Spotlight
Megazone 23
© ADV Films
That Megazone 23 Part 2 came out a year later came as no surprise—the ending of the first pretty much demanded a sequel. But I think everyone was caught off-guard by how different it was—the character designer and most of the vocal cast were completely new. The characters now looked less like traditional anime characters and more, well, American.

Even so, Megazone 23 Part 2 was incredibly timely. Set six months after the events of the first movie, it abandoned the bright colours and '80s optimism and went for the flipside: darkness and '80s discontent. Presented in a more realistic style, Shogo's friends looked like escapees from Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol and Adam Ant music videos. Even B.D., the ruthless military commander who dogged Shogo in Megazone 23, abandoned his uniform for a GQ look, complete with earrings and expensive hair-care products. The sense of style and overall darkness of the film (its events take place almost entirely underground, or at night) and the not-so-upbeat score brought it more in line with movies like Blade Runner and any book in the nascent cyberpunk genre. Combine the marriage of contemporary synth-and-guitar music to the action and it was particularly of-the-moment; the MTV influence was only just creeping into television and movies. Not incidentally, this helped western anime fans pull in even more converts. (The sex, gore and violence helped, too.)

But for all that, Megazone 23 Part 2 also absorbed another aspect of the mid-1980s: it was, for the most part, style without much substance. Intentionally or not, Megazone 23 had a subtext, and Shogo developed as a character as he shook off his Bahamut-induced stupor. Megazone 23 Part 2's rebels are, for the most part, without a cause. (There's a message in there, but it's hardly specific to 1986 Tokyo.)

It took three years for Megazone 23 Part 3 to arrive, but despite having a handful of the same key creators it didn't quite fit the Megazone 23 mold. Set decades (centuries?) after the end of Megazone 23 Part 2, this was the first Megazone 23 that was actually set in the right era—and, strangely enough, that's what makes it dated. It was all right for the first two parts of the trilogy to feel like they were set in the mid-1980s because that was a major plot point. But this one, set at some point in the 25th century, is hobbled by its late-1980s vision of the future. Virtual reality helmets and oversized, wraparound mirrorshades are the order of the day here, reminding us of how clunky we thought the future was going to be. The portable mass-storage medium is a unit that allows techies to load multiple floppy discs simultaneously.

But worst of all is the perfunctory nature of the story. You just know that Eiji Takanaka, the Shogo surrogate, is going to hook up with his Yui surrogate, score a Garland, and try to peel back the layers of deception—which, even with its attempt at a plot twist, is pretty easy to figure out. And there lies Megazone 23 Part 3's failure: in its inability to surprise.

Fortunately, this doesn't diminish its predecessors in the least. Megazone 23 and its sequel were undeniably revolutionary. They riveted imaginations, changed one industry and helped another take root. They're timeless classics, and all because of their timeliness.
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