Shuten Doji Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 27, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 26, 2005
What They Say
Jiro Shutendo seems like a normal kid, but somehow he still feels different from his friends and schoolmates. It never crossed his mind that he might not be human at all! When Jiro’s girlfriend is kidnapped by a band of evil monsters, he must journey through time and space to rescue her and discover his true origin.
Demons from space leave a child on Earth for protection but now he's reached an age where he's a threat to the plans of others.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is a product of its time and it feels fairly limited in its range but mostly just has a full feeling to it with the action effects and music while most of the dialogue comes across through the center channel. It's a busy sound mix but it doesn't really have much in the way of directionality but this is true of most OVAs from this time period. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track.
Originally released in 1989, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. A lot of OVA series over the years were done in widescreen in order to provide it with a theatrical and bigger than life feel and it's something that fits well with this series. Being from 1989, the print here has suffered a fair bit over the years and you can see grain and dirt on the print throughout at various places along with the occasional nick and scratch, but nothing that truly detracts from it if you're used to seeing how material from this area tends to look. There's a bit of noticeable blocking throughout that's cause by the visible level of grain and there's a few scenes where you can really notice both some aliasing and jitter, things again that are common to more traditionally animated shows. The transfer isn't one that shines, especially compared to new shows, but it is what you'd expect from a show of this vintage.
The cover art screams out classic and Go Nagai with its design as you get the lead character in his transformed state wielding a knife and wearing practically nothing while Miyuki is behind him and she's got on even less. The murky background provides the form for the oni to show itself but also to just have something of a dark and bloody feel to it. The cover has a strong horror feel to it, especially with the logo, that jumps out nicely. The back cover keeps up the murky feeling and supplies some demonic artwork there as well as a few shots from the show. The summary goes over the premise easily enough and they also list the two episode numbers and titles, though they should have made a bigger deal of their individual running time, which is easily figured out from the total in the grid but could throw a casual buyer at first. No insert was included with this release nor is the cover reversible.
The main menu is a simple static piece that has a dark red background with a demonic face taking up a huge chunk of the landscape while they overlay it with the character artwork from the front cover – where Miyuki loses her bra – which is still done in full color, all of which is set to a bit of creepy music that involves a lot of heavy demonic breathing. The selections are few with just the episodes here so access times are nice and fast and the navigation is easy. The disc did correctly read our players' language presets as well
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shuten Doji takes one of the things that Go Nagai simple loves to deal with and puts a bit of twist on it but for the most part he keeps with the good stuff. Taking place in the present day, we get to see in the past back to Heiankyo and then up to fifteen years prior to where today stands. At that time we meet a young couple up in the mountains at the shrine where they're introducing themselves to their ancestors as part of their getting married.
Unfortunately for them, this is also the time when one of the oni we saw from the past where they arrived on space ships has come through and carries a human shaped baby in its mouth. It reaches out to the young couple and they take the baby into their possession but with the knowledge that they'll be back in fifteen years in order to guide him towards his true heritage, but that they want him raised as a mortal human first. The two do just that, forsaking children of their own, and raise the young boy they name Jiro. Over the course of the fifteen years they spend time trying to research myths and stories about the oni in the area in order to understand what is coming but also in an attempt to be able to save Jiro from whatever his fate may be.
Jiro's awakening starts at just the right time as forces are now preparing their own agendas for the world and they know that they either have to bring Jiro to their side or eliminate him. Taking advantage of his human nature, the oni decide to work through some humans and capture a young woman named Miyuki who is a friend of Jiro's and they're able to trick him into a situation where they have the upper hand. Drawing him into their own dream world, Jiro faces things that seem like reality but may not be, or are they? The oni work well in confusing him with what he sees and making him question everything around him.
Jiro initially has to deal with this kind of problem by himself, though he is able to transform into a blonde version of himself that has some powers he's able to control, but as he masters each obstacle in his way he eventually gains some friends who have powers of their own and is able to fight back more effectively against the group that's trying to kill him. When they group expands a bit and we get some more ruffians that are actually decent guys and girls, Jiro gets to experience some interesting types of demons that come down to eliminate him as well as getting to deal with one demon that's actually his servant and has been since he was born, protecting him from all sorts of problems over time.
Shuten Doji is definitely something that is instantly familiar to anyone who has seen Go Nagai's works before, though at least unlike Devil Man, this one doesn't feel as overly bloody and needlessly convoluted within a short space of time. There is a fair amount of nudity here as women are essentially objects to be sacrificed or saved depending on which side your're on but they do provide useful parts in the show and aren't completely given over to being objects. The animation and artwork is also nicely consistent with things we've seem from Go Nagai over his career as well so there's a feeling of continuity to his works that exists. Whether that's good or bad depends on how much you like his works. The more I see the less partial to them I become, but Shuten Doji is one that at least seems to play more straightforward with its material and rely less on quirks and just constant action to save it.
With its first two episodes, Shuten Doji does a decent job of setting up the battle between sides that it wants to portray but I think it simply moves too fast in the opening episode from setup to action, not giving us enough time to linger with Jiro or connect with him before he simply becomes the angry young man with a chip on his shoulder about what's expected of him. Once past that though it runs as expected and does large leaps between plot points and locales as it plays out. There's a strong feeling of similarity that permeates most of Go Nagai's works when converted to anime and Shuten Doji is no different. While this comes across as more interesting than some of his other works I've seen, it's still not something that will get me jumping up and down and recommending him to people unless they're already fans of his stuff. Shuten Doji's not bad, but it's still not something that gets me excited.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shuten Doji