Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back in the Day - Riding Bean 01/23/2010.

Hey! Why’s Rally Vincent sporting blond hair and Caucasian skin?

That Bean character is pretty familiar too. So what’s up you ask? Well, before “Gunsmith Cats” the manga there was “Riding Bean” the manga, Kenichi Sonoda’s first manga to take place in the Windy City. It follows Bean Bandit and his partner Rally Vincent, a pair of couriers for hire who don’t let a silly thing like the law get in the way of doing business. “Riding Bean” was serialized in Monthly Comic Noizy in ‘88, yet because of the magazine’s cancellation, it was never finished with only 4 chapters completed. So Bean’s chance at a successful series of his own wasn’t looking good at all. As for why our favorite female bounty hunter looks so different, well originally Riding Bean the anime, which came out in ’89, was intended to be a series. Unfortunately Sonoda and Toshiba EMI (distributor for Riding Bean) had a falling out, with Toshiba EMI retaining the rights to the series. This lead to Mr. Sonoda creating “Gunsmith Cats” which borrows heavily from “Riding Bean”. Thus, the confusion and similarity between the two works.

The plot for Riding Bean is deeper than one might expect from the simple promise of guns, girls and cars. With voice manipulation, face masks and general disguises, not paying attention to what’s going on can cause you to get lost and possibly become the annoying question asker. Starting with the transport of two would-be bank robbers, Bean has fallen into Semmerling’s (the main villainess and a real bitch) plan to frame him for the kidnapping of young little Chelsea Grimwood. From there it rolls on to the next day when a man comes knocking on the door of Bean & Rally. Claiming to be Mr. Morris, a guard for the Grimwood family, he carries little Chelsea Grimwood in tow. He asks for Bean & Rally to give them transport back to the Grimwood mansion after having just escaped from the kidnappers. Before Bean can officially accept the job machine gun fire is sprayed throughout the room from the building across the street, killing Mr. Morris, or so it would seem.

Once again, Bean has fallen for Semmerling’s plan and has taken it upon himself to take Chelsea to the Grimwood family mansion. Once there, the first clue that Bean has been set up is revealed to him, with the guards telling him they have no knowledge of a Mr. Morris. Next thing you know Bean has to deal with Detective Percy, an officer of the law with a hard-on to catch Bean at any cost. That cost is expressed by Percy in the purchase and restoration of a Shelby Cobra GT500, a car he believes will finally give him the upper hand against Bean’s car. After Bean makes his getaway from the Grimwood mansion he ends up at a random truck stop trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. The truth of the matter is that Semmerling has also kidnapped Mr. Grimwood himself and is making her getaway with him as a hostage. It starts to look like Semmerling is going to get away with it until she has to make a stop for gas, unknowingly at the very truck stop Bean & Rally are at. From there it’s a high speed chase, stacking police cars up like the Blues Bros. and ending up in a parking garage. Once in the garage action goes over the top with a nice explosion for the finale.

With the series ending up as a single episode OVA there wasn’t much time to explore the characters and the setting. What we do get to learn though is that Bean Bandit is not a man to be taken lightly. He’s a big man that has a calm attitude until his capabilities, or car, are brought into question. Insulting the man’s car might as well be the same as insulting his mother. That car is “Buff the Roadbuster”, named after the American Buffalo. It’s a complete custom of Bean’s own creation, riding on a Porsche chassis with the heart from a Corvette Stingray (most likely the all aluminum ZL-1 427) and covered in 5mm battleship armor plating with a combination of bulletproof glass and Lexgard for windows. Bean himself is also dressed in armor. His leather jacket & headband are actually made from a titanium mesh-weave overlaid with Kevlar. As for his partner, Rally, she’s a top notch marks(wo)man who doesn’t miss her target. Unlike her Gunsmith Cats counterpart though, she seems to be just along for the ride. Yet just like her counterpart her preferred gun of choice is the old-model CZ-75 9mm auto. It’s too bad that her skills with a gun only get used about twice in the OVA. There’s not much to be said about Percy beyond his clear obsession with catching Bean, except his car should be quite familiar to “Gunsmith Cats“ fans. As for Semmerling, she is named for the manufacturer of the gun she carries and is something of a prototype for the Goldie character in “Gunsmith Cats“. Finally, we have the city of Chicago itself. It has been said that Mr. Sonoda did extensive research before doing the storyboards for Riding Bean, so every location in the anime actually exists with exception to the truck stop.

The animation of Riding Bean was quite good for it’s time. In classic Sonoda fashion there’s detail all over the place. From the cars to the guns to the city, everything is meant to be as accurate as possible. You won’t find more bullets shot than a gun’s clip can carry in anything Kenichi Sonoda is behind. The man is a gun nut and keeps an eye on the shots fired. When a gun reaches it’s ammo clip max you will see the reloads. The names for the guns are spot on too. Mr. Sonoda is also quite the gearhead. For the sharp eyed car guys & gals out there you may be able to spot several real world cars. From a 750iL BMW to a 1st gen MR2 to an original Mini Cooper, Sonoda shows his love for the auto. Another fun fact is that the music for the show was actually sourced from Los Angeles to give it a more authentic sound. It works too, but as I’ve said in the past, you aren’t going to forget this was made in the 80’s. So while cheesy (especially the lyrics), the music does a fair job of keeping up with the action on screen. There’s also no opening and ending animations for the show, which is typical for OVAs. If the show had continued on and became a series we may have gotten them, but alas we know it didn’t make it that far.

When it comes to the dub and sub tracks available on the US release DVD there’s some clear differences. The background music comes through better on the sub and the sound effects are also better. At certain times in the dub, sound effects will be missing where ones should be. An example of such is when Bean and rally are in Buff and it’s idling, there’s no sound coming from the car even though it‘s running. The voice acting on the dub is not particularly good. That’s being nice about it. Trust me, just stick with the sub, you’ll thank me later.

About now is when I would normally tell you that the anime is out of print and hard to get. Fear not, this time around the anime in question is still available from it’s US licensor. AnimEigo released the DVD of Riding Bean back in 2002 and was responsible for the dubbing and subtitling. The DVD is still available from their website for a mere $8 bucks! At that price there’s not much of an excuse to not watch Riding Bean. I’ll also make a little mention that back in ‘08 Bandai Visual released Riding Bean onto bluray in Japan, yet at around $60 US and no English subtitles, it’s only for uber-fans of the show. OK, so while the show may be short, coming in at a run time of 46 minutes, it will leave a lasting impression on most viewers. Now what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy and enjoy the ride!

1 comment:

  1. hehe, I have the soundtrack. Found it in the International dist in Seattle. Freaking sweet.