Stephen reviews: Kai Doh Maru (2001)

Kai Doh Maru [怪童丸, Kaidōmaru] (2001)

Starring Mitsuki Saiga, Shotaro Morikubo, Yurika Hino

Directed by Kanji Wakabayashi


I was drawn to this movie because of its visual style. And the promise of some samurai action. Samurai action is nothing new; making an anime inspired by ancient Japanese artwork, however, is something very unusual. Unfortunately, what I got was not as impressive as I wanted. The influence is limited to just the color schemes rather than the character designs or environments. Most of the scenery is muted and pale to give the impression of an old scroll, while vivid pastels color the characters and important objects. The contrast gives it a unique and interesting appearance, but that’s as far as it goes. In all other aspects, it looks like any other anime.

The opening scene tries to capture a scruffier look to the artwork, but it doesn’t help. I wanted it to look like a moving tapestry with all the characters looking like they had been painted centuries ago. I know that would be impossible to animate as well as I want, but they could have tried harder than they did. It doesn’t help any that most of the backgrounds are done in CG either. At least they took the time and effort to give the CG black lines so it doesn’t look totally out of place next to the standard animation, but it’s still disappointing.

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