The Laughing Target
Yuzuru had it pretty good -- he was captain of the archery team, he had a nice girlfriend, and had just about everything a typical teenager could want. He also had things that a typical teenager wouldn't want, such as a fiancee. When Yuzuru was six, his father and aunt had betrothed him to his cousin, Azusa with the expectations that he would marry her when he grew older.
Yuzuru, of course, thought it all one big joke, until Azusa came to visit. It seems that she took his promise of marriage VERY seriously, and fully expected him to live up to his promises. Although Yuzuru insists that he already has a girlfriend, Satomi, Azusa has other plans. And with the bizarre and horrific powers Azusa possesses, neither Satomi nor Yuzuru may live to tell the tale!
Kevin gleefully told us as we began to watch this one that this was one of his favorite titles. I'm really not sure what to think of him because of that.
Let's start with the basics. Art and animation, as with all the other Rumic World stories, are all done fairly well (the Evil Slug-Leech things are wonderfully gruesome). The style is just as strongly Takahashi as you could ever imagine (I swear Azusa looks just like Kunou Kodachi), and characters are fairly fleshed out and believable. Soundtrack isn't as memorable as it was in Fire Tripper or Maris, but it gets the job done.
Now, for the plot. One could think of The Laughing Target as a sort of Fatal Attraction meets Poltergeist. You've got a guy who likes a girl, and another girl who likes the guy but hates the girl but also has deadly supernatural powers to kill the girl, and maybe the guy for good measure.
Sounds promising, but The Laughing Target doesn't quite live up to its potential. While the flashback and spooky scenes are suspenseful and disturbing, I found it dismaying how they never quite explain just why Azusa possesses the powers she does. Whether they were the result of a birth defect, a demonic pact from ages past, or a bite from a radioactive spider, we never know, which takes a bit of credibility out of the tale.
Many of the plot elements were fairly predictable (when THEM can guess four out of five crucial plot developments, I think that's a bit too many), and the final climactic scene lacks the dramatic "punch" a story like this should have.
Don't get me wrong, though. While this wasn't the best, but it wasn't terrible, either. The horror scenes were very well conceived, with enough pathos and elements of the familiar to make any psychology major salivate on his notepad. This is probably one of the reasons Kevin enjoyed this one so much. I'll bet Freud woulda wet his pants in excitement if he had seen this one.
Overall, not bad at all. With the right group of people, this anime can be bloody good fun.
(Hint: resist the temptation to fast-forward through the credits in the end.) — Raphael See
Recommended Audience: Little kids will have nightmares. Azusa could probably eat Vampire Princess Miyu for lunch. There's also an attempted rape scene with Azusa and three stupid-looking punks (a la Fire Tripper) as well as some particularly bloody and brutal killings. Kids will probably think it's cool, but it's just not appropriate for them. Oh, yeah, and don't forget the Gratuitous Shower Scene with Satomi.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
The Laughing Target © 1985 Shogakukan / Kitty
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