Story & Playability
Taking a break from my homework and from everything else, I wanted to do something a bit fun for a change. Something I
haven’t touched in ages, reviewing! What better way to break back into reviewing than with a one episode OVA created
all the way back in 1989.
Riding Bean tells a tale of a gentleman by the name of Bean Bandit. Who is this mysterious man? He’s the guy who will
do any job that you ask, provided you can pay for it. He’s essentially a getaway driver for hire and his skills are
second to none. He’s joined with his gun slinging partner Rally Vincent. If this name sounds familiar it should for
very good reason. Riding Bean serves as the prototype for what eventually became Gunsmith Cats. Originally planned on
being more than just a single episode OVA and having a manga, both were cut short due to a falling out between the
original created and the company involved in the animation production. What we’re left with is 48 minutes of one heck
of an interesting show that will force you to greatly suspend your beliefs for one heck of an action packed
Riding Bean pays a great deal of homage to Hollywood style action flicks. It wouldn’t be hard to say that Bean Bandit
himself is a product of a lot of 80s action movie stars, such as Rambo or The Terminator. He’s a big man, who’s
got an X scar in between his eyes and always wears shades, jeans and a leather jacket. Rally Vincent, in this series,
is a blonde-haired beauty who works with Bean Bandit. By working with him, she more so is the one that keeps him in
check (as much as she possibly can) and takes care of the artillery while Bean takes care of the driving and the
During a routine job for a client, Bean has to take some different measures to avoid being caught by the police. At the
end of the job, he takes his agreed upon amount of cash and tells them that he won’t work for any amateurs anymore.
Little does Bean know that this is just the start of his run in with this two-man team of robbers. A far greater and
much eviler scheme is lurking around the corner, as the next day Bean Bandit ends up taking on a job to deliver the
daughter of the President of the Grimwood Company, Chelsea, back from some potential kidnappers. The guard that brought
her is killed in a shootout and it’s up to Bean to give her back. Or so it would seem, but nothing is as simple in
the world of Riding Bean. Bean also has to outsmart his rival on the police force, Percy, who is determined that this
time, he’s sure to capture Bean Bandit!
One thing is for certain, and that is Riding Bean is a product of its time. Those that are familiar with late 80s/early
90s anime will see here that we’ve got a story that turns people into explosive bags of ketchup when shot, and tons of
action scenes alongside some adult material. Make no mistake; Riding Bean has all of that in here. Within the first
five minutes we’ve already seen frontal nudity and someone literally exploding from a shot gun blast, both of which
seem incredibly out of place. However, it can be safely said that this, minus another situation which I shall cover
later, is truly the only time to series checks itself out in terms of value and instead delivers on a solid, non-stop
adventure. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one episode, but I can safely say that it didn’t feel like I had
spent over forty minutes watching something. The time flies by and there’s always something interesting going on.
While development of characters is slightly weak, subtle details mentioned within this story as well as what is shown
visually help to give us a bit better of an understanding of the characters. Sadly, it isn’t much though.
While the story lacks character depth, it makes up for this in folds with a constantly exhilarating story that manages
to be both gripping and interesting. Given the length, I wasn’t sure what type of adventure to expect but I can
certainly say you get a lot more bang for your buck with this. We’re given scenes of rest, there’s a continuous
storyline, and there’s a whole lot of great car chases and interesting things to see. Riding Bean wants you to be
entertained, and despite the show being almost 25 years old it still works as a fantastic adventure that will keep any
action fan enjoyed.
Sadly, not everything is perfect when it comes to Riding Bean. One of the biggest issues is Bean Bandit himself. Bean
comes across like a machine. Kenichi Sonoda, the creator of the series, states that a large portion of inspiration for
Bean Bandit came from movies like The Terminator and Rambo, and to be honest it seems that he’s taken on both
qualities of characters. Within this series, we see Bean take a shower of bullets, a shot to the head, and being hit by
a car and each time he gets up like nothing happened. The main villain of the series cries out “He can’t be
human!” and honestly, he certainly must not be. The man eats the skin of pineapples, drinks coffee directly out of
the pot and doesn’t wake up when a stun gun is used on him. One of the greatest thrills of an action series is being
able to suspend your beliefs and go along for the ride, but Riding Bean asks you to suspend far too much of your
beliefs. Bean Bandit comes across like a machine. It’s never properly explained why his headband can absorb bullets,
or why his jacket works the same as plated-filled Kevlar, and as more crazy things happened to him, I started to lose
more interest in him. A hero that can’t be stopped isn’t a fun hero to watch. Opposition is necessary for growth,
and overcoming that opposition makes us root for that hero even harder. Bean literally cannot be stopped by anything,
and even flips a car by himself. While these scenes I discussed are near the end of the show, I have to mention them
because if they sound like something that would bother you then they most certainly will.
Another thing that is really out there is the brief touch upon pedophilia. There’s a scene where Mr. Grimwood is
being held captive, and this young lady is watching over him. We get this scene where he talks about having to go to
the bathroom and she offers to help him. He refuses, and she continues to push the matter, claiming that “Her
Mistress says that she’s really good”. While Mr. Sonoda likes to put disturbing themes, or things that people are
uncomfortable with, in some of his work to give a dose of how gritty reality can be, in this series it makes absolutely
no sense nor does it serve much of a purpose. While nothing happens, it’s one of those scenes that make you raise an
eyebrow and wonder just what were they thinking when they decided to put this in there.
Art is a tough subject to discuss. As mentioned, Riding Bean is an old series. There’s no avoiding that. The series
definitely has a dated look to it, and with many series from back in the 80s and early 90s it is a a much grittier
look. A lot of the appearance is largely due to cels only being used back then without any form of computer aided
assistance. There’s also a lot of short cut techniques used. Scenes when the police cars are driving out of the
police station, the pedestrians are just staying motionlessly while the cars zip out. In the very same scene, there’s
also an issue with how the animation was done, as the first police car blips in and out of the frame in a completely
different spot. This is definitely an older series that may turn away some people.
However, for me that is part of the charm. When the series looks good oh boy does it. Bean’s gear shifting in his
car is incredibly smooth and the car chases are an absolute feast on the eyes to watch. Chicago, where Riding Bean
takes place, is clearly detailed and shown here. It’s mentioned that the production team went to Los Angeles to get a
good feel for an American environment and I have to say they did a spot on job with this. Not only that, but the
incorporation of English I saw in the show struck me as very accurate. Or at least there were no visible signs of
Riding Bean is all about the fine details, and you get a whole lot of detail here. Once again, I have to reiterate for
a show this old there are definitely some imperfections, but I am shocked as to how great it still looks.
Bean Bandit is one interesting bird.
After some digging on the internet, I found out that during the production phase there was talk of using a complete
English dub for the original release, along with an English-based soundtrack. While the first idea was scrapped, they
ended up making what is an incredible soundtrack. Phil Perry and Andrea Robinson released several songs that can be
heard throughout the show and this is some seriously top quality stuff. If the heart of Riding Bean lies within the
action and the visual presentation of that action, the soul itself lies within the soundtrack.
A big part of what makes this OVA so successful is just how good it is. I can’t stress enough that these songs scream
80s and I mean that as the highest compliment that I can pay. It fits the environment and the mood the visuals and
story creates and only serves to elevate it. One of the rare cases that a soundtrack has helped a show I’ve watched
reach a new height by being completely in-sync with it. I mean, how can you not feel that way with a song like this?
In terms of vocals, it must be said that this is one of the earliest dubs brought over to the United States. As a
result, the English soundtrack is far, far weaker in comparison to the Japanese dub. However, company AnimEigo
shouldn’t be discredited. The dub itself isn’t terrible, but dubbing has come a long way since the early 90s and if
there was ever an example to compare to, this would be at one end.
As for the Japanese, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but Hideyuki Tanaka makes for a fantastic Bean Bandit. I read
about Bean Bandit in a different manga (that I plan on reviewing in the future) before watching this OVA, so I had a
mental picture of what he sounded like and I must confess Tanaka-san is quite spot on with him. Naoko Matsui covers
Rally Vincent, and Kei Tomiyama delivers some absolute gold as Percy. Mr. Tomiyama steals the show in this, simply
because of just how over-the-top he handles Percy. You can’t help but to laugh at his character because he is just so
out there, and in the best way.
Sound effects are also nicely handled in this action flick. With the cars revving powerfully, the guns were blazing and
the explosions booming. Certainly everything necessary for a over-the-top action OVA. It just depends on how much you
still enjoy the 80s.
Riding Bean and Bean Bandit may have been cut short as a series, but make no mistake about what it brought to the table.
I can definitely see why a lot of elements in Bean Bandit were used in Gunsmith Cats. There’s a lot of potential for
a great series here and it certainly would be far from dull.
However, certain aspects like Bean Bandit literally being a tank and some really misguided use of mature content wane
this experience from being legendary. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be discredit for what it is. A solid, action-packed
80s thrill ride. Riding Bean set out to achieve something, and in my book it certainly did just that.
6.67 (above average)
Reviewed by CyanideBlizzard, Nov 10, 2013