Black Magic M-66 has the distinction of being one of the first anime titles I ever saw. I borrowed a videotape from my friend Eric, which contained Black Magic M-66, Appleseed, Outlanders, and a few other bits and pieces of Japanimation. I’d never seen animation like this, and I was immediately hooked on the insane action, stylish designs, and crazy mecha action (though I don’t think my parents appreciated the nudity that appeared from time to time). Unfortunately, it was all in Japanese, without subtitles, so I had to try and gather what was going on from the action.
In the case of Black Magic M-66, it turns out that I thought a lot more happened than actually does. There’s a real lack of character development, as if its assumed you already know who these people are. There’s a real sense that this was really meant to be part of a series, so a lot of backstory just isn’t disclosed. But here’s a brief rundown.
A military transport carrying top secret combat droids crashes in the forest. While the military rush to contain the situation, a gutsy journalist named Sybel (who, as it turns out, isn’t afraid to chase a story right out of the shower) also starts investigating. Although one of the droids is destroyed, the other one continues on its mission: to kill the granddaughter of the man who invented it. Sybel and the military try to track down the girl, as well as figure out a way to stop the killing machine, a la The Terminator.
Again, there’s a lot here that is just thrown out and never really explained. We never find out why the droid is after the granddaughter. Some technobabble about “experimental memory” is mentioned, but that doesn’t really mean anything. However, the granddaughter is so whiny and wimpy that I’d probably sic a combat droid on her too. And there’s some storyline about Northern terrorists and political conspiracies, but it too isn’t really developed. Or rather, it’s assumed that you already know what they’re talking about, so no explanation is necessary.
Overall, it’s not a terrible anime; it just feels really rushed. Coming from Masamune Shirow (Appleseed, Ghost In The Shell), this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Movies based upon his material have always felt incomplete, as if there’s a whole lot more going on than we’ve been told. If Black Magic M-66 were any longer (it’s not quite an hour), that would become really annoying. If you happen to stumble across it on TV, it’s worth a watch, if only for Shirow’s cool designs (which bear more than a passing resemblance to his work in Appleseed). Other than that, you’re not missing a whole lot.