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Three loosely linked tales of a cyberpunk stripe, caught up in the post-Akira popularity of SF futures. In the year 2808, three criminals are offered conditional release. Even though they have each stacked up several life sentences, they may work off their terms by performing secret missions against the clock. If the mission succeeds, years are taken off their sentences. If the mission fails or they try to escape, the explosive collars around their necks will take their heads off.
For the first mission, Virtual Death (Ancient Memory in the original), tough-guy Sengoku must fight his way into the Kurokawa Tower, a self-aware skyscraper, to discover who is hacking into its systems. Presaging the first Patlabor movie, he discovers that the "hacker" is in fact the original programmer, who has long since departed from this world. More hackery abounds in Psychic Trooper, in which bespectacled computer expert Goggle must outwit a cybernetic soldier while fighting his hidden feelings for an old flame who once betrayed him. The final episode, Bloodlust (originally Crimson Medium), focuses on Benten, the androgynous dandy who must track down a vampire who is using a beautiful android to entice young victims into his lair. The final showdown, in a cryogenic chamber (i.e., coffin) at the top of a space elevator, neatly encapsulates the old/new culture clash of the series. The pretty-boy cross-dresser Benten is inspired by a popular character from the 19th century, the protagonist of the kabuki play Benten the Thief. Since Sengoku's name means literally "civil war," the characters all carry jitte parrying weapons modeled on those used by samurai-era police, and the titular 808 recalls the 808 Districts of old Edo (Tokyo), we can assume that the anime was originally intended as an SF pastiche of old stories (possibly in the style of Samurai Gold), which never quite got off the ground. It is just one of several superior video serials from creator Juzo Mutsuki, whose Phantom Quest Corp and Devil Hunter Yohko were similarly luckless in their quest for TV remakes. LNV