An ’80s Action Anime Classic
by Bolt Vanderhuge
As Anime Central 2019 approaches, and the premiere of a new crowdfunded OVA featuring Bean Bandit along with it, I thought I’d take a look back at the OVA that started it all. It occurs to me that some (or most) of you might not know who Bean Bandit is, nor the man who created him, Kenichi Sonoda. To be fair, most of the work he is known for came out in the ’80s and ’90s, but he’s probably best known for the anime and manga Gunsmith Cats. Less known is his previous work featuring many of the same characters, Riding Bean, which also takes place in Chicago.
Bean Bandit is essentially a shady getaway driver for hire, who drives a tricked out sports car of his own design that is not only bullet-proof, but can swivel all four of its wheels ninety degrees so he can drive it sideways. If you’re familiar with Gunsmith Cats at all, you might recognize the name Rally Vincent. In Riding Bean, she’s a blonde-haired, blue-eyed anime American, who’s partners in crime (and the sack) with Bean Bandit, which is something of a surprise given their back-and-forth relationship in the Gunsmith Cats manga, and the fact he appears basically the same in both. He never did make it into the anime, though, which is probably why most anime fans aren’t even aware of him (uncultured swine!).
As for plot, Riding Bean isn’t super complicated or anything (it is only 48 minutes long after all). It’s just a classic ’80s action flick, featuring plenty of violence and brief nudity, and a tone that’s never quite entirely serious in spite of the blood and gore. Basically, a sadistic lesbian kidnaps a millionaire and his daughter, and her brilliant plan is to frame Bean Bandit for the kidnapping since he’s already on the Chicago PD’s shit list. Unfortunately for her, Bean Bandit is basically the Terminator, and manages to escape the trap she set for him by sheer awesomeness alone.
The soundtrack is very ’80s, and despite the fact it was dubbed much later than the original 1989 release, the delivery of the vast majority of the lines fits right in with the era. But that’s okay, because that’s all part of the glorious ’80s anime experience.
There’s also an interesting “what if” scenario with this anime, because this was apparently originally planned as a series and that never happened. There was also a manga based on this premise that was left unfinished because the magazine publishing it cancelled, which caused Mr. Sonoda to move on and create the Gunsmith Cats manga. While Mr. Sonoda prefers Bean Bandit because he can identify with him better, I tend to prefer Gunsmith Cats and that version of Rally Vincent. All the same, I’m excited to see what the new OVA is going to bring, and I hope to catch it when it premieres at ACEN this year.
In the meantime, it’s fun to look back at what started it all, and I recommend you check it out yourself!
FUCK YEAH! LOOK IT UP
Riding Bean Original Video Animation
Based on the manga by Kenichi Sonoda
Produced by AIC, Licenced by AnimEigo