A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 492 – Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma – July 5th, 2011

I have to say, our years working at video stores have definitely affected our movie purchases in a big way. Working at a smaller store with lots of lesser known titles certainly exposed us to things we’d never have seen otherwise, and might not have bothered renting had we not had employee accounts to use. And now we get to go searching for some of those lesser known titles to find them for this project. Because the thing about this project is that we owned a lot of things we’d never seen before, but when looking at our list we realized how many things we had seen and loved but didn’t own. And this was one of the latter.

A little over a year ago I asked some friends online if they could help me figure out what this anime was. I’d seen it in college while working at the video store, and I remembered that it had an eerie counting song run over the trailer. We’d originally rented it because of the trailer and that song and been thoroughly baffled by it once we’d seen it. I remembered it having lots of monsters and a woman who turned into a moth (or vice versa, I wasn’t sure) and one of the main characters had a scar on his face. The protagonist and antagonist were childhood friends and now one of them had gone evil. And that was pretty much all I could give anyone to go on. Because I sincerely doubt that saying “I’m pretty sure we saw the trailer on some other thing that also had a trailer for Gappa: The Triphibian Monster,” would help. And really, take a look at that list of characteristics. Monsters and shape-shifters, creepy music, childhood friends turned rivals because one is evil? Yeah, that’s totally unique.

None of my friends were able to put a name to my mystery movie and so we moved on, hoping that some day we’d remember it or stumble across it. Then, after watching The Ninja Scroll, Andy decided to actively look. And how did he look, might you ask? He searched youtube for anime trailers with creepy music. And lo and behold, there it was. Over ten years later and I could still hum the tune. It’s a weird sort of movie that’s stuck with us despite being confusing and flawed. Because make no mistake, this movie is not a great anime classic full of lush visuals and impeccable storytelling. It’s an animated movie that actually has still sketches as part of its action scenes and one of the main characters is a total cipher.

The story is a little patchy. We start out with Hikage, a ninja warrior who’s been assigned to track down his former best friend, Marou, so Marou won’t spread knowledge of their clan leader’s death too early. But of course it’s not that simple. Marou has been claimed by the Yoma – demons who want to take over the world – and is growing in power. Hikage sees him in a strange village full of oddly happy people who don’t seem to have any cares at all. The village has no apparent resources, yet everyone in it is partying and laughing and super happy. But then he doesn’t see Marou again and instead becomes enamoured of a young woman, Aya, who has a bad scar on her cheek. And then he finds out that the village is full of suicidal folks who are being kept happy so they can be fed to Marou and he and his demons can take over. He fights the demon who was responsible, then some more demons, then everyone dies and Marou gets away and that’s the end of the episode.

Oh yeah, this is actually episodic. We hadn’t realized that before. And actually, I think it’s better this way. I’m fairly certain that the version we originally watched wasn’t divided, and it does play well enough as a whole. The thing is, I’m fairly sure there are some bits missing out of the version we originally saw, and I like that the second half introduces itself as a second half, divided from the first by three years. Because while the overarching plot of Hikage and Marou and the Yoma is still going on, the specifics of what Hikage encounters are different. And by smushing them together without much acknowledgement that there is a gap? Ironically, I think it would make the movie less cohesive.

The second half of the movie picks up three years later with the introduction of another character named Aya, this time a young woman who’s a ninja. She joins Hikage as they encounter a village full of ghosts and a bunch of other demons, most of whom shapeshift from human form to some sort of animal. And of course the whole thing ends with a climactic fight between Marou and Hikage, with Marou going full on demon and there’s lots of swordplay and yelling and blood. Aya gets attacked by a horse demon and eventually it all ends with Marou’s death. Not exactly a shocking ending. Of course, it also introduces the idea that Marou will be back, and that he will make the same choices he made before. Which brings up the question of Aya. In the first half she’s got a scar that a younger version of her (we assume) gets from the events of the second half.

The Aya thing is what gets me here. I can sort of see what the movie was going for with it, suggesting that there’s a cyclical nature of the events that are playing out. Marou’s rebirth, his strange origins, his choices and his words all hint at there being an inevitability to it all. But then there’s Aya, who dies in the first half only to sort of reappear in the second. Maybe it’s not the same Aya. Maybe the first half showed the potential future of the second half Aya had she not met Hikage? Maybe they’re not the same person but share the same soul? The movie does include the concepts of possession and reincarnation, allowing for the possibility that Aya wasn’t the same person but gained aspects of the other Aya. I don’t know. It’s all very vague, much like the battle scenes of the movie, which are shown by panning over some still sketches.

I find it frustrating because it hints at such a bigger picture. A lot of the movie does. But that bigger picture just doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a longer series condensed into an OVA and it doesn’t seem to have started as a manga series. It’s just a two part movie with some really big concepts that don’t quite fit. I love the still visuals and the demons are nicely drawn. The idea is pretty solid at its core and the characters are as well drawn as I’d expect them to be (aside from Aya) but it leaves me feeling like I missed something. This version left me feeling less that way than I remember feeling after the first time I saw it, but it’s still there. I enjoyed it, but I really wish there was even more of it to enjoy.

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

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