Spectacular conclusion to the PEACOCK KING animated saga
PEACOCK KING SPIRIT WARRIOR 2 (1994), the fifth and final volume in the Japanese animated Peacock King series, continues the story begun in SPIRIT WARRIOR 1: REVIVAL OF EVIL (1994) and brings the entire saga to a spectacular close as reincarnations of ancient gods, a twin brother and sister separated since childhood, meet on a plateau in Tibet to restage a cosmic battle of light and dark.
The action starts out in Germany at Castle Valhalla where Kujaku, the young Buddhist monk, and his allies must rescue Kujaku's sidekick Ashura and retrieve the Dragon Orb, which Neo-Nazis have stolen from the monks at Yurokoya Temple in Japan. After the German episode, the action shifts to Tibet and a massive plateau overlooking a sweeping plain where ancient, unresolved struggles are destined to be played out. Eventually, Kujaku and his twin sister, Tomoko, who has been raised by the Nazis, must wage a battle with each other employing their giant spirit warrior projections.
It's a breathtaking piece, filled with historical detail and occult incident and lots of supernatural action. The animation is fluid, the design beautiful and the background paintings stunning. The score by Toshiyuki Honda is quite dramatic and moving. There is lots of action involving a large cast of characters and some formidable villains and the pace never flags.
However, the characters tend to get overwhelmed by all the detail and the audience loses sight of their relationships. We weren't adequately introduced to any of the characters in the first part and they all get swept up in the action so quickly that there's never any downtime for the audience to get to know them. It's all beautiful to watch but it's curiously unmoving since we don't get as involved as we did in the first three volumes of the series, which spent a little more time with the characters.
This remains, nonetheless, a lively and entertaining two-part story, among the best of a thriving genre of anime occult thrillers. It was produced by celebrated Japanese animation studio Mad House and directed by master anime stylist Rin Taro, who's also known for ADIEU GALAXY EXPRESS 999, HARMAGEDDON, THE DAGGER OF KAMUI, DOOMED MEGALOPOLIS, X: THE MOVIE, and METROPOLIS. The character design is more detailed here than in the earlier PEACOCK KING volumes, but also more stylized and slightly exaggerated. There is quite a lot of action, violence and bloodshed as well as gratuitous nudity--the character of Tomoko is semi-nude for almost the entire final episode. Aside from that, it's still a stunningly picturesque collision of modern greed and ancient gods, drawing on archetypes from both recent history and traditional mythology.
Volume 1: FESTIVAL OF OGRES' REVIVAL (1988) is still the simplest and most straightforward story of the group and the best introduction to this fascinating series. Volume 2: CASTLE OF ILLUSION (1989) offers the best artwork and design of the bunch and is the most excessive in terms of violence and gore. Volume 3: A HARVEST OF CHERRY BLOSSOMS (1991) is the quirkiest, with an intriguing if overly complex story of a Japanese movie actress and her relationship with a sorceress exiled from Japan 400 years earlier. They're probably all best seen in their proper chronological order. All are reviewed on this site.
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