Anime that mimic the style of Western media have always been a sensitive topic in anime. While nowadays this debate usually refers to anime that have a cartoon feel to them, there was a time when we got a lot of anime that all took inspiration from or outright mimicked Western action movies. While the likes of Dog Soldier and Early Reins are certainly worthy of guilty pleasure status even today, this trend also spawned some genuinely great mini-movies. Of these, Black Magic M-66 may well be my favorite.
Likening the movie to films like the The Terminator and Rambo makes for an apt comparison. The film centers around two killer robots that are accidentally released in a forest. They are high-tech AI murder machines, who relentlessly zone in on their target while cutting through anything and anyone in their path, using a variety of high-tech weaponry, martial arts, and anything else they can get their hands on. Since they were accidentally deployed with testing data, the robots default to the only target they know: their creator’s lovely little granddaughter.
Sybel is a young woman who works as a freelance reporter. A clumsy and eternally-unlucky girl, but who has unmatched perseverance and isn’t scared to plunge headfirst into trouble. When she catches wind of something going down in the nearby forest, she rushes over and winds up entangled in a special forces mission to restrain the runaway machines. A battle that causes massive amounts of carnage and soon begins to spill over into the big city.
Black Magic M-66 is straight-up a cool action movie. Its fight scenes are diverse and constantly surprising, seamlessly transitioning from pitched gun battles to close-combat, and from close quarters chase scenes back to explosive combat. Animation was handled by AIC, then famous for Bubblegum Crisis and Outlanders. While there are some notable dips in animation quality from time to time, overall the film looks quite good and comes through when it matters the most.
The retro artstyle has also aged wonderfully and results in some cool-looking main characters. Special praise goes to the design of the robots themselves, who have a very puppet-like feel to their design. It gives them a creepiness factor that pays off well in the second half of the movie.
The anime did have some minor problems, particularly when it comes to sound. Sound-effects are sometimes missing or delayed, the music isn’t always fitting for the scenes, and, on another note entirely, it tries a little too hard to be sexy. While not overly indulgent with fanservice, having Sybel be introduced to the viewer fresh out of the shower or Ferris whilst wandering about in her underwear does make for some eye-rolling moments.
In spite of these issues, Black Magic M-66 was overall a blast to sit through. It’s a short movie, but it nails the excitement and I enjoyed its characters. It even got a few laughs out of me thanks to some of the cheesier moments and lines. It’s by no means a must-see anime, but fans of classic action movies are in for a treat.