Movie: I enjoy watching anime of all types (well, except maybe some of the hentai/rape titles so popular with closet perverts) so it should come as no surprise that I have few problems with shows designed around strong female characters. One show I enjoyed last year was Cyberteam in Akihabara, where I said it was "fun to watch and had several layers of appeal" but I recognized early on that it also had a lot of potential for falling flat even back then. Sadly, I missed out on seeing the second volume and found Volume 3 to be "generic" and "another wannabe show" in how it took elements from numerous other shows and combined them (poorly though). Well, the powers that be seemed to think handing me a copy of Cyberteam in Akihabara 2 might change my mind on the third volume as it set the stage for the later episodes. I had mixed feelings going into this one but tried to be as objective as possible since it's a rare case indeed where a company recognizes seeing all the volumes in the series makes a lot of sense (and typically improves the way a person interacts with a series). Here's what I found:
Okay, my initial view of the series was favorable since I liked many of the themes and concepts borrowed from so many other shows. I still enjoyed some aspects of the show since it combined some of the silly humor girl shows contain and the science fiction elements I favor much of the time. I could see the writing on the wall as to why it became so weak though as it took those elements for granted and squandered far too many lost opportunities. From episode 6: The White Prince and 7: Billiken, to 8: The Fifth One and 9: Hot Springs, I got the feeling that I had seen every move, heard every line of dialogue, and sat through every pointless interaction at least a dozen times before. Only in the final episode, 10: Showdown in Akihabara, did I really get into the show but it was also more of the same stuff too. Here's what the back cover said of the contents of the episodes:
"Just when Hibari was getting used to Suzume and Tsugumi's constant bickering, now a fourth member arrives to join the Cyber Team: Transfer student Kamome, who somehow knows a lot more about what's going on in Akihabara than they do. Meanwhile, the battle against the Black Prince's well-endowed henchwomen for control of the Pata-Pi intensifies. Do these busty ladies ever give up? And just how many team members should a self-respecting anime superhero squad have, anyway? For answers, and for more of Cyber Team's unique fun and fan-service (including the obligatory hot springs episode!), dive right in to the breast volume yet! … er, I mean, the best volume wet! …er, you know what I mean."
Okay, I have to applaud ADV Films for sending me a copy of the second volume when the general consensus online was that the series was really bad (and those were the most favorable comments I could find from any credible source that didn't appear to be paid off) but I thought this volume was worth a rating of Rent It because it hadn't yet sunk down as low as it did in Volume 3. There was still a fair amount to like here but only if you enjoy seeing the sameness it presented from all the other shows in this sub-genre. ADV Films is still one of the top producers of domestic anime (in the sense that they bring it over here for our enjoyment) but it'd be a stretch to say this was in the top 75% of what they have to offer.
Picture: Cyberteam in Akihabara 2was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, as originally released in Japan. The series was made in 1998 and shows its age in terms of the slightly muted colors and minor pattern noise but I saw no compression artifacts or major issues in repeated viewings of the show. It did have a visual appeal as seen on the front DVD cover but it also looked a little low budget for the animation as the movements didn't always track the audio (either lip movements or special effects) but I didn't detect this being related to a synchronization problem. In all, it was colorful and cute but wasn't cutting edge by any means.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of either the original Japanese audio track in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo or the dubbed 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English dub. The dub sounded far fuller on my home theatre set up but purists will likely throw a fit over some of the liberties taken with the translation and the over the top performances by some of the cast. Most of the time, the separation, bass, and special effects were enhanced by the revisited audio but the original vocals beat the dub in almost all cases (and I'm not a snob about dubs either). The music was light and fluffy, adding a measure of fun to the show.
Extras: The best extra for me was the inclusion of a director's commentary with several of the voice actors (Luci Christian & Tiffany Grant) present to give their impressions of the material at hand with director Joe Grisaffi. My common issue about the English language commentaries from ADV Films was present here as well; they spent too much time goofing around and not enough time commenting on the show itself. While I can appreciate them not wanting to provide any spoilers, they could've at least discussed something closely related to the episodes on the DVD. Otherwise, there were a few bloopers, a set of trailers and a advertising paper insert as well as the usual clean opening and closing.
Final Thoughts: Cyberteam in Akihabara 2 was a fusion of girl anime stereotypes with brainless gals fighting off even dumber villains, fighting in souped up, scientifically impossible, outfits, as they dream of finding Mr. Right and living the usual dream that gals are supposed to have. It did little for me, especially the silly hot springs episode, but I did like parts of it enough to tell fans to check it out on their own rather than accept my word for it. If you enjoy seeing familiar ground covered over and over, it will be better for you than it was for me but I cracked a few smiles too.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article!