Megazone 23 – Part 3 is probably the most Cyberpunk part of the Megazone 23 series. The other installments had artificial intelligences and rebelling against the man. However, Part 3 has more hacking, human cybernetic augmentation, and dealing with human society’s relationship with the planet. It’s also the weakest part of the series.
Part of the problem is that Parts I and II spent about three hours putting together a cohesive narrative (with a time skip in the middle), and they put a lot of time into establishing the themes of the series – youth culture rebelling against a society that actively disenfranchises them, and uses them as a tool to be discarded, whether a cog in society or as a weapon in various wars. Part 3, on the other hand, has two hour long installments, which is more time than one the earlier Parts, but not the two put together.
In Part III, Eiji, our protagonist, is part of a different kind of rebellious outsider group – a band of hackers as opposed to the Bakuzoku of parts I & II – which also leads into the first significant problem. With parts I and II, Shogo was part of a group – eschewing the traditional narrative of ‘Youth Rebellion through the solitary loner” a narrative that exists both in the US and in Japan. This is a bigger deal in Japan, because Japanese society puts more of a focus on the group over the individual – thus in a weird way, rebelling as a group is depicted as more of an acceptable action than rebellion as an individual – and thus something worthy of emulation.
Here, while Eiji has his friends, some of whom are hackers, they’re not a hacking group, and the one hacking group we see in the film – Orange – is also run by older people, and treats younger people as expendable cogs just as much as the authority figures of this brave new world do. The prevailing theme, the song if you will – of dissatisfied young people changing the world for the better, being the hope for the future over the staid establishment figures who got the world into this mess – is lost.
In its place, we get a theme that is far more generic – and is indeed the most generic anime theme when it comes to villain motivations and counter-arguments. The antagonist of the film has come to the conclusion that humanity can’t be redeemed after all, and thus is not worthy of inheriting the Earth – Nihilistic Anime Villain Motivation #1. Our scrappy young protagonist proves that no, we shouldn’t give in to despair, and we can get it right – Hopeful Anime Hero Motivation #1. Give up vs. Gambare. Keep Doin’ What You’re Doin’.
Yeah, Parts I and II had their elements of “Gambare” to their message, but it’s in a different, more focused form. It was saying to keep protesting. Keep being politically active – don’t let the established political machine wear you down. If enough nails stick up, they can’t hammer them all. Your message will be heard, people will come to your side, and change will come. A real message to the young people of Japan to keep fighting to change things, wrapped in the trappings of pop idols, giant robots, and a little ultra-violence.
With Part III – it’s generic. It doesn’t even have great animation and action scenes to make up for it. More than a few moments in Episode 1 feel like they only had the budget to animate the keyframes, and didn’t send the show out for in-betweening. The action scenes in Episode 2 have a little more polish, but it still doesn’t quite work. I remember reading somewhere where Carl Macek felt that Megazone 23 should have ended with Part II, and not done Part III 4 years later. I agree. While I appreciate some of the cyberpunk trappings of Part III, the work as a whole is not executed well and does not work as a conclusion to the series.