Friday, April 29, 2022

Deimos no Hanayome: Ran no Kumikyoku (1988)

... aka: 悪魔の花嫁 蘭の組曲
... aka: Bride of Deimos
... aka: Bride of Deimos: The Orchid Suite

Directed by:

A nice little 32-minute offering from Madhouse in conjunction with Toei and Akita Shoten Video, this is based on an extremely popular and long-running manga series written by Etsuko Ikeda (who also wrote the screenplay for this adaptation) and illustrated by Yuho Ashibe (who only receives an original animation design credit). The manga first debuted way back in 1974 in Princess magazine and, as the years passed, the series would move on to different publishing houses (including ComicsOne for English-language distribution) and withstand several hiatuses but new chapters were being made as late as 2014. However, as enduring and popular as the manga was, it only spawned this single short animated film to my knowledge.

Ethereal high school student / photographer Minako Ifu is attending the World Orchid Exhibition with her friend, aspiring botanist Hisamatsu. The two, and basically everyone else there, are in awe of the Grand Prix winner, "Blue Lady." The orchid enthusiast who submitted the "Blue Lady" is one Tôko Ôba, who seems to win the competition every single year. Curiously, Tôko never shows up to the ceremony to accept her award, nor will she do any exhibitions, interviews or press. No one has ever actually met her, nor seen her greenhouse, nor know the secrets behind her perfectly bloomed orchids. Hisamatsu, however, has managed to find her address.

After Minako and Hisamatsu have lunch, Hisamatsu is a no-show at school for three consecutive days. He also hasn't been home, prompting his parents to file a missing person's report. Seeing how she was the last person to see him, Minako decides to look into matters. Suspecting he has paid Tôko Ôba a visit, she gets her hands on the address and takes a train to the country to visit her and inquire about her friend's whereabouts.

On her walk through the country, Minako encounters Deimos, an underworld demon, and this is right when you can tell this anime was made exclusively for fans of the manga who are already well-acquainted with the story. There's no set-up or explanation behind their relationship here. It just is. Here's this teenage girl being accosted by a winged demon in a dark tunnel and the two are just having a casual conversation like it's nothing. Because Minako is a dead ringer for Deimos' lover, Venus, who's currently ensnared in a thorn patch in hell rotting away in her old body (and missing one of her eyes), Deimos wants to take Minako to hell with him so Venus' soul can be transferred to Minako's beautiful young body and they can continue their love affair. Minako basically says "No thanks!" and continues on to the Ôba house as if that was just a mild inconvenience.

Upon arriving at her destination, Minako encounters Tôko's conflicted brother Kaname, who claims her friend never showed up there and scares her away with a spider on a stick. Our heroine doesn't believe his story, especially after spotting Hisamatsu's notebook lying on the ground, and immediately goes to the police. She's able to talk Inspector Imamura into accompanying her back to the house. The brother and sister (who is crippled and in a wheelchair) show them around the place, give them drugged coffee and then kill the inspector by shooting an arrow into his neck. (One guess as to what goes into their "secret fertilizer mixture" to help their orchids grow so big and beautiful.) When Minako awakens, they send her on her way, but she returns after Deimos helps her realize she's been tricked.

On the down side, we've got narrative problems aplenty here. For starters, this has been put together in such a way that the Deimos character is not one bit relevant to the primary plot. In fact, this character could have been removed entirely and it wouldn't have made one bit of a difference. That said, this could have worked well enough as the second or third chapter in a potential Deimos series had this been preceded by a film or two that actually established the primary characters and their relationships. In this particular context, however, every scene with Deimos feels random and needlessly grafted on. The fact this ends on a "to be continued..." note when there IS no continuation in anime form, is also just plain annoying.

What ultimately bails this out as a singular piece of work and makes it enjoyable on its own terms is the artistry involved. It's imaginatively and stylishly directed, borderline surreal at times and quite beautiful to look at. There are also some interesting flashbacks explaining why the Ôba siblings do what they do. Stills are frequently used in place of actual animation as a cost saving technique, but they're blended in here fairly well.

This doesn't appear to have ever been officially released outside of Japan and the only version I could locate was the Japanese VHS copy released in 1988. Fan made English subtitles (which are actually very well done) are available.

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