Cybersix [1999 Animated Remake] Review

AKA: Cybersix (1999)
Genre: Superhero/Action/Neo-Noir
Year Released: 1999
Distributor: Discotek
Origin: Canada/Japan/Argentina
Running Time: TV series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-Y7 FV
Related Films/Series: Cybersix (1995 live action series)
For Fans Of: Batman: The Animated Series, The Big O, Men In Black: The Animated Series, Extreme Ghostbusters, Read or Die, X-Men, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Notes:
-Cybersix is streaming on RetroCrush.
Fun Facts:
-Cybersix is based on an Argentinean graphic novel series by the late Carlos Meglia and Carlos Trillo that ran from 1991-1993. It did get a live action series at first in 1995, but was canceled due to low ratings. Meglia was a former animator of Hanna-Barbera and worked on The Smurfs and some of the 80s Scooby Doo works. Trillo wrote The Big Hoax and has won multiple awards.

-The title character is voiced by Cathy Weseluck. In addition to playing Cybersix, she has voiced Near from Death Note, Shampoo from Ranma 1/2, Chaozu from Dragon Ball Z, and even Spike from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I’m not making that up about the last one.

-Would anyone guess that a Japanese studio would be involved in this series? Well, surprise! TMS got involved with Cybersix. They’re best known for animating Akira, Sonic X, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Did you know they’ve helped animated Western animated projects, too? Guess what? They helped animate Little Nemo, season 1 of Inspector Gadget, one and a half seasons of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Batman: The Animated series among several other big name cartoons. Perhaps some of these anime haters watched and enjoyed Japanese co-productions and didn’t even know it!

-Hilarious in Hindsight: One episode involves a robot octopus fighting against Cybersix. Jose, I’m sure Princess Devilotte de Deathsatan VI from Cyberbots would like to have a word with you about that. The episode with the eye monster has an ability to shoot optic blasts. What do you call something with one eye even if it literally was a giant eye floating around? Cyclops!

-The theme songs were sung by Quebecois jazz singer Coral Egan. She’s the daughter of Karen Young. She has won Felix Awards and was nominated for multiple Junos (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) for her work.

-Cybersix won two nominations at the Leo Awards and a Special Mention award at the Pulcinella Awards.

-Who was the first American distributor to bring Cybersix stateside before Discotek rescued the license as well as finally releasing it on home video 14 years after it premiered in the USA? Saban Entertainment. That’s right. The same company who brought Power Rangers, Digimon, and even Dragon Ball Z (before Funimation bought the rights) to the West were responsible for this. More on that in the review.

-Controversy Alert: The creators of the Cybersix comic series sued James Cameron because his show Dark Angel plagiarized major concept, but they eventually withdrew because of a lack of funds. Some of this will be discussed in the review, but here’s a link about that situation.

Most of the things that I’ve re-watched at some point on the blog involve things I first saw during my high school and my college years. For the first time on Iridium Eye, I get to watch something that I first saw during my childhood, and I’m talking about my elementary school years. While I did lots of reading when I was a kid, I was guilty of watching a lot of TV when I wasn’t at school. Even though I didn’t have cable at the time, I still got to watch things on free TV. One such programming block I had access to was none other than Fox Kids. I grew up watching shows like the X-Men cartoon, Power Rangers, Spider-Man, Animaniacs, Digimon, and other programs at the time in the 90s and early 00s. I certainly know my fellow Millennials watched multiple shows on there, too. Some shows lasted for several years, there were reruns of different shows on there (The Magic School Bus and the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon come to mind), and there were some short-lived shows that only lasted a season. There was one such show that aired on Fox Kids back in the day that fit the last category. Back then, I didn’t even know it would count as anime given the Western art style nor did I realize that it was the first show on that programming block where a superheroine was the lead instead of just a sidekick or another body on a team.

Did this tri-continental production deserve better as Discotek put it on DVD and even put this show on RetroCrush of all places?

Cybersix takes place in the fictional coastal city of Meridiana. It’s been suffering from various attacks by monsters called Fixed Ideas as well as other biological experiments from mad scientist Von Reichter as well as his bratty son Jose. The one person to stop them is one of their former cyborg experiments code named Cybersix as mentioned in an arm tattoo. She has superhuman agility, enhanced strength, and some electric powers. When not saving Meridiana, she disguises as a male literature high school teacher under the alias Adrian Seidelman. Some of her allies involve co-worker Lucas Amato who is a science teacher who doesn’t know “Mr. Seidelman’s” secret identity, a panther named Data 7 who has a history with Cybersix, and street-smart orphaned boy Julian. How will this superherione deal with being hunted down by Von Richter’s forces?

It has been a very long time since I watched this on Fox Kids, and I was shocked by how progressive certain aspects were in hindsight. Having a superherione who doesn’t get overshadowed by male counterparts and isn’t girly is actually mind-blowing given the times. Think about it. Cybersix came out the same decade as shows such as Princess Gwenivere and the Jewel Riders, Sailor Moon, or even The Powerpuff Girls of all things, but this animated series is nothing like those shows. This series is closer to some of Marvel or DC cartoons at the time in addition to other action shows. If Cybersix came out in the 2010s, I could easily see this getting way more eyeballs as well as being more critically acclaimed for female representation. The drag king aspect was something very original even if there were awkward elements involving the student Lori. She’s also not a Mary Sue because she doesn’t win all of her fights and she has existential crises about her needing to disguise herself or not being human despite looking like one. Some of these things are quite progressive and I never realized it back then. The animation is certainly more Western-based as well as mixing biopunk and neo-noir elements. There’s certainly an influence from Batman: The Animated Series with the dark settings and one fight scene briefly involved Cybersix darting towards a monster as a shadow with eyes kind of like the Dark Knight himself. TMS animated both series, so that does make sense. Von Richter was certainly an intimidating villain especially in the last episode with the living island bomb. Jose is certainly a pest and gets more screen time as a villain, but he does have some elements of humor with monsters having to hoist him up due to his very short stature, giving him popcorn, or being too preoccupied with video games even if he’s acting on an evil plan. This show even has some adult themes that were tastefully handled. Not just with the fight scenes, but there were plot points involving human/animal experimentation (Data 7’s backstory being a big one), suicide, and there was even a low-key element involving the main villains. They had to tone down a lot of the adult elements from the original comic book, but one thing that wasn’t mentioned was how Von Reichter is actually a Nazi soldier. That fact from the comics wasn’t mentioned, but it was hinted at with how Jose walks around half the time by goose-stepping which has more frightening implications with him and his father. Besides the themes, the animation is good and it improves the last few episodes. The opening theme was something I remembered the melody of and it really grew on me. I would like to hear a full-length version. The opening theme had a right balance of mystery, but also a sense of longing which could tie into the character.

Cybersix was unknown compared to other shows that aired on Fox Kids. This Argentinean-created superheroine certainly wouldn’t have any imitators on the Fox Channel after it aired. Yes, I’m being very sarcastic. This review has a Controversy Alert attached to the fun facts. You know what that means…

James Cameron, I thought you were better than this. Let’s look at the dates. Cybersix’s original comic book run was from 1991-1993, got a live-action treatment in 1995, and animated in 1999. Dark Angel is nine years younger than the debut issue of that Argentinean comic series. I remember Dark Angel being a big show at the time, but seeing some of the parallels is quite startling. For starters, both main characters are created to be genetically engineered super-soldiers, have numbered “birth names”, gender-neutral aliases, break free from working for the antagonists in their stories, identifying marks on them (a tattoo for Cybersix and a barcode for Max Guevara), and have their own enhanced abilities as they’re on the run from their creators. Cameron claims to have been influenced by Battle Angel (which he would eventually give the live-action remake treatment nineteen years after the debut episode), but there were aspects that were specifically similar to Cybersix. There were some differences with Cybersix taking place in a modern-day setting while Dark Angel to place in the then-futuristic 2019 or how the Max Guevara character was created by a rogue US government organization as opposed to a Nazi scientist. I have some screenshots from a Spanish website that involve the original comics. Apologies if there were some translation errors in them and make a judgment call here.

This is so disappointing with how this show got canceled yet Dark Angel ran for two seasons. Stealing stuff from multiple countries? Do I need to make a comparison to a certain 90s Disney movie? Come on, Jimmy. I praised you for crediting the creators of Battle Angel when I reviewed the anime, but I just shake my head hearing about this story. It doesn’t help that the original creators are both dead. Them dropping the lawsuit due to a lack of money to take on James Cameron is certainly disheartening. Its a shame how rare the little guys to get one over on these wealthy thieves.

Cybersix doesn’t always save the day like in the show. The art style was a bit bizarre. Why are things like arm hair or even patches of hair shown as rectangles? I also thought it was weird with Cybersix and some background characters having “pan eyes” like Wilma Flintstone, Barney Rubble, or even the characters from George Shrinks for example. The designs with Yashimoto and Ikiko are straight problematic with their comically slanted eyes as well as them having protruding buckteeth. Did I forget to mention that this has a big Japanese co-production? This is either a sellout move or a major sense of self-loathing on TMS’s animators’ part. TMS, how bad do you have to suck when Disney was more racially progressive with Mulan (which came out a year prior to this show, I might add) than you guys making offensive looking characters WHO SHARE YOUR ETHNIC HERITAGE?! That really shocked me. What really didn’t help was a scene with Yashimoto and Jose do stereotypical martial arts poses to each other while a koto or shamisen plays in the background. Wow, just wow! Besides that problematic element, there were some errors in production. Sometimes the animation quality dropped during the normal scenes, some of the voice acting got too quiet or even muted like one scene where Jose is clearly screaming his lungs out, but there’s no sound to it. The werewolf villain Elaine’s voice really didn’t work. When she was in her human form, she was okay, but when she’s a werewolf, she doesn’t sound right with the massive voice mutator and reverb effects which make her sound like some eldrich abomination who possessed someone or some scary alien. Maybe it’s me not being a fan of that voice effect, but I don’t want to see a lycanthrope having the same vocal effects of the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin, Master Mold from the X-Men, or Pride’s unleashed form in Fullmetal Alchemist, you feel me? One thing that was very disappointing was the show getting canceled. The last episode had so many high stakes going on and it ends on a giant cliffhanger given who was last seen in that episode with the tape recorder. It’s the same kind of feeling watching the last episode of Sonic the Hedgehog (SATAM) with those red eyes in the background, but nothing else got animated with that storyline. I would like to see a remake with updated character designs and new stories.

This superhero show from 1999 has some flaws, but it deserved better. Cybersix was an intriguing blast from the past that I didn’t know I wanted to rediscover. The fight scenes were quite crisp, there were interesting characters, and the Cybersix character is more progressive than a lot of people realize. Shame on James Cameron for ripping off stuff from this IP. I do wish there was a better ending and improved character designs. Thus hybrid Western/Japanese animated work was a good watch, but I wouldn’t call it amazing. I will say that Cybersix could beat up a ton of other 90s superheroines, that’s for sure.

Adjustable Point Scores:
-Add 1-2 points if you like strong superheroine characters who aren’t Mary Sues.
-Add 1 point if you like neo-noir or biopunk elements.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want amazing art style.
-Subtract 2-3 points if you want a full story.

Pros:
-Cybersix as a character was ahead of her time
-Good fight scenes
-Decent usage of adult themes

Cons:
-Yashimoto and Ikiko have offensive character designs
-Sound design and voice production aren’t up to par
-The cancellation really hinders the ending

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Advisory: Cybersix is a lot tamer than it’s original comic book origin and it was rated Y7 FV during it’s run on Fox Kids. That certainly makes sense. The fight scenes are certainly appropriate for that rating, but there was one scene where from a distance a bunch of green blood spurts out of a mutant octopus after something large drops on it. Some characters do die, but some of them vanish into dust or sustenance (the green liquid that powers the cybers). There are two characters who commit suicide in this series. There’s a subplot of Lori having a crush on Cybersix’s male teacher disguise which is VERY awkward and she calls her real form (context: she doesn’t know Cybersix and Adrian Seidelman are the same person) “kinky” and a “bimbo” as she thinks her teacher is dating that superheroine. Multiple episodes could scare younger children like the werewolf one. The concepts of genetic engineering, human/animal experimentation, or how the main villains are low-key shown as Nazis might go over the heads of younger viewers.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Cybersix is property of Discotek. The DVD box set cover is from Amazon and is property of Discotek. The screenshot of Cybersix is from YouTube and is property of TMS and Discotek.

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