Lady Death: The Motion Picture -

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Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Lady Death

Lady Death: The Motion Picture

By Mike Dungan     October 10, 2004
Release Date: October 05, 2004

Lady Death: The Motion Picture
© ADV Films

What They Say
Only in death does she find the will to live. Her legend begins in the 15th century. Stripped of her innocence by her father's betrayal, a pious, young woman, Hope, is sentenced to a trial by fire. She reluctantly accepts her father's offer of life in Hell over a hideously painful death. Lucifer's offer takes a diabolical twist as she discovers her true origins and the existing fate of her lost love and departed mother.

Unable to corrupt a soul of such purity, Lucifer banishes Hope to the horrors of Hell, where she must find the strengh and courage to survive and ultimately return to free the souls of the ones she loves. Together with the valiant outcast, Cremator and her trusted companions, Vassago and the Nameless Wolves, she is transformed into the powerful warrior Lady Death and challenges the Lord of Lies for control of Hell itself.

The resulting conflict explores the depths of faith and love as an alternative to the corruction power of evil.

The Review!
The 5.1 mix is well used here, giving depth and space to the various characters and background noises. Bruce Faulconer, Wade Shemwell and the rest of the sound mix crew did an excellent job of creating the ominous feel of hell. Bill Brown's music fit in well, never overwhelming the scenes, but always bringing out the right emotions.

The color palette of this movie is primarily gray, evoking not the fire and brimstone of the traditional view of hell, but a cold and desolate landscape. The few colors that do exist, primarily red, really jump out at the viewer. Color saturation is gorgeous, and there were no instances of aliasing I could find.

The cover is a very dark image of the massively well-endowed Lady Death in a dramatic pose, as Lucifer looms in the background and Pagan emerges from a graveyard in the foreground. The title is written in gothic lettering, and what little whitespace there is is actually silvery in tone. The back cover is black with a lot of silver text and some red splashes of blood in the background and a few images from the film. Overall, the look is very dark, well in keeping with the tone of the movie, but it's also rather difficult to read or make out much of anything. There are two inserts. One is the cover image backed by the chapter menu, and the other advertises a Lady Death wall scroll and the soundtrack CD, backed by an offer of limited edition cels.

The menus are well-designed with a bit of animation to keep it interesting. Selecting something causes the screen to pan to a side image. Transitions are quick and straight-forward, and it's easy to see what you've selected.

There are two four minute long image galleries. One is the backgrounds, the other are the characters. The characters are interesting, since it shows the evolution of the designs from first draft to finished product. There is a "making of" featurette with director Andrew Orjuela and some of the Korean animation staff, with the translated voices being supplied by ADV voice acting stalwarts John Swasey and Shelly Calene-Black. There is also a commentary track by Orjuela and two of the ADV production team which gives quite a bit of insight into the process of creating the movie.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A hideous horde of monsters marches on a blasphemous cathedral in Hell. A beautiful, barely-clad woman on a horse commands the army. As they await her command to attack, she hesitates, and we learn what has brought her to this point.

Hope was a beautiful young woman in love with Niccolo who is studying medicine. Her father Matthias, an ominous, powerful figure drenched in blood, takes him away for his army, much to Hope's horror. Later, she discovers the truth. Her father is Lucifer, who is stealing souls for his own purpose. The townspeople rebel and attack the castle. Hope survives the attack, but is burned at the stake in her father's stead. As she literally burns in a hideously animated sequence, she reluctantly agrees to a life in hell over the horrific pain of being burned alive.

Once in hell, she rejects her father's ambitions and he flings her into the depths. She encounters the Nameless Wolves and a large, powerful man, Cremator. Like Hope, he also accepted a life in hell to spare the lives of the ones he loves, only to have been betrayed. Recognizing Hope's power, he trains her to become powerful enough to stand up to Lucifer.

From there, we watch the movie play out to it's inevitable conclusion: Hope's final confrontation with her father, Lucifer.

I was very interested in seeing what ADV would produce for their first original animated feature. While I've been a fan of comics for more than 15 years, Brian Pulido's Lady Death wasn't something I was overly familiar with. Since anime voice acting always requires the voice actors to match existing mouthflaps, I was curious to see how the actors would respond to getting to record their lines before the animation was made, freeing them from the tyranny of the mouthflap. I was also interested in what Carl Macek, a man both revered and reviled for his pioneering contributions to bringing anime to the US, had created for a screenplay. I sat down to watch this movie with great anticipation. Twenty minutes into the movie, I was already looking at the clock, wondering how much longer I had to endure it. It wasn't the that the movie was poorly made. It was just boring. Not once during the 80 minutes was I presented with something even remotely surprising. The movie plodded along from one plot point to the next in a perfectly predictable line. Plot points that could have added drama were left hanging, such as Hope's over-reliance on a sword to channel her power. There were even a couple of hokey moments, such as a severed head flying directly at the camera, making me think I should be wearing my 3-D glasses to get the full effect. The animation is fine up to a point, but don't think this is the sort of smooth, detailed animation of a feature length (and budget) film. The animation can be a bit jerky in places. Characters mostly keep to the model sheets, though one can have a lot of fun watching the prominent scar on Cremator's chest change size, shape and location.

While the movie commits the sin (if you'll forgive the pun) of being terminally boring, there are several positives as well. The backgrounds are stunning, and the decision to make hell cold and lonely rather than fiery and scream-filled made for a nice change of pace. The acting is solid, with some great performances. Christine Auten plays Hope/Lady Death, best known for her work in roles such as Priss in Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 and Sakaki in Azumanga Daioh. Auten is a formidable actress known for both a smokin' hot voice and great dedication to the art of acting. She smoothly makes the transition from simple, innocent Hope to dangerous, powerful Lady Death with an ease that is breathtaking. Rob Mungle is another ADV veteran, known for playing both comic characters (Pedro in Excel Saga) and dramatic roles (Kunikida in Blue Seed). He plays Cremator with simple conviction, giving Lady Death the one ally she can always count on. Mike "Voice of God" Kleinhenz (Majima in Najica Blitz Tactics, Kabapu in Excel Saga) turns that nickname on it's head, playing Matthias/Lucifer. His deep, powerful voice is perfectly suited to the role, never once sounding stressed. His performance gives Lucifer the commanding presence the character needs. Hope's imprisoned lover Niccolo is played by Chris Patton (Ayato in RahXephon, Rei in SuperGALS!) with innocent grace, and he gives a moving performance near the end of the movie. The highlight of the show for me was the character of Pagan, an evil court jester to Lucifer. He's played with delicious glee by Andy McAvin (Coach Kido in Princess Nine, Icchan in Angelic Layer). McAvin was obviously having fun with the character, and nearly steals the show.

In Summary:
Despite the many good points about Lady Death, it all comes down to whether it was a good movie or not. It's not. The all too predictable script hobbles the movie, limiting it's appeal. The good news is that it's a good first effort for ADV and Andrew Orjuela. I expect their next original production to draw on the strengths of this effort and go forward from there.

English 5.1 Language,English Closed Captions

Review Equipment
NEC CT-2510A TV, Pioneer 440 codefree DVD player


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