Movie: A great many anime shows have their roots in Manga or other formats. If a series proves popular in the written form, it often gets an extended life in anime, often broadening the appeal to a whole new audience as well as making it more likely to be picked up by foreign distributors. Keeping in mind that this is not always a good thing, Geneon is now releasing a new series based on a thirty year old Manga, Demon Lord Dante: Dante Resurrects (volume 1).
Much like the darker themes of the Devil Lady series, Go Nagai's latest DVD release focuses on the horror and supernatural. The lead character, Ryo Utsugi, is an 18-year-old college student having really bad nightmares. Weird things are happening that are looking like they are related to a Satanist cult but he can't shake the idea that he's somehow involved with them. Thoughts of demons and death preoccupy his waking hours after a while and soon, he finds out why; he has an ability to communicate with a trapped demon, Lord Dante, that has suffered confinement in the Himalayas for eons, placed there by God. With all the ritualistic killings taking place, it seems logical that such a demon exists and the demon uses his bizarre powers to cause young Ryo to transport to the snowy mountains and free his highness. Once freed, the demon takes over Ryo and uses his will to start terrorizing the Earth once more. The four episodes on this DVD were:
Okay, the idea behind several other anime stereotypes was present here in spades. From the giant robot that has a human enter it and control it to do as he wishes to the horrible devil stories that Mr. Nagai has worked on in the past, the show was very slow in progressing past the basic events. If the series is designed to last a thousand episodes (I sure hope not), this is okay since it allows character development and a detailed story to take place but in the four episodes on the first DVD, it was simply boring. I know some of you will appreciate that there was a bit of graphic violence and even some minor nudity (if either work you up, please stop reading this review since you're likely way too young to be reading my reviews) but it wasn't anything special. In fact, the style of the animation used looked to be something from twenty years ago rather than a recent release.
If the direction and story were so weak, as well as the technical aspects, why waste you time and money on such a niche project? I nearly fell asleep on my couch when I watched this one, something I haven't done in a long time, and certainly not when supernatural demons were being bandied about on my television. For all the limitations this DVD had, I'm going to rate it as Skip It unless you're an absolute completist about this type of show. There's a reason why this one stayed on Manga for so long and it has nothing to do with the audience not being ready for it as Mr. Nagai suggests in the press conference (the reason is because the material is lame).
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color that it was originally made in. The colors were generally accurate and the print fairly clean but the limited animation employed (to save a few bucks) didn't keep my eyes interested very long. Also troublesome was the use of special effects during the sex and violence parts of the show, effectively blurring out what some of you probably still refer to as "the good stuff". Since that's the main selling point of the show, it seems tragic that it would be edited out like this.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of the original Japanese audio with optional English subtitles or an English dub track. Each employed a 2.0 Dolby Digital process and the majority of the show sounded crisp and clear, if average. The music was appropriate to the show but there wasn't much separation between the channels, nor was the dynamic range anything special in terms of making use of the effects and music to further the story.
Extras: For me, the best extra was a short (3 minute long) press conference clip with Go Nagai. The director Kenichi Maejima, and others describe how the show went from its original Manga incarnation to anime. It was far too short to answer my questions but it did answer some of them satisfactorily. The other extras included a series of short character biographies that provide an outline of the main characters, some trailer clips from the later episodes, the US trailer for the series, some other trailers to recent shows, a textless opening and closing, and a paper insert with a few pictures from each episode.
Final Thoughts: I like much of what Geneon releases these days and I think there is definitely a market for well done horror anime. The sad part is that so many people fall all over themselves when Go Nagai's name is mentioned, no matter what the quality of the release. This was the worst of his releases I've ever seen by a wide margin and I can only wonder if better horror anime exists to be brought over, although maybe not by as big a name as Mr. Nagai. If you really love his work, rent this first but I still didn't see a whole lot to enjoy here.
For much better anime choices, look at: DVDTalk's Best Of Anime 2003