"Legend has it that every three thousand years the Superfiend CHOJIN attempts to unite the three worlds of Humans, Man-Beasts and Monster Demons into the Land of Eternity. But this legendary land turns out to be a sickening place of horrendous violence, uncontrollable lusts and supernatural forces beyond the imagination."
Director: Hideki Takayama Story: Toshio Maeda Screenplay: Noboru Aikawa VHS version: Language: English Label: Manga Video Running time: 108 mins Certificate: 18 (cut) Catalogue no: MANV 1008 Price: £12.99 Release date: 2nd November 1992 Box set VHS version (with 'Legend of the Demon Womb'): Language: English Label: Manga Video Running time: 190 mins Certificate: 18 (cut) Catalogue no: MANV 1198 Price: £24.99 Release date: 10th November 1997 DVD version (with 'Legend of the Demon Womb'): Language: English Label: Manga Video Running time: 185 mins Certificate: 18 (cut) Catalogue no: MANG 2001 Price: £19.99 Release date: 11th June 2001
This is not the easiest film to review. UROTSUKI DOJI was notorious in anime fandom as ultra-porn, and before release here the film was investigated by the Obscene Publications squad, trimmed by its UK licencees, and censored by the BBFC.
Yet UROTSUKI DOJI is a valid work of art; when it's as safe for young girls to walk alone at night in Britain as it is in Japan, we'll be entitled to castigate its Japanese creators. And not before.
For fans of explicit horror, the movie offers plenty of gore and sexual tittilation. The monsters are amazing, and look far more convincing than anything you've ever seen in live action horror. The action is fast-paced and brutal, and the dubbed dialogue has been peppered with four letter words.
The human characters are sufficiently interesting to attract our sympathy. The heroine, a university student, suffers much humiliation at the hands of the more demonic characters. Interest flags in the latter part of the movie where the human characters feature less, and the 'ending' of the story is very weak.
If this was just another nasty film, it would not have attracted so much attention. Perhaps surprisingly, UROTSUKI DOJI is good enough to merit some serious attention. This is an gripping and well-made piece of animation. Though unpleasant, the film is astonishing, disturbing and well enough scripted to engender a certain suspension of disbelief and an unnerving descent into nightmare and darkly beautiful visions. For the more thoughtful viewer, viewing this is not necessarily a particularly enjoyable experience, but, like a visit to a war zone, it's not necessarily an experience one would wish to forego. The experience of shock can be profound. Made with disregard for any restriction on what may be shown in a piece of art, the film exploits its theme of largely sexual violence to the full and will challenge many viewers in terms of what he or she feels comfortable watching. The line artwork is particularly fine, with figures and faces drawn with greater realism than is customary in anime, and the visual effects amaze.
UROTSUKI DOJI has evoked mixed responses, even among anime fans. Some people found it unwatchable, but it did quite well in the shops at the beginning of 1993 and, evidently favoured by fans of horror and gross-out, it sold 10,000 in the first two weeks and got into the video Top 10.
Some, like TIME OUT, think it's "the kind of Japanese import we can do without". The release, though very successful for IWC is in one sense regrettable as UROTSUKI DOJI is not typical of most anime. Japanese culture is NOT the same as ours, and this movie lifts the lid on a Japanese sub-culture of violent and sexual material that very few Westerners are equipped to understand. Hence we unavoidably judge this alien art through Western eyes. An unsettling film then, which balances art with extremes we can hardly dare imagine.
In this case the cert. 18 really means what it says. This movie is entirely unsuitable for juveniles. If you are not sure of your response to UROTSUKI DOJI, you may be well advised not to watch it. On the other hand, if you are a fan of such material, you're probably on your way to the video shop already. [Geoff Cowie]