Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Like Urot-sucky...

Seven years later, I finally made good on my personal promise to give THE UROTSUKI (UROTSUKIDOJI NEW SAGA) a second chance.

My initial experience was one of blind, frothing hatred at the time, with an incomprehensible story with only the most tangential connection to Maeda Toshio's original storyline, hampered further by a combination of poorly rendered internet flash cartoon quality animation occasionally peppered with 3D graphics that would have made a Nintendo 64 system feel better about itself sexually. In the end I watched about 5 minutes with my jaw hanging open in disbelief, scanned through the rest of the untranslated episode, and then shut if off in disgust. I wound up repeating this very process with the second OVA, and when I couldn't find the third I decided it was no big loss.

In 2004, Anime 18 released the title in North America uncensored and with a fresh set of English translations. With the company already on its' last legs, they made the brilliant decision to release each episode on a separate DVD, not because the 135 minute runtime required it, but because Nutech forever ruined the concept of American hentai distributors putting more than 1 episode per SKU, which led to studios feeling justified in charging $20-30 per half-hour. I'll admit that I own a few of these bastard releases, but felt regularly content to ignore them, particularly when the rest of the Urotsukidoji franchise packed an average of 3 OVAs per DVD and thought $30 was a damn fine price. Of course those DVDs didn't have any fucking subtitles... but I'm just splitting hairs now. Anyway, I was already angry at The Urotsuki, so the suggestion that I pay over double what I would have expected it to sell for left me guffawing and giving Anime 18 my raised middle finger.

I will say, however, that I begrudgingly bought Angel Blade at $60 for 3 episodes. I would have gladly bought Crimson Climax/Hotaruko at that price too if I'd known how fucking excellent a show it was before it went out of print, but we all live and learn...

I'm also going to mention that I've spoken a few times with Justin Sevakis, current head of Anime News Network. I'm not a friend of his or anything, but we've spoken a few times and I found him to be a pretty decent guy. I mentioned my love for Urotsukidoji, and he mentioned his contempt for it. He also mentioned that I really should give The Urotsuki a second chance, since the ending was what he liked best about the show. By the time this had happened, Anime 18 and the rest of CPM had already dropped off the face of the Earth, and this desire to give the so-called "New Saga" was forgotten for well over a year... until, of course, unexpected circumstance brought Justin's opinions to the general public.

So I finally watched the whole show. Uncensored and with a translation, hoping that would help change my opinion for the better... it did not. In fact, I think watching the whole sordid 135 minute train wreck over the course of 24 hours killed a small part of my black, shriveled heart that loved every part of the Urotsukidoji franchise unconditionally, and yes, that includes "The Final Chapter", an hour long project so ill-fated that it wasn't even fully animated before getting released to the rental market, and then being totally forgotten about thereafter, even in Japan.

Even at its' nonsensical worst, Urotsukidoji remained the high point of all Tentacle Rape Entertainment, with the only noteworthy competition out there being La Blue Girl - a spoof of Urotsukidoji to begin with, and Twin Angels - the "straight" version of La Blue Girl. Urotsukidoji held a level of artistic and literary scope that neither of these shows could ever match, and while I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if anyone can watch the scene of Suikakuju getting his body back by sexually draining the energy from his mistresses as the Giger inspired chamber literally fucks and cannibalizes itself and NOT see a shred of mad artistic integrity, then I have no reason to speak to those people on any critical level. Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to pretend that all of my opinions are "right", but at the very least I do my best to have opinions I can explain in rational common sense. Denying the original Urotsukidoji's artistic integrity is to deny the artistic integrity of the very heart of 'Golden Age' Japanese animation, and to shrug off Legend of the Overfiend is tantamount to writing off the entire developing and unique culture of the 1980s OAV.

THE UROTSUKI is a conceptual remake of the original three part Legend of the Overfiend storyline, but it manages to approach the material in a way that's so ass-backwards, incoherent and poorly concieved that it made me smash my face into my desk multiple times before it was over. I'm not a man who inherently dislikes remakes, I'm just a man who can't stand the shitty ones that cash in on the original's name and are slapped together with absolutely no care or talent. There's just no part in this clumsy, ugly, poorly told tale that I could get into... but I'll try, dear readers. If only so you don't make the same mistake I do by thinking "Hey, Urotsukidoji? This could be cool and sexy, right?"

We're introduced to Amano Jaku as a prisoner of the King of the Beast Realm, shortly before his execution for the crime of venturing out into the Demon Realm. The King has shown him mercy, however, and allows him a chance to restore his father's tainted honor if he ventures out into the Human Realm to find the legendary Chojin* (Ascended God), and so despite the society having advanced US Airforce inspired technology, they send him on the back of a dinosaur to jump through a series of dimensional gates. This is all rendered in faux-widescreen and mixed in 5.1 to give it a sense of epic importance. That's right, if you can't tell a story that makes any sense, just makes it wider and louder, and maybe nobody will notice.

*Yes, it should be Choujin/超神. But I'm too angry to type the long "ou" right now. I am quite literally lazy with rage.

First of all, Amano can still fly in The Urotsuki, so why is he cruising on a pterodactyl? Second, what crime did Amano's father commit? It's always been mentioned that Amano is a Hanjujin ("Half-Beast"), but this is the first time the screen writers have ever explored it... but it doesn't mean much of anything, since apart from the ability to travel to the Demon Realm, Amano seems to have no other powers, and since that's punishable by death, what good does it do him? Why the hell does any society that's mastered advanced radio technology and satellite aided radar still dress like extras from an Italian Conan knock-off? And how the fuck did Kuroko warp to the Human World?! He wasn't with Amano when he left!

Anyway, Amano gets captured by Megumi - oh sorry... Genyo, a green haired Demon Queen skank who clearly gets knocked up by Amano, but this fact is never mentioned outright and is thus completely unimportant. Genyo becomes the villainess to Amano's antihero, murdering anyone who stands in the way of finding the Chojin... but why? We never know. She's willing to kill left and right just to be sure she's found the God of Gods, but she seemingly doesn't intend to kill him, meaning that her role is EXACTLY LIKE AMANO'S. She's there to cause trouble because the screen writers weren't capable of creating a villainous entity with a personality or goal of their own. They literally just put tits and wings on Amano and said "GENIUS!"

Once again caught in the middle of this inter-dimensional clusterfuck -and yes, I mean that literally - is the pervy dork Nagumo, and the school athlete Ozaki. In the original series, Ozaki was a bitch who got burned to a crisp after 10 minutes of screen time. Here, he's the main character, but instead of being a basketball player (and remember, Slam Dunk was HUGE in the late 80s) he's now a boxer. So, instead of being about Amano trying to find the Overfiend, it's basically a porno version of Ashita no Joe with a supernatural backdrop.

Um... okay? I could deal with this change if Ozaki were a compelling antihero, but honestly, he's kind of an asshole. He has cancer and doesn't tell anybody, and then rapes his manager (who's secretly in love with him... *sigh*), but when the finds out she's sorry because she "didn't understand his feelings". For fuck's sake... Look, I know rape is the physical version of はじめまして! and all that, but are you serious? Ozaki spends the entire show feeling sorry for himself and trying to recapture his childhood friendship with Nagumo, and Nagumo - you know, the fucking Chojin himself - is essentially just shrubbery for the entire series, and succeeded only in dying - briefly, at that.

Nagumo isn't alone in being ornamental nothing, though. Niki makes a brief appearance as a fat girl working at McDonalds. Mimi, the Beast King's daughter, fills runtime in the opening sequence of the first episode but doesn't add anything of note. Akemi is almost useful as a psychic who reveals bits of the future to Ozaki, but the fact that a pacifist is somehow the leader of the Japanese Hells Angels is so asinine that I must disregarded her completely. Suikakuju, one of the most interesting characters in the original storyline, is mentioned by name but completely irrelevant to the story. All of these instances are disappointments, but at least they were thrown in seemingly as a wink and a nod to fans of the original series, like Tom Savini having a 10 second cameo in Zach Snyder's somewhat less disappointing (but still not great) Dawn of the Dead remake... it's there for fans, but it really adds nothing to the experience, other than trying in vain to point out things that we used to like about the franchise. This is a dangerous game, and the more you do it, the more condescending or desperate it can feel.

It doesn't stop there, though! Just as shockingly useless is a new character, Socrates, a cloned baby-monkey in a jar with wires coming out of his exposed brain. Amano finds him, says "What the fuck?", and he is never mentioned again. Genyo's cronies were clearly after him, but why? We don't know! The nothingness or Socrates perhaps sums up the deep flaws of The Urotsuki better than anything else I could pick apart like a festering maggot-covered wound: it makes a lot of noise, but there's really nothing to see. What the hell does a genius-monkey have to do with the Chojin? What's that... NOTHING? That's what I thought.

Both the titular Wandering Kid and the original subtitle's God of Gods are footnotes in what's supposedly their own program, and the fact that the original content setup around them is nothing but cardboard and mirrors is simply inexcusable. The script is shit, period, and without a good script you've typically got nothing. While The Urotsuki does impress in the first episode with its' boxing match, and features one amazing monster raep scene in the second episode (and one equally gorgeous attempted violation), which involves Ozaki becoming a masculine version of Genocyber and fucking a cute girl in half. This scene literally looks like it was cut from a much better series, but no, it's legitimately a part of The Urotsuki, like a delicious fresh strawberry sitting atop a pile of donkey shit.

The rest of the animation feels like stock footage from any number of unimpressive Milky Animation titles from the era. It's flat and ugly, with character designs that are mildly attractive but so poorly brought to life that I'm not exaggerating when I say that long stretches of animation, like the orgy at the start of the second episode, literally look like scribbled flash cartoons you'd find on crappy amateur-artist run pay websites. Even non-animated titles like Gibo/Stepmother's Sin, and the various Demon Beast Invasion sequels were smart enough to make up for a total lack of animation by having strikingly gorgeous production design as a crutch. The Urotsuki literally just ceases being awful for about 5 minutes total, and then returns to business as usual. Bad cinema is a shame, but bad pornography - particularly when it clearly had such lofty aspirations - is nothing short of an atrocity. The final nail in the coffin was realizing that a humanoid tentacle rape in the third episode was literally a remake of a scene form the opening of the third Inferno Road episode: Inferno Road 3 may well have been the biggest prior disappointment in the Urotsukidoji franchise, but watching the scene literally get remade without the slightest bit of narrative excitement or cinematic quality just left me hiding my head in my hands, ashamed - perhaps for the very first time in my life - to be watching god-awful animated pornography.

The only truly positive aspect to be found in The Urotsuki is probably the soundtrack by regular series composer AMANO Masamichi. Unlike the script or direction, it pulls on the original tunes for inspiration and layers them with more complex and touching melodies, creating a surprisingly sensitive score based on what was once a powerful explosion of electronic fury. I absolutely hate to say it, but The Urotsuki may have the best music out of the entire Wandering Kid saga, and the fact that it's wasted on such putrid crap is really a waste. NISHMURA Tomohiro is also predictably fine in the role of Amano, but then Nishimura simply being Nishimura can hardly be considered a daunting task: much like Samuel L. Jackson or Wakamoto Norio, Nishimura is rarely asked to create a character so much as he is asked to play a trumped up version of himself, and while the result is always a lot of fun I can't imagine it's especially hard for any of these men to basically be coked-up versions of their accepted personas. Everybody else on the Japanese end seems adequate: none of the performers jumped out at me as being especially great or terrible. Nishimura's performance is all background noise to Ozaki wallowing in a sea of emo self-hatred anyway, so much like Amano's score, it's a minor bit of consolation in a seemingly never ending chain of crap.

I have nothing more to say. I feel as if the more time I even shit on this title's screaming mouth is a waste of time. I implore you, dear friends, avoid The Urotsuki. It may not be quite as terrible as Raoh Gaiden Ten no Haoh or the live action Devilman, but that's akin to saying that something is less terrible than choking to death on your own semen... seriously, what isn't?


Unknown said...

Sorry I inspired such a self-mutilating viewing experience. Did you at least like my wanking 5.1 audio test feature? :D

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