It’s fair to say that these days, with so many streaming and digital options available, buying a new Blu-ray to add to my collection is not something I do that often. The last Blu-ray I bought was the complete boxset of Batman: The Animated Series, and unless the Blu-ray is something I’m really desperate to own, or it is a rare/obscure title, then I will simply rent or buy a digital copy to stream.
But today marks an important day, because for the first time in a good couple of years, I have finally increased my Blu-ray collection by one. Today, I added the ‘90s anime series, Cyber City Oedo 808 to my stack.
You may recall back in June 2020, I re-watched Cyber City Oedo 808, courtesy of YouTube. I blogged about my experiences re-watching the series, about how much I enjoyed it, and how the series was a particular favourite of mine.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to be writing about Cyber City Oedo 808 again so soon. Because back during summer 2020, I had no idea a Blu-ray release for the series was arriving in January 2021… but here we are.
For those who have no idea what Cyber City Oedo 808 is, or why this Blu-ray release is so significant, Cyber City Oedo 808 is a three-part original video animation (OVA), initially released in 1990. The series focuses on three criminals, Sengoku, Gogul, and Benten, who are given the opportunity to reduce their sentences, by investigating deadly crimes on behalf of the city police force.
Each episode of Cyber City Oedo 808 runs around 45 minutes in length, and focuses on a different character. The series sits firmly in the cyber punk genre and deals with a mix of subjects, including horrific A.I, experimental cyborgs, and vampirism.
As noted above, Cyber City Oedo 808 was originally released in 1990, initially in its native language of Japanese. However, for us Brits, the series was given a bit of an overhaul, courtesy of anime distributor, Manga Entertainment UK, which offered up a significantly different take on the material.
The UK version of the series – which was released on VHS and broadcast on television – was dubbed into English and given an entirely new soundtrack composed by Rory McFarlane. The soundtrack was exclusive to the UK, and was not incorporated into any Japanese releases, or even the US release for that matter, despite it being released in English in the States.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t watch Cyber City Oedo 808 when it aired on Channel 4 during the mid-‘90s, or you didn’t pick up any of the UK VHS tapes, then you have probably never watched the UK edition. The DVD release of Cyber City, which hit shelves during the ‘00s, didn’t include the UK soundtrack, and with the exception of the grainy YouTube version I watched last year (taken from the old VHS tapes), the UK edition has largely disappeared into the aether.
Well, that was until this week, when Anime Limited/All The Anime released a limited edition Blu-ray of Cyber City Oedo 808 which has brought the UK version of this series screaming back. The Blu-ray includes the original Japanese edition, the US version, and the all-important UK version which has been gone for so long.
Now, before I talk about this Blu-ray release, and comment on whether or not you should pick it up, here is a list of the contents, as well as the specifications of the product:
- 1 x Blu-ray featuring the Japanese, US, and UK editions of the series
- 1 x CD featuring the UK soundtrack
- 1 x 52-page booklet about the series
- Bonus material: UK VHS trailer, US DVD trailer, Episode 1 & 2 commentary, and Inside Cyber City Oedo documentary
- Region B
- Certificate 15
- English subtitles
- Image 1080p | 4:3
- 120 minutes runtime
One important thing to note regarding the contents of this Blu-ray is what is NOT included.
The outer packaging suggests the release comes with 6 art cards, as well as a sticker sheet, but this is not true. According to the folks at Anime Limited/All The Anime this is a misprint on the packaging, and art cards and stickers are NOT part of the release, so don’t go searching for them.
OK, onto the Blu-ray then, and this release is a two-disc set, with all of the episodes and bonus material on one disc (a Blu-ray), and the soundtrack on the other (a CD).
The two discs are housed in a sturdy cardboard outer case, which features the Cyber City characters on both the front and reverse and looks really slick. Inside the case is a plastic inner tray, which holds the Blu-ray and the CD.
As I discovered yesterday, the inner tray is not as sturdy as the outer case and this initially caused me problems. The copy that I ordered from Amazon arrived with the outer case in pristine condition, but the inner tray smashed to bits, with the Blu-ray disc cracked and unplayable as a result – so do be careful!
Not a great start, but these things happen, and hopefully this won’t be a problem for you. Thankfully 24 hours later, I had a replacement copy in hand and I was able to give the set my undivided attention.
My first thought/feeling/impression? Well, it was a sense of joy knowing that I owned a copy of Cyber City Oedo 808 on Blu-ray. Having re-watched the series recently, and having loved it since I was a kid, it is great to finally own a copy of the UK release.
I am also overjoyed at having all the editions of the series at my disposal. The UK edition is my go-to version of Cyber City, but it is great to have the Japanese and US editions in one release too.
The 52-page booklet is a nice addition, as it includes bios for the lead characters, as well as interviews from some of the creatives behind the series. The 23-track CD soundtrack is also a great accompaniment, giving fans (myself included) the opportunity to revisit the music without having to fire up the episodes.
In terms of the documentary, this offers up a look at the history of the series from a UK perspective, exploring the voice acting, music, and the series’ fan following. I found it informative, but it does appear to have been filmed during the various lockdowns of 2020, so expect video conversations to crop up here and there.
I have yet to get to the episode commentaries (I’m saving those for the weekend), but I look forward to visiting them for the additional insights into the series. I must say, it seems odd that only two episode commentaries are provided, rather than one for each episode, but any extra information on this series is always welcome.
But what of the episodes themselves? What of the Blu-ray transfer? Is it outstanding?
In terms of the series, I believe it to be a true gem from the 1990s and find it as engaging as I did the first time I watched it. The core characters are cool, the action is top notch, and the storylines all work well – so, pretty good stuff.
However, those picking up this Blu-ray, expecting a near perfect visual experience might be disappointed. While the picture quality largely looks good, there are times when it is not as strong as one might hope.
A couple of people have already flagged this online, so you may have heard talk of this by now, but there are scenes on this Blu-ray that look like a DVD release. During some scenes, blacks are a bit murky, colours appear a little washed out, and from time to time the images look a little hazy around the edges.
This issue largely effects the first episode. This isn’t a fault with the disc; this is an issue with the material itself which has been upscaled as best as possible.
Speaking via Twitter, All The Anime provided an explanation for why the Blu-ray looks this way:
“Cyber City Oedo 808 was a restored upscale – that means there are certain things that were possible and some that weren’t on this project with regard to image quality, as it depends on a lot of different factors.
“For a restoration of this nature, it won’t be comparable to a 4K rescan (for example), but as a whole it is still a marked improvement on prior releases in the English speaking world.”
Is this a major problem? I suppose it all comes down to expectations.
If you are buying this Blu-ray expecting each episode to look as good as say, the Akira Blu-ray release, you are going to feel a little disappointed. While the overall quality on display here is certainly better than DVD, and pretty strong for episode 2 and 3, you might expect more.
Personally, I can live with seeing Cyber City Oedo 808 at this level, as it is elevated beyond the DVD and VHS releases of the past, and as best as we are likely to get, but I do appreciate others may feel slightly underwhelmed.
Overall, this is a good release of an often-overlooked ‘90s anime – but perhaps not quite the perfect release. If a slightly higher transfer had been possible (we can wish), an extra commentary for the third episode was added, or a little attention to detail to the packaging (i.e. don’t announce stuff that isn’t included in the set), it would have received top marks.
However, if like me, your main concern is simply owning Cyber City Oedo 808 with the UK soundtrack, in the highest quality to date, you should be pleased that you now have the opportunity. This really is an awesome slice of ‘90s anime, and a fan favourite amongst many Brits.
If you wish to pick up a copy of Cyber City Oedo 808, the Blu-ray is now available in selected stores in the UK, as well as via online retailers including Amazon UK.
The Blu-ray is Region B, so be sure your Blu-ray player can play Region B before you buy. Scroll back up for all the specifications and special feature details.
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