Rumic World: The Laughing Target

video sleeve

Official Blurb:

"Laughing Target tells the story of a modern day demon and her teenage fatal attraction. An infant promise of eternal love becomes a grim sentence for Yuzuru when his childhood sweetheart, Azusa, returns to claim him. The intervening years have strangely altered Azusa but the dark truth lies shrouded behind her shy demeanour. From out of the shadows a sinister, ghostly presence is sensed. As the bloodshed begins, Yuzuru desperately struggles to put the pieces together."

"Betrayal and unrequited love are inextricably tangled in the legends of Japanese mythology as ordinary people are caught up in forces they don't understand."

"Rumiko Takahashi is one of Japan's most popular comic artists. Born in 1957 in Japan, Takahashi studied comics with Kazuo Koike, author of Crying Freeman. In 1978, she won a prize in Shogakukan's annual "new comic artist contest" and in that same year her series Lum Urusei Yatsura began appearing in the weekly manga magazine Shonen Sunday. This phenomenally successful series ran for nine years and went on to sell 22 million copies. The Rumik World stories were first published in Japan in 1980 and released in the UK in 1993 as a graphic novel. One of her other titles is Ranma 1/2 which has also been made into a computer game."

Creator:      Rumiko Takahashi
Director:     Motosuke Takahashi
Copyright:    Shogakkan Inc./Rumiko Takahashi

VHS version:
Language:     English
Label:        Manga Video
Running time: 49 mins
Certificate:  15
Catalogue no: MANV 1033
Price:        £8.99
Release Date: 14th March 1994


The Laughing Target is the third of a trilogy of adaptations from the Rumik World series of short manga stories by Rumiko Takahashi (the others were Firetripper and The Supergal). Originally published in 1980 by Shonen Sunday, they were released as a three-story graphic novel in English by Viz Comics in 1993. The OAV was produced by Shogakukan and released in Japan on March 21st 1987.

Anyone familiar with Rumiko Takahashi's work knows how much she enjoys telling stories about average people living under strange circumstances. The story concerns a ordinary high school boy named Yuzuru. A beautiful girl that arrives at his house turns out to be his cousin Azusa, to whom he had been betrothed at the age of six. After the death of her mother, Azusa has been left with no living relatives and has come to marry Yuzuru so that she can become head of the Shisa family. Unfortunately, Yuzuru is perfectly happy with the girlfriend he already has, and isn't about to pay any attention to such an old promise. To reveal any more of the plot would spoil it, but rest assured, Azusa turns out to be very determined to hold Yuzuru to his promise, and has some unconventional tricks up her sleeve to ensure she gets her way.

The misleading appearance of Azusa is a good example of Takahashi's love of showing the evil that can hide behind even the least remarkable facade. Her skill with dramatic suspense is rarely equalled, and she remains one of the best exponents of the shojo horror genre. Overall, this is an excellent OAV that compliments the rest of the series well. [Jonathan Weeks]

Comment from newsgroups:

[NB: These are comments on the US subtitled version]

Antaeus Feldspar:
Wow!  I watched the U S. Manga Corps sub of Sensei Takahashi's 
"The Laughing Target" this evening.  I'd been looking forward to it a 
long time -- still, I got a few surprises!

I have to say, comparing it to the manga (as translated and 
published in "Rumik World") that I like the manga better.  It lets the 
sinister stuff creep in, little by little by little...

I also was really spooked by the way the anime ended, as opposed 
to the manga...  both pre-credit and post-credit.  I thought the manga 
ended with *just* the right touch of ambiguity about what Azusa was...  
and what she had been...  and for how long...  and what was really going 
on inside her head and her soul...  I think the ending of the anime 
turned Azusa more into a cardboard monster, plainly evil to the end.  And 
as for the whole thing of Satomi's 'disappearance'....  well, hey, wait a 
minute, what's that?  Even given the (minimal) preparation for it earlier 
in the anime, why did she disappear at the end after they'd presumably 
defeated Azusa??  Oh well...  I'm just glad I rented the sub and own the 

Graphically, it was great...  I thought the 
black-and-white-and-red of the bad-little-boy flashback was REAAALLY 
well-done, and ditto the cut from the inside of the warehouse to the 
barbed wire outside.  Seeing Satomi in the shower was an unexpected but 
nice bonus...  *grin*  however, I'm miffed that they didn't show her in 
Yuzuru's letterman jacket, from the manga....  And I wish they had kept 
the un-faces of the adults, from the manga...  that was part of what kept 
the ambiguity of the manga, and the tension, going so long....

Arnold Kim:
well, it has its good points and its weaker points.  Some of the 
good points, of course, were the scenes or suspense or horror.  Particularly well 
done are the flashback sequences, especially that of the mother's death and the 
scene in the forest (I believe) when she fought off one of the boys that was 
chasing her.  The "mother" scene was powerful in that it was done in a slow and 
calculated place as opposed to the uptempo feel of many such scenes in US 
horror.  it sort of drags out and prolongs the terror this way,  accompanied by the 
striking use of red and camera rotation to heighten the terror.  The scene with her 
and the boy in the forest was also striking because of the slower tempo, as well 
as the lack of many sound effects during the slaying to heighten the drama.  of 
course, I also believe that there is something incredibly disturbing about one child 
murdering another, which adds to the terror of the scene.  Suffice to say, these 
scenes were very absorbing, not to mention unpleasant.^_^  he uptempo feel fit 
better in the scene of Azusa's assault on Satomi with the arrows in the school.  
That was an appropriately fast-paced scene which kept my heart pounding a bit.  
Some of the vioce acting was another strong point of the film as well, especially 
the role of Azusa, played by Hiromi Tsuru, who seems to have quite a bit of 
versatility. She gives a very erie performance here, always sounding like she has 
a bit of a dark side to her without sounding corny or cliched.

Now this isn't the perfect film, and as such, it has its weaker points.  One of the 
more underdeveloped aspects of this film relates to the story around Azusa- who 
she is, what makes her tick, etc.  What bothers me is that nowhere in the film is it 
really explained how she got her unique abilities and how she became the way she 
was.  his would have been an interesting direction to follow that the film never 
really capitalized on.  When someone's crazy in a film, I want to know why they're 
crazy, because I believe that it would add a great deal to the character.  It seems 
that the movie, with its flashbacks, is really trying to open up the character to the 
viewers and is never really completing its job.  I think that Azusa could have been 
shown as a very interesting character with quite a past to her, yet that's never 
really fulfilled, and by the end she seems to have become a typical horror movie 
villan.  The climax, too leaves a bit to be desired, as it seems to be both a bit 
cliched and lacking some real dramatic punch to it.   

I'd say it's a pretty good film overall, the excitement, terror, and suspense make up 
for the unfulfilled characterization in the movie- after all, that's what these types 
of films are made for.