- Crusher Joe (1989: Sunrise, Studio Nue, VAP) 2/2 eps.
Crusher Joe is Cowboy Bebop’s disco dancing dad. The franchise started off as long running novel series (going from the late 70s to the mid-2000s!) penned by Haruka Takachiho who also created another sci-fi classic: Dirty Pair. In 1983 there was a film adaptation of the franchise by the legendary Yaz, who had done character designs for the original light novels. This film is excellent and you should go watch it! 6 years later we got two standalone OAV episodes that are about an hour each. These were directed by Toshifumi Takizawa who co-directed the Ideon films and directed Dirty Pair TV.
But why did I say that Crusher Joe is Cowboy Bebop’s disco dancing dad? Well in many ways Crusher Joe is the proto-type for Cowboy Bebop. You have a similar cast with the kid (Ricky), the gal (Alfin), the big (Talos), and the cool hero (Joe). They, like the crew of the Bebop, fly around space in the spaceship engaging in daring mission and the such like. The big difference between Bebop and Crusher Joe is that Joe retains that childlike optimism of the 80s while Bebop of is part of that whole melancholy/cynical movement of the post-crash era.
The two episodes are entirely stand alone. The first, “The Ice Prison”, sees our heroes being given the mission to stop a giant ice prison from impacting the planet it obits around, after an incident sees it being knocked off its orbit by a space laser. Things are obviously not all they seem and we see our heroes facing new foes and interesting icy scenarios! The second episode, “The Ultimate Weapon: Ash”, sees the crew having to track down and destroy the titular Ash on an abandoned planet. The only problem with this is that there is a military trying to stop him and the entire planet is infested with anti-personnel robots that attached themselves to people’s faces before exploding.
This all leads to some thrilling action that can compete with the best of them. The stories are a tad more complex than your average action fare but they don’t get too silly with it, so you’re always able to understand what is going on and you can focus on the two most important things: the characters and the action. Now be aware that these are static characters. There is growth of character arc to be found here but I don’t they need one. The crew is a bit like the Lupin III bunch: just a ton of fun to watch. Their interactions with each are constantly entertaining with a healthy dose of comedy as well as a real sense of comradery between them. They are the type of characters where you could easily watch 100 episodes with them in as they are and you wouldn’t get bored, again like Lupin III. I certainly don’t think they are on Lupin’s level but there are pretty damn good. It also helps that the episodic characters are good fun too, especially the villains.
Where these OAVs really shine is in the visual department where they are quite frankly jaw dropping. There is a whole ton of movement throughout both episodes with minimal repeated footage and there is just a stupid amount of gorgeously animated mechanical objects and explosion effects. I think Ultimate Weapon: Ash pips the Ice Prison but both are just beautiful to behold and easily rank among the best looking OAVs ever, up there with the likes of Macross Plus and Giant Robo. It should be noted that the movie is even better but that is a bit beyond the remit of this post (I might do a WT for Crusher Joe at some point). The music is also pretty great with a really fun theme tune and some thrilling tracks that keep up with the onscreen action, sadly little of it seems to be on youtube so I can’t link to any examples). The voice acting was also pretty great too with all of the Japanese cast doing a bang up job in their roles, I particularly like Run Sasaki as Alfin.
Overall Crusher Joe is a mighty fine sci-fi action franchise that deserves to be better known. It has fun characters, interesting plots, amazing acting, and generally fantastic audio-visuals. I really don’t get how this franchise isn’t better known considering how fantastic the whole thing is. Do yourself a favour and go immediately get your hands on the BD versions of the film and the OAVs and watch it right now!
Final Score: 9A