Mania Grade: NA
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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: 18 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Anime 18
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 200
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Nightmare Campus
By Giaourus Ericus
February 16, 2002
Release Date: December 20, 2000
AUDIO: A+ I'm primarily using the original Japanese audio track for this review. Both the Japanese and English tracks are in Dolby Digital Stereo. Overall, a very good job, with everything clear, crisp and undistorted. In particular, the lovely, epic musical score by Masamichi Amano (the "Urotsukidoji" series) comes through brilliantly, as do the demonic howls and regular dialogue. I can't comment on the directionality, because, for reasons that I don't feel like posting on the 'Net, I can't hear the soundtrack through my right ear at this time.
VIDEO: A- The authoring, while not excellent, is quite satisfactory - I noticed some slight archiving in a few of the darker scenes, but nothing much. The odd thing is that the film elements that this was taken off of seem very noticeably worn, with white scratches frequently in evidence (very noticeable in the opening view of The Himalayas), and a lot of dust motes. Also, light-colored objects on dark backgrounds often show a slight halo, indicating Digital Video Noise Reduction. It shouldn't put you off of the show, because there are far, far, FAR worse film-to-DVD transfers out there (this one is, really, quite good), but the condition of the film is still odd - after all, it's only from 1996.
PACKAGING: B The disc comes in a clear keepcase which, unlike many of CPM's clear keepcases, you don't have risk breaking the disc in two to get it out of - though getting it back in would be hard. I suggest getting your own keepcases for such releases. Esthetically, the 2-sided cover is wondeful. Outside, it's done mostly in shades of earthy red and ochre, with the title jaggedly written as if spray-painted on; a fairly typical girl-tied-to-a-magic-circle motif on the front; a couple screenshots, a piece of promotional art and a summary on the back. Inside, it's B&W, and has more promotional art. However, what earns a B from me is that the cover really tells you nothing about the content of the show. Reading the blurb on the back, and looking at the cover, I was expecting something like "generic tentacle hentai meets A Nightmare on Elm Street." About the only thing remotely accurate about this is an occasional tentacle scene. Otherwise, read below.
MENU: A Cool, though simple, animated menues, which functioned quickly and well for me. The Main Menu consists of a school blackboard, part of which falls away to reveal red-tinted scenes from the show, with the main theme and the dubbed version of the intro monologue playing in the background. Selecting "Linguistics 101" gives access to the languages / subtitles menu, and "Campus Directory" the chapter menu. The extras menus, such as there are, work just as well, and are directly accessible from The Main Menu.
EXTRAS: A+ Original Japanese promos for the second and third episodes (with digital censoring and no subtitles - they're exactly what you'd see in Japan). Trailers for other Anime18 titles. And also an unique little feature, designated "Yearbook," which consists of pictures of four of the main characters: if I highlight and then select on any one of them, it morphs, with a sound effect, into the character's demonic alter-ego! Cool. Oddly, though, if I've morphed one of the pictures, I have to either press the "direction" control of my player twice, or select the picture a second time and then press the direction control, to highlight another picture. Pressing a direction control once de-morphs the picture, but leaves it highlighted. Odd, but not bad for something Anime18 probably just threw together on the side - the Yearbook "menu" pertains only to itself, and doesn't effect the other menus. There's also a DVD-ROM App., with an art gallery, sketches, scripts, cast lists, and a link to CPM's website.
I have a mortal dread of this 5-part OVA series being grossly misinterpreted.
People have called Toshio Maeda's *Urotsukidoji: Legend of The Overfiend* "The Clockwork Orange of anime." It isn't. Maeda's "Nightmare Campus: A Complete Nightmare" is - in that it's very brutal, very beautiful, very original, extremely well-done, and has something very profound to say that can easily be either totally missed or badly misunderstood.
The art, which I'm sure will turn off a lot of people, is very atypical and stylized, especially for a recent hentai anime. It actually varies from character to character. For that percentage of the hentai audience to whom the immediately following really matters (mostly men), I'll say first that some of the female cast are drawn to be both voluptuous and also realistically proportioned (i.e. NOT with 72" busts), as well as esthetically beautiful, with a great amount of attention to the fine details of how their bodies move; others, meanwhile, look very much like average (though not unattractive) women, very unusual for hentai, and setting up some of the more disturbing scenes in NC. Some of the rest of the cast, on the other hand, have a quality of being caricatured that frequently crosses over into the cartoon-like. They sometimes go superdeformed. Some have absolutely unreal faces, skin tints, and and body proportions. They're sometimes essentially 2-D, and sometimes have a quality of movement indicating a very low frame rate. It's like an underground comic: the forms of these characters aren't intended to reflect reality, but to create a strong impression, and tell you something about them, as well as making them instantly recognizable as individuals; so, they're not drawn badly, but very unusually. And also, the way they're drawn makes you see the nameless supporting characters as recognizable individuals -- as people -- rather than interchangeable cannon fodder. You feel sad when something terrible happens to one you recognize, even if you don't know their name (just like in real life). This is an important aspect of the overall story. Finally, there are some fairly typical anime characters, all well-drawn. And - the demons look AWESOME, some of the best I've seen, both in detail and variety. The backgrounds are gorgeously detailed and three-dimensional. There's a little bit of CGI, but not much - just a few effects added to hand-drawn sequences, rather than straight-up digitally generated scenes.
Again for those who're primarily interested in the girls and sex in this show (and don't get me wrong, I like those A LOT - The Goddess Mikogami gives the words "Ah! Megami-Sama!" an ENTIRELY new meaning!), there are quite a few erotic sex scenes, though not constantly. I specify "erotic" because there are also a couple of sex scenes that, *by design,* are horrific rather than erotic.
The plot is dense and complex, one of the most so I've ever seen. I'll try not to spoil much of it while giving a useful review. I can't introduce you to all of the main characters, because there are an amazing number of them - all very well-developed. It'd take the space of this whole review to descibe them all. Also, I very strongly recommend watching this show in subtitled Japanese, since a lot of the subtleties (of which there are MANY) get lost in the dubbed version.
In the universe of NC, there are demons - with a unique twist: they are symbiotic, not possessing their Human hosts, but rather bonding with them, sharing their powers, knowledge and identities. To quote a character who has first-hand knowledge of this, "The demon chooses the human, and the human chooses the demon." It is, therefore, a partnership. For an unknown (but vast) span of time, the demons were locked within the earth by The Great Seal of The Gods. A Goddess named Mikogami performs a ritual which breaks The Seal, setting the demons free. They find hosts - who, though they develop frequently awesome powers, are often unaware for some time of the reason why. Masao Sera, a shy, nerdy college freshman, becomes host to the most powerful of all demons, The Demon Lord Esedess. However, only partly understanding this at first, Masao tries to bury Esedess within himself - with the result that he alternates between being a shy, unassertive kid, and a rampaging blood-and-sex-crazed monster. However, as time passes, he comes to understand that, in a real sense, Masao *is* Esedess, and Esedess is Masao. They're one being. As he realizes this, he ceases to be either an intimidated, cowed kid or a bloodthirsty fiend, and instead becomes a rational, self-controlled, brave and capable person. In this is one of the essential philosophical statements of NC: if you bury part of yourself, it will not die, but instead grow frustrated and twisted, and eventually burst from your control as a savage, ravening force - and then leave you to look on the the havoc you've wrought, and scream. On the other hand, that which you admit and understand to be part of yourself you can learn to control, and channel into worthwhile works. Unfortunately, many of those who become hosts to demons react exactly like real people would if their suppressed desires and feelings were suddenly unleashed - they go on mindless rampages, or use their abilities to fulfill petty, juvenile wishes. The latter of these generally applies to the street gangs (many members of which are now demons) which abound at Masao's school, Motomichi Campus, and give it its unofficial name of "Nightmare Campus." Fights over local dominance, gratuitous vandalism, aggressively procured sex - all the daydreams of which we don't admit. Of course, the gang members did these things before becoming demons - but that's presumably why they were chosen first (others become demons later), because they were, however crudely, more conversant with their inner selves than most people (which may also be why they generally don't become insane animals when newly "demonized," but instead just super-powered street thugs). Also a demon now is Akira Mido, a teaching aide, and Masao's best friend. He's the host of The Demon Lord Aquifel, Esedess' best friend of old times. Many fights and schemes take place between the gangs, and involving Akira and Masao - Akira / Aquifel can't understand why his old friend is fighting with himself, and goes to extremes to try to change the situation. However, as time goes on, the demons on Campus cease to fight among themselves or gratuitously raise Hell (haha!), and unite by common consent to fight a far more dreadful enemy: The Gods.
The Gods wish to rule all Humanity. They try to do this, like Nazi Germany, through a combination of (A) mass hysteria-inducing propaganda that's a mish-mash of outright lies and terribly distorted truths (for instance, they have it put on the TV News that demonism is "highly contagious"), and (B) merciless brute force, dispensed on the pretense of it all being "right" and "for the best" (for instance, they have "decency squads" patrolling The Campus, pulling people in on the slightest justification). They also practice brainwashing. Their creed is, essentially (as it applies to humans, at least), "don't think, just please and worship Us." Their ideal for Humanity is for us all to thoughtlessly obey and fear Them, and fear ourselves. The Demons pose a threat to them, being, among other things, simply a metaphor for self-knowledge and self-control -- in a system that glorifies thoughtless obedience and ignorance of self, to know one's self and make one's own decisions would, by definition, be "evil." People outside the street gangs and The Campus become demons, and the conflict broadens...
I fear two major misinterpretations of this series. For one, I fear it'll be misinterpreted to be some sort of pro-malevolence, pro-havoc, pro-brutality statement, or literal demon-worship statement. As far as implicit messages go, the demons are, as I've said, just metaphors. And also, note that those who choose to fight with Masao & Co. against The Gods do so of their own free will, for their own reasons, whereas those who fight with The Gods are either ruled by intimidation or brainwashed. The random brutality of the newly-awakened demons, while absolutely tragic, pales in comparison to the ongoing authoritarian horror of The Gods. For another thing, I fear that the series will be misinterpeted as some sort of Nazi or anti-Semitic statement, due to the proliferation of hexagrams (which, in Judaism, are The Star of David) throughout the show, generally associated / identified with The Great Seal of The Gods. Just to start out with, The Gods in NC are, in their philosophy and deeds (and even appearance), more like Nazis than anything else, with their follow-the-leader dogma; for that matter, speaking of *fictional* Nazis, Mikogami bears a striking, obviously intentional resemblance to the title character from Don Edmonds' notorious film, "Ilsa, She-Wolf of The S.S." (right down to Mikogami's Japanese voice, very unusual for a female anime character). With regard to the hexagrams: in Japan, there are very, very few Jews, and never have been more; so, there have never been any significant anti-Semitic movements in Japan - they'd have almost no-one to move against. Also, note that the hexagrams in NC are frequently drawn as Moebius knots, seeming to be made out of a single strip of material, folded, without beginning or end: in some actually-practiced systems of magic, hexagrams, pentagrams and circles - unbroken, surrounding shapes - signify and can be used as barriers, to keep something in or out (as they are several times in NC). In the iconography of manga, anime and Japanese movies, a hexagram generally signifies *magic* or *the occult* rather than any religion. For those people now dying to find something even vaguely Nazi-esque in NC, there's a nameless, caricatured gang member who has a right-hand (rather than Nazi left-hand) swastika painted or tattooed over his face. The reason for his look, though, has nothing to do with adherance to Nazism, but is instead just another expression of the general dress-sense of the Motomichi gangs: (1) Dress for Shock Value and (2) Dress to Show Disregard of Established Rules (which they do simply by ignoring their school's dress code). In this sense, they're like The Hell's Angels, who frequently use a wide variety of motifs generally considered offensive, for exactly those two reasons. Actually, the Motomichi gangs seem to have been based, visually, on characters out of American "Juvenile Delinquent" films from the '50's, 60's and 70's (some of which featured The 'Angels) - which explains why some of the gang members have clothes and hairstyles right out of the '50's.
Just to round things out, NC abounds in subtle references to other works by Toshio Maeda, other hentai anime, and general anime. All these are skillfuilly worked in so that, if you don't get a reference, it won't strike you as being one, or anything odd. If you do get one, it's often hillarious. I wonder which ones I missed?
TWO SPOILERS - what Mikogami tells Akira that makes him temporarily go insane, and why the series ends exactly as it does. Try to figure them out yourself, but if you don't, please come back and read my analyses:
WHAT MIKOGAMI SAID: Akira, taken prisoner by Mikogami, asks her why The Seal was broken by The Gods Themselves, intentionally freeing The Demons. She whispers something in his ear that we don't hear, but that causes his mind to snap. The answer is, actually, spoken by Mikogami herself at the beginning of the the first OVA, right after breaking The Seal: "The Age of Chaos has begun. The age of a new legend!" One of the main PR tactics of The Gods is their legendary role as defenders of Humanity against Demons. Since the old legends were being forgotten, The Gods set The Demons free only so as to first let the newly-awakened Demons terrorize Humanity, then defeat The Demons again, so that The Gods could go down in legend (again!) as being the defenders of Humanity. It's all a big PR move. The Gods will, of course, not reveal that they broke The Seal themselves. This is yet another indication that The Gods don't really care about Humanity, but only that it worships Them. This also explains why the only thing that Akira does between being discarded by The Gods and getting his sanity back is try, with his female coterie (whom, we may surmise, are both Aquifel's lovers of old and Akira's lady admirers from Motomichi), to make more demons, since there's strength in numbers. And, it also explains why, when Yuuko (another major character), watching reports of demon-related havoc on TV, asks Mikogami what's going on, Mikogami replies "The first part of The Gods' plan." END OF FIRST SPOILER.
WHY THAT ENDING: The end of the series is in absolutely no way a closure to the events depicted therein. If anything, it ends just when things start to escalate to a new level. This is NOT because they ran out funding before they could finish the series (they didn't). Neither is it a set-up for a sequel. The title of the fifth, final OVA is "Prelude to The Endless Battle." It embodies the final philosophical statement of an already deeply philosophical series: that in life there are problems. Even if you were to solve all of the ones you have now, new ones would appear, and more after that. But that's *life.* Life *is* an "endless battle." We shouldn't be sad about that - indeed, how appealing could a life without any challenges to overcome *be?* We only find the way things are sad because we sometimes think (mistakenly) that there's an alternative, or a way out. There isn't. Believing that, just because we do some particular deed or follow some particular routine, we'll cease to have problems, is like believing that we'll be rescued by a prince on a white horse and live happily ever after. It doesn't happen. The only end to life's problems is DEATH, which also ends LIFE, and so is generally useless as a solution to life's problems. And, if you turn your back on the problem-solving decisions in your life, either (1) those decisions will never be made, and none of your problems solved, or (B) someone else will make those decisions for you - and not necessarily in your favor, but possibly in that of whoever's making the decisions. I find Mr. Maeda's statement here very brave, realistic, and downright inspiring. END OF SECOND SPOILER.
You may disagree with some or all of things that I say in this review. And that's fine: I'd rather you disagree with me of your own free will, than be in any way forced to agree. Think for and be yourself.
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