Created by one of the greatest mangakas of any past era, Kenichi Sonoda, 1989’s Riding Bean was that rare spark of animation genius in the late 80s that helped make me fall in love even more with this new expression across the pond known as “anime.” It was also short-lived in only existing as a single Original Video Animated feature (48mins).
The story follows a day in the life of courier-for-hire Bean Bandit, also known as The Road Buster, famous for being on both sides of the law in the mean streets of Chicago. With his trusted partner, Rally Vincent (who would later star in her own series some 2 years later) , Bean is up to his neck in drama when a band of clever thieves frame him for the kidnapping of the daughter of a wealthy electronics mogul.
With a Chi-town police lieutenant equipped with a deathwish-like desire (albeit a comedic one–most of the time at his own expense) to capture the Tire for Hire hot on his trail and the real thieves close to getting away with a ransom in $2million in cash, Bean has to uncover the scheme, avoid the police and get revenge (and hopefully the cash) all in one day.
Riding Bean was one of the great things that made me fall in love with anime. With its unconventional (and outstanding) soundtrack, courtesy of R&B legend Phil Perry along with musician David Garfield, Riding Bean was unique, it was campy, it was filled with impressive animated sequences for its time (and budget) and it was unapologetically 80s. But due to creative differences between creator Sonoda-san and its rights holder at the time Toshiba EMI, Bean Bandit’s adventures never went beyond the single OVA. But this event gave birth to another one of the great mangas/anime of all time for me in GunSmith Cats, 2 years later. Rally Vincent went from being Bean’s sidekick in RB (and caucasian) to being the star character, only this time of indian descent. Both are amazing.
Bean Bandit is also one of the visual inspirations to Philly The Kidd, a character in my own upcoming short, Cannon Busters.
Hulu streams the Riding Bean OVA as well. Both subbed & dubbed (I prefer subbed).