- Grey: Digital Target (1986: Magic Bus) 1/1 ep.
There is something about pre-financial crash anime and the raw emotion that it has that I love. Grey is yet another good example of this as it presents post-apocalyptic world full of themes raging against the status quo. In the far future humanity is now living in a series of independent and self-sufficient towns that are all controlled by a ‘Little Mama’. These are shitty places to live and the only real hope for their residents is to become citizens who can then live in ‘the City’. However, to become a citizen you have to first become A ranked troopers. Troopers are essentially mercenaries who are sent out in bands by the Little Mama to fight groups of troopers from other towns in planned battles. Points are earned by killing enemy troopers and the such like, with these points leading individuals to rise in the ranks. If this setup feels somewhat similar then you’d be correct as there it is some ways quite like Area 88.
Our hero is the titular Grey who has quickly risen through the ranks due to his skill and his singular drive to keep himself alive. This self-preservation instinct unfortunately isn’t that great to those around him, who usually die as a result. This leads to everyone hating him because people just drop like flies when they are near him. He only has one friend, Red, who acts as a mentor to him. The first half of the OAV is dedicated to setting all this up and also having a battle for a nice bit of action. During this battle he meets Nova who isn’t exactly the biggest fan of Grey at the start due to him blowing the brains out of her mate in order to stop her from suffering a long and drawn out death. This doesn’t stop her immediately taking Grey back to her flat and banging him though…because what would an 80s OAV be without its totally unnecessary sex scene? Anyway, the pair soon get a report that Red has gone missing but suspiciously gone missing and no search party has been sent out, which is doubly weird because Red was supposed to be in a demilitarised zone. So Grey, and Nova for reasons that aren’t really explained, busts out of the town with a stolen plane and some hover bikes. When they find the site of the battle some mysteries begin to unravel.
That ‘brief’ description was just the first half of this OAV, which is about an hour and 15 minutes long, which highlights the key problem of this production: it isn’t long enough. It rushes through this really interesting world at one hell of a gallop which doesn’t give it time to fully explore some of the really interesting ideas and story twists it has, especially later on, to a degree that would have done them justice. In addition, the characters don’t get enough time fully express themselves and instead spout out these really generic and soap drama-esque lines just to keep the whole thing moving. This is such a shame because the world is pretty cool, the show has interesting things to say, and the characters could have been quite compelling. The result is still fun to watch but remains a sub par production due to this issue. The quick pace doesn’t even pay off as the thing doesn’t have an ending, instead it ends literally moments before the final figh. Apparently, there is a post credits epilogue that somewhat alleviates this problem but no version I looked at had it.
The whole thing really needed to be a bit longer or to have had some of the many fight scenes removed/ shortened. The fight scenes themselves are pretty fun with the whole thing having a decent level of animation. As a whole the show does look pretty decent, it isn’t a stand out but it isn’t bad at all. This is helped by a fairly good art style that embraces its Mad Max influences. If I were to compare it to anything visually then I’d say it were something of a mix between Area 88 and Armour Hunter Mellowlink, though nowhere near as good as either of those.
Apparently, the manga this OAV is based on is really good so these problems I’ve described seem to be the fault of Satoshi Dezaki, the director. Satoshi is the brother of the more famous, and more talented, Osamu Dezaki and is known for such ‘gems’ as Mad Bull 34 and Onimaru. Apparently he was also directing The Were Eleven, his only truly great work, at the same time as doing this so it seems likely that many of Grey’ faults were as a result of it playing second fiddle to that other production.
Overall, Grey: Digital Target is still worth a watch. It does rush through its story but it is still a fun little action romp that has some rally cool world building and ideas that sadly never the time they fully deserved.
Final score: 4C