Judge Paul Pritchard would have déjà vu about this anime, if he could remember it.
Zombies. Monsters. Demons. Afterschool activities can sure be Hell.
Superheroes versus zombies. There's no way you can mess that up is there? Oh…
Facts of the Case
Based on the 1998 Playstation videogame, Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpucho, Tokyo Majin is set in modern-day Tokyo, where a series of murders has the police force perplexed.
To make matters worse the corpses soon begin to rise again and start prowling the night, looking for more victims to bring into their ranks. To tackle the living dead, five high-school students, led by the mysterious Tatsuma Hiyuu and cocky Kyouichi Houraiji and blessed with supernatural powers, set out to destroy this army of darkness and discover what evil force is behind the events.
Volume 1 of Tokyo Majin comprises of the first five episodes:
• Arrival of the Demon.
I may as well get it off my chest from the start, Tokyo Majin, based on my viewing of the first volume, offers nothing new for the seasoned anime fan, and seems content to offer up the usual stereotypical characters and situations we've seen a million times before. And you know what? That's actually pretty sad, because when it gets going it actually has some potential to be a cool show.
Since my early teens when I would gorge myself on as much anime as I could get my hands on, I have to admit I've become a far more casual viewer. This is ultimately for two reasons; firstly as I've grown older my tastes have expanded to take in more genres and styles, secondly I started to find more and more anime titles were simply rehashing the same ideas over and over. While there are still great works in the genre being released, such as Paprika or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, it's evident that overall the genre is a long way from the creative zenith it reached in the late eighties and early nineties. Tokyo Majin is a perfect example of the problem I have with the current state of anime; it is perfectly watchable and certainly has the ability to entertain, but once the DVD has been turned off it really didn't take long for me to forget about it. It just really did nothing to stand out, apparently happy to be like so many other titles vying for your money.
That's not to say Tokyo Majin is without merit; indeed when the show kicks up a gear and goes into action mode (i.e. when demon ass is getting kicked), the show soars: the fight scenes are well-executed and exciting, and the mix of demons, zombies, and monsters is enticing. Sadly the show spends too long in chatty mode (i.e. no demons and no asses being kicked) and begins to grate a little. While the "talky" scenes help develop the characters and back story, it results in the pace dropping to a near standstill, the characters are neither unique nor interesting enough to really carry these often lengthy sequences. Another problem I encountered was, despite some great lines ("Oh great, the juvenile delinquent and the narcoleptic transfer student are bonding!), the show's goofy humor struggles to blend well with the dark tone it sets out to achieve, resulting in a somewhat disjointed experience.
If I can have one final moan (after which I promise I'll move on), the structure of the episodes, with Episode One throwing us straight into the action, results in a series opener that is nothing but an incoherent mess. While later episodes begin to fill in the events that led up to the opening, I can't help but think the action and spectacle of the first episode's monster battles are wasted.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is pretty strong. Colours are often muted which adds to the overall feel of the show and gives it a gritty feel. The audio is without fault, hardly spectacular but it nevertheless does its job well. As is standard with ADV releases, special features are limited to a few previews.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As stated previously, the action scenes are thoroughly entertaining, a heady mix of weapon and hand based combat mixed with supernatural powers makes for a visual treat. Similarly the mix of zombies and demons, along with the apocalyptic tone, while hardly original, is a cool framework to build an anime series on and is well-executed here. It's just a shame that the plot fails to live up to its setting.
A lack of an original story need never be a problem if you're able to put a new spin on it. Here a lack of engaging, unique characters and a poor structure relegate Tokyo Majin to the ranks of also-ran.
Despite getting a number of things right, Tokyo Majin never once felt like it was reaching to be anything new, and at the end of the day is just uninspired. If that didn't seal its fate, the wasted potential of superheroes versus zombies did. Guilty!
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