Mike Toole rates it:
Judging from his pattern of interviews and media appearances, and how his products have been treated and released, writer and mecha designer Koichi Ohata has always struck me as being the designer that John O’Donnell of Central Park Media must keep in a box under his desk just for the hell of it. Ohata is the principal mind behind U.S. Manga’s rotten but financially successful MD Geist, the rather enjoyable Genocyber, and this OVA release from 1989– Cybernetics Guardian, or CyGuard for short.
So, this Ohata guy, he must have drawn a really, really cool picture of one of his bio-mecha monsters, and taken it to the Soshin Pictures dudes, and they went, “Dude! Let’s make an OVA so we can animate this way cool monster!” That’s all I can think about that could possibly explain the barely-comprehensible goofiness of CyGuard. Ohata and screenwriter Mutsumi Sanjo cobble together a plot involving a religious cult, a vindictive scientist, and a suit of bio-mechanical armor that can only be used if the wearer is really mad. It’s somewhat entertaining, but not really for the right reasons.
Anyway, CyGuard is about John Stalker, a promising young scientist living in the city of Cyber-Wood (huh huh!), testing out a cyber-suit made with Astenite, a metal discovered in the far-flung future year of 1995, which is capable of absorbing and channeling psychic energy. This doesn’t seem to mean much– the only thing that John’s suit does is extend menacing black tendrils of psychic energy, and then it blows up, because John’s boss, Adler (who looks almost exactly like Benimaru from the King of Fighters games), doesn’t like him.
But the explosion doesn’t kill John– in fact, he’s completely unharmed. However, the event does attract the attention of a cult of helmeted goons who worship a god called Doldo, and congregate in front of a huge, mutant skeleton (no doubt it’s L. Ron Hubbard) to chant and praise a god whose name is only one letter away from “Dildo”. Anyway, the cult goons think that John is actually the reincarnation of a god of destruction called Saldo, and hustle him off to their little Freemason lodge, or whatever the hell it is.
But John doesn’t take this well, and somehow makes the ambulance he’s been kidnapped in explode. Pursuing him is his would-be girlfriend, Leyla, as well as the stalwart and almost totally personality-free Officer Gordon, and of course, Adler, who just wants to finish killing him. In the meantime, the cultists talk to him, and he somehow turns into a huge, grotesque monster, which I guess is the “Cybernetics Guardian” referenced in the title– we never actually hear it during the show.
This is a funny, funny show. The pacing moves along at about 500 miles per hour, characters fade in and out with no real motivation, there’s tons of random violence, and the incredibly shitty rock n’ roll score (by the awesome Trash Gang! Why aren’t they incredibly popular because of this OVA?) is constantly fading in and out, with no real regard for what’s happening onscreen. Other wonderful things we learn during the course of the story is that John grew up in the slum on the outskirts of Cyber-Wood, called Cancer, and that he was implanted with Seeds of Hate when he was a kid. (How’d they do that? Did they just feed him pop rocks?) Further, the story tells us, Astenite is actually a metal that attracts evil, which is why John can only get pumped up when he’s mad, like Bill Bixby. There’s even a suit of armor that Adler uses, called the Genocyber (unfortunately, it looks nothing like the Genocyber from the OVA of the same name).
Visually, Cybernetics Guardian is ugly and ridiculous. The characters are stupid-looking, the animation is poor, and the music is laughable. Ohata’s mechanical design is compelling as usual, but it’s wasted here, as is the talents of Hiromi Tsuru (Ukyou in Ranma 1/2) as Leyla. The entire thing is a wonderfully fascinating little train wreck.
The funniest part, however, is the fact that CyGuard kinda-sorta ends on a cliffhanger. Oh sure, Mr. Ohata, I’m sure that this will be a very, very popular show about the evil metal that attracts evil and turns good men into robot monsters with hair! And then they fight with even uglier robots! And there’s not even any gunfights or car chases or gratuitous nudity, yes, I’m sure people will love it, Mr. Ohata! Yes!
Of course, I thought the same thing about MD Geist…
Added: Friday, October 10, 2003
Related Link: U.S. Manga Corps.