Megazone 23 Part II ends in a good spot: with Megazone and the alien mothership destroyed, Shogo and his friends, having been spared by Eve, are shot down to a green, reborn earth. Humanity’s slate is wiped clean and Trash is left to start over again. You could give this story an epilogue, but it doesn’t need one. What it really doesn’t need is an epilogue set 500 years in the future. This is only the beginning of what’s wrong with the two-episode OAV Megazone 23 Part III, an ill-advised project in every conceivable sense.
Megazone is now a cyberpunk story: in the 500 years since the last film, humanity has rebuilt, and everybody now lives in a machine-regulated paradise known as Eden, which isn’t far from being the old Megazone. Except now there’s the Internet, so on top of just being a biker, our hero Eiji is a hacker (netjackers, they’re called here) and an ace videogamer.
Let’s get it out of the way, because it’s all anybody talks about when they talk about Part III: a videogame is central to the plot. It’s like that 80s movie The Last Starfighter, where it turns out that a videogame is training people for the real thing. The name of the videogame is Hard On. Cyber Game Hard On. I’ll give you some time to laugh.
This game comes up in conversation throughout the film, and ADV’s English dub is obligated to turn it into a gag. Here’s an actual conversation:
“I’ll be real busy tomorrow, when the new Hard On comes up.”
“I’m the best Hard On player! I beat it every time!”
“Oh-ho, not this Hard On, you won’t!”
“Just watch me!”
It is no exaggeration to say that the words “Cyber Game Hard On” are far and away the most interesting thing about Megazone 23 Part III. The story is about as tired as it could possibly get: our hero goes to work for the people who run Eden, finds out they’re bad guys under the rule of an evil computer (!!) and, together with a physically manifest Eve, must thwart their scheme to shoot Eden into space.
It’s like nobody involved was watching the same movies as I was: an utterly flat protagonist who just goes along with whatever the people in front of him tell him to do predictably saves the day. It’s not just unlike Megazone, it’s the direct opposite. It’s anti-Megazone.
Nearly as interesting as Cyber Game Hard On is the show’s obscenely low production values: while it’s no Gundress, both episodes of Part III were clearly released to the video-buying public unfinished. In spots the detailed mechanical animation is up to the Megazone standard, but much more often, nobody even bothered to paint the cels. A few particularly awful scenes are just unfinished storyboards running onscreen. When Gundress ran in Japanese theaters, the creators at least had the courtesy to tell their audience they were paying for an incomplete product. No such crisis of conscience here: somebody who probably expected a good cartoon paid a sizable amount of cash to be greeted with this pile.
Being as this is an OAV, one has to wonder why the studio didn’t just push the release back a bit and finish their show, as often happens in direct-to-video anime. I have a personal theory: nobody involved cared about this production. The fact that even the protagonist asks out loud if he isn’t just a lame replacement for his predecessor– and then concludes from Eve’s silence that yes, he must be– is pretty telling. This show doesn’t even need to exist. Why bother filling in the blanks?