Stephen reviews: Twilight of the Dark Master (1997)

twilightofthedarkmaster_6Twilight of the Dark Master [支配者の黄昏 Shihaisha no Tasogare] (1997)

Starring Toshihiko Seki, Emi Shinohara, Akira Kamiya, Urara Takano, Hiroya Ishimaru, Kaneto Shiozawa, Seizo Katou, Atsuko Takahata, Takaya Hashi

Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo


Twilight of the Dark Master follows the tradition of earlier grisly demon anime such as Demon City Shinjuku or Wicked City. It tells a similar tale of conflict between good and evil in a dismal future setting invaded by demons. In terms of adult content, it lies somewhere between those other two. It has a good deal of disturbing sexual content, but it is more subtly delivered than Wicked City‘s full-frontal insanity.

The plot is too convoluted for me to summarize here. Not because it is too complex, but because it drip feeds even the basic information over the course of the film, leaving you wondering just what is going on for the first half. This makes it difficult to give much information without spoiling things, so I’ll only give you the most basic premise. It’s about a newly engaged woman named Shizuka getting mauled (and perhaps raped) by a giant demon. Shizuka then sets off on a quest to find and kill the monster that attacked her. Along the way she enlists the aid of a mysterious wizard whose job is to hunt down demons.

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Stephen reviews: X (1996)

X (1996)
AKA X/1999, X: Their Destiny Was Foreordained 1999

Starring Tomokazu Seki, Ken Narita, Yūko Minaguchi, Atsuko Takahata, Junko Iwao, Tōru Furusawa, Masako Ikeda, Kazuhiko Inoue,Mami Koyama, Rica Matsumoto, Kotono Mitsuishi, Issei Miyazaki, Jōji Nakata, Yukana Nogami, Toshihiko Seki, Emi Shinohara, Hideyuki Tanaka, Kōichi Yamadera

Directed by Rintaro


No, the title X has nothing to do with the film’s rating. It is in fact rated R. There’s no sex anywhere, and the only nudity is in the incredibly creepy opening scene where the main character, Kamui, confronts his naked mother. Before Kamui can do much of anything, his mother rips open her own stomach with her bare hands and pulls out a massive sword, which she then stabs into Kamui’s stomach. And just to end the scene on a confusing note, because it wasn’t confusing enough apparently, Mommy dearest spontaneously explodes in a spray of blood and severed limbs. Things like this are why Japan has cornered the WTF market. It certainly grabs your attention, but even after watching the film I’m not sure whether that scene was a dream sequence, or literal event. It doesn’t matter much though, as there isn’t much difference between the two in this movie. People travel through dreams, and the film is filled with apocalyptic visions.

The movie is about the end of the world, and the two groups fighting over it: the Dragons of Heaven who want to preserve modern civilization, and the Dragons of Earth that want to return the world to its natural state. Each side has six members in addition to the two fortune-telling sisters that lead them, and that means there’s obviously going to be some limits on how well we get to know them. Many characters have a sort of “Hi! Bye!” feel to them, just getting enough time to show off their stuff before dying. This film is an adaptation of a comic book series, and the problem of condensing a longer story will always be present. Rintaro has learned a few things in the decade since he directed The Dagger of Kamui, though, and the pacing in X is smooth throughout the film, giving a balanced focus to as many characters as it could.

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