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An excellent and underrated Anime with tremendous action, mythology and character depth
Based on a long running Manga series by acclaimed comic book writer and illustrator Yuzo Takada - who was just twenty-four years old when the original series began in 1987 - 3x3 Eyes (1991-1995) is really one of the very best Anime adaptations that I have ever seen. I first saw it as a young teenager back in the mid-to-late 1990's and retained fond memories of those initial viewings - not to mention the characters and some of the more iconic images - until very recently when I watched the film(s) again. Nevertheless, the story stands up exceptionally well - even after more than a decade on from those preliminary late-night viewing sessions - with the film simply offering the audience a great deal of entertainment, combined with some memorable and intelligently written characters, an exciting strand of adventure that permeates the more fantastical elements of the plot and a truly unforgettable visual approach that still manages to impress this particular viewer, even when removed from the more obvious reminisces of teenage nostalgia.
If you're already a fan of Anime, then this particular adaptation from celebrated director Daisuke Nishio, still best known for his work on projects like Crying Freeman (1987) and Dragon Ball Z (1989), is really one of the very best; filled with exciting action sequences and moments of imaginative fantasy that play out within an entirely believable world, rich in detail and an incredibly pervasive sense of atmosphere. I suppose you could always argue that it has certain surface similarities to the work of director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, with films like Wicked City (1987), Demon City Shinjuku (1988) and Ninja Scroll (1993) all presenting a similar world in which warring demons and mystical forces are at work beneath the quiet, everyday facade of contemporary, metropolitan existence; with the natural progression of the film(s) in question taking us closer and closer to that other-world, merely hinted at throughout most of the series here.
Although the film ultimately lacks the eroticised nature of Kawajiri's work, it is still incredibly violent, with a number of prolonged sequences of torture and abuse, usually directed at the character Yakumo Fujii - who after being killed early in episode one becomes the "Wu", or "immortal companion", to the central character Pai - establishing this as one of the most extreme OVA's of this particular period. However, where 3x3 Eyes differs from many similar Anime productions of this era is in the sensitive nature of its characterisations; with the burgeoning relationship between Yakumo and the mystical and somewhat ethereal rendering of Pai suggesting a deep bond and connection that goes beyond even that of the conventional "will they/won't they" teen-pop romance. Nonetheless, there is a maturity to these characters - manifested by the very serious themes of humanity and the need to belong - which is represented by the (at-times) heartbreaking quest by Yakumo and Pai to make the young Sanjiyan a real, female human being; thus restoring Yakumo's own humanity and ending the threat of destruction from the demonic follows of slumbering demigod Kaiyanwang.
Through the excellent writing, imaginative direction and sheer enormity of the detail put into these characters by both the animators and performers, the relationship between these two central characters and their need to succeed in their quest is truly captivating, whilst the film continues to reward the viewer with an entirely interesting story that runs throughout the entire series, keeping us interested from the very first episode to the last. If you're not already a fan of this particular style of Anime, then 3x3 Eyes probably won't do much to convert you; with the usual themes and preoccupations (both visually and thematically) leading both the story and the characters, as well as underlining the film's impressive, though perhaps somewhat dated, visual approach. Nonetheless, if you have some familiarity with this style of film-making, then 3x3 Eyes seriously rewards and is worth tracking down; if not for the great story, scenes of violent action and emphasis on character and emotion, then for the touching sub-textual allusions, often overlooked in this particular style of film-making.
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