“Demon City Shinjuku” – Chris Luedtke

Those of you who know director Yoshiaki Kawajiri will know him for his much better films such as Ninja Scroll, Metropolis, and the television version of X. Know then that this is one of his early works that should be forgiven and forgotten. Demon City Shinjuku is the stereotype of stereotypes. Shinjuku is infested by demons and only a teenager named Izayoi Kyoya (voiced by Hideyuki Hori) can save the world, with the power of his father’s sword technique and the help of a very brave girl named Rama Sayaka (voiced by Hiromi Tsuru).

Demon City Shinjuku starts off with an epic battle between the evil Levih Rah (Kiyoshi Kobayashi), who wants to infest the world with demons, and Kyoya’s father, who just so happens to want to do the opposite. I won’t say anything to ruin the sequence of events that follow, but I’m sure you can figure out with your vivid imagination; let’s just say that this battle is the set up for one of the worst endings ever. Years after, Shinjuku becomes infested with demons. Kyoya has taken over teaching his father’s blade technique to the young. Events ensue, and Kyoya is called
to save the world by Sayaka.

The synopsis doesn’t sound that bad, but the whole film is just flat-out boring. The animation is nice for its time, the demon designs are pretty cool and the dialogue is witty, but the pacing makes this one fall flat on its face. I can’t even recall how many times I looked at my watch asking if my eighty minutes were up. It seemed more like Kawajiri had some awesome demon designs that he just wanted to appear in a film. The story is more than a little half-assed. The “revelations” aren’t anything the viewer can’t figure out themselves, even if they’re not a hardened anime veteran.

The stereotyped characters also stand out like a sore thumb. Kyoya is the cocky reluctant hero, Sayaka is the brave but helpless girl, and Levih Rah only wants power for himself through the demons. I wish it weren’t so simple to summarize the main characters, but that’s it. They don’t get any deeper than that. These lame, shallow characterizations add to the persistently half-assed feel to the rest of the film.

The music has to be the worst aspect of this whole film. I know ’80s soundtracks can be bad, but seriously, this one is wretched. I don’t know if the producers were on a budget when they wrote this on a $30 keyboard or if they just didn’t care about the music. The final battle is probably the worst score of it all. It sounds like something from an ’80s-themed techno dance club that one would only enjoy if one was on acid.

For as much as I’ve beaten into Demon City Shinjuku, it would work as an introduction to anime. Here, much of the stereotyped characters are eliminated off of the check list, and there are cool demon designs, but the story and soundtrack would be enough to make someone shun it on the spot. If you’re just getting into anime and haven’t seen Ninja Scroll or Akira go rent/purchase one of those first. If you’re a hardened anime freak, be warned that there isn’t anything this one has done that others haven’t done better.

Rating: ★☆☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

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