Doug Stone as Yasaku
Anime anthology horror
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Requiem From The Darkness (2004)
19th Aug 06
A young writer falls in with three supernatural travellers in 19th century Japan.
I always get the picture that 19th century Japan was a pretty tense place to live. I mean, laws were pretty strict, everyone was obsessed with honour and having a shame free life, and society had a very rigid pecking order where you respected those above you unquestionably but where allowed to treat those below you with abject cruelty if you so desired. In such a repressed society is it any wonder that superstitions ran wild? It seems that in such a dogmatic culture, where people were brought up to believe what they were told, tales of demons, magic and malevolent spirits were common place. But were they real, these spirits and monsters, and were people genuinely afraid? Or at the end of the day did these so-called demons take the blame for a great many human short comings and indiscretions? I mean, can you think of a better scapegoat for your crime than a supernatural being that doesn't really exist?
Which brings me on to the latest MVM release on DVD over here of a Japanese anime TV series, Requiem from the Darkness, and quite a strange one it is too. Based on the works of bestselling Japanese novellist Natsuhiko Kyougoku, Requiem tells the story of young Momosuke, a young 19th century son of a merchant who has decided to turn his back on the family business in favour of becoming an author. Despite only being able to land employment writing riddles for children's books, his dream is to write an anthology of nightmarish supernatural myths and legends, and it's in this capacity that Momosuke keeps bumping into a mysterious traveling trio known as the Ongyo. And man are they weird, Mataichi is the group's diminutive leader who dresses like a monk and sells holy charms despite a general lack of faith and a guilty love of wine, woman and gambling. His long time traveling companion is the softly spoken Nagamimi, who ironically is extremely tall when in his natural form but is also a magical master of disguise, meaning nothing is ever quite as it seems when he's around. Completing the trio is Ogin, the sexy and quite beguiling temptress who seems to permanently wear a sweet smile and not much else, which I assume is handy when you're in the line of work these guys are.
And that's the real meat of this series, this trio's particularly peculiar line of work. They are righters of wrongs, messengers from the other side if you will, whose mission is to bring supernatural justice to those who have evaded it on a episode by episode basis, and it's these missions that Momosuke keeps bungling into. The opening episode, which bravely deals with the risky subject of infanticide, is literally a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for our plucky hero as he seeks refuge from a storm in an inn where the Ongyo are teaching another traveler a lesson. The second, and probably best of the four opening episodes, involves both Momosuke and the Ongyo investigating the same string of murders which are being blamed on a ghost living in a willow tree so their paths cross again. Similarly the third involves both parties investigating local werewolf sightings, but it's not until the third episode that you start to wonder if there's something going on here that were not being told about, and if the connection between the Onygo and Momosuke is more than just a chance encounter.
Filmed with a remarkable amount of style for what essentially comes across as a quite low budget series, Requiem from the Darkness does very well at portraying each horrific little twenty minute or so tale, while using the relationship between the four central characters as a handy narrative link, stringing this horror anthology series together. Plot elements unfold slowly but surely as Momosuke's role in the Ongyo's investigations become more apparent, while graphically the series is unflinching with its liberal use of claret colouring quite a few scenes. In fact the only negative that comes to mind is the wholly unsuitable English dub. It sounds like il was done by the folks behind the Dragonball or Pokemon cartoons, and the obvious childlike tone can seriously detract from the seriously adult themes (murder, prostitution, incest, rape, cannibalism and necrophilia) that this anime tackles.
Still, it's good to see rarer and more diverse animes seeing the light of day in the UK, so couple that with the fact that we're suckers for the horror anthology format here at eatmybrains.com and you can make damn sure we'll be picking up the next volume of this series on its release. And if you're in to this sort of thing you might want to consider doing the same.
Versions The first four episodes are now available from MVM entertainment, with the next four to follow in a couple of months.