Demon Lord Dante Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Sunday, June 06, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 25, 2004



What They Say
Ryo Utsugi has been disturbed by nightmares of being attacked by a gigantic, demonic creature with blood dribbling from its teeth. One day, he develops a mysterious power to hear voices and foresees horrifying images of women being killed. Then, at a cottage in the mountains, he hears the same voice. ?Who is this?! Who is talking to me?!?- Ryo runs out of the cottage, jumps off a cliff following the voice, and gets transported to the Himalayas in a blink. There, he encounters the monster from his nightmare: Demon Lord Dante, who had been sealed in ice for 2000 years! Hideous murders, Satanists? black mass, the secrets of the Utsugi family? mysterious things await Ryo, who is transfigured into Dante.

The Review!
After its initial manga run over thirty years, Go Nagai's Demon Lord Dante makes its anime appearance. However, the Demon Lord's resurrection starts off a bit flat.

Audio:
My primary viewing session consisted of the Japanese audio track. It is a straightforward stereo track containing no noticeable problems. Most of the track is dialogue, but there are spots that capture the creepy, otherworldly feel of the demons. Music and dialogue were balanced well and did not overshadow each other; outside of the opening and ending theme songs, the music does not make much of an impact while watching the series. The end result is a solid but not overly impressive audio track.

Video:
Grading this video track presents an interesting challenge. It is a very clean transfer containing no noticeable defects on the print itself or from the digital transfer. The colors are vibrant and present some great detail in both the day and night scenes. On the whole, it is a sharp, beautiful transfer, but that is not the end of the story.

First off, Geneon has placed the English translated credits directly onto the print, and the original credits are not present on the disc. What will likely annoy consumers most though is the apparent editing of the video for the series. As first reported in the forums, several scenes have been partially obscured to cover-up nudity or graphically violent scenes. While there is no official word, it is likely that the Japanese distributor made these changes, as they have a history of doing so.

The obscuring of the scenes does not dramatically affect the plot, but it is painfully obvious that the video has been altered. It is an unwelcome and irritating distraction, one that is likely to be obvious to those unfamiliar with how graphic Go Nagai's work is. Both of these items tarnish what is otherwise a solid transfer.

Packaging:
Dante's demonic face dominates the middle of the front cover; a close-up of his eyes and Ryo's face nestled between them hovers above him. The logo and volume title are engulfed in flame at the bottom. The back cover contains the requisite synopsis, screenshots, and disc specifications. No volume number is present on the packaging; no insert was present, as this was a promotional copy.

Menu:
A close-up of Ryo's face takes up most of the main menu. The menu items are to the right of the screen over a flaming background. A piece of music loops in the background; the final touch is a periodic flash that has Dante's face appearing over Ryo's. Transitioning between menus has Dante's face clearly but briefly flashing on the screen.

Extras:
There was an interesting mix of extras on this disc. First, we have a brief highlight clip containing scenes from episodes three and four. In an interesting move, we also have a highlight clip that contains scenes from episodes five and six, episodes that are not present on this disc. It makes a nice teaser for the next volume.

Rounding out the extras are character profiles, clean versions of the opening and ending themes, the US trailer, and some clips from the Japanese press conference announcing the creation of the series. While it was brief, the latter extra was a unique extra allowing the viewer a glimpse of both Go Nagai and the director for the series.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over thirty years ago, Go Nagai penned a manga tale entitled Demon Lord Dante. It was the creative beginning of ideas and concepts that he would continue to flesh out in later works. Finally, this progenitor of works like Devilman is brought to life in anime form. Sadly, the first four episodes do little to make one think the wait was worth it.

Utsugi Ryo is plagued by nightmares of a demon trapped in the Himalayas. Night after night, his panicked screams wake his younger sister Saori up. Ryo becomes increasingly depressed, and his father decides that a new motorcycle will clear his head. On his first ride out, Ryo almost loses his head in the process.

When he awakes, he finds that the nightmares have disappeared only to be replaced by waking visions of young women being chased and murdered. Coincidentally, someone or something has been tearing the hearts out of young girls in the same city. Unknown to him, Ryo's father seems privy to the fact that devils are walking the earth; only his organization dedicated to God can stop them from bringing destruction to humanity.

The God group's antithesis is a group of Satanic cultists led by Professor Veil, the reincarnation of the demon Veil Zebub; according to Demon Lord Satan's prophecy, the greatest of all Demon Lords, Dante, will be resurrected and bring a fiery end to all of God's earthly civilizations. All that is required is the proper sacrifice; this sacrifice turns out to be Ryo's sister Saori.

While the God Squad attempts to stop the black mass, Ryo motors his way into the sacrificial chamber moments. None of the cultists make an effort to stop him and simply turn away to make their escape. In a bizarre narrative scene, the cultists possess a bunch of fish at the aquarium to discuss the situation. Not only do they have a God Squad traitor in their midst, but they are confused by recent events. While Saori appears to be of God's lineage, Ryo is clearly of Satanic lineage. Veil is the only one unconcerned by this dichotomy due to his telepathic communications with Dante himself.

To hasten the prophecy along, Veil manipulates events and manages to trap Ryo in a mountain cabin. There, Ryo hears Dante's telepathic communications and runs off a cliff and straight into his nightmare. Ryo ends up in the Himalayas where Dante explains things to him. Dante was trapped in the Ice Hell 2000 years ago after a battle with God; Ryo is the first human with strong enough powers to hear and answer Dante's call. Dante tricks Ryo into breaking God's seal freeing him from his prison. As is his custom, Dante proceeds to eat Ryo in order to absorb Ryo's knowledge and power.

However, things take an unexpected turn; Veil successfully performs a black mass to call forth Dante, and Dante appears. The cultists are stunned, when they do not recognize the face embedded between Dante's eyes. As Dante storms off, we see that it is Ryo's face and learn that there is only one thought running through Dante's mind, "I must go home". The army futilely attempts to stop Dante's rampage, but it is a cultist that manages to halt Dante's progress. He tells Ryo that Ryo managed to overcome Dante's mind and is trapped in Dante's body. The volume ends as Ryo screams in agony over the situation.

Dante does little in its opening act to distinguish itself from the standard God versus the Devil plot line. You have the forces of good, the forces of evil, and the confused young man that can tip the scales of victory either way. We are rushed through the introduction of the characters and are given little chance to see any depth to them. The episodes also do little to add any mystery to the plot that would hook the viewer into continuing to watch. At best, we have a mysterious red-haired lady and an experiment his father is carrying out.

Both items seemly loosely tied into the plot and feel tacked on rather than integral parts of the overall story. Throw in a sister that is setup to be the savior for Ryo's mind and soul, and you have a paper thin plot that does not hold up. You can see a number of visual and thematic elements that Nagai expanded upon in his later works, but it is less entertaining than his later creations. If this anime series was made before works like Devilman, perhaps one could be more forgiving; at this late date though, there just is not much to recommend in this title at the moment. One can only hope for a strong middle and ending now that the pieces are in place.

In Summary:
You can see a lot of elements in Demon Lord Dante that were carried over to Nagai's later series; unfortunately, the start of Dante suffers a problem common to most progenitors. It has the spark of a numerous interesting concepts but fails to really draw the viewer into the plot. We watch a standard ultimate good versus ultimate evil power struggle, but there are no characters on either side that really makes the series stand out. Perhaps the series picks up steam (or would that be brimstone?) later on, but nothing in the opening batch of episodes really clicked with me.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/34.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Demon Lord Dante