Mike Toole rates it:
I never really had a clear picture of what Wild 7 was about until I actually had the videos in my hands. Part of the problem is the fact that the title sounds sorta like Mild Seven, a fine brand of tobacco popular in the far east. But Wild 7 isn't about a gung-ho septuplet of chain-smokers, it's about a rebellious, violent gang of motorcycle cops. The plot is vaguely reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen, only without Lee Marvin. "Dazzling visual effects," promises the back of the box. And the back of the box always tells the truth; it's the law, you know!
Anyway, the titular "Wild 7" (also known as "the policemen from hell", which is hardly a title to be proud of) are quite a colorful bunch. They're a team of former death-row convicts, freed to act on behalf of the law. They operate independently, and seem to be allowed to do more or less whatever they want to, with clearances even beyond that of regular cops. What a great idea! I'm sure that the Tokyo of Wild 7 is safer, thanks to this vigilant, roving gang of gun-toting ex-cons.
The makeup of the Wild 7 themselves is pretty typical. Hiba is the leader, sorta; he escaped from reform school, and has thirteen prior convictions, for the likes of murder, extortion, and other fun stuff. He's grim and unsmiling, and seems to hold a grudge against anyone who dares interfere with his policework. There's also Happyaku, an ex pro baseball player who was jailed for breach of contract. (How the hell would that land you on death row?) There's Ryogoku, a comically little guy with a goofy mustache, who rides a motorcycle equipped with a sidecar made of missiles. He was tossed in the pokey for producing hazardous materials and manufacturing weapons. (How the hell would that land you on death row?) There's Sekai, a humorless ex-circus performer with a nifty Rollie Fingers-esque mustache. He got tossed in the slammer for throwing knives at his audiences. There's Cha Shu, a goofy-looking chef who got jailed for manufacturing drugs and offing people. There's Oyabun, a crazed, sword-wielding ex-Yakuza boss (Oyabun is Yakuza slang for "boss"). He's got a typical gangster rap sheet: murder, extortion, etc. Rounding out the group is Hebopi, a rotund hippie who got locked down for attacking a military base, and reckless driving. (HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET THE DEATH PENALTY FOR RECKLESS DRIVING?!)
There's an exploding head within the first 5 minutes of the first episode, which is always a promising sign. The most satisfying part of Wild 7 is the fact that everyone in the show is fucking crazy. All of the seven themselves are sadistic nutjobs, that's a given. They rarely miss an opportunity to dish out some pain to the crooks that they're up against, doing incredible collateral damage in the process. Their boss, Kusanami, is just as weirdly amoral, willing to overlook almost every one of his biker cop team's slip-ups as long as they take out the bad guys. In fact, the only characters who don't seem crazy are a couple of window-dressing types, a woman who runs a local cafe (providing the vague semblance of a romantic outlet for Hiba) and her daughter.
As for the story at hand, the Wild 7 spend these two 45-minute OVAs stalking Kuromatsu, a fairly generic insane mobster hitman type. They take out a couple of other fish in the criminal pond along the way (and spend the latter half of the first epiosde gradually smashing a heavily fortified office building to pieces), just for the hell of it, but are handily stopped by an evil biker sentai team. Yes, you heard me-- evil "biker knights" in bad fright costumes, complete with razor-tipped lances-cum-sidecars. As if that weren't enough, the head biker knight is a giant strongwoman who mostly grunts and swears.
There's nothing remarkable about the production of Wild 7, other than the fact that the English adaptation is quite good. (Screenmusic regulars like Alex Fernandez and the ever-present Wendee Lee help quite a bit.) The animation is fairly decent for an OVA. The interesting thing is, what I initially took for ugliness in Hisashi Hirai's (Infinite Ryvius) character designs is actually the fault of original manga artist Mikiya Mochizuki, a veteran of the field who originally drew Wild 7 between 1969 and 1979, which explains the not-quite-retro ugliness of the characters. (For what it's worth, seeing Wild 7 piqued my interest in the manga, which is being published in English by Comics One.)
I suppose the man most responsible for this almost morbidly-entertaining mess is Kiyoshi Egami, the director, a man who would somehow avoid getting sacked long enough to give the world Knight Hunters: Weiß Kreuz. Under his stewardship, the flow of the OVA's story lurches along fitfully, as the 7 first abruptly decide to let some local cops die at the hands of the biker knights, so they can smash a building, and then take off vengefully when a cute newscaster woman is kidnapped. The characters seem somewhat intriguing, but seem so uninterested and opaque that I was having a hard time just keeping track of who was who. (By the time Happyaku showed up at the beginning of the second episode, badly wounded while working undercover, I'd forgotten who he was.) The whole thing culminates in the 7 confronting the head bad guy. I can't quite remember his name, but since his sinister plot involves taking over a TV network and filling it with bizarre programming, I'll just call him Evil Ted Turner.
Wild 7 doesn't have the crazed awfulness of Mad Bull, but its weird cast and gratuitous violence only have limited appeal. I think my biggest problem with Wild 7 is the exceedingly casual way with which it treats police brutality. I practically had to stop myself from laughing when a regular beat cop gives the unruly 7 a lecture about correct police procedure and human rights, because the sad fact is that police brutality is a real social problem in Japan; Amnesty International has a nice, long file about them, which you ought to peruse if you think that Japan is a golden kingdom of nonstop cartoons and video games.
In the final analysis, what you get out of Wild 7 will really depend on what you're looking for. I was hoping for a silly macho cop caper, and got something that, while poorly-executed, wasn't totally awful. If you're looking for a good hard-boiled crime story, however, look elsewhere. Wild 7 is about bikes n' shootin'-- nothing but bikes n' shootin'.
Added: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Related Link: Urban Vision