A Review by Christopher Kinsey
There was a time when Sci-Fi network wasn't a jumble of bad decisions. It used to be a jumble of all the best and worst of all parts of science fiction TV and films. Especially cartoons. You could, on any given weekday, wake up ass early in the morning and watch Transformers, Defenders of the Earth, and one or two supermarination titles. But the weekend was much, much more awesome. After their first anime weeklong marathon, they started showing an anime feature at 10am every Saturday morning. Screw "Muppet Babies", it was time to watch folks slice demons in half... also schoolgirls. Also right afterwards was an episode of MST3K. So life was good... to a point.
As I mentioned before, it showcased the best and worst of it all. And at the time we really weren't getting a lot of anime in the states. ADV just started getting it's feet wet. DIC was leading the pack re-editing TV shows for American kids. Central Park Media's "U.S. Manga Corps" was the lead contender in this new market. Along with Streamline Pictures, these two companies were buying relatively cheap Japanese anime Original Animated Videos and throwing them onto VHS tapes all willy nilly. And we were friggin grateful for it.
Most of the Sci-Fi channel's anime came from these little firms and were basically re-edited a little for cable, but that was it. All of those OAVs were hyper-violent mid 90s fare that were pretty awesome when you're coming to the age where your movies need more gore and boobs. And even better... They were going to be showing another Yoshiaki Kawajiri movie. He was the man responsible to the ultimate badass ninja movie of all time... Ninja Scroll. Obviously we were due another heapin' helping of sex and violence done with such skill it'll ruin your ability to enjoy a Hollywood explosion for a while.
This movie was Demon City Shinjuku. But sometimes it was Hell City Shinjuku. And one time it was called Monster City. Well... that assures the quality will dive but I'm sure Kawajiri won't do me wrong. It must be U.S. Manga Corps fault!
While that is true, there is more than enough blame to be assigned to the original Japanese production team as well. Watch and be amazed...
We open to a scene of sword fighting badassery on a rooftop. Very Highlander, save for the fact instead of a shower of sparks, lightning and cracking buildings in half happen with the glancing blows. It's here our hero, Genichirou, fights our obvious bad dude who can shoot lasers out of his sword. Our hero seems armed with a boken wooden sword and... gumption? Seriously, it takes serious nards to fight a man like that with a hard wooden stick. Genichirou really takes his lumps, part of the building explodes, it takes off his arm, and he still comes back for more. And what's more, he can glow blue wisps, that's gotta be helpful, being this is an anime. It's practically a "Real Ultimate Power" right? Meh, Genichirou just proceeds to lose a leg in the process and his last ditch javelin throw at our villain just makes him regenerate. The sword then falls into a huge crevice below that was created by the fight. Genichirou is then coup de grace'd and the whole district rumbles away with earthquakes and hellfire. Good going Genichirou, let's hope whoever the REAL hero is has a shorter name to type. Our villain raises his arms to the sky (To receive the quickening, no doubt) and shouts to the thunder about how in ten years time his master can invade. Ten years? That's more than enough wiggle room for humankind to move against you. I tell you, summoning elder gods has gone really downhill.
Ten years later, we cut to a news report. The grand poohbah of the world, who not only ended all major world conflicts but also is also Japanese, is landing in Tokyo for the first time in some time. He's arriving by... space shuttle? So he solved all of these problems from orbit? He figured out a way to make Japan a viable landing spot for inbound spacecraft? This guy is obviously the antichrist, kill im'! We watch this all unfold at a noodle shop where a handsome young fellow named Kyoya (Oh good, the name is right-sized) is slurping ramen, and grabbing the ass of a waitress who's got her ponytail in the oddest place I've seen in a while, on the side of her head. What the hell man, that has to be uncomfortable.
Anyway, the president of everything brought his daughter on this spaceflight. I might also add he's wearing a power business suit and she's wearing a foofy pink dress. Nice, proper spaceflight attire. Sayaka, the prez's daughter, catches Kyoya's eye. But before he can come up with a suitable crotch crusade fantasy to match his burning passion for the girl on the TV... he senses something as Miss Universe (Also Japanese) hands over a bouquet of roses to the president of everything. Kyoya's fears are well founded, because the roses turn to strangling cord that bind, choke, and possibly rape the hell out of the president. I thought such tentacle shenanigans are reserved for people more like his daughter.
We then cut to Kyoya teaching kendo to a bunch of kids. Next he starts using the force the cut cans with a boken. Yes, I know... it's called something else. "Nempo" is the name they use for this Star Wars ripoff, but it won't be the last one we see. Won't take long for the next either. In a glowing blue haze appears a wizened old man who begins to explain everything to Kyoya. Kyoya responds by trying to slash it, hard, but fails because he's still a brash young punk. The master's name is Ag'ni Rai, and he taught Kyoya's father all he knew of nempo. So we've got a legacy case, a dead father, and a wizened old ass-kicker who needs the lad's help. Kyoya must destroy Rebi Ra (Or Levi Ra, depending on the translation you're watching) who seeks to summon demonic power to the Earth. Rebi Ra (No matter how hard you try, saying this name aloud comes out like sounding like something Scooby Doo would say) was also studying nempo with Kyoya's dad and Rai when he decided to take a darker path.
So now we have kendo-themed Jedi vs. Sith in a slobber knocker that will rock Shinjuku!
At least, that's what would happen, but Kyoya's having none of it. He doesn't believe Rai's crap at all. Why can't Rai do it? All of Rai's energies are keeping the UN president from being overly violated by those bloodthirsty roses from the beginning of the movie, that's why. Still, Rai could at least try to be respectful in asking this favor, instead of berating Kyoya's skills. Rai disses him hard, a total serving of ten serves.
Kyoya rides off late at night when he comes across Sayaka Rama, the UN president's daughter, along the back roads. Excuse me? They let the president's daughter comb the back streets of Tokyo alone to find this third rate nempo user and beg his help one last time? Wrong! She ultimately fails at persuading him anyway, and heads off to the Demon City alone.
After a bit of exposition between the president and Rai, Sayaka begins her quest to slay Rebi Ra. Or be raped. Something tells me this section of town is ripe with rape for a lady of her demeanor. Well, she's not the first casualty. A cat gets tentacled to death first. But she'll soon get hers, being as she's being chased by what looks like shadowy urban ninjas.
So she dashes to a safe haven, a noodle cart in the middle of nowhere. No, that doesn't seem suspicious at all... Sayaka nonchalantly asks where she can find Rebi Ra, and is told by an overdressed patron that he'll take her to Rebi's place. Of course, he's taken her to a dead end for a little rapin' but she's got a laser ring! Pewpewpew! Nothin' doing... The man in white just keeps coming and pulls down her dress a bit (Not enough to air out the funbags, but enough to embarrass) when lo and behold, Kyoya appears and quickly takes out the urban ninja rapist gang. With glowing and speed lines as his weapons of choice. Kyoya and Sayaka then set off to find information, while the man in white is eaten by a shadow. Justice prevails!
They head to an old lady who is an information broker. She offers a map for all of their cash, and promptly splits. Kyoya gives chase, and promptly owns her proper; being as he's the hero and has long legs. The old lady gives an info dump on to why the military hasn't done anything; it was all too much for them, really. Apparently bombs were outlawed for lent. So she doesn't know where Rebi Ra is, but she does know where his three goons hang out. It's the subway, and she's promptly eaten by a shadow.
Timeout time! If the forces of evil have this shadow thingie that can't be stopped... why not stop Kyoya right then and there? Two slurps and he's a goner, and then the demon rape of Sayaka will be at hand. C'mon forces of evil! Get with the program!
Instead a giant spider/crab/mount in belly man is loosed upon our heroes. At the last minute they are aided in their escape. A punk kid with tricked out electric in-lines takes them to the safety of the sewers. Back at the carnage, a far too pretty man comes out of the mists and glowers over what has transpired.
Back in the poo-pit, the punk kid tries to give Kyoya the shake down, demanding some payment for his services. When they reveal they have no cash, he sics his two-headed Doberman, Kuro, on them. I have to wonder, why does everyone want cash in this desolate hellhole? I'd think canned goods were more in order as payment. It doesn't matter though, being as Sayaka goes all "Snow White" on the Kuro and the beast calms.
After a bit of hackneyed script, Kuro bounds off only to lure the punk kid into the clutches of the crab demon. The dog is quickly taken care of when Kyoya arrives. As everyone enters the train, it starts up (Point of order... an earthquake that makes an entire city district drop a few hundred feet would certainly rip out all the power lines as well. And yet not only does this train work, but every neon light so far to boot). A running fight ensues and Kyoya just can't tackle the crab's armor. Nothing can stop it, not glowing blue or even driving it into a blocked area of track. As the train crashes and Kyoya finds his bearings, the crab man attacks again, throwing a rail car at him. As the crab man grabs Kyoya by the throat, Kyoya counterattacks with the glowing, only REALLY HARD this time. And this time, it succeeds, and the monster has a great series of misfortunes. He's ripped belly to neck by the wooden sword, the punk throws a live grenade down his gullet, and he hits the bleeding third rail. Boom zap slice, it's an end any monster should be proud of.
We cut to Rebi Ra, napping in mid air with demonic symbols all around him. He awakens to ponder this new power he's detected, and sends his unseen minions to deal with it. Blah blah blah...
So the punk kid takes Kyoya and Sayaka to a honeymoon suite somewhere in the city. The bed is shaped like a giant clam, because I want to feel like a mermaid when I'm doing husbandly duties. But that's exactly what doesn't happen here. The pair discuss what will happen in two days, what with the demons taking over the world, and finally Sayaka just falls asleep. Being an all around Japanese teenager, Kyoya takes himself to the floor out of shame. Yessirree! There was no way to be civil about sacking out on a comfortable bed chastely with the UN President's daughter. The Japanese need to get laid... badly.
It then begins to rain buckets. For some reason this makes a glowing mass of well, stuff, seep into the punk kids sewer abode. We cut to morning at the honeymoon suite where Sayaka scolds Kyoya for falling out of bed. Falling out of bed? This girl's obtuse as hell, that bed was four acres wide. In any case, the punk agrees to take the couple to the gate west of Shinjuku station. They start slumming on the rails until the punk takes Kyoya's sword. He then promptly disappears into a puddle. Kyoya makes a grab for the sword and is promptly pulled into the watery void. The evil demon that used the illusion then proceeds to zap the punk back to his own bed. So... why didn't this demon just kill the lad? I mean, these are supposed to be the scum of the multiverse and he doesn't have the stones to send this kid to the great beyond?
Meanwhile, back at the puddle, Kyoya is getting the crap kicked out of him by a water-based creature that throws out a few illusory selves to confuse the lad. Pretty cliché', but it's UNDERWATER! Exciting, eh? Oh man, how is he going to get out of this one? The same way every anime hero gets out of the multiple ninja illusion trick... he closes his eyes and "Senses" the real one. Since he's spent on air, Kyoya sinks like a rock and Sayaka swims to the rescue. I don't get it.... What about this extra dimensional puddle here? I'm not entirely sure if it would still work if it's master was destroyed and all that garbage. Perhaps they decided it was high time Sayaka did something. But the demon is still alive, and shoots out it's third eye onto Sayaka's back, electrocuting her. Well, electrocution is the best way to wake Kyoya up. He gets in one last slash and finally the space is dispelled. They're left on the tracks It's there that they meet the mysterious pale bishounen from earlier. His name is Mephisto, and he has no alternative motive... nosirree.
Back at the UN President's room of thorns, Yoda, I mean, Rai delivers the current updates on the youngster's progress. But it's just a link!
Back at Mephisto's phat crib, Sayaka is being "Spiritually Healed" as Mephisto and Kyoya chew the fat. Kyoya fills Mephisto in on Rebi Rah's plan to turn this world over to the demons, and Mephisto couldn't care less. He's bored and disillusioned by humanity, disgusted by mankind's wars and hate. Oh yes, I'd much rather be ass raped by a demon than get on with my life. Kyoya has no response until he stares at Sayaka's comatose body for a while. He decides he's going to fight anyway, and leave his love interest in the care of a pale beautiful man. Nothing could possibly happen in this city of demon monsters and the like.
As Kyoya leaves a shadow follows, but Mephisto's having none of that. He chucks a scalpel at the shadow and it turns into an incredibly... long woman. I wish I could get a pan image of how friggin tall and lithe everyone is in this movie, it's like a freak show half of the time! In any case the evil she-woman tempts Mephisto into the bar with a few backflips. She then proceeds to elongate her limbs and wrap Mephisto up anaconda style. She then throws him onto the table where they continue to exchange pithy dialogue. A little sulfuric acid, a sloppy breast shot, an exploding scalpel or five and we've actually got a short action scene.
It finishes up with Mephisto literally shoving a bottle of booze down the she-demon's throat until the acid mixes with it and BOOM FWOOOSH! Mephisto then spends a few moments looking kickass in a shadow and retelling the moral of the story of Pandora's box. Stupid, stupid bishounen. They never help the world, just half help it and move on with their lives.
Kyoya then heads across the ruined cityscape. In short order he tenses and Rebi Rah is before him! Rebi Rah lamely tries to tempt Kyoya to the dark side, but Kyoya's having none of it. He slashes, but it's an illusion of bats. He runs off into a lush and green park. People are relaxing, children are playing, and none of this seems amiss to Kyoya. He proceeds to be lulled into a slumber by Rebi Rah as a little "Back Up" should things go sour with the demons.
Back outside, Sayaka's looking for Kyoya when she runs into the punk kid again. She willingly takes his directions once again; even though when last she saw the punk he pulled Kyoya in a trap. Anime heroines... they usually had more sense and skills to contribute. The punk then decides she shouldn't go into the den of evil alone. They head inside where Kyoya went, and don't wind up in the lovely park. It's a warped and twisted place with a huge casualty rate. Obviously the park, but as it is right this instant, after the disaster. As they stroll through the carnage, a creepy girl heads up to Sayaka and tugs at her dress. She's really creepy looking and has a strange pony tail much like the chick at the beginning of the movie. This one's in the middle of her head, it adds another degree of creepy to her in my opinion. But my creepiness isn't' unfounded, she's some sort of fire monster that hates the living. The little girl gets all "Carrie" on the pair then disappears.
Back in lala land, Kyoya dreamily heads into the path of the weird girl. Sayaka tries in vain to stop him, but the allure is too great. She then decides to use her feminine power of empathy to... uh... identify with the burning souls. Luckily, the empathy quells the evil ghosts in an explosion, and she's flung impossibly in a bunch of debris.
The spirits then land on their respective skulls, and Kyoya snaps out of it. Scrambling from the debris, Sayaka rushes over to the creepy girl for a big hug... as the creepy girl decays in front of everyone. What would Emily Post think? Kyoya then crushes the tiny skull in his hand and swears vengeance on Rebi Rah's evil. They then pick up the pace, being as they're almost out of time!
I need a bit of a timeout here. When we watched Kyoya's dad fight Rebi Rah before it was in the middle of the night. Why then, were a bunch of kids playing at this park at that hour? Are the Japanese preparing their spawn for the long nights they'll have to spend at their jobs to keep the country running? No wonder those ghosts were bitter, they were up past their bedtime.
We cut to Rebi Rah, beginning the opening of the demon rift. Lots of lightning, pentagrams, red lighting, the whole anime nine yards. The entire cast converges on the huge evil ley-lines Rebi Rah conjures up. Kyoya, Sayaka, Mephisto, the punk ki... Why did they never name him? In any case, Mephisto and the kid will stay behind. Um, hello? Mephisto? You seemed to be the only one who's got real demon fraggin experience. Why don't you step up to the plate and help a brother out, huh?
Sayaka and Kyoya approach Rebi Rah's incantation site. Rebi quickly uses some dark energy band thingies to bind Sayaka up to the "Hapless Damsel who is to be Sacrificed" position. Then begins the slow process of shooting Kyoya with sword energy beams while continuing to upsell the power of darkness to Kyoya. Now where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, this is obviously the anime "Return of the Jedi".
It's a lot of thrust and parry until Kyoya finally sticks Rebi Rah. But it's not over; Rebi just breaks Kyoya's stick and blasts him into a deep pit. At the last moment, Kyoya wraps himself in the blue glow of that nempo crap, meaning round two will be coming shortly. But before that it's more summoning, and watching the hopes of Sayaka and Rai get dashed upon the rocks.
But Kyoya's not dashed upon the rocks at all. He seems to have found the only patch of grass left in Shinjuku though. He crawls his way over the debris to bite Rebi Rah's legs off, but he eventually stumbles across another kendo wooden sword. Why, I'd just bet you that's his fathers sword to boot. Even Rai is surprised and then tells us how Kyoya's father must have transferred all of his life energy into the sword. Whatever good that does.
So round two begins. Rebi Rah interrupts his summoning, again, to bust down this twerp. But now cool music is playing, so obviously Rah is the one in trouble. As the demons come to accept Sayaka as their sacrifice, Mephisto jumps down and whisks her away, demanding to see a clean fight between Rah and Kyoya. Meanwhile, he'll just comfort the little lady, yeah, comfort... With his porcelain albino wang.
And then it's pretty much over. Rebi Rah swings, Kyoya swings back, Rebi Rah tries to regenerate... but cant because Kyoya's power level IS OVER NINE-THOUSAAAAND!
Not much more to say really. The day is saved, the UN president is let down into the loving arms of Yoda/Rai, Kyoya gets the girl, the punk strides off into the new dawn, and Mephisto tells us the end of the Pandora's box story. You know, about how Kratos used it to grow huge and kill Ares? Good times.
You really do leave this movie unfulfilled. This man made Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust for crying out loud! But we all have to start somewhere. And we all have to end this review now. This is bad, bad, and worse. Just watch "Return of the Jedi" and "Ninja Scroll" back to back for a better time. Just skip over the ewoks.