Doomed Megalopolis Special Edition -

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Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 175
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Doomed Megalopolis

Doomed Megalopolis Special Edition

By Chris Beveridge     September 30, 2003
Release Date: September 30, 2003

Doomed Megalopolis Special Edition
© ADV Films

What They Say
The powerful mystic Kato's obsession with conquering Tokyo awakens the long-dead spirit Masakato, the legendary guardian of Tokyo. Unable to stand alone against Masakato's power, the calculating Kato uses an innocent woman as an unsuspecting pawn in the hope of producing an offspring capable of challenging Tokyo's mystical protector. But Kato never counted on the effect that a team of unlikely heroes would have on his sinister plans. Nor could he anticipate the destruction his spells would cause to millions of innocent citizens.

The Review!
Just under a year after the release of the dub only version, the SE has arrived and we get the Japanese track for the first time.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The series has a pretty basic stereo mix that was mostly center channel based for dialogue while the music and some sound effects utilized the stereo channels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Originally released to video back in 1992, the transfer here is showing some wear and some age. Some cross coloration shows through and aliasing is problematic at times. Colors look decent if a bit dull in some areas but avoid any noticeable bleeding. The main problem comes from a number of mid range shots, something this series has in abundance, where things like character faces tend to look blocky or soft. With a lack of detail, the added sharpness and clarity of the encoding doesn’t help these areas much at all.

Done up in a double keepcase, the front cover has a nice piece of artwork with Kato’s face grinning behind a shaft of lightning that’s striking a building while some of the women from the show are in the foreground. The back cover provides a few shots from the show itself and a basic premise of the plot. The discs features are clearly listed but none of the extras are listed. The insert uses the cover art from the regular edition release while the reverse side is just more boxart advertisements.

The menu goes for simple and basic with what’s essentially a close up look at a bloodstream done digital with blood flowing in the background while the selections are laid over them. All of this is set to some of the more clangy sounding music from the show. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast.

The extras are rather interesting here, spread across two volumes. On the first volume we get a thirteen minute feature about mapping Tokyo, which takes us through a real-world tour of various landmarks and talks about elements from the show and the real improvement plan after the war. This is a very interesting piece and those who want to know more of the reality behind the stories will find it fascinating if you haven’t covered this material before. Another feature running just under thirteen minutes covers Tokugawa and his plans for Edo and how he wanted to make it a utopia by using Feng Shui masters to build it. And running just over thirteen minutes is a piece called Signs of Darkness, that looks into the darker side of the beliefs about how the city is protected.

The second disc has only one extra, a fifteen minute interview session with the supervising diretor, Rintaro, and one of the voice actors, Kyusaku Shimada. Shimada’s an interesting one to listen to as he comes across as quite deliberate in what he’s saying, avoiding a lot of the usual pauses and vague answers that extras like these contain. And as always, Rintaro’s interesting to listen to with his quite assured style and the way he presents what he’s done as being the right way without saying as much.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I remember way back in the early 90’s when this series was first released on tape, with it being pretty close to the Japanese release, complete with the wait between the final volumes. At the time, anime was just starting to show up in comic shops and it was a mix of dubbed Streamline material and most just subtitled shows from the couple of others that were working at that time. At that point, having not cared for a number of Streamline releases, I opted to avoid it. When it finally came to DVD last year, it was all in one set but again was only dubbed. Something about once more gave me pause and I had someone else review it. But now it’s finally come in bilingual form and it feels right to finally see it.

The story of Doomed Megalopolis is an interesting one, one that’s based on a novel and one that’s been told in other media as well over the years. The story takes place in one of the more intriguing times in recent Japanese history in the Taisho period, where the real east meets west movement was occurring and society was changing drastically. A time when you would have plans for tall buildings and modern scientific advances but also combined with many of the customs and beliefs of the past. The juxtaposition of these two pieces, not mutually exclusive, provides an engaging and different backdrop from shows taking place today or ones that take place in prior periods.

With this change, there comes the forces of the spiritual world as represented by Kato, a man who in 1908 begins his plans by utilizing a very spiritually powerful woman named Yukari to destroy the guardian spirit of the city. Going further back into history, we learn about a man named Masakado who had wanted to build a utopia in Japan and who had been adopted as something of the guardian spirit here. Kato intends to use Yukari to break his slumber and to destroy the city and all that it stands for, to inflict upon the people of today the pain of two thousand years of suffering.

Through Yukari, Kato works his powers via magic and shikigami to bind her to him, enough so that he even impregnates her with a child that will be his ultimate tool. During the first two episodes, we focus on the time where Kato starts to use his powers to build his plans and set things in motion. There’s a group of spiritualists who are working against him and using their own mystical powers to try and stop him, but in the end they’re not quite the match for him. What results is the great Kanto earthquake in 1923, a time that set thousands upon thousands dead, destroyed much and ruined many.

The second half of the series proves to be more interesting. With the reconstruction underway and many more western ideas being sifted throughout the government and population, plans for a gleaming city are in the works. But the ties to the past are strong, such as dealing with the dragons and their lines of power throughout the city. Using these focal points and bringing in a Feng Shui master, the process moves forward. But you can’t keep a good bad guy down and Kato returns, this time to use Yukari’s daughter to bring his plans to fruitition.

The storyline here is an interesting one and I’m still surprised that we don’t see more shows set around this time period or the changing point in history of the Kanto earthquake. Stories like these are usually pretty interesting and provide a new insight into the mix of western and eastern practices. What unfortunately happens to Doomed Megalopolis is that it suffers from two problems; it’s too long and it has Rintaro behind it.

The first is the length. With it being based on the novel, I can only assume that they wanted to get in as much as they could. I have no idea how much was cut from that to make this. With four episodes running about forty-five minutes each, we’re provided with a three hour story. By the fourth episode, you’re almost begging for it to end. A lot of this comes from the pacing. It’s a slow build to move along and there are just a number of characters in here where you feel absolutely nothing for. You become so detached that at times you start rooting for Kato just to shut up some of the people. There isn’t any one strong central lead character outside of Kato, which works against it as well. You want to be in line with Yukari, but she spends the second half nearly cracked. Her daughter shifts to a lead role, but she’s again only in the second half. And of the various male characters, many of them seem interchangeable unless they’re the spiritualists who’ve come to try and fix things.

The second problem is Rintaro. I love a lot of his material, but I will say easily and quickly that the material he does work with tends to have a lot of the same problems as above. He provides some great sweeping moments and excellent visual ideas to tell the story, but the stories themselves tend to become so bogged down that when you get a great visual moment, it only highlights just how bogged down things are. So much of the dialogue in this show goes on about nothing that it hinders the plot and pacing as well. A lot of that comes back to the lack of a real strong central lead character, which keeps the viewer from being properly set in place to follow the story being told the way it wants to be.

My main nitpick on the technical side is the lack of Japanese voice credits in the end credits here. If they’re somewhere else, they’re not easy to find.

Doomed Megalopolis is a case of it took long enough but at least it happened in that we finally have the Japanese dialogue version available and those who have wanted to partake all these years now can. Conceptually, there’s a lot of intriguing moments here and some fantastic extras. In practice though, the pacing and movement of the story left a lot to be desired, causing my attention to waver and several instances of checking to see how much time was left in each episode – neither of which is a good thing.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Interviews with Kyusaku Shimamuna and supervising director RinTaro,Video history segments

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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