The Dark Myth

Official Blurb:

"Legend tells of a time when Heaven was ruled by three mighty gods each with their own domain."

"Most powerful was Susanoh oh, a violent and chaotic entity who terrorised the other gods until he was banished to the underworld for his crimes. There he encountered and slew the monstrous eight tailed serpent of Yamata and gained his new title - the God of Darkness."

"The legend bears a special significance for Takahashi, a young boy who lives haunted by memories of his father, murdered ten years before. Takahashi is hurled into a living nightmare when he is brought to the attention of the powerful Kikuchi clan; direct descendants of the five original families of Japan. The clan know that Takahashi bears the mark of the serpent. They also know that Takahashi has been chosen to face him...."

"Surreal, chilling and complex, The Dark Myth is a two part tale of prophecy and fear, weaving the violent mythology of ancient Japan into a web of modern horror. Watch out for Part 2, also available from Manga Video."

Original Story:  Daijiro Oboshi
Director:        Takashi Ano
Copyright:       D. Moroboshi/Daiei Co. Ltd.

Language Format: English Language
Running time:    50/49 mins
Certificate:     12/12
Label:           Manga Video
Catalogue no:    MANV 1164/MANV 1170
Price:           £9.99 each
Release Date:    11th Nov/Dec 1996


As the title might suggest, we are back with demons, ghosts, ghouls and "unspeakable rites"(TM) in this release from Manga Entertainment. And of course someone is trying to collect some quantity of something, which will bestow some power upon him once his collection is complete, and someone else is trying to stop him (for the plots in this sort of thing are entirely interchangeable). This particular one incorporates some elements from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, although I don't know enough of either to judge how accurately. Even though I haven't seen Dark Myth 1, I had little trouble picking up the story from the recap footage.

This is the second part of a two part 1990 OAV, so the story concludes here, and it's fair to say that there are no major cliff hangers, or dangling plot threads at the conclusion. For an OAV, the animation quality is very weak, with far too many panned stills. In fact there are many TV series that are better in that area. And I didn't like the character designs either; this "realistic" style with normal-sized eyes and body proportions doesn't appeal to me.

I was a little mystified as to whether this was an American or British dub. The end credits said "translated by Studio Nemo", which usually means a US production. On the other hand, they also listed Lawrence Guinness as the producer of the English language version, which usually means a UK production. Either way the dub is not exactly sparkling - "barely adequate" would be a more appropriate description. The performances are stilted and uninspiring. Particular mentions in this department for Peter Marinker as Takeuchi, for actually making me laugh out loud. "The princess is gone forever. It's a great tragedy", he intones, as though it were "Liverpool 0, Nottingham Forest 1". Still, perhaps his reaction was the same as mine, and it was the only way he could get through such a corny line. In fact maybe it's expecting too much for any voice actor make anything of such a script. This one is straight out of all the bad adaptations of Agatha Christie, or Conan-Doyle, you've ever seen, with no new character introduced without a four-line summary of their life history to date. But at least the mix is better this time, with the music still audible.

I really do hate to be so negative about a title, but to be honest there is very little to like here. The story is an unoriginal cliche, the characters are poorly developed stereotypes, the artwork is disappointing, and the dubbing is well below the standard that Manga are capable of. Even those sad types who judge the merit of a piece of anime on the quantity of red paint used are going to be disappointed. Although there are a few crimson-spattered scenes, they are infrequent, and the time between them would certainly exceed the attention span of that sort of individual. About the only thing I can find to say in its favour is that the music by Kenji Kawai is good. But even that isn't enough to save it. [Neil Morris]