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AKA: Ankoku Shinden Takegami, Guardian of Darkness Takegami
Genre: Superhero action with horror and suspense elements
Length: OAV series, 3 episodes, 45 minutes each
Distributor: VHS and R1 DVD from US Manga Corps out of print.
Content Rating: 16+ (graphic violence, mild language, brief nudity, mild adult situations)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: 3x3 Eyes, School Ghost Stories, Vampire Princess Miyu
Notes:
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars
 

Takegami: Guardian of Darkness

Synopsis

Terumi is always teased at school because of her mousy, average looks. (But she's an anime character, so she looks cute anyway. Go figure.) She has a crush on her friend Kouichi, who doesn't notice because, like most anime protagonists, he's a doofus. In any case, Terumi gets a makeover, Kouichi hears some sort of godly voice, and, well, it turns out that Terumi's sudden change of heart is caused by a dragon. A not-good dragon. And Kouichi is possessed by the god Susanowo and must slay the dragon. See what vanity gets you?


Review

I'd originally watched all three episodes of this series a long time ago (back in my video-store days to be precise), but I held off on writing the review for two reasons: because I thought there was more (there wasn't), and afterwards because I swore I'd already written this review.

And that pretty much sums up how memorable this series is. Takegami is definitely not a classic, and while it does raise a few questions about the price of vanity, and gives a teensy bit of insight into the mythology of Japan, it does so in such a half-hearted way that you'd be better off watching something else.

Not to say it's awful. There are a few aspects of this series that would really set it apart if the creators had given it half a chance. For example, Takegami's female lead, Terumi, is an unusual character in that she really is just an everyday girl. No blue hair, no pendulous mammaries, just an everyday girl, with a smattering of freckles. But her character design, like most female anime characters, still looks cute, big eyes and all.

Which brings me to the first question: How in the world is the cutest character in the entire series supposed to be ugly?!? Sadly, his is only the first in a set of writing inconsistencies that wrecks this anime.

Oh, yeah, and she's a shrine maiden. Which means we very quickly get to deal with occult nasties and Japanese gods. Which should be cool, right? Well, apart from a whole bunch of dramatic posing shots, it's not terribly exciting. In fact, the animation itself isn't really great. Of course, the dark palette of the entire show almost hides this effectively, but black paint is no substitute for a good frame rate.

And then there's Kouichi and his inner voice, the chaotic thunder god Susanowo.

Question number two: how is Susanowo supposed to be the good guy? Last we checked, Susanowo is usually the antagonist in Japanese myth, sort of like the tantrum-throwing, overpowered, bratty little brother of the gods. I guess the sun goddess Amaterasu was too busy washing her hair or staring in a mirror or something. Of course, if you don't know Susanowo from Susan, then it won't matter to you, but you'll probably be too confused by every other unexplained mythological reference to get anything out of this.

Oh well, in any case, Susanowo and Kouichi are out to destroy these dragon spirits once and for all (regardless of whether or not they slay the hosts, too; talk about your heroes of justice). Yay. So does the great god bust out in his full glory and give Kouichi superpowers, or a katana? Well, no. Instead, he turns Kouichi into something like the Guyver. Yay, another crappy-looking bio armor. My nieces could've come up with something more clever, but at least the dragons looked cool.

It definitely needed more dragons.

And when all was said and done, and the "climactic" final battle had settled into the end credits, I thought there was more. There had to be more. That couldn't have been the whole thing! But it was.

Of course, I originally watched the English dub, which is just not good. Not as bad as other early CPM dubs, but still not good at all. Lisa Ortiz is grating as Terumi, and the rest of the cast is generally forgettable, botching Japanese names left and right. (No schwas in Japanese, please!) Watching this on DVD years later, I flipped onto the Japanese, and while the series sounded better (how could it not?), the scriptwriting did not improve, and the animation somehow managed to look worse (since you couldn't fault VHS quality for what you were seeing).

There is definitely a place in anime for creepy occult thrillers with superpowered, violent action, but Takegami just should be left on the shelf. It's just not very good at all.

Poor animation and lackluster writing sabotage an interesting premise and potentially cool characters.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Bloody? You bet. Girls do stupid things, summon dragons, Susanowo does the slice, dice, bloody blood blood dance. Yay. The box lists some other things, but I don't remember any of these being terribly offensive.



Version(s) Viewed: VHS, English dub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Takegami: Guardian of Darkness © 1990 JVC / JC Staff / Minamimachi Bugyosho
 
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