Stephen reviews: Dark Cat (1991)

darkcat_1Dark Cat [ダークキャット] (1991)

Starring Tsutomu Kashiwakura, Ryotaro Okiayu, Daisuke Gori, Shigeru Nakahara, Aya Hisakawa

Directed by Iku Suzuki


This is clearly one of those anime titles that is a reduced form of the original story it was based upon, except that upon further investigation I can’t find anything that it was based upon. Now that’s pretty bad if it really was this disjointed and incomplete right out of the original design phase. It truly feels as if there is a much larger story to be told, and it just got drastically cut down for a movie adaptation. So many of the plot threads reference backstory that doesn’t exist in the film that I have to believe there was a lager story somewhere, even if only in the writer’s head.

The film opens with a tall dude with hair shaped slightly like cat ears talking to a blue girl in a hospital bed. It cuts back and forth between his conversation and random girls about town vanishing in a flash of light that leaves smoking craters behind. This is actually a pretty good opening that really got me interested in what was going to happen. Sadly, it never really follows up on that mysterious situation. The rest of the film is mostly filled with the emotional struggles of a teenage girl and the guy she’s been in love with since childhood, then a bland fight with a cat monster gets tacked on at the end to wrap things up.

darkcat_2Basically, the story revolves around this couple as the boy goes into terminal depression because the girl he asked out turned him down, then his childhood friend also goes into terminal depression because the guy she loves is being a jackass. Since everyone is too busy being an emo loser to actually do anything interesting, they aren’t very sympathetic. And since so much of the runtime is just watching these two mope about, it gets really boring.

So whatever happened to that cat-eared guy and the disappearing girls? Well, the girl who dumped what’s-his-name is one of the girls who disappeared, but other than that, the whole disappearing girls thing just kinda gets forgotten. I assume the big evil cat monster was responsible for it, but that’s just a guess really. The evil cat guy is more into turning people into monsters than making them vanish, so it’s not even a good guess. The cat-eared guy — whose name is Hyoi — is ostensibly the main character, so even if we do spend more time following the depressed teenagers, he does pop up from time to time. His little brother, Ryoi, takes up more screen time than him, too. Your script really needs some work when the supposed main character isn’t even in half of the movie.

darkcat_3Hyoi is apparently a magical cat that can turn into a human. His little brother is also tagging along with him, and in cat form they’re the most misshapen cats I have ever seen animated. They track down evil spirits and defeat them for the sake of goodness, or something. He has some kind of history with a cat monster named Jukokubo who likes to raise and eat evil spirits for the sake of evilness, or something. The movie never really gets into it. There’s a good guy and a bad guy. That’s all, folks.

There are a few gruesome monsters lurking about, and a few action scenes, but none of it is all that intriguing. The monsters are kinda bland despite their gooey betentacled killing sprees, and the fights are the exact opposite of dramatic. It’s not all bad. There are a few mildly entertaining moments, even if they are accidental, like a floating Persian cat that lives out in the woods. It made me think, ever so briefly, about the cat from House, but that just made me wish this movie was as dementedly fun as that one instead of boring as hell.

Dark Cat isn’t a complete pile of shit, but it sure smells just as bad. It’s mopey and bland, and if creepy anime monsters mutilating people is what you’re after, then you’d be much better off with Battle Royal High School, which has a similar feel but actually follows through with the concept of balls-crazy action. Leave Dark Cat alone. Its few entertaining tidbits really aren’t worth it.

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