Judge Paul Pritchard battles demons. Most of them are found at the bottom of a bourbon bottle.
On the face of it, Strait Jacket looks to be a winner. The concept is sound, bordering on really freakin' cool, while the short running time hints at a fast-paced slice of anime. The reality, regrettably, is very different. Forgettable, inconsequential, and lacking in substance, Strait Jacket never comes close to making good on the promise of its concept.
A brief introduction prepares us for the world of Strait Jacket, where sorcery and science coexist. We learn how sorcery has become a part of everyday life, with it being applied to most any occupation you can imagine, from the military to medicine. There is a catch, though. Unless proper precautions are taken, those who utilize sorcery are liable to transform into horrifying demons, twisted images of their former selves who are driven by an insatiable bloodlust. Standing between these demons and the safety of the human race are tactical sorcerers, magicians encased in suits of armor known as strait jackets. These strait jackets, or "Molds" as they are also known, protect the wearer not only from attack, but also from the adverse affects of sorcery, thereby maintaining their humanity.
All tactical sorcerers must be licensed by the Sorcery Management Bureau, those practicing without a license are outlawed. However, when a wave of demon attacks, linked to a terrorist group, causes mass devastation, the Bureau have little choice but to request the services of Leiot Steinberg, an unlicensed tactical sorcerer they have allowed to continue practicing due to his high success rate. But Steinberg is a man with a dark secret, one apparently linked to his young half-human, half-demon assistant.
With it's gothic aesthetic and over the top action, Strait Jacket is instantly reminiscent of Capcom's Devil May Cry series of videogames. Unfortunately, with its corny dialogue and stereotypical characters, Strait Jacket lacks the same appeal as Dante and Co.
Lifeless scenes of exposition and poor character development are the chief culprits in Strait Jacket's downfall. The mystery surrounding Steinberg, which, I assume, is the intended crux of the movie, is far from captivating and feels like a ruse to sucker viewers into believing the feature is deeper than it actually is. Secondary characters are ill-conceived, frequently feeling like clones of characters from other, often better anime. Action scenes, on the other hand, are a resounding success. Visually spectacular, with some really quite impressive effects implemented, they are hard to fault, with scenes of mass destruction well-portrayed. On a similar note, while the character design is often clichéd, the design work for the demons shows a little more invention, which is sadly all too little, too late.
Strait Jacket comes to DVD with a reasonably strong 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The image is both clean and sharp, and makes the most of a muted color palette. Similarly the soundtrack, whether you opt for the 5.1 dubbed track or the 2.0 Japanese track, is crisp, leaving no reason for complaints. The disc contains no special features at all.
Based on the manga written by Ichiro Sakaki, Strait Jacket was originally released in Japan as a three-episode anime series. For its American release the episodes have been fused together. With no information on further installments available, the conclusion to Strait Jacket is hugely unsatisfying. Perhaps, if there is more story to be told, the problems I had with Strait Jacket will be resolved. For now though it's difficult to recommend Strait Jacket, leaving me no choice but to hand down a guilty verdict.
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