A collaborative project by Jun Kanzaki and Yasunori Ide, it was a one shot OVA produced way back in 1991 and is about three young ladies on a police S.W.A.T. team and their adventure.
Burn Up! takes place in a fictional city sometime in the future. We start off being greeted by a young blonde beauty watching some birds eat. As we get a close up of her, we hear sirens and we get a scene transition to some police chasing a car through a tunnel. Meanwhile, two other young ladies are giving a ticket to a gentleman for speeding when they are radio’ed in to help support the chase. However, they are told they need to contact Maki because nobody else can reach her. When the ladies (Reimi and Yuka) finally get a hold of their fellow co-worker and friend, Maki, they inform her of the situation and scold her for her carefree attitude. She eventually catches up with them and when the villains in the car ahead try to take a shot at Maki, she takes it personal. Brandishing a shotgun from her motorcycle holster, she blasts the side of the car where one of the bad guys was firing from, killing him and frightening a girl that was in between him and another gentlemen. Maki then speeds ahead to blow out the engine, thus ending the chase.
Flash forward to a police briefing, and we find out that these guys actually kidnapped a young girl that was with them, and were part of a much larger picture that specialized in kidnapping and slave trading. From here, our story sets off.
Burn Up! feels like any traditional Western Cop movie from during the late 80s. Plenty of action and character to go around, and while there may be little substance and depth it works wonders in this series. Maki, the blonde and primary focus of the group, is headstrong and not terribly afraid to speak her mind. Yet, she’s also a romantic and much like any other lady, despite her somewhat masculine attitude. The other two ladies, Reimi and Yuka, round out the trio of ladies we follow throughout. Reimi is the computer tech of the group, customizing gadgets to do things beyond what they’re capable of and while having a polite demeanour, she is more than capable of lashing out strongly when completely caught off guard or when her toys (gadgets) get destroyed. Yuka is.. to be honest, I don’t really know. She seems like the youngest of the group and likes to tease both of them with her strange sense of humor while also having a good heart, but aside from that we learn nothing about her. Researching online, she is suppose to be the computer expert of the group but nothing happens in the series that would make the viewer ever think that. I made sure to watch it twice to see if I missed anything the first time, and sure enough there was absolutely nothing.
Once the trio has been established, we find out that the police force found a big break on where the girls are being targeted at, which is a popular night club. Neither of our trio want to see any more girls get kidnapped, and since the police can’t act without undeniable proof they find themselves acting on their own. Sadly, this results in Yuka getting kidnapped and thus it is up to Maki and Reimi to save her from McCoy!
Burn Up! is a very ambitious title. More importantly, it wants to show and tell you a lot of things, and sadly as a result it also misses some of the others too. For example, there is a scene when Reimi is in what I can only assume is another section of the club, since we are shown three different locations within the same building, that has the individuals inside wearing strange outfits. This scene literally establishes nothing except that she gets weirded out by it, screams and when panicked she becomes a klutz. Alright, that was important.
Sadly, there are several scenes that are like this and in a series that only has a run time of 41 minutes, it becomes seconds wasted that could of been put to use to help better explain more details. I mentioned in my previous review that a short OVA can end up with corners being cut and sadly can end up lacking in terms of content and information. Burn Up! sadly runs into this category and furthermore at multiple points. We find out early on that this guy called Paulo is suppose to be the head of this operation, but McCoy is sort of his general. However, McCoy becomes the central plot figure and nothing else is ever done with the Paulo angle. While giving us a bit of depth into the world, it comes across as a pointless angle. There’s also a scene with Maki and Kenji, Maki’s boyfriend and fellow police officer, where they go off on a date and a bit of extra that offers us a detailed shower scene, that is a bit tasteless but mostly just isn’t necessary, only to have the characters meet up with them to discuss an important plot development. Yet again, more scenes that give us some character interaction and development but ultimately don’t help.
There are also scenes where we have to sort of piece things together since they aren’t properly explained or shown to us, and while this isn’t plot breaking it becomes disjointed when viewing. The girls that are kept at McCoy’s are dressed up from head to toe and sold off, which offers us a very uneasy scene that doesn’t push the line and gives us a nice example of the state of affairs. Yet, we’re shown a girl that accompanies McCoy, Sayaka, and we don’t really understand why she does or what purpose she serves other than simply to lure girls into providing comfort for her. There is also a scene where Maki and Reimi are immediately outside to try and prevent a major plot point from happening, but nothing leads up to them having any reason to meet up, since they went separate ways when they entered the club, or much less as to why they would meet up outside and at that exact time.
However, I also have to confess that despite these things, Burn Up! is a blast to watch. It is very action packed and while it does stumble in some areas and sets up too much convenience in others, it can be intelligent when it comes to how certain situations are handled The ladies aren’t invincible, nor are they damsels in distress. They can take care of themselves, they can break down and they get scared. The show doesn’t let you forget that despite how calm and collective they can be at times and that each one of them is unique, we are still reminded of just how human they are. There is also how they handled the second act of storming McCoy’s compound. From acquiring the gear they need, to creating a diversion, to rescuing the kidnapped girls, we get a strong sense of just how well planned it was and boy does that show.
Sadly though, the story itself just feels far, far too short. The tale itself is fairly straightforward and generic and although it worked well it just did not have enough time to fully wrap up. In fact, the show just sort of stops at the end. After the credits, we do get a scene, but it just feels like so much is missing. Especially given the plot that was established before, you get the impression there is suppose to be more and when you find out there isn’t, you just feel a bit disappointed. The one episode OVA just doesn't have enough substance to really leave any lasting effect and it feels like our journey is cut short, which just adds to the previous issues. Though, I have to confess I appreciated the use of following police procedure throughout the series.
So maybe you’ve looked up a bit of information on Burn Up! and found out that the show came out in 1991. I wouldn’t blame you if you saw that and thought, “Wow, this show is 23 years old. Surely the visuals must be terrible by todays standards”.
Well, yes and no.
I have to confess I love how they built the world of Burn Up! We get advertisements for Quest Dragon 31 on a TV screen, though it cuts into the run time of the show since it is a focused point for 15 or so seconds, as well as an ad for Rambo XII. Burn Up! wants you to know that this is the future and it does show not only by the futuristic motorcycle and police/civilian cars used, but by causal things we can relate to. This was a huge treat in my book and very warmly welcomed.
Another intense surprise was when Burn Up! looks good, it looks rather good.
Shading is spot on, and the shadowing was fantastic. Shadows adjusted when the cars moved based upon the sun location and when they would drive through a tunnel, it looked stunning. Watching Maki wiz in and out of traffic was also a pleasure on the eyes too and the girls themselves are beautiful to observe. Then we come to other effects, like particles and so forth. Yet again, we’re treated to quite the visual flare when it comes to production.
However, the quality wanes a fair amount in this 41 minute journey. Taking noticeable dips in certain scenes, to not using blood for some situations and using too much with others, to not even showing bullet entry points either. There’s even a scene where one character is bruised in one scene, and then the next she’s completely fine. For a series this short, I would of expected a bit more consistency with something like that, but sadly it just wasn’t always the case.
There’s also the matter of how some of the scenes are “shot”, so the speak. For example, there’s this one scene where Maki and Reimi are going up some stairs and get shot at,. When they duck for cover, they fire off a smoke grenade that shows it from an over-the-shoulder perspective of Maki and closes up on the bad guys and a cloud of smoke. Immediately, it transitions to the perspective of the bad guys and we see Maki and Reimi jump down and hit them with the butts of their guns. While the scene, when described, makes sense when viewed it is a different matter. The smoke scene looks like one continuous shot so the perspective gets really confusing. I had to actually re-watch the scene twice during my first viewing because it was just so jarring to watch.
There is also another scene where Maki is taking cover while Reimi is going berserk on a guy in front of them. From behind, two guys approach and start firing. Maki turns around and starts to return fire and then stops to try to get Reimi’s attention. Suddenly, we cut to a scene with the two guys being shot and it cuts back to Maki in the same rested position, showing no signs of her firing. Like with the previous scene I had to re-watch this just to make sure it wasn’t Reimi that killed them, simply because the way the scene was set up was so confusing. These are the only two moments this happens, but boy does it make you scratch your head.
However, despite these negatives I really did appreciate the effort they put in. The girls have a battle armored type combat outfit that they wear during the assault, and the weapons have a great design to them and look rather sharp too. Furthermore, the scenes that are animated well are really nice to look at. Definitely not without faults, but there are some positives ladened throughout.
I normally don’t mention endings, but I was pleased with what they offered. What is shown is sort of a making-of type production of how they did the animating for the movie. Showing different stages of the cel products, I watched the full thing simply because I was really interested in it. Furthermore, there was actually something at the end, so it was worth watching either way.
Certainly showing a significant amount of age, the animation at times is absolutely incredible and others is below average by the standards of today. Adding in some of the weird choices for adding blood, a weird use of slow-mo that occurs one scene that it isn’t needed on, and angles they shot it at and you end up with something that sadly hasn’t aged the best.
Ok, so I picked animation apart. What about the sound then?
Well, sound definitely fairs much better.
So, to get this out of the way this is yet another ADV Films dub. Sadly, yet again, this is also one that isn’t going to win any arguments on preferring dub over sub, but there’s a good reason for this. Burn Up! serves as one of ADV’s earliest exercises in dubbing. While not being the first work they’ve done, it is one of their earliest being dubbed back in 1996. What’s more is they use some of their future A-list workers, like Amanda Winn Lee (voice of Reimi) who would go on to voice Rei in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Tiffany Grant (voice of Maki) went on to voice Asuka in the same series. Both actresses were some of the biggest talent that was part of the now defunct ADV Films, and it was a blast seeing them in their amature days. Certainly not bad, but not as good as they become. Kimberly Yates rounds out the group (voice of Yuka) and while not being nearly as big of a worker, she was also in quite a few other well known series (Minne May in Gunsmith Cats, Yomiko Readman in the Read or Die OVA) and definitely pulls her weight.
However, the best treat was a gentlemen by the name of Don Huffman. He voices Kenji’s partner, Banba, and is by far the best treat about Burn Up! Why, you may ask? Well, that is because of the incredibly awesome suave his deep voice gives. Banba serves mostly as comic relief and is mostly silent throughout, but when he speaks he’s got that Barry White type of voice. I couldn’t help but to smile anytime he spoke.
ADV also changed some of the dialogue and story by revising some of the script. While generally considered a heinous act, however in this case it actually worked. There were scenes in the original dubbing that lacked development, and in one case there was no dialogue at all. ADV decided to use this space to try and help further explain to the audience with pieces of information they felt were lacking. As I mentioned in the story section, certain parts are a bit confusing to follow and ADV really tried their best to help with that and I have to be honest. It worked. There’s this one scene where Kenji is ordering the men with him to try to find someone to get some explosives to blow open a door and we have this guy in the background that is on this headset and apparently talking, but says absolutely nothing. In the English version, they actually added dialogue for this character and I really appreciated that. It’s honestly weird watching the sub because there’s just this dead air while his mouth moves, so it was a very nice save for ADV.
The other end of the spectrum was the Japanese voice crew and I have to say they did a pretty alright job. Yumiko Shibata voices Maki, and while she doesn’t have much of a resume she certainly does a rather nice job portraying the various sides of Maki. Meanwhile, actresses Kumiko Nishihara (Yuka) and Miki Itou (Reimi) are definitely more seasoned and do quite the nice job as well. Reimi was especially a treat to listen to.
While there was nothing to really write home about for the subs, it definitely was the better choice of the two. Yet, I would still recommend listening to the dub simply for the work that was obviously put into it.
The soundtrack itself was actually a nice treat. Very 80s action inspired with the guitar riffs and synth used to really give this a movie-type feel. I also felt that the music for the club scene captured it quite nicely. Overall, I have to say the soundtrack really keeps you in the mood of the series. Yet again, nothing to really write home about, but at the same time it worked and kept up with the pace of the show. Outside of this one scene where there was this type of conga-style drumming going on with the scene. Not too sure what that was about, but it is short lived and simply raises an eyebrow.
Burn Up! is the epitome of an 80s action movie. Beautiful girls, fan service, dangerous situations and plenty of explosions and people getting shot. There isn’t a great deal of depth here, but they do try to give us a bit of character building here and there. Save for Yuka, I still don’t know a whole lot about her by the end. This is definitely a product of the time and it shows, and sadly both in good and bad manners.
However, I enjoyed what Burn Up! is. Not necessarily as a great OVA, but as some good old fashion mindless fun. On the whole, the series strikes a center of the line when it comes to the polarity of being good or bad.
I also have to confess that I am a bit confused as to the targeted age group. There is frontal nudity and implied sex slave trading, yet nothing is done in an extreme manner beyond the frontal nudity. There is violence, but nothing that would be classified as gore. Torture is also done, but once again not so much in a tasteless manner but rather that traditional Western Cop style (beating up the individual, or showing the individual already beaten) so I have to say that this is definitely a show that could of been for teens but due to the content is more so meant for adults.
It also was the first in a series of other Burn Up! offshoots, and there’s a reason why it inspired these other series. An action packed series that paces itself decently well in terms of progression, but it panders too much in directions it doesn't need to and sadly there's a lot of hiccups here and there. However, it does quite a few things well and clocking in at less than an hour it certainly isn’t a waste of time to watch. I would go far as to say it is spot on for some mindless summer fun, despite the numerous flaws. Just don't go in expecting any depth or anything more than something you can turn your brain off to.