Saturday, February 4, 2023

Makaryûdo Demon-Hunter (1989)

... aka: 魔狩人
... aka: Demon Hunter
... aka: Demon Hunter Makaryûdo
... aka: Demon Hunter Makaryuudo
... aka: Makaryûdo

Directed by:
Yukio Okamoto

350 years ago, Yama Rikudo was banished to some kind of underworld limbo for all eternity by a master demon for using a "mirror of the past" to look into the past lives of others. Now boss demon is ready to forgive and forget, granted Yama goes along with his master plan to restore some sense of balance to the failing human world. On Earth, excess, a power imbalance, war, pollution and an overall "foulness of the spirit" has increased the amount of negative energy and thus opened the doors for all kinds of creatures to run amok. The demon wants Yama to return to Earth and gives her the sole task hunting down and killing these creatures and thus restoring some much-needed harmony to the universe. Seeing how the reincarnated form of her former lover - a student named Sho Kurogane - is around, she agrees. To help her in her quest, she's given a nifty red scythe weapon and a familiar that rests on her shoulder and can sometimes transform into a giant dragon.

With her unruly hair amusingly styled into devil horns, Yama poses as a teenage student and starts attending a school plagued with strange disappearances. The principal is away for an extended period and his beautiful (supposed) granddaughter is filling in for him. The granddaughter is actually a monster in disguise who's been regularly luring (namely male and horny) students to their doom. At her bidding are an army of winged female monsters (human heads and nude torsos on bird bodies with fangs and talons) as well as some weird creature that's some kind of tentacled snail with a snake-like neck, human head and eyes for ears. The victims are lured into a building with a trap door on the floor that leads to some underground catacombs where some of these monsters lurk.

While a lot of potentially enjoyable horror anime elements are present and accounted for, this is horribly written and paced, very confusing and so severely underdeveloped in so many different ways that it's difficult to really enjoy. Everything feels rushed and half-baked, starting with the fact that I could never figure out why the underworld demons were even bothering sending Yama to kill demons in the first place when later in the very same conversation they're talking about needing to destroy humanity (?) Maybe this is similar to the Christian belief that Israel needs to be protected so that it can then be destroyed per Revelation so they get their "Second Coming," but I couldn't really tell where this was going.

A lot of side characters are introduced, including Sho's innocent, wide-eyed kid sister and his spastic comic relief best friend, a bratty, hair-pulling little boy, a couple of diner waitresses and others, and none of them really have any relevance to the plot nor anything of interest to do and just eat up what little time there is. I'm sure there were plans to stretch this into some kind of series and elaborate on the characters and plot points later on, but since that never happened and we have nothing around to retroactively remedy the myriad problems seen here, this doesn't work at all as a standalone.

Amplifying the confusion in this structural and narrative mess are weird time leaps, flashbacks, narration from multiple characters, ast life stuff, prophesying, exposition, glimpses at an apocalyptic future Earth, weird symbols occasionally being flashed on the screen and plot elements involving hypnosis, possession, mind control via some shells filled with green goo, restored youth and a giant skeleton demon with multiple heads. Seeing how I'm all about the girls-kick-ass subgenre and usually even enjoy the really cheap and terrible ones on some level, for a film like this to make me zone out, and do so in just 30 minutes' time, takes some real fuckery.

Completely forgotten these days, and understandably so, this one-and-done OVA from Bandai didn't lead to much else. It appears to have been based on a comic of the same name released by Kasakura Publishing in 1987 (which appears to itself had a sequel) and was given a Japanese VHS release from C. Moon Video in 1989 as well as a laserdisc release from Bandai / Emotion the same year, though I could find no other releases for this title elsewhere.

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