Burn Up W

Schizophrenia is not something you expect from your anime. Most shows are very clear-cut in terms of their content. You go into an episode of Fist of the North Star expecting mass violence with very little plot. You watch Ranma 1/2 for a bit of goofiness that doesn't tax your brain. Your typical Japanese television show for kids is embodied in Doraemon, and so forth. But woe is the show that doesn't know where it wants to go.

This is actually a blessing and a curse for Burn Up W, an action/adventure comedy OVA series that shifts gears halfway through without much warning. Depending on your point of view, you'll likely not like every one of the four episodes because of the radical changes that occur. Its massive amounts of carnage mixed with fan service in every corner will also court some viewers while turning off others. Because of this, my friends, Burn Up W is a show that is impossible to predict in terms of what viewers will think, and thus I must simply lend you my own opinion.

As the show starts, radicals have taken over a high-rise building, threatening to take out a bunch of international dignitaries if their demands aren't met. But the terrorists aren't looking for cash...they're actually looking for a baseball coach to apologize, a special title to be added to a videogame, and a famous singing idol to bungie jump naked! It's up to Rio and the other (primarily female) members of the SWAT Warrior team to handle the situation. We soon learn that the hostage situation was merely a distraction to divert attention away from a group of terrorists who've developed a virtual mind control drug. As the story progresses, the Warrior team finds itself in the worst situation of all: trapped in the police building facing annihilation not only by evil cronies from the outside but brainwashed lackies from within their own ranks.

Now most of that description makes it sound like a wild, action-packed adventure, and to some extent it is. What it doesn't reveal is the nature of the show itself, which is fan service to the 8th degree. Granted, we see more in panty-fests like the awful Agent Aika, but Burn Up W is about giving a good show of women's bodies. The camera longingly pans over half-naked bodies in virtually every shot. Every last woman on the Warrior team boasts underwire to make Dolly Parton jealous. Most of the humor in the show revolves around the sexual tension created by characters whose chests resemble various mountain ranges. And frankly, that sort of humor is not my thing. In fact, I was just bored by it by the time the second episode finished up, and I had a thought to just write a partial review and be done with it.

But something drove me to watch the last two episodes, and I'm glad that I did. The fan service and sexual humor is still there, certainly; the third installment starts by continuing the running gag about stores that sell ladies' used undergarments to pervs who get turned on by that sort of thing (an all too real situation in Japan). But about ten minutes in, the story takes a serious turn when the virtual drug cartel sets up the plan to take down police headquarters. By the episode's end, friends have been killed and blood is flowing down the corridors. Things get serious and stay there for most of the fourth episode. We trade in odious fan service for some genuine tension, and it feels good.

However, that's where the schizophrenia kicks in. If you love the racy, light humor of the first half, the dark tones and graphic violence of the second half may frustrate you. If the second half sounds great, well, the first half might annoy you. It's a real dilemma. Of course, if you're expecting the shift, perhaps it won't seem so strange.

I'll also mention one other thing that could be a decision-breaker...it's incomplete. Although I haven't seen it, I've found that the follow-up series Burn Up Excess does continue the storyline from here, so it's not a loss. However, closure will not be found within the four episodes of Burn Up W itself.

One thing that won't affect your decision about this title is the artwork or animation. Money was spent and used in the right places, and so it's a good-looking entry. It's not different from any other bright and shiny title you've seen, but bright and shiny is...well...bright and shiny. You understand.

I admit that I'm jaded about this kind of show. I'm just no longer interested whatsoever in watching shows primarily concerned with bouncing breasts far too large for the women endowed with them. Does Burn Up W have some great action? Yes. But it doesn't make up for the juvenile humor and what I see as casual exploitation of women. Sure, it's often fun and exciting. But in my mind, the various elements, both good and bad, are combined so thoroughly within Burn Up W that it's hard to appreciate a few of them without being annoyed by the others. That makes it just average in my book.

Burn Up W -- realistically graphic violence, nudity, sexual/adult humor, fan service -- C