re more familiar with modern fare.

The second movie builds on this. You get a female partner. You get a corrupt senior officer. You get a villainous mastermind working with the corrupt cop. Sticking with the Dirty Harry bit, this is more like The Enforcer– bigger action, that lady from Cagney and Lacey bumping heads with Harry, etc. It’s still “grounded” in a way like those 80s Dirty Harry movies. It’s still about cops and corruption and scenarios that come close to reality. Yeah, this is the episode where Sleep strips down and reveals he has grenades dangling from his crotch, like a bunch of explosive pubic hairs, and the main villain is a cyborg dude, but those are stylistic flourishes rather than core elements of the episode. It’s still very much in the mold of 70s cop stuff.

The best thing about that second episode is the design of the main villain’s henchmen. They’re an amalgamation of every “grunt” stereotype from that era. They have that mercenary look going with the vest and dark shades, so your military action movies of the early 80s are covered. They also have some biker flourishes with those wristbands. And those haircuts are very punk, especially since you have a dude in a mohawk. It’s like they took every “guy lurking around the corner ready to stab and rape and murder you” boogeyman and mashed them into a pack of rabid murdering hitmen.

It isn’t until that second episode that the series really kicks into that mythic crazy zone. You have a mob boss type who is out in the open. Everyone knows he’s guilty, but despite murdering people in broad daylight for everyone to see, he’s able to dodge the law. It’s that 80s “crime is so rampant the law is completely impotent” you’d see in the likes of Robocop. Then you get the addition of Asian criminals with the insane band of assassins who are willing to sacrifice themselves if it means they can fulfill their hit. That’s what scary foreigners do in these movies. They don’t follow the conventions of standard American criminals.

And then there’s the finale, where everything ramps up and ends with bazookas other ridiculous weapons that no mere street thugs should be able to access. It’s your classic 80s action movie showdown. Yeah, this is the episode where Mad Bull steps out of the 70s and moves into the 80s. This is more of a Stallone of Schwarzenegger flick than an Eastwood one.

Then the final episode happens and we cross over from pure cop action into that dreaded genre of sci-fi action. After awhile, it wasn’t enough to just have peeps shooting and peeps. There had to be aliens and robots and technology and special effects. Commando and Lethal Weapon weren’t enough. Nope, we had to have Predator and Robocop. The main villain in this episode is someone seeking revenge of Sleepy, and she’s wearing a high-tech Japanese robot suit modeled after the shit we saw in Predator. It has the shoulder cannon and the claws and the dreadlocks– it’s a total ripoff. It kinda takes you by surprise given everything that’s happened to this point, but that’s kinda how these movies felt at the time. Nowadays we’re used to our action movies being just as much of a special effects creature feature thing, what with Transformers and Battle for LA and Avengers and all that shit, but at the time the likes of Robocop and Predator and Aliens and whatever were relatively unique. It’s that later trend that this episode’s aping, and it’s cool in that regard. Those movies sorta helped signal the end of that trend in action movies. The big movies became more and more effects-intensive, and the small-scale cop/mercenary/etc movie was no longer the primary vehicle for this sort of action. \

Yeah, Mad Bull ain’t really crazy, and it ain’t” terribad” or whatever other lame word people like to toss around to poorly defined stuff they don’t get. It’s a bit like Black Lagoon, except it doesn’t quite have the distance from that era to fully synthesize everything and turn it into something new. It something of that era commenting on that era.

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