Reborn ancient warriors battle crime in 21st century Tokyo
SUIKODEN DEMON CENTURY (aka DEMON CENTURY WATER MARGIN, 1993) is a compact 45-minute made-for-video animated thriller set in a near-future Tokyo where economic and social collapse has made a crumbling society vulnerable to takeover by the dreaded Koryukai gang. The "Water Margin" in the alternate title is a reference to the great Chinese literary work of the same title (aka "Outlaws of the Marsh") and the plot recalls the Japanese reworking of it, "Nanso Satomi Hakkenden," which has also seen animated life as THE HAKKENDEN. Here the 108 warriors of legend find a handful of reincarnations in a few brave souls who meet in a bar in Shinjuku and decide to overthrow the Koryukai gang. They are soon joined by an American priest and a Japanese nun from a beleaguered parish who turn out to be well-armed former mercenaries. The first half-hour builds up to a rousing assault on the Koryukai compound, complete with gallons of spurting blood, high-powered automatic weapons fire, and rocket and shell attacks. Finally the hero, Takateru Suga, a reincarnation of Soko Kohogi, has a duel with gang boss Oshita who's actually a reincarnation of the 108's ancient enemy, Lord Johakyu.
It's an exciting and entertaining piece distinguished by beautiful and detailed design and animation, with some intriguing characters, including a karate-kicking cross-dresser, set against a well-etched, decaying urban background. However, the abbreviated length gives short shrift to what could have been a fascinating multi-part story. Perhaps it was designed as the first installment of a series but was never followed by any subsequent episodes. Still, it deserves note as part of a long tradition of animated and live-action adaptations of its two literary sources. Among the other adaptations reviewed on this site are the Hong Kong swordplay films, SEVEN BLOWS OF THE DRAGON, SEVEN SOLDIERS OF KUNG FU, and THE DELIGHTFUL FOREST; the live-action Japanese fantasy, LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI; and the aforementioned anime series THE HAKKENDEN. Additions to this list, covered by other reviewers, include MESSAGE FROM SPACE and the anime TV series, "Dragon Ball."
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