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Crusher Joe OVAs

From the 1950s to the 1970s, heroes in science fiction were often portrayed as being shining beacons of righteousness that could do no wrong. There were the occasional characters that would come along with a few flaws, but on the whole these people would have leaned heavily toward lawful good if they were D&D characters. During the late 70s, Haruka Takachiho came along, took a look at this phenomenon, and decided to create a couple of series of outer space anti-heroes that fought for good, but did so on their own terms, usually with a sizeable pay check waiting for them at the end of their adventure. One of these series was Dirty Pair, which has become one of the quintessential 80s anime, but another is Crusher Joe which largely remained in print outside of a movie, and a pair of anime OVAs, the latter of which will be discussed today.

It didn’t take long for the books to become quite popular, eventually leading to some anime adaptations, first with a movie in 1983, then with a pair of OVAs in 1989. There were only of them released, both about an hour long, and they each have their own self-contained story. The first sees Joe and his team trying to rescue a group of prisoners trapped in an asteroidal penal colony about to crash into a planet. It’s a good mix of action watching the rescue efforts combined with a touch of political intrigue, as it turns out the team have been hired by an unscrupulous despot. The second episode has the group trying to recover a super weapon from a crashed warship before another faction can get a hold of it and commit a genocide.

People familiar with Crusher Joe tend to describe it as a sort of proto-Cowboy Bebop, and with good reason. Crushers are basically guns for hire, taking dangerous jobs from governments and other bodies, and Joe’s squad overlaps quite a bit with Spike and the gang. The big difference is that while Spike and his crew were characters with a lot depth, the Crushers are very one dimensional. Joe parallels Spike and is the fearless leader and that’s about it. Talos is basically Jet, and acts as the muscle in the group and that’s about it. Alfin is the female Crusher who has feminine wiles and that’s about it. Finally there is Ricky who is the young, energetic, and somewhat snarky rookie, and that’s about it. They’re really products from a different era of anime where character development wasn’t always a priority, and action took center stage. If someone describes these anime as the Cowboy Bebop of the 80s, that’s a fair assessment, but bare in mind that this show is nowhere near as good.

If viewers can get past how paper thin the characters are, the OVAs are still decently enjoyable. Joe and the gang often pilot what are essentially space faring fighter planes, and with that tend to get into more than a few dogfights. These are a lot of fun to watch as their ships zip around dodging laser fire, blasting vast streams of missiles, with explosions everywhere. Such scenes are vaguely reminiscent of some of the space combat scenes from shows like Macross. Meanwhile, there are quite a few situations where the crew are on foot and have to engage in some heated firefights, especially in the OVA where they’re being stalked by a swarm of orb-shaped cyborgs. In a lot of ways, the Crusher Joe OVAs are very much in line with the more brain dead action movies of the 1980s that put very little emphasis on plot development, favoring spectacle instead. It’s an approach that won’t appeal to everyone, but certainly has its charms for a certain segment of the population.

Visually, the OVAs are decent but not great. Art is standard for what one would expect to find in the late 80s. There isn’t a huge amount of detail, but the episodes aren’t too plain to look at. The production studio certainly wasn’t phoning it in, but there were much nicer looking OVAs coming out at the time. That being said, the aforementioned dogfights and other such action scenes were well animated with these sorts of moments being very high energy.

Meanwhile, the shows’ soundtracks are very nice with quite a few orchestral pieces. The music here really does a good job of creating more of a grand outer space adventure sort of feel. This is especially the case during the various action sequences.

It’s also worth noting that the OVAs managed to land a couple of big name voice actors. One of these was for Talos who was played by Kiyoshi Kobayashi who is most well known for voicing Jigen in Lupin III. The other was for Ricky who was played by Noriko Ohara, best known for playing Nobita in Doraemon. Meanwhile, Major Tanya, a supporting character in one episode, was played by Yoshiko Sakakibara, who has lent her voice to a number of roles over the years including Shinobu Nagumo in Patlabor, Sylvia Stingray in Bubblegum Crisis / Crash, and Masaki in Tenchi Muyo!.

Overall, the Crusher Joe OVAs are more for people who want a bit of action with very little thought. There are conspiracies fluttering around in the background of some plots but like so much about the show, they don’t have a ton of depth to them. This anime is more for people would want explosions rather than poignant revelations, and that’s perfectly fine. One just needs to go into these with the right expectations.

- IroIro
December 20, 2019

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- Martian Successor Nadesico Review

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Directed by: Toshifumi Takizawa
Studio: Sunrise
Released: 1989
Episodes: 2

Crusher Joe OVA Image 1
VHS Cover

Crusher Joe OVA Image 2
Nefarious villain, ahoy!

Crusher Joe OVA Image 3
There are a lot of explosions in these anime

Crusher Joe OVA Image 4
Ricky and Joe