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AnimEigo presents
Riding Bean (1989)

Semmerling: Never underestimate the power of a V12!
Bean Bandit: A drag race through the heart of downtown? I like your style!

- Mami Koyama, Hideyuki Tanaka

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: May 02, 2002

Stars: Hideyuki Tanaka, Cheiko Honda, Kei Tomiyana
Other Stars: Mami Koyama, Megumi Hayashibara
Director: Hasegawa Yasuo

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong violence, nudity, sexual themes, some language)
Run Time: 00h:45m:35s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A- C-

DVD Review

Imagine for a moment the classic, American car-chase/caper film; say, for example, Steve McQueen in The Getaway. Now imagine if that concept was boiled down and interpreted as a Japanese animated film. The end result might be very much like Riding Bean, Sonoda Ken'ichi's wild anime about the "Bean Bandit", the virtually inhuman courier/getaway driver with the snazzy, bulletproof car and a stylish leather jacket made with Kevlar. Ken'ichi's career as a conceptualist and designer has been dotted with classics like Bubblegum Crash, Otaku No Video, and Gunsmith Cats, and Riding Bean certainly fits into that family well.

Set in Chicago, Riding Bean is a quick blast of action involving the Bean Bandit, his assistant Rally (who would later appear in Gunsmith Cats), and a certain little girl worth a couple of million dollars. Bean, also known as RoadBuster, is a famous courier who, for a significant fee, will do just about any job. Unfortunately, his average job is pretty rough, which is why he carries significant firepower and uses his souped-up car. As the story begins, Bean has been hired as the getaway driver for a bank robber. The job doesn't go quite the way he plans, but it's over quick enough and he gets paid. Soon afterwards, though, he's drawn into a strange plot involving a kidnapped girl and her wealthy father. He doesn't know it, but there's a surprising connection between this girl and his robbery outing.

Bean finds himself up against the police and a mysterious criminal mastermind calling herself Semmerling. The story is a bit thin, but when your movie is a 45-minute action scene, it's basically all you need. There's barely room to breathe in Riding Bean, and that's actually a good thing. It's a non-stop experience and extremely funny. In fact, it easily ranks as one of the best stand-alone anime films I've ever seen, at least for something so short. It's like the best parts and one-liners from your favorite action film distilled to the absolute minimum plot needed to further things. That isn't to say Riding Bean is at all shallow, it's got plenty of depth and development; it's just constructed short and sweet. Supposedly, the filmmakers researched Chicago quite a bit in order to make it more realistic and have actual locations, but it really doesn't make much difference, since it's not only very Japanese (in terms of style and attitude), but it could be set in AnyCity, USA and would still be the same thing: one heck of a ride.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image transfer is excellent, with a crisp, colorful, and sharp animated picture. The cels practically leap off the screen. While the source has a little bit of grain and some very minor speckles here and there, it's nothing in the long run. This is a superb transfer of a fast moving film, with solid black level (surprising for the age of the film) no sharpening issues.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: For a film that depends quite a bit on the dynamic nature of its soundtrack, the stereo audio here is some of the best I've heard. It's loud, clean, clear, and does the job with impressive power. The musical score takes a lot of the emphasis, but even so, this is the kind of action soundtrack that makes or breaks modern day films, so it's interesting to hear it from a stereo track that's about 10 years old. The English dub is pretty good; not as bad as they often can sound, and the soundtrack is basically the same.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo GalleryImage Gallery
Extras Review: The disc's only extras are a photo gallery (stills from the movie) and the original Japanese trailer for the DVD release. It's a generally pleasant presentation, and I must say that the English subtitles are simply amazing. I can't speak Japanese, but I get the distinct impression the detail and subtlety of the translation was very carefully crafted, because its matches the attitude and timing of the film precisely and allows you to get all the humorous bits in a completely natural way. The case includes a small card insert with some trivia about the film and the complete lyrics from all of the songs in the soundtrack.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Riding Bean is fast, fun and amazingly well put together. It's an all-out adventure that uses its short time to be totally entertaining and often silly. It is a bit heavy on violence, nudity, and sexual themes, keeping it in the "adult" domain, but it is by no means exploitative. A must-see for anime fans.


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