Teens vs. demons in above-average anime occult thriller
Anime fans have seen this kind of story a zillion times: demons possess high school kids and one kid with special occult power stands up to them. TOKYO REVELATION (1994), a made-for-video piece of animation that would earn an "R" rating if it was submitted to the MPAA, has enough interesting variations to make it enjoyable to those who genuinely like this particular anime genre. The plot hinges on the past relationship of two of its protagonists, Kojiro, a high school boy, and Akihito, a new transfer student who had been bullied as a young boy because of his effeminate ways until Kojiro, his elementary school classmate, stood up for him and even taught him how to summon demons. Akihito has since taken the latter practice to extremes and unleashed a host of destructive demons which threaten Tokyo and, by extension, the world. Kojiro's friendship with Akihito and his own hidden powers as a reincarnation of a guardian god stand between the demons, led by Gagison, a monstrous winged creature with a bird's beak, and their war on humanity. However, Kojiro does have plenty of help, including Takehiko and Marika, a male-female pair of "spiritual ninjas" who work out of a temple set up by a sect designed to help humanity at crucial points. There's also a young female medium named Kyoko who gives Kojiro a blade imbued with special powers, which comes in handy when he fights Cerberus, the dog monster that once guarded Hades. Kyoko also disrobes and gives herself to Kojiro in a curious and highly unlikely ritual designed to bring out his guardian god incarnation. There are mild doses of violence and bloodshed, but much heavier helpings of female nudity, for those who keep score of such things. (In one gratuitous scene, Akihito gets demonic control of four girls from school who are infatuated with him and has them strip down and make love to each other in an occult circle in front of him.)
The backstory involving the childhood friendship between Kojiro and Akihito, seen in a poignant flashback, gives the 55-minute piece an emotional layer that isn't often found in these thrillers. It doesn't make Akihito any less of a bad guy--he's seen causing a passenger plane to explode, killing all innocent souls on board, in the film's very first scene--but it resonates in his later attempts to resist the domination of the demons he's unleashed and find a way to counteract them, all to spare the life of Kojiro. As with many OAV releases, the ending is rather abrupt and leads me to think the whole thing would have been better if a little longer. A lot happens at a rather fast pace and I couldn't help but wish for a little more motivation for Akihito. How did he turn this way and why? The childhood bullying was many years earlier. What made him turn so drastically murderous? It's a key piece of information missing from the narrative.
The character design is strong and the animation quite fluid, particularly in the scenes where the demons go on the rampage. Cerberus, for one, is quite a magnificent creation. The director is Osamu Yamasaki, who also directed the atmospheric ninja series, "Yotoden" (1987) and, more recently, the epic sci-fi series, "Toward the Terra" (2007).
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