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Joker: Marginal City

When an OVA comes along that is based on a manga, one would think that it would be carefully put together in such a way as to intrigue the viewer and drive more people into reading the manga. That is definitely not the case with Joker: Marginal City. All that one can say is that some things happened without offering enough context, then the show ended. There isn’t any meat on this show. There are vague hints that there is more to the situation than meets the eye, but said lack of context makes it extremely difficult to care enough to want to learn more.

The show follows a young cop named Rin who is investigating a potential serial killer that has been going around slicing up prostitutes. Eventually it turns out that a human-like android is the culprit, and it is in search of a heart so that it can be perfect. On top of this, Rin is in a romantic relationship with someone named Joker who happens to be a shapeshifting android that can be either a man or a woman at will. As the story progresses, viewers discover that both Joker and the rogue android were created by the same scientist, one Dr. Bayfarm. However, while one is a cold hearted killer, Joker is kind, and compassionate, with strong feelings for Rin. Before long, the OVA ends with a big showdown between the two androids where, unsurprisingly, Joker wins, and the adventure concludes.

It feels like the show should be two or three times longer than it is so that there would be time to flesh everything out adequately. However, that’s just not the case. As a result, there is so little context to anything that it becomes difficult to care much about what is going on. There’s a vague notion that there is a lot more to everything that is happening, but there are no hooks to really pull viewers in and make them want to learn more. The OVA is based on a manga that had already been around for about five years at the time. So, clearly the story was there to potentially make something with more depth to it. Unfortunately, all one has here is a 30 minute adventure that barely scratches the surface of what was going on in the manga and fails to garner attention to its source material. At most fans of the manga had something to go and watch, as they’d be able to fill in the blanks on their own while enjoying the opportunity to see the story unfold in motion.

In terms of art style, Joker: Marginal City is quite typical for what was cropping up in the early 90s. There isn’t anything that really stands out in terms of character design, environments, or general atmosphere. At most, there is a very tiny bit of gore toward the end of the show, but even that is pretty tame. The art gets the job done, but there’s nothing memorable about it that will get people talking.

Unfortunately, the music isn’t much better. There are a handful of pop tracks that are decent, but a lot of what’s present in the OVA feels very uninspired like someone was just there to collect a pay cheque and that’s it. About the closest thing to a standout piece of music that the show had was the song that played during the closing credits, which was a soft, relaxing ballad straight out of the late 1980s.

So, with that it is really tough to recommend Joker: Marginal City. While it does attempt something different with how one of the main characters can shift between being male and female, the complete lack of context explaining the hows and whys of it will leave most viewers confused. This isn’t so much a “Please read the manga!” OVA as it is a “Neat, we got an anime!” OVA for fans of the manga, because they are the only people that will be able to fill in all the blanks left by the show. For everyone else, this will be a confusing series of events at best. There isn’t even a fan translation of the manga for people to try and learn more about the story, so most Westerners will be out of luck trying to make heads or tails of Joker.

- IroIro
August 14, 2020

More Early 90s Anime Reviews:

- Dominion Tank Police Anime Review

- Wild 7 Anime Review

- Genesis Survivor Gaiarth Anime Review

Directed by: Osamu Yamasaki
Studio: Studio Sign
Released: 1992
Episodes: 1

Joker Marginal City Image 1
VHS Cover Art

Joker Marginal City Image 2
Rin with Joker in female form

Joker Marginal City Image 3
The villain whose name is almost never mentioned

Joker Marginal City Image 4
Joker in male form