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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: サザンアイ (Sazan Eyes)
Genre: Supernatural horror
Length: OAV series, 7 episodes, 30-40 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD box from Pioneer/Geneon out of print.
Content Rating: 16+ (Violence, some light fanservice.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Mermaid Saga, Elfen Lied, Vampire Hunter D.
Notes: Based on manga by Takada Yuzo, published by Kodansha.
Rating:
 

3x3 Eyes 1&2

Synopsis

Yakumo Fujii's normal life comes to an end when he encounters Pai, a young chinese girl carrying a secret. She's the last of the Sanjiyan Unkara, a race of people with a third eye on their foreheads and strong magical powers. Searching for a way to become human, the two of them encounter dangers of all kinds in their search for the statue of humanity.

Review

When people -- which is to say old farts like me -- talk about gateway anime, I often hear names like Robotech... or Dragonball Z... or maybe even Starblazers... mentioned on the fly. That's hardly the full extent of it, of course, but the point is, everyone has one title that got the ball rolling bigtime.

For me, that was 3x3 eyes, back when Manga Entertainment rolled out the Streamline dub starring Eddie Frierson and Reba West. And all it took was a promo picture in a gaming mag, featuring the Sanjiyan herself, eyes wide open.

To this day, I still think the Sanjiyan are one of the coolest concepts to grace a title, especially a horror title, ever. It's a shame that this series, both anime and manga, has been so severely nixed; the manga for never seeming to find its audience and the anime for bailing out when it did. I suppose I will never see the end of this tale. A shame.

It's a shame, because the manga is quite the work. Dabbling a little in Hindu mythology (mostly for names), it spins quite the tale of gods, demons and everything inbetween. At the focal point in the center of all this is the enigmatic Kaiyanwang, a name that spells ill news for everyone involved, Yakumo and Pai in particular, and someone they might actually have to face sooner or later to gain the humanity Pai searches for.

Artwise, the show is pretty sweet in both its parts, despite its age. I couldn't quite get used to the second half's artstyle, which kind of makes both Yakumo and Pai seem younger than they did in the first part. There is the fact that it took almost four years before they eventually decided to make more of 3x3 Eyes in animated form, which I'm sure had something to do with it. Kaoru Wada supplies a wonderful soundtrack, though, which adds to the atmosphere of the show, very much so.

I might be crazy for saying this, but I do miss the Streamline dub. The one provided by Pioneer is somewhat uneven, especially in regard to Yakumo and Pai; the two characters you will see the most often in the duration of the show. I might not have thought the world of Reba West's performances in the other shows I remember her being in, but she made a much better Pai than Brigitte Bako. Some of the side character are far luckier in their voice acting talent, though... in particular Mama, played by Keith David.

Then again, back when I owned the show on VHS, Manga entertainment chose to slam the first four episodes into two hour-long chunks, shaving off some of the segues between the episodes to make them flow better. Sadly, intent doesn't always meet with success, so the whole thing comes off somewhat disjointed at times. The narrative isn't hard to follow, but having read the manga as far as Dark Horse have taken it has only cemented the fact that the anime version is a quite abridged version at that. It has also aged remarkably well, all things considered.

What gives this show the level of enjoyment it has, though, rests truly on the shoulders of the characters, humanoid and monster alike. Yakumo seems like a rough-but-friendly sort of a guy, and his character carries his heart of gold with flair. Pai, on the other hand, encompasses both her personalities well; her Pai persona -- the friendly and cute, yet not overtly flatteringly so, girl who just want to become human -- and the Sanjiyan persona -- seemingly cold and emotionless at first, until you get to know her plight. Add that to the framework of the horror settings, and you have what would have been a horror classic.

The settings are very part-centric. The first part of 3x3 Eyes is mostly about running back and forth between Japan and China, most of it taking place in cities or countryside mansions. You might say that the first part is probably the more suspenseful of the two, with ceremonies including live sacrifices and various demonic denizens clamoring for the favor of Kaiyanwang, with our characters being caught up in the middle of it all. Of course, there's also time for a short stop at Yakumo's school, mostly because he needed a reminder that he won't be able to reclaim his human life that easily.

The tone of the second part is somewhat different. After the colossal cliffhanger ending that was the end of the first part (which made the four year wait all the worse), 3x3 Eyes spends an entire episode basically throwing the amnesia angle at us after Yakumo spends four undocumented years looking for her. From there, the second part takes on a more adventurous angle, where Yakumo and Pai heads for China once more, but with the intent of heading towards Tibet for those all-important answers. And while I do like the settings, I feel that the horror aspect of the show loses out somewhat. It's not a big deal, but -- like I mentioned -- the ending still feels kind of unfinished.... or a copout, depending on which version you saw.

If only! If only I could have read the rest. If only the ANIME could have followed the manga to the end. It's a shame, really, but 3x3 Eyes just... stops. In the old Streamline version, it does come to a conclusive ending. But, to make that ending, changes had to be made. Changes that made no goddamn sense. I'd explain, but I would basically have to spoil the entire ending to do so. The Pioneer/Geneon version rectified this, however, which turned the show open-ended. Suffice to say, it might be better not to know about the manga. Maybe then, this show will feel like a whole story. Maybe it's better to feel like something's missing rather than know it to be true.

An average anime based on a really good manga. The "what if's" are hell, though.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: The show is aged 16+, and for a good reason. The gore in it is rather over the top. Yakumo may be immortal, but he's certainly not invulnerable. In fact, he gets into quite a few situations that would have been lethal to any normal human being, and loses litres of blood to show for it. But hey, it's a horror show, so what did you expect?

There's also some fanservice; a sacrificial victim in the first half and some mild (and weird) doll nudity in the second. It would probably have counted for a lot more when it first came out, though, but with the current influx of shows far more sexual than this, I don't think this aspect of 3x3 Eyes is anything to worry about.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (7/7)
3x3 Eyes 1&2 © 1991 Toei, Bandai Visual/1995 Studio Junio, Bandai Visual.