This film is a strange case, mainly because, believe it or not, it wasn’t originally released as a film. It was originally two episodes of an original video animation (or OVA) back in 1989, but they were later compiled into a single movie when released on DVD, so for all intents and purposes, this is a made-for-TV anime movie, and in many ways, it certainly shows.
The overall plot concerns the rise of demons (or Yoma in this film), fuelled by the spilt blood of warriors slain amidst a terrible war ravaging the land. A skilled ninja named Hikage seeks to end the bloodshed and stop the Yoma from wreaking destruction on humanity, but he must fight his deceased friend, a fellow ninja named Marou who was killed in battle, and resurrected in order to serve the Yoma.
That summary alone glosses over a very muddled and disorganised plot that essentially jumps from one formulaic and impotent fight scene to the next, in a sort of “monster of the moment” fashion, with no real thread tying everything together. In an action-oriented anime film, you’d think that it’d be a good thing to have lots and lots of violent action scenes, but the film does this so sloppily that it’s downright boring, and that’s such as shame because it seems as if it could easily have been good if done properly.
Another problem is the characters. They’re incredibly hard to take seriously, and that’s mainly because of the horrendously bad English dub, which makes the characters sound very ridiculous with wooden acting. As I may have mentioned in a few other reviews, this is pretty common in older anime films, and in this one, it makes the film sound comical. Sadly, this isn’t the kind of film that sought to take advantage of accidental humour. I’m sure the original Japanese voice acting is much better (I hope), because in English, it sounds like everyone’s shouting out what the protagonist should do next, either because the script was poorly translated, or because it was bad in the first place.
The art style isn’t bad. It’s typical of anime from the 80’s and early 90’s, but it looked pretty good, but the problem is the choppy animation. In at least one scene, Hikage is seen talking to and old man, and the old man’s lips don’t even move. Very often it seems as if this was sloppily made, as if rushed in order to meet a rather slim deadline. I guess the music sort of makes up for it, in its own somewhat cheesy way, but it doesn’t make up for everything else. The action scenes should have been very good, but because of the choppy direction and bad writing, they’re boring and ineffectual.
Why they decided to merge two TV episodes into a movie simply baffles me. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a mediocre TV production, and barely qualifies as a movie. Either way, this film should have been better, and I was hoping it would be good, but apparently the producers were a bit too incompetent for that to happen, and what we have is an inferior film that leaves very much to be desired.
- Score: 52%
- Grade: D