ADV Films // 1989 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // June 17th, 2004
One warrior against the Army of Death!
Blood Reign: Curse Of The Yoma is an armful of horror ambience wrapped around a toothpick plot. Unless there is some vast subtext that I'm missing, our hero Hikage does not confront the Army of Death. The real army of death is probably a little more impressive than a handful of giant spiders, a butterfly demon, and a horse. In the only scene where Hikage actually faces a horde of undead, they shuffle right past him and disappear.
Let's back up a minute (be wary of spoilers ahead if you are interested in this toothpick-thin plot). Blood Reign is a tale of two friends in a ninja clan. Marou is special, and by "special" I mean he was spawned from the mud as a baby, sold the clan up the river as an adult, and periodically wraps himself in a cocoon to mentally control undead minions. Our hero Hikage wants his old friend back, the regular ninja guy who slew innocents without a second thought. So Hikage pursues Marou to the ends of the earth.
The problem with this anime is that it's all ambience. The opening scene features Hikage and Marou in a field of broken corpses, lying in pools of red mud, entrails squishing underfoot. Freaky, no? It might be, if we knew who the bodies used to be, cared anything about this epic battle that took place, or got to see any action. Once the story begins in earnest, it is basically Hikage fighting minion after minion, which culminates in a "surprise" super-fight at the end. The outcome of each scene is obvious; watching Blood Reign is an exercise in resisting use of the fast-forward button. Occasional moments of nonsensical downtime fail to deter us from the primary strand of battles.
Had the battles been exciting, this would be something. But the limpid animation and static imagery gives Blood Reign an old-school vibe that doesn't scare up much excitement. The musty image quality feels too dark and fuzzy to be engaging. Washed-out colors and unstable black levels compete with grain and anti-aliasing. The image jitters periodically.
Repetitive, synthesized horror music wants to set us on edge, but instead all I can think about is the extended video version of "Thriller." It is as though the director heard a few bars of music and said "That sounds spooky...if we play it constantly, people will be really scared!" The 5.1 remastered English dub lends a surround effect or two, but there isn't much to work with.
Blood Reign simply lacks the contrast to scare or involve us. Scene after scene of undead minions is meaningless without a frame of reference. Had we been treated to normalcy or a sense of calm that later erupted into an orgy of undead mayhem, the resultant contrast might have affected us. As it stands, Blood Reign is a curiosity, an example of how they used to do anime. It doesn't belong in anyone's essential collection.
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Dramatis Personae
* Original Trailers
* ADV Previews