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: 135
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Urotsukidoji
Urotsukidoji IV: Inferno Road
September 29, 2003
Release Date: February 13, 2001
Urotsukidoji IV: Inferno Road
What They Say
© Anime 18
From the creator of La Blue Girl and Demon Warrior Koji!
It’s the Age of the Overfiend, and flesh-hungry monsters rule the Earth. Immortal half-demon Amano Jyaku travels the wasteland, witness to the rape and torture of the human race. The last hope for humanity is the Lord of Chaos, the Overfiend’s natural enemy. Will the world survive their final battle? The Review!
“Urotsukidoji IV: Inferno Road” is the last of four major story arcs constituting the “Urotsukidoji” anime series by Toshio Maeda (who also did “Nightmare Campus,” “La Blue Girl” and various other animes, as well as the manga on which they’re based – all of which I like). Before I get to anything else, I wish to make three things clear.
ONE: I was and am very upset by Anime 18’s decision not to put a subtitle track on their DVD of “Urotsukidoji IV: Inferno Road” (or on their DVD’s of “Urotsukidoji III: Return of The Overfiend,” “TriAngle” or “Pure Love”). In case you’re worried about Anime 18’s future output (as I was a for a while), the massive outcry from serious hentai-anime fans caused CPM to promise that *all* of their subsequent Anime 18 DVD’s would be both bilingual *and* subtitled (unlike the four mentioned above, which, while they have both English-dubbed and original Japanese audio tracks, have NO subtitles). I think that this ugly scenario proved to Anime 18 (and the entire hentai DVD industry) that many hentai fans are, in fact, serious and knowledgeable anime fans, with the same quality standards for hentai as for more “mainstream” anime. Unfortunately, we (and I can say WE, of course) have a rather unfortunate reputation of all being ignorant (“anime-illiterate” might be an apt phrase), referring to hentai as “cartoon porn,” not knowing the difference between a dub and sub, and not knowing if a show was cut for U.S. release or not. It’s like the reputation of Dragon Ball Z fans, and just as undeserved. (And I’m one of those, too.)
TWO: If your primary interest in hentai is erotica, then you almost certainly don’t want to see any of the Urotsukidoji series. This is not to say that there’s nothing erotic about the series – in fact, apart from Toshio Maeda’s notorious rape scenes, the series contains some very tender and beautifully handled scenes of romantic love-making, and also just of sincere, emotional romantic love – but the Urotsukidoji series is well-labeled by Anime 18 as “Erotic Horror.” This doesn't mean simply horror with nudity and/or sex scenes thrown in, but instead means horror *derived from sexual concepts.* Not a horror *of* sex, but of horrific things that, intrinsically, involve sex. This is very uncommon in American films; two of the very few examples are the 1993 film “Species,” starring Natasha Henstridge, and the 1982 film “Cat People,” tarring Natassja Kinski. It’s much more common in European films, such as many of the films of Spanish director Jesus Franco Manero (a.k.a. “Jess Franco”); the necrophilia-themed 1987 film “Nekromantik” by German independent film-maker Jorg Buttgereit; or any of at least a dozen European “lesbian vampire” films from around the early to mid 1970’s – the last of which, I must say, are VASTLY better, in all ways, than the intentionally silly knock-offs of the genre produced recently in America. And, finally, in Japan (and, to some extent, a few other Asian countries), erotic horror is not uncommon, a rime example being the independent 1988 live-action film “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” (the sequel to which has practically nothing in common with it, and neither of which are related to the “Akira” anime or manga). In fact, there are some Japanese live-action films that come close to their horror-hentai OVA’s in content, but the chances of these live-action films being officially released outside of Japan look very dim right now. The Urotsukidoji series is, to a significant extent, erotic horror – as you find it erotic, you’ll also more than likely, *simultaneously* find it absolutely blood-chilling, and possibly even nauseating. In fact, by design, one of the ways in which an erotic horror film is horrifying is in the mixed feelings that the viewer experiences, and is aware of experiencing. (The Urotsukidoji series is also many things besides erotic horror, but they would be better addressed in a review of the “Perfect Collection” [see below] than here; however, I will get into some of them near the end of the CONTENT section.) For those of you who like horror as much as I do: Yes! It’s *that* good! But only if you watch the series *in sequence.* (NOTE: From this point onward in my review, I’m going to stop putting most of the “Urotsukidoji” titles in quotes, for the sake of easier reading.)
THREE: If you haven’t watched *all* of the preceding installments of the Urotsukidoji series, in sequence, then you probably don’t want to watch Urotsukidoji IV, at least not yet. This is because, just like the individual OVA’s within each story arc, none of the sequel series (Urotsukidoji II, III and IV) make complete sense if you haven’t seen what came before them. This is because, despite what you may have heard, the Urotsukidoji series has a very coherent plot structure, and the individual story arcs – though standing individually quite well enough, if watched in sequence – form a single overall story. Therefore, if you want to get into Urotsukidoji, I strongly recommend buying CPM/Anime 18’s “Urotsukidoji: Perfect Collection,” a two-disc set containing the original “Urotsukidoji: Legend of The Overfiend” and the sequel “Urotsukidoji II: Legend of The Demon Womb,” both in Japanese with removable subtitles. WARNING: the individually available discs of these titles contain shortened versions – edited into “movies” and have no subtitles (a Japanese track, but no subtitles – just like the Urotsukidoji IV DVD). The ONLY, and I mean ONLY (see below) way that to see the entire OVA’s for both of these (not including a few snippets of extra footage in The Urotsukidoji II “movie”), and see them in subtitled Japanese, is to get the “Perfect Collection,” which contains the entirety of both OVA series – even the original openings and endings, something I wish I’d see more often, in hentai and elsewhere. *WARNING*: The “Urotsukidoji: Hell on Earth” DVD collection (oddly, unlike the VHS collection of the same name) contains *only the DUBBED, CUT, NON-subtitled versions* of the first two OVA series. It’s missing almost an hour of footage!) It seems relevant to state at this point that Urotsukidoji II, III and IV exist in an alternate reality from the first OVA series (“Legend of The Overfiend”) , and that Urotsukidoji II is, in fact, not literally a sequel, but instead an *interquel* -- it expands upon a period somewhere in the second OVA of the first series, and acts primarily as a set-up for the third and fourth series. (Or, rather, it supposedly expands upon a period in that OVA, because there’s *NO* way that those events could’ve happened in “Legend of The Overfiend” without there being some sign of them. Also, to me, there doesn’t seem to have been enough time in the first series for the events of Urotsukidoji II to have transpired, especially not within the second OVA). It really confused even me, the first time I watched it. I have a feeling that it could be the result of a clunky manga-to-anime adaptation, but I haven’t acquired enough of the Urotsukidoji manga yet to be sure. So, if you want to watch Urotsukidoji IV, I very strongly recommend first watching all of the preceding series, in sequential order.
These things having been stated – on with the show!
Both audio tracks are in Dolby Digital Stereo. For this review, I primarily listened to the English-dubbed audio track, as my grasp of Japanese is not yet sufficient for me to understand the spoken language without English subtitles. The music sounded slightly clearer in the Japanese version, but is – thankfully – exactly the same music in both versions, and mixed into the English version so as to be clearly audible. I’ll critique the both the music and the English voice-acting in the CONTENT section. Interestingly, at 0:02:20, when a female character is about to be raped by a demon, her screaming is not a dub, but is in fact the original Japanese dialogue for that scene – she’s screaming “ya” (“no” in Japanese). I noticed what she was saying, and flipped back and forth between audio tracks. No change. Also, at 1:07:51, when a character is fighting with a demon, he gets slammed into a wall, and says “kuso” (“shit” in Japanese – both literally and figuratively). Again, it’s a piece of the Japanese audio track incorporated into the English dub track. (And – in a crude but hilarious gesture that HAS to be intentional – the loop of dub-dialog footage that forms the background of The Languages Menu has this scene in it. Check it out if you don’t believe me! Language, language – hee hee!) Also, you'll hear more screams of “ya” during the mass-tentacle-rape scene in the third OVA – trust me, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.
The transfer is solid – not excellent, but quite good, with no obvious digitization or archiving. In the second OVA, there were a few moments of blockiness in the blue-gray background of a room with cages hanging in it, but that’s all I noticed as far archiving goes. I’ve seen a lot worse. The source material for the first and second OVA’s seems to have been in fine shape. There are a couple of split-seconds of minor print damage in the second OVA, but it took me several viewings to notice them. The third OVA is somewhat less pristine, with plentiful dust motes and occasional scratches appearing, but still in relatively good shape.
It is worth mentioning at this point that The Urotsukidoji III and IV discs are mislabeled on their covers as having subtitles – just like Anime 18’s early DVD “Venus 5,” which is really English-dubbed only. The only reason that I’m not giving this title’s packaging an F- is that the front-cover art is really great. It looks like a piece of promotional art, and has Munhihausen Jr. making out with one of the female cast (to say more about her would be a spoiler) via translucent, iridescent tentacles. It accurately represents the event shown, and is, esthetically, an excellent cover for a hentai DVD. Otherwise, the packaging is average. The disc comes in a clear keepcase, with screen-cap images in color on the back, and one in B&W on the inside. The choices of these images are very, very strange. On the back, only the image of the girl with the demon is actually from Urotsukidoji IV; the round-faced cybernetic guy is Caeser, who died in Urotsukidoji III and is only mentioned in the text intros in Urotsukidoji IV; and the side-view of Munhihausen Jr. only exists in the movie version of Urotsukidoji II! And, on the inside cover, there’s a picture of dear old Munhihausen Sr. (note the family resemblance), who died in the pre-credit sequence of Urotsukidoji II! Weird...
The Main Menu and Languages Menu are animated, the backgrounds consisting of two loops (1 per menu) of footage from the second OVA – complete with all of the audio from those parts of the English audio track. The other menus are static, and also have no music or background audio – just still images. The Main Menu gives access to the Chapters Menu, the Languages Menu (which I’ve only used once, to test it, since the disc defaults to English), The Special Features Menu, the Sneak Peeks (trailers) Menu, the DVD-ROM screen (not really a menu, just an information page), and the self-explanatory “Play Movie” option. Access times were very good, and I had no problems. The only minor quibble that I have with the menus on this DVD is that there are only three chapter stops for each OVA, and all of the OVA’s are over 40 minutes long. Still, it’s nothing big – such as they are, the chapter stops are quite serviceable.
There are trailers for Demon Warrior Koji, Pure Love, TriAngle and Midnight Panther. There’s also Anime 18’s “Anime 18 Classics” trailer real, which is a fascinating montage of scenes from their older releases accompanied by their titles, and which it seems won’t be appearing on any more of their DVD’s (which I think is too bad – it’s a cool extra, if nothing else). There’s Anime 18’s rather informative “Anime Artform” documentary short, which neatly explains the reasons for such anime phenomena as enlarged eyes and absent pubic hair. (Seriously, this is a GREAT extra – it explained a lot to me, the first time I saw it – in “The Perfect Collection,” which also has it.) There’s the “Urotsukidoji History,” which is simply three successive still screens, each containing an extremely minimal review of one of the previous Urotsukidoji story arcs – Legend of The Overfiend, Urotsukidoji II and Urotsukidoji III, in that order; none of these, in my opinion, can compensate for not having actually seen them. There’s an ad for the Urotsukidoji Graphic Novel (a compilation of the Urotsukidoji manga – how much of it, I’m not sure) from CPM Manga X, which allows you (via another three successive screens, which morph into each other with a page-turning sound effect) to turn a couple of its pages, and see bits of what was originally the first issue (not in particularly readable form, though). There’s also a CD-ROM application containing links to their website and “...Special Features, including an Art Gallery, more Graphic Novel pages, Character Descriptions, Production Info, Reviews and more!!” I haven’t looked at any of the CD-ROM extras, because I find it hard to get that into the extras of a release in which the primary content – the anime itself – is, to my tastes, poorly presented (without subtitles).
Two-thirds of the way through this DVD, I discovered something extremely surprising. Though marketed as a single story arc of three OVA’s, this disc actually contains two story arcs: first, a story arc of two OVA’s; and, then, a story arc consisting of a single *1.66:1 THEATRICAL MOVIE!* That’s right: the last arc of the Urotsukidoji anime series – the third “OVA” of Urotsukidoji IV -- is a theatrical film! It was (according to the opening credits) an Official Entry in The Paris Fantastic Film Festival, and an Entry by Special Invitation in The Rome Fantastic Film Festival, The Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, The Toronto Fantastic Film Festival, and The Helsinki Fantastic Film Festival. (Oddly, it doesn’t say what year.) How many widescreen theatrical hentai films have there ever been? If this disc had had subtitles, I’d’ve given it an A.
The music for Urotsukidoji IV (both the OVA’s and the movie) is composed by Masamichi Amano, who also did the music for the rest of the Urotsukidoji series, as well as that for “Nightmare Campus.” Interestingly, in the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s, the end-credits theme (which, from the Legend of The Overfiend through Urotsukidoji III, is essentially the same piece in different settings, and is heard again at the end of the Urotsukidoji IV movie) is different from that of the rest of the series – the end-credits theme for Urotsukidoji IV is a soft, mournful piece of music. (Both themes, however, sound equally good). I wonder if this has any relation to the fact that, unlike all of the preceding OVA’s and the movie (which were produced by West Cape Corporation), the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s were produced by Jupiter Films – maybe West Cape has an exclusive copyright on that piece of music. Mr. Amano does a stellar job (as usual) scoring Urotsukidoji IV – apart from being beautiful in itself, the music fits the anime wonderfully, accentuating and intensifying the moods of various scenes.
(To digress momentarily: Masamichi Amano doesn’t seem to have any problems re-using any of his other compositions in different animes ,even by different companies. There’s a particular piece of incidental music [usually signifying a battle or a chase] that can be heard in seemingly ALL of the Urotsukidoji series, and in the Phoenix Entertainment company’s “Nightmare Campus” (specifically, in the first scene of the fourth OVA), and – strikingly – in an anime from two years before the release of Legend of The Overfiend: the “Star Blazers”- like 1985 theatrical film “Odin: Photon Space Sailor Starlight,” which was also produced by West Cape. Perhaps Mr. Amano actually wanted to try different ending themes for Urotsukidoji, but was prevented from doing so by West Cape? I have no idea, but it’s an interesting question.)
For some reason, neither the OVA’s nor the movies have the original openings or endings, which all of the other discs in CPM’s Urotsukidoji series have had. Also, except for the company-logo screens and the film-festival info screen, the openings for the first OVA and the movie are identical. This leads me to wonder if the OVA’s and the movie are technically part of the same sub-series (Urotsukidoji IV) at all: the different production companies, and certain other things, would tend to indicate otherwise. (For a U.S. anime-releasing company to market several related productions together, under a single title, isn’t unheard of – in Viz’s Ranma ˝ OVA Box Set, the so-called OVA at the beginning of the third DVD is actually a 1:66 to 1 theatrical film.) So, perhaps the Urotsukidoji IV movie is – as I’ve heard it referred to on the Internet – “Urotsukidoji V.” I don’t know. I do know, however, that anime sequel series, in Japan, are frequently not signified by numbers, but instead by a sub-title (i.e. “Urotsukidoji: Legend of The Demon Womb”), a qualifier (i.e. “_New_ Cutey Honey”) or one or more Roman letters (i.e. “Sailor Moon R” or ”Dragonball GT”). Therefore, I’m pretty sure that the “series numbers” for the Urotsukidoji story arcs are something that the U.S. distributors came up with.
I’ll review the two-OVA story-arc and the movie story-arc separately from here onward. The dub for the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s is easily worse than that for Urotsukidoji III. It’s only better in the sense that the majority of the characters don’t cuss every three words or so, as they did in the dub of Urotsukidoji III. Though Toshio Maeda’s characters do sometimes get pretty raw verbally in the Japanese version, they don’t cuss almost every time they talk (or did they do that only in Urotsukidoji III? I honestly can’t tell, but doubt it). However, the voice acting, which was actually quite competent (despite the frequently silly dub dialogue) in Urotsukidoji III, is the absolute definition of “wooden” in the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s. They have a totally different cast of English dub voice-actors than they had for Urotsukidoji III. In Urotsukidoji III, the English dub cast chose to remain anonymous. In Urotsukidoji IV, they are listed, albeit mostly in what read like stage-names. I’m not going to waste space on speculations as to why the cast changed, but, to me, it wasn’t a change for the better.
The animation in the OVA’s is the most generic and inexpensive of any in the series. It’s not really bad – about on par with a lot of low-budget OVA series, and not the cheapest by far – but still vastly different from Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, which had – seriously – near-“Akira”-quality animation, done by the same team that did “Yamato” (a.k.a. “Star Blazers”). Still, the animation in the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s tells their story quite well, and that’s primarily what matters. Oddly, the demons are more detailed and impressive in the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s than they’ve been since Legend of The Overfiend (though still not as good as then). When on-screen, they steal the show. Also, the backgrounds are great, rich in detail – they add a lot. And last but not least, the women are well-drawn – they look not only voluptuous, but natural and realistic; they look like real women can, without plastic surgery. I’ve noticed that this is generally the case in Toshio Maeda’s animes (and even more so in his manga). For those (like me) who were bugged by the floating colored dots of optical censorship that appeared over Human genitalia (which tentacles don’t count as) and all intercourse in Urotsukidoji II and III (but not Legend of The Overfiend, for some reason) – well, they’re in the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s, too. They don’t seem quite as opaque as they did in II and III, though.
The two-OVA story arc begins on an appropriately hellish note, with a panorama of a red- it, partially leveled modern city under a dark sky, the foreground filled with bodies impaled on stakes. (At exactly what point in the Urotsukidoji-sequel timeline this sequence occurs is not immediately clear, but it seems, upon analysis of some events in the story, to be shortly after the end of Legend of The Overfiend.) The city is under attack by a variety of destructive forces, including large, red, winged biomechanoid demons (which, as I’ve said, look great). The city is absolutely laid to waste.
At this point, we flash forward to the “present” of the series (which, from the beginning of Urotsukidoji III on, seems to be circa 2020 A.D.). Three characters (all of whom were introduced in Urotsukidoji III) drive a tank (also from Urotsukidoji III) through a gloomy, fog-shrouded landscape – obviously the remains of the city. The fog is so thick that they narrowly avoid driving into a miles-wide sinkhole, which contains the center of the city and even more fog. They wonder where three of their friends (again, from Urotsukidoji III) have gone, and speculate that, while the they in the tank will have to drive around the hole, their friends – on foot – may very well be taking the route they all planned to take, going straight ahead, and so through the hole.
They are. One of them is Buju, a “Makemono” (sometimes translated as “demon beast”: one of a race that mysteriously arose on Earth shortly after the coming of the Overfiend), who, though once simply a barbarian plunderer, has come to serve a greater purpose. His purpose is personified in a girl called “Himi” (or so her name is Romanized in the credits; it should be “Hime,” and is the Japanese equivalent of “Princess” – originally Bujo’s nickname for her, which has effectively become her name; though actually pronounced “he-mae,” the English cast mispronounces it “hee-mee”), who, notwithstanding her unimposing appearance, is actually “The Mad Regent”: the natural opposite and enemy of The Overfiend, who alone He fears, and will do anything to stop. This being was referred to as “Kyo’o” or “The Lord of Chaos” in Urotsukidoji II and III. (It’s also worth noting that Himi grows up at a supernatural rate – she was born, as an infant, in Urotsukidoji III, and physically much older by the end of it.) There’s also a kindly, seemingly elderly, wise Makemono named Gashim – though how he can be elderly is an interesting question, because his race hasn’t existed for more than a couple of decades. Perhaps he’s just old in mind and body, not years. These three companions, like their friends in the tank, were introduced in Urotsukidoji III.
Bujo, Himi and Gashim soon run into a young man named Ken and a young woman named Yumi, who seem to be desperately trying to escape from the fog-shrouded pit, and from some apparently dreaded pursuers. They turn out to be pursued...
...by children. The masters of the city are all grade-school-aged children, who have vast, potentially lethal psychic powers. They have utterly enslaved all of the adults in the city (though it’s never referred to, Ken and Yumi have, like all the city’s adults, the Roman letter “S” – for “slave” – branded on their foreheads). The children keep the adults around for three reasons: to do work; to produce fresh companions for them; and, to torture and kill in extremely brutal ways. As it turns out, once the children grow up, they cease to have their powers, and become the slaves of those that still do. Ken and Yumi have grown up, and so are slaves. All of the city’s inhabitants are ruled by a boy referred to as Lord Ellis – and by his brother, who seems to avoid being clearly seen in public...
I’ll stop the blow-by-blow description, to avoid any more spoilers, and just state generalities from here on. For one thing, so that this series is not grossly misinterpreted based on my review, I want to assure all readers that there is ABSOLUTELY NO sex with the children. This would be a felony, in Japan as well as America (and I AGREE 100%). In fact, one of the ghastly things about Lord Ellis and his followers is that they have absolutely no comprehension of sexuality in any form, and regard all of those who have it with limitless contempt; coming from Toshio Maeda, a person who seems to think more deeply than most on sexuality, this is a disturbing idea. This two-OVA story arc is one of the least erotic sections of the Urotsukidoji series (ALL of the sex scenes are set, intentionally, in contexts that render them too disturbing to be very erotic – an interesting, unique achievement), and easily the most grueling to watch. It makes you wonder what would actually happen if the world were run by practically undefeatable children...and shudder in dread. The graphically gruesome and degrading treatment of adults that we see is only a suggestion of the numberless horrors perpetrated throughout the years in the fog-shrouded pit. And, just as in all of the other Urotsukidoji story arcs, there are people genuinely in love -- Ken and Yumi. And, also like all of the other story arcs, there is tragedy. Just as no-one in this story can be considered altogether “innocent” in the popular sense (before they grew up, Ken and Yumi were exactly like Ellis & Co.), so likewise no-one is above feeling pain, grief, ruin and madness. Watching any part of Urotsukidoji usually moves me to tears on one or more people’s accounts. You’ll be amazed at some of the people you’ll end up crying for. Also, amazingly, amidst this unutterable psychosexual nightmare, there are some very sensitive, humane reflections on growing up – particularly with regard to Ken, Yumi and Himi.
Strangely (though I still recommend watching the entire series in order), the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s seem to be script-written so that, if you don’t watch them, you can go straight from the end of Urotsukidoji III to the beginning of the Urotsukidoji IV movie without missing anything significant. Though I think that the memory of the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s adds a wonderfully ghastly extra dimension to the viewing of the movie, I’ll have to admit that, if this were a TV series, the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s would be “filler episodes.” I wonder if this has to do with the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s being produced by a different company than the rest of the series. It’s something else that makes me wonder if the classification of both these OVA’s and the movie as being a single series isn’t simply an invention of the distributor (CPM).
Overall, though, the two OVA’s in Urotsukidoji IV constitute, to me, some of the most spectacularly disturbing anime ever made, even through the dismal dub. It’s at least as disturbing as Operations 5, 6 and 7 in “Cool Devices” (“Seek,” “Seek II” and “Yellow Star”). If anything, it’s even more so, because it tries (successfully) to be horrifying in so many different ways – conceptually, graphically and atmospherically. It is inaccurate to think that an anime (or a live-action film) can’t be conceptually sophisticated *and* graphically gruesome *and* atmospherically creepy at the same time. The Urotsukidoji series (among other examples, anime and live-action) proves this false: it’s all three, in megatons.
In the Urotsukidoji IV movie, the dub is better, with a certain amount of dramatic effectiveness. However, it still sounds rather cheesy in many places.
In the movie, the animation is better. Still, however, it doesn’t seem quite as good as the animation in Legend of The Overfiend. If anything, the animation in the Urotsukidoji IV movie is on par , in quality, with a high-budget mid-‘90’s OVA series. This is, however, very definitely a theatrical film: apart from the 1.66:1 framing, the movie features many, many scenes of small characters in vast, panoramic, intricately detailed backgrounds, which would only make sense for a big-screen presentation. The demonic creatures, unfortunately, aren’t as impressive (to me, anyway) as they were in the OVA’s; in the movie, they’re mostly rather generic, and I think that the fat one (you’ll know the one I mean when you see him) is intentionally silly-looking – which creates, actually, an interesting and probably intentional juxtaposition of mirth and horror about the character, considering the horrendous things he’s responsible for, even by tentacle-demon standards. (Additional kudos to Mr. Maeda for finding yet another fresh way to disturb the audience.) Also, there’s a stretchy creature (you’ll recognize it easily) that’s really creepy just to look at. As a supernatural horror anime, this movie is superb. As a hentai anime, it’s actually not bad. There is self- censorship (part of the original master, put there by the original Japanese production studio) in the sex scenes, but not as much as in the OVA’s from Urotsukidoji II onwards: for instance, the tentacle-intercourse is now presented totally uncensored. The regular Human- style intercourse is censored by an odd, unique effect – a spiraling, circular distortion that looks as if it were made with a lens. The movie begins with what seems to be flashback to a fight sequence that occurred in Legend of The Overfiend, between Amano Jyaku and a demon named Suikakuju. However, Amano Jyaku is acting rather unlike himself in the flashback, and the course of the fight is quite different from what we saw actually occur in Legend of The Overfiend. As it turns out, this is a nightmare, had in the “present” by someone who cared very much about Suikakuju. Munhihausen Jr. appears and offers this person help in getting revenge on Amano Jyaku...for a price. (Hint: she’s on the front cover). His arrival is very convenient her, in her current state of mind – brought on, of course, by Munhihausen’s magically-induced nightmare...
Our protagonists for the movie are the same as for the OVA’s – Bujo, Himi and crew. Overall, the movie is primarily the wrap-up for all of the sequel series (Urotsukidoji II, III and IV). It makes NO sense whatsoever if you haven’t seen the rest of the series, because it consists of the end of the overall series-plot. Differing from the deeply psychological horror of the Urotsukidoji IV OVA’s, the movie is much more concerned with supernatural horror in the more usual sense (which makes it neither better nor worse than the OVA’s – just different). The emphasis is not so much on death, as on things WORSE than death. The movie is an unpredictable, phantasmal nightmare, in which horrendous revelations are never far off. At the same time, the subtle and profound insights into Human nature continue (well, in this case, Kyo’o and Makemono nature, but they’re effectively Human) with an interaction between a young male Makemono named Idaten and Himi. With every detail of this interaction, I refute the idea that Toshio Maeda doesn’t understand what love is – even through the dub, this part of the story is very tender and beautifully handled. (Additionally, you have to watch Legend of The Overfiend to understand the significance of the charm that Idaten gives Himi as a gift.)
And something else, very typical of the Urotsukidoji series, really comes out in the movie. A kind of subtly presented – but very distinct – cosmic mysticism, a powerful mythic resonance. Many cultures have believed (and still do) that all life, or the entire world, started with or resulted from a sexual act, and that sexuality is an ongoing and vital aspect of the universe (without which it would end, or all life would die). Throughout the Urotsukidoji series, sexuality has created or released power – power variously bringing life, death, healing, injury, joy, pain, preservation or change, but always a power of some sort. In the Urotsukidoji IV movie, note what Munhihausen (gazing at The Moon) cites as the time when Himi’s power will be at its greatest. (It could also be the basis of a very grotty joke about when NOT to bother The Mad Regent, but I won’t say it here.) Note the literalization of this that occurs near the end of the movie. Note which event, precisely, causes Himi’s powers to fully awaken, and her destiny to be realized. A succession of truly awesome mystical leitmotifs.
Also, some people keep saying that the Urotsukidoji series “has no ending.” I totally disagree, at least in the sense that they mean it. The universe of Urotsukidoji is cyclical, rather than linear – an end is always a new beginning, in some way – but, insofar as the series could have an ending, it has one. However, in order to appreciate it, you have to watch the last minute or so of the movie (before the credits, I mean) very closely, both to comprehend the symbolism and also to understand what the ending actually *is.* Hint: the real end of the movie, and of the sequel series, is in the very last scene – which goes by in a few seconds. Look away from the screen and you’ll miss it. If you watch it and still don’t feel that you get it, I’ve written what it means in the “SPOILER” section immediately below. Highlight to read:
SPOILER – THE ENDING: The ending begins with the drop of blood from Himi (guess where) being swallowed by The Overfiend. Perhaps even He is unaware of what this will do, and is seeking only to control The Mad Regent’s power by taking it into Himself. Instead, this (symbolic) union between the male Overfiend and female Mad Regent causes something to begin (and, in keeping with the nature of a cyclical universe, to end as well). The Overfiend – and also, seemingly, the World – explodes in a wash of light, and remains as such for an unknown amount of time (if time even applies – seemingly, only a few moments). Amano Jyaku wakes up, naked, atop Osaka Castle. Looking around, he stares in utter disbelief, overwhelmed, unable to believe his eyes. In the very important final scene, the view starts with the back of his head, and then pulls back, allowing us to see what he sees. What he sees is the city of Osaka – not a post-apocalyptic ruin under a grim, overcast sky, but instead an intact city, alive and unharmed beneath a peaceful, brightly sunlit sky. Osaka – and The World – are as they were before the coming of the Overfiend. *The World has been re-born.* THIS is the end (again, insofar as there CAN be one) to the Urotsukidoji series. (A brief cultural note, explaining why Amano Jyaku is naked in this scene: in Japanese iconography, nudity doesn’t invariably connote sexuality; it is often metaphor for purity, as at birth, or at some point of profound personal realization. A good example of this would be the scene in “Sailor Moon R: The Promise of The Rose” when Sailor Moon is using her crystal to save her friends – her last resort, an act of selfless sacrifice. Amano Jyaku is probably naked because, like the rest of the world, he’s been renewed, born again in a sense.) END OF SPOILER.
So, can I recommend this DVD? Well, I’m still very annoyed about the absence of subtitles. However, if you think you can put up with the bad dubbing, are a serious Urotsukidoji and/or Toshio Maeda otaku (like me), and have yet to see Urotsukidoji IV, this (and the DVD of Urotsukidoji III) is a must-have. Buy it – and continue to ask for a subtitled U.S. DVD release, so that CPM (or somebody) does one in the future.
All hail The Mad Regent!
Japanese Language,English Language,Urotsukidoji history,Graphic novel pages,Original Japanese trailer
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