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Doomed Megalopolis - Special Edition

ADV Films // Unrated // September 30, 2003
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted October 25, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Movie: I've been a fan of anime shows for a long time, longer than most of you out there I suspect. I remember Astro Boy when it first played in the USA (albeit barely) and shows ranging from Speed Racer to Star Blazers to Robotech (I know each of them was a bastardized version of their original Japanese release but kids are less discerning so bear with me a moment). In all that time, I've found something to like about almost every anime release I've seen outside of the occasional hentai flick (seeing demons rape women generally only works for perverts). In a re-release of an older anime, Doomed Megalopolis: Special Edition, ADV provides me with an example of a show that made me wince.

The show focused on a mystic, Kato, who is obsessed with his hatred for Tokyo (the titular Megalopolis) during the early 1900's. As Japan embraces Western ideas, and appears to many as becoming corrupted in the process, Kato's attempts revive a powerful being known as Masakado, a historical figure that legend says grew to become Tokyo's guardian, who doesn't appreciate Kato's efforts (to say the least). Kato loses his battle and Tokyo remained standing, for now. He later attempted to try a new ploy, one that involved a virgin giving birth to a half-demon, and this results in the Great Earthquake of Tokyo (in 1923) that leaves 23,000 dead and half the city in rubble. The hero's of the tale continually fight Kato and try to prevent his plans coming to fruition and that forms the basis of this four-part story.

The episode titles tell the basic idea of what happens in each, The Haunting of Tokyo, The Fall of Tokyo, The Gods of Tokyo, and The Battle For Tokyo with a bit of sadism tossed in to add appeal to the "can they do that in cartoons" crowd. The biggest news about this re-release is that it contains the original audio track, which the previous edition did not have. While dubbed anime sells much better, a lot of purists consider anything but the original release in all its forms (except the adding of subtitles of course) to be heresy. Personally, I enjoy both subtitled and dubbed versions of shows but understand the various arguments each side makes.

The voice acting in the dub is as mixed as the animation style here. Both made me think that the show was rushed back in the early 1990's when the show was released. I think one of the strengths of anime in general is that Japan has such a long history-a history full of spirits, hero's, and alien cultural aspects (well, alien to me)-to draw from that the creative people have carte blanch in terms of whatever they'd like to write about. My biggest complaint about this series is that the whole thing also seemed padded and if edited down a whole lot, maybe to about the length of a feature movie, it might've been a lot more interesting to me. The extras were what convinced me of that fact, as they dealt with the ideas behind the historical characters and scenario's of the series.

So, with all its problems yet solid original premise, what can I honestly rate this one? In short, do I completely overlook the many problems such as limited animation style, boring scenes, and goofy plot in favor of what "could" have been? Sorry, but it's only worth a rating of Skip It unless you're a fan of the bloated anime of yesteryear. ADV has released some of the very best anime in the last few years but I'd rather they focus on the good stuff instead of the older titles of limited value like this one.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The colors seemed off in many cases, almost to the point of being surreal, and the grain didn't help any either. To top it off, the video noise and artifacts jumped out due to the darker nature of the show and you'll see most of the flaws without looking very hard.

Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with a choice of either the original Japanese track with English subtitles or the English dub. Both of the audio tracks were decent and showed at least a bit of separation between the channels. The vocals were mixed properly with the music and this was one area I can say the company spent some time and energy.

Extras: The best extras were the series of three short featurette's that provided some historical background on the premises behind the show. Each had their own flavor and I found them all more interesting to watch than the feature itself. There was also a director's interview and an interview with one of the Japanese voice actors as well as the usual trailers and paper insert.

Final Thoughts: I stand by my assessment that ADV is one of the few shining beacons of anime in the USA but even they sometimes get stuck with a weaker legacy show that they feel the need to promote. If you really have to own all anime released or find the darker themes appealing, no matter how poorly executed (by the original Japanese creative staff, not ADV), go ahead and get this one. It does have the original Japanese audio track for the purists and the extras weren't bad but with so many better shows being released, why bother?

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