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  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 82
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Demon City Shinjuku

Demon City Shinjuku

By Jon Turner     February 07, 2002
Release Date: December 01, 1998



The Review!
Video Quality: **** out of *****
Audio Qualty: **** out of *****
English Language Track: **1/2 out of *****
Japanese Language Track: **** out of *****
Packaging: ***1/2 out of *****
Menus: ** out of *****
Extras: *1/2 out of *****
Content: ***1/2 out of *****

Overall Rating: *** out of *****

Review:
I will admit that Yoshiaki Kawajiri's films have never been favorites of mine - NINJA SCROLL and WICKED CITY, the only two I ever saw, were too violent and gory for my tastes, and sexually explicit, too. But there was another film of Kawajiri's I saw as well, and that was DEMON CITY SHINJUKU, which happens to be my second Anime DVD. Of his films, DEMON CITY SHINJUKU is the one I can ever afford to watch without getting a sick stomach. (VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST is the only other exception.) It's not my favorite Anime, but it is a solid flick to enjoy on a rainy afternoon.

VIDEO QUALITY: **** out of *****
After the breathtaking treatment I saw with PRINCESS MONONOKE, I was a bit disappointed when I saw the transfer on my iMac. It looked too... well, videoish; there were those lines that gave it away. On my DVD player, however, the image was much clearer and brighter, although not perfect. At least there is no grain or jumpy images, which earns the video quality a passing grade.

AUDIO QUALITY: **** out of *****
The differences in the audio are very noticeable on the English and Japanese tracks. The latter track features a more clear, rich sound (particularly in the music department), but the English track is muffled slightly, and the dialogue comes more through the right channel. But the dialogue on both tracks is understandable and clear, with no static pops anywhere. No problems here.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRACK: **1/2 out of *****
I am not usually offended by English dubs (the one that did offend me was Streamline Pictures' old AKIRA dub), but this dub produced by Manga UK and distributed by US Manga Corps is not one of the best I've heard. The problem is not with the acting; the actors do a decent job delivering the emotion, even though they lack the energy of the Japanese actors. Unfortunately, the actors are reading from a script that drastically changes around the dialogue - watch this track with the subtitles and you'll see what I mean. There are lines added in where there originally weren't any lines, and some lines are omitted where a character is talking (For example, in the English dub, the street kid, called Chibi, moves his mouth at one point, and he doesn't say ANYTHING!), and there is extra profanity where it isn't really necessary. In addition, some lines come off as unintentionally funny, particularly when Kyoya says "Thanks, Dad!" when he receives his father's sword at the movie's climax. This drawback is the worst of the dub; the only other drawback is that the characters have different accents. Kyoya's American accent didn't bother me so much, but Sayaka, strangely, speaks with a British accent, which isn't all that bad, but it is a strange curiosity. The problem continues for many of the characters - Chibi speaks with an Irish accent, Mephisto speaks with a Transylvanian accent, and some of the other female leads (particularly the old crone at the music store) sound somewhat southern. Why the accents? This is supposed to set in Japan, is it not?! These two drawbacks hamper the dub from being anything good. In short, this dub is OK but not great; far from the worst dub I've ever heard, but it is a far cry from some of the better dubs I've heard. Miyazaki's films or LODOSS WAR, anyone?

JAPANESE LANGUAGE TRACK: **** out of *****
I heard bits and pieces of this after I heard the English dub. The characters, thankfully, do not have multi-cultural accents, but are Japanese. The only voice I didn't like was Kyoya's voice - he sounds more like an old man rather than a streetwise punk (at least in my opinion); the dub accomplished this much better, but from watching the subtitles and hearing the track, it is easy to see why the Japanese language track is preferable to the English dub.

PACKAGING: ***1/2 out of *****
Not anything outstanding, but above average. Just a pretty cover image identical to the video release, but on the reverse side, there are some interesting facts from four of the film's creators, story writer Hideyuki Kikuchi (who also did VAMPIRE HUNTER D and WICKED CITY), director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, setting designer Masao Maruyama, and animation director Naoyuki Onda.

MENUS: ** out of *****
On my iMac, the menus were AWFUL. The problem wasn't that they are flat; they are actually pretty decent and well-designed, but the access time, and control was SO frustratingly hard that it made it difficult for me to navigate successfully. On my Philips DVD player, I didn't encounter the same problem, but still, I expected more from the menus.

EXTRAS: *1/2 out of *****
The only "extras" around are the trailers for upcoming US Manga Corps, and the "character introductions" screens are actually just clips from the film. This is certainly a sorry excuse for the extras department! I've seen far better DVD treatments with other releases.

CONTENT: ***1/2 out of *****
DEMON CITY SHINJUKU is not anything original in the storyline department: it starts out with a duel between mystic warrior Gennichirou Izaiyoi and evil sorcerer Rebi Rah which culminates with Shinjuku transforming into the Demon City. Flash forward ten years later, and Gennichirou's brash, bad-tempered son, Kyoya, a practitioner of the art of Nempo, watches the Federation President get kidnapped by the Demons on TV, and is summoned by his father's teacher, Master Rai, to travel to Shinjuku and rescue him. Kyoya declines when he comments on how "lazy" he is, and heads for home, only to run into the President's lovely daughter, Sayaka. She somehow convinces him to come along with her into Shinjuku and rescue her father from the clutches of Rebi Rah, who is intent on unleashing the Demons into the real world. Along the way, they encounter many dangers, including a stranger who attempts to rape Sayaka, an old woman who runs a music store, a streetwise punk kid (called Chibi in the dub), Mephisto, a mysterious yet helpful mystic who is just a "neutral observer", and yes, Demons, Demons, Demons.

This kind of story has been told one too many times, however it is executed rather well. The characters, although somewhat two-dimensional, play their roles admirably. Even Kyoya's metamorphosis into a brave, noble hero is not a cliche; it's done very effectively. The monsters are scary and frighteningly designed, and could very well give young kids nightmares for weeks!

The artwork is not first-rate, but it comes close. The human characters are close to realistically drawn (with the exception of Chibi), although not quite so, and the creatures, as with many of Kawajiri's films, are grotesquely designed and animated. The movement is a tad stiff at times, but by and large the animation is pretty decent.

The content of the movie is also tolerable; the violent scenes are thankfully not as gory as they could have been (unlike those in NINJA SCROLL and WICKED CITY), sparing one from getting a sick stomach. In addition, Sayaka isn't really raped; we only see her dress come partially down (no bare breasts), but Kyoya saves her just in time. There is one scene where Mephisto gets into a sexual encounter with a Demon posing as a woman, but all we just see is a shot of her left bare breast. Those who are fans of some of the more explicit sex scenes in NINJA SCROLL and WICKED CITY may be disappointed by the execution of such scenes, but for me, this is a relief.

The music is the least interesting aspect of the film. It ranges from a rock and roll band to new age ambience, with a memorable theme played from time to time. It's not terrible by any means; the end title song is actually quite decent, but it doesn't rank up there with some of the better scores I've heard.

DEMON CITY SHINJUKU is not a classic, but it works well as a flick to watch on a rainy day. It's also fun to watch on Halloween as a good time-killer when you have nothing better to do. It may stumble on some levels, but the good outweighs the bad by far.

OVERALL RATING: *** out of *****
The DVD release of DEMON CITY SHINJUKU could have been much better. With a lack of extras and a so-so English dub combating against a decent video transfer and audio mix, this purchase is clearly not the perfect disk! It may, however, work well as a passable purchase; it did for me, in spite of the quibbles I have. Those of you who have been spoiled by far better DVDs, however, may not find it as rewarding.



Review Equipment
TEAC AG-V8520 Audio/Video Surround Receiver, Samsung TV, Phillips DVD711 Player, and Acoustic Speakers

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