A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

July 5, 2011

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

Way back on the third day of our movie-a-day project we reviewed Hellboy: Storm of Swords. It was a direct to video animated Hellboy story inspired by Japanese folk tales and it reminded me of an anime I had seen years ago, but I couldn’t think of the name of it. Then again, when we reviewed Ninja Scroll a little while ago I was reminded of this mysterious and bloody anime from bygone days. It was so irritating – like an itch – to have this movie I only vaguely remembered and couldn’t therefore find. So I spent about an hour searching the internet until a title leaped out at me. “Curse of the Undead Yoma.”

This was it! This was that mystery movie I couldn’t remember! Amanda and I first sought this out when we saw this trailer and were instantly captivated. Just haunting, wistful song in the trailer made us curious. What was this strange looking movie filled with ghosts and demons? Luckily at the time we were working for TLA video and they had this in their vast collection of anime, so we were able to watch it soon after seeing the preview.

I think that version we watched way back in the nineties was different than this, which we picked up on DVD last week. For one thing, I don’t remember the other version being two separate episodes as this one is. For another I remember being utterly confused and befuddled by the goings on the last time I saw this, whereas tonight it seemed relatively simple and clear. Either I was very tired the last time I saw this or the version we were watching was compressed and edited. Maybe it was also dubbed, which could add to the confusion (this being in the days before DVD when everything was properly available in multiple languages.) Anyhow, back then this movie was just a series of interesting pictures strung together by only the vaguest of plots.

Tonight I was able to understand the plot pretty well. Young Ninja Hikage is sent to kill his childhood friend Marou after their master is killed by a mysterious demon. He tracks Marou to a lost village where nobody has any memory of their past. It’s an unsettling place where people with no direction seem to wash up, including the beautiful young Aya, who sings the haunting song from the preview and who has a distinctive scar or birthmark over half her face. As Hikage searches for Marou he discovers that something is brutally killing the villagers, although everybody he confronts about it denies that anything is happening. Soon he finds out that the villagers are sacrifices to a resurrected demon god of some sort. he kills the demon’s spider henchmen, releasing the villagers from their ensorcelled peace, and confronts the god himself, who of course turns out to be his childhood companion Marou.

Marou gets away and the villagers, released from their dreamlike state, all die. (They had been drawn to the village by their suicidal tendencies apparently.) Thus ends the first of the two episodes. The second episode catches up with Hikage two years later. He has been travelling all over Japan slaying Yoma, the demons being raised by Marou to overthrow the human race. He encounters a young ninja girl on a beach who is also coincidentally named Aya. The two of them strike out killing Yoma, encountering ghosts and whatnot until Hikage finally catches up with Marou and has his climactic confrontation.

Amanda is somewhat upset by the recursive nature of the coda to the film, what with the two Ayas, but I kind of enjoy that aspect of the movie as well. The entire thing has an otherworldly and mystical feel to it, so the strange sense of inevitability and rebirth works for me. It’s a ghost story, really. All the people in the first village are lost, perhaps lost in time even – so the Aya we meet there could perhaps be an echo of the Aya in the second half. Or perhaps Hikage is just fated to love a girl named Aya with a scar – who knows? The movie doesn’t present answers, and that’s just fine by me. It’s a movie about second chances and love and betrayal, and all of those themes fill it from start to end.

This was made in 1989 – around the time of Akira. As such I can’t help being impressed with the detailed animation throughout. It’s full of cool demons, ninjitsu and acrobatic fight scenes, and lots of gore and corpses. There’s a lot of imagery that is frankly disturbing and unsettling, which is exactly the mood that the film makers were going for I’m sure. The whole “childhood friends who have to fight to the death” might be a tired kind of trope in the anime world, but this is one of my favorite examples of it. My other favorite is a spoof in the short lived Here is Greenwood series.

July 5, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , ,

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