Demon Lord Dante Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Monday, August 02, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2004



What They Say
The Army assaults Ryo, transformed into Demon Lord Dante, with a severe napalm attack, but his immortal body is too strong to be defeated. Tormented by the guilt of becoming a demon, Ryo?s despair and anger manifests as a vortex to destroy the city! Alarmed by Dante?s resurrection, Dadan, the Lord of Heavens orders the secret organization ?D? to release the Four Demon Kings to destroy Dante. At the same time, Ryo?s father Kousuke, the leader of ?D,? unleashes their hideous man-made monster, SX to fight Dante. Many are killed in the destruction of the city as these gods try to destroy Dante. Even the Heavens seem to turn evil as Armageddon begins. Does Ryo fight as a demon or fight against evil?

The Review!
The war between God and devils continues, and the lines between good and evil begin to blur. Demon Lord Dante wrecks havoc for another three episodes in volume two.

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:
Geneon provides another solid transfer for this volume; there are 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. Geneon has placed the English translated credits directly onto the print, and the original credits are not present on the disc. At first glance, it is a solid and lush transfer. But... the partial obscuring of certain scenes continues. While it does not affect the plot, it does detract from the impact a scene could make.

What will further frustrate consumers is the fact that pieces of the obscured scenes appear unaltered in the highlight clips in the extras section. These unaltered versions makes one wonder why those scenes are obscured but scenes of a demon chewing on a headless corpse is not. It is sad to see Nagai's works given this treatment, especially when the rest of the transfer is so good.

Packaging:
Demon Lord Dante dominates the entire front cover with an icy version of the series logo at the bottom. The back cover contains the requisite synopsis, screenshots, and disc specifications. No volume number is present on the packaging; the insert is a fold-out. The front cover image is on the outside of the insert; when you open up the insert, you are given a listing of the episodes with a number of images from them.

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. Functional and a touch creepy, the menus get you into the content quickly.

Extras:
Once again, the extras section contains highlights from upcoming episodes. Broken into two one-minute segments, we get a taste of what will be happening in episodes seven through ten. Four character profiles are also included, but the best extra is the roughly five minute interview with Go Nagai. He gives a very candid and amusing interview; at one point, he reveals that his first monster story came from the thought that making larger characters would take up more space on the page and be quicker to draw. He quickly learned that this was not a time saver.

He also reveals that the manga version of Dante was never finished because the magazine running it went out of business. Since this was the case, he told the makers of the anime version that they were free to pen a different ending. It was an interesting but brief interview, the sort of extra I enjoy seeing the most.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Go Nagai has always enjoyed turning the natural order of things on its head; he challenges one to question the labels of "good" and "evil" we place on things. We begin to see more of this in the second volume of Demon Lord Dante. Ryo stands tall above the army of Japan embedded in Dante's body; he begs the army to kill him and spare him from being a monster.

When they fail in this task, Ryo decides to wipe out humanity instead. The Japanese army does not take kindly to this new policy and drops a large load of napalm on Dante. As the fires rage around him, he senses the presence of another devil. Zenon confronts him and attempts to use his God-given power to destroy Dante for good.

Zenon fails at the expense of his own life; before he dies, Zenon engages in some cryptic name dropping. He tells Dante that he remembers the last day of Sodom and Gomorrah; Zenon urges Dante to borrow the power of Demon Lord Satan and to watch out for Adam and Eve. Dante flies off leaving the carnage behind.

Ryo reverts back to his human form and holes himself up in his room. The God Squad is trying to figure out how to defeat the growing devil menace; according to their latest communication with God, there are four demon kings that have made a pact with God to do his bidding. All four have been sealed up somewhere in Siberia.

Meanwhile, in a coal mine in Siberia, the Russian government has found a door bearing an inscription that four demon kings are sealed behind it. Talk about good timing... The Russians are unable to open it even with large amounts of dynamite; the door eventually opens itself and reveals the four demon kings. The demons quickly wipe out the Russian division and head towards Japan.

The remainder of the volume focuses around three central plot lines. First is the carnage caused by the demon kings in an effort to drive humanity into the fight against the demonic forces. Second is the struggle inside Ryo to keep the powers of Dante in check. The more interesting plot line is the third.

The God Squad has created their own devil and is using to kill innocent women. Their goal is the same as the four demon kings; they want the ensuing panic to drive mankind into helping God eliminate the demons. While the rest of the God Squad blindly follows this path, only Sosuke questions the wisdom of this blind faith. How is doing evil in God's name make them different from those they are attempting to kill?

It is this thought provoking item alone that manages to save this volume; the bulk of the volume is either gruesome violence or ponderous dialogue. In essence, the dialogue is mostly Ryo arguing with Professor Veil or himself that he is a human being and not Demon Lord Dante. It was difficult to stay awake during most of these episodes; they do little to create an engaging story.

It is the questioning of Sosuke that makes one perk up and listen intently. Is killing in God's name a righteous act, or is it equivalent to the acts of demons? Is the only difference between the two the labels man has placed on them? This is a common theme in Nagai's work, and one I hope is explored more in this series before its end. At the moment, it is the one saving grace in an otherwise dull production. It is a shame that it is only touched upon briefly.

I also hope that the Biblical references play a more prominent part in the remainder of the story. While the mythology of the series can stand on its own, there are some interesting possibilities in how Nagai can rewrite the stories of the Bible in his own unique and twisted way. Something has to be done to lift this title out of the quagmire of mediocrity, and this angle just might be able to do just that.

In Summary:
It is not often I find a title this violent yet completely dull; the one redeeming grace of this series lies in the theological implications. Is a God that orders you to kill in its name something that we should consider good? Are demons evil only because they have lost a war and have been branded evil? While one can see this a bit in Ryo's struggle to control Dante's powers, the events to date do little to explore this theme in an interesting or entertaining manner.

The story continues to plod along with both sides committing violent acts. One is given little material to draw them into the story or to connect them to the characters. The premise may have promise, but it continues to be a battle against myself and the Demon Lord of Boredom.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Episode Previews,Character Profiles,Interview with Go Nagai

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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Demon Lord Dante