Urotsukidoji: Perfect Collection Review
There is a legend which says that every 3,000 years the Chojin (Overfiend, Demon) is born from an innocent young man. Its goal is simple - to unite the realms of the demons, humans and man-beasts with the intent to cause destruction and misery, forming a new world of sadistic sensibilities through which the demon invaders can live for eternity, pillaging off the damned.
Two such man-beasts, Amano Jyaku and his sister Megumi travel between the three realms to track down and destroy the demons that dare cause trouble. Presently they arrive at Myojin University in Japan, where they discover a young man who they believe is the Chojin. During the course of one night they discover that the time for the Overfiend to arise is nigh. Now they must protect their new friends from corruption and save the world from a fate worse than death.
In 1987 the “Overfiend Saga” made its debut in Japan. The face of animation had been changed forever when Toshio Maeda unleashed what was then described as the sickest animation of all time. Urotsukidoji is exploitative, vicious, twisted film making at its best. It would shock viewers with its depiction of a multitude of rape scenes featuring school girls; ultra violence, bodily dismemberment - including self abuse - torture and much more. Above all the series had a captivating story, one that would be overlooked the most due to the verbal lashings that the show had received from certain critics who weren’t ready for a series of this magnitude.
Urotsukidoji ended up as being quite a saga. The first series “Legend of the Overfiend” consisted of three episodes. Next came series two, entitled “Legend of the Demon Womb”, consisting of just two episodes. In the years to follow, the series continued to outdo itself in terms of depravity. The third series “Return of the Overfiend” was set almost twenty years after the events of the first outing and finally it was wrapped up by its most controversial instalment “Inferno Road” - deemed so sickening that it was banned outright by the BBFC in the United Kingdom before they later decided to release it in a version so horrifically butchered that you’d be stupid to purchase it. More recently “New Urotsukidoji” has been released; not so much a sequel but a re-working of the original. Though to be honest none have ever come close to matching the original instalments that I’m here to discuss. “Inferno Road” for that matter wasn't the only time that Toshio Maeda would see one of his shows get mauled and banned. In recent years La Blue Girl has been given refusal by the BBFC due to its content. The show about ninja sex warriors was too explicit for censors who were unhappy by its depiction of rape and the enjoyment that the characters got from it. Thankfully these shows and many more have been given respectable treatment in the United States, whereby those old enough to purchase them can enjoy this art form known as “Hentai”.
Hentai is a phenomenon all of its own. Widely tolerated in Japan but more often condemned overseas it has gained a following quite unlike any other. But Hentai largely remains a taboo area in the field of animation and continues to be debated amongst those seeking some form of internal logic, challenging the notion of what is and isn’t acceptable on screen and wondering how far and why animators are willing to go in order to deliver a cheap thrill. The main problem is that Hentai is such a huge commodity, catering for a select audience with varying tastes that its very reputation has been its undoing. It’s not so much taken seriously as an art form in the west, as much as it simply gains the usual response of being a sleazy sex genre, but then when its literal translation means “perverted” who can blame anyone? Granted, 80-90% of adult themed anime released per annum is designed strictly to titillate the viewer, with very little effort placed into a storyline. The question then with these types of productions is “Why would you want a story?” Therefore, when a title comes along purporting to have a serious and epic storyline, such as the Urotsukidoji saga, few are willing to set aside preconceptions of what this anime sub-genre is and can potentially achieve.
Sex is still a huge taboo subject even to this day but what better way to spice things up than to go full steam ahead and let rip on the darkest recesses of the human mind. Urotsukidoji explores sexual awakening and tries to encapsulate its central players feelings as they go through innocence and intimacy, first love and rejection; all things we remember and things that remain special. But so too does it delve deep into a sordid psychosis of sexual desire, which acts as a counter balance to the general normality of its protagonists – and one that’s given a considerable graphic boost. Naturally then the curiosity surrounding Urotsukidoji has largely centred on this angle, which sure enough warrants its controversial reputation. The series is daring enough to feature rape at the hands tentacles of demonic creations, not unusual for a Toshio Maeda production, and a host of other depraved acts of sexual violence to keep the viewer’s eyes peeled, even if they may feel as if they should be looking away. But as graphic and imaginative as the sex is, it takes second place next to a genuinely intriguing narrative.
Several thematic storylines link this original five-part tale. The plot it has to be said is a complicated one. On the surface it appears to be a fantastical tale about a war between beasts and men and this much is true, but it also harbours a side of occultism. Creator Toshio Maeda is very much interested in the occult and ritualistic scenarios featuring demonic beasts and this is evident not only here but also in his subsequent series Demon Beast Invasion, La Blue Girl and Nightmare Campus. Religion equally plays a large part, alongside general philosophies of life, while the notion of sex being used in conjunction with magic is a pioneering aspect to this specific medium, in all creating a certain amount of depth to what is otherwise considered a nasty adult anime. But deep down Urotsukidoji is very humanistic, being built up of several characters, each of whom deal with their own insecurities as they get through adolescence. These moments prove to be some of the most powerful in the series as it deals with various rights of passages such as bullying and sexual frustration, which can in turn lead to personal damnation and inevitably stir hatred within.
So to break down the two series:
Disc A features parts one, two and three that form "Legend of the Overfiend"
Amano Jyaku and his sister, Megumi travel between realms to seek out the Chojin and make sure he doesn't bring together the armies of evil. The Chojin appears every 3,000 years to take hold of a body and enter the realm of the humans, it seems his target has been found.
Nagumo is the unlikely choice for this as he's a weedy, shy and pathetic young man who lusts after girls as he spies on them. Rivalling him is Ozaki, the popular sports player who gets all the girls and whom Amano believes is the real contender to become the Chojin. Nagumo eventually wins the affections of Akemi and together they become involved in a struggle between good and evil, as Amano fights against his enemy Sui Kaku Jyu who opposes Amano's quest. Battles are waged until a surprise twist of fate turns our heroes' world upside down.
Disc B features parts four and five that make up "Legend of the Demon Womb"
This opens up in Germany WWII and sees Hitler ordering his crazed scientist, Myuni Hausen to experiment on females, using machines designed to rape and generate a new form of energy that will be used by Hitler to further his evil campaign. The experiment fails and all but Hausen's son is killed in the blast that follows.
The son, Myuni Hausen II, grows up studying occult rituals in an institution where he believes he can bring back and control a demon by the name of Kohoki.
Nagumo's cousin, Takeaki arrives for a visit but unknown to him Hausen wishes to turn him into an evil king with the help of Kohoki. A huge battle ensues as Amano fights against Hausen and tries to protect his sister from being continually raped by Kohoki before he hopes to lead her to her death in a final sadistic ritual that includes the continuation of Hausen's mechanical rapists.
Despite the suggestion that this is fully uncut, it actually retains a few edits left over from the original Japanese cut. These rare moments include fogging effects and on one occasion a mosaic effect. This is still the definitive version to get, retaining about an hour of footage that was trimmed from several other releases.
For a series this old it looks pretty good on DVD. Presented in full-screen it shows obvious signs of dirt and scratches. The transfer is quite sharp, colours are generally good but slightly saturated and I can’t imagine the series looking much better than it does here, though a re-mastered job would be most welcome.
There are optional subtitles that are yellow and do a fine job. The only distracting part is during the opening of part four, when there is German dialogue. This then has hard-matted Japanese subtitles to which the English subtitles have been overlaid. This makes it very difficult to read.
The original Japanese stereo track is the only one on offer. It does a good job in putting across sound that is clear and crisp, though I’m sure the meatier sequences would have benefited greatly from a 5.1 mix.
Disc A and Disc B feature the exact same extras and are quite a disappointment:
Meet Mr. Maeda
One page giving a very brief introduction to Toshio Maeda, "one of the forefathers of erotic manga and anime in Japan."
This features a page promoting the comic book saga, Anime 18 Trailers and a short introduction to anime called "Anime Artform". This basically explains the look of anime characters and certain depictions in various anime.
Trailers for: Demon City Shinjuku, Grappler Baki, Midnight Panther, Beast City and Lady Blue.
Accessing this will bring up comics and an art gallery.
Urotsukidoji seems to be a series that has generated more curiosity than any other, and it warrants such attention. This is definitely not for everyone, there are those who find it distasteful and there are those that enjoy it for all the depraved moments it features. Personally I find it to be extremely entertaining. A benchmark anime if ever there was one, which does have messages to look for if you can be open minded enough to find them.