Kai Doh Maru
Kintoki is the daughter of a minor lord in feudal Japan. Since she was young she has been raised as a boy, earning the nickname "Kaidoumaru" (maybe her father regretted his lack of sons), and there is rumors that she will be named his successor. However, her uncle will have none of it, and in a bid for power murders Kintoki's parents and nearly kills her as well before she is rescued by Raiko, the captain of the samurai guard working for the defense ministry. Now, at age seventeen, Kintoki is a skilled samurai in her own right, and Raiko is starting to see her as something more than just another student, but shadows from the past are about to return and haunt her ...
Short and bittersweet, Kai Doh Maru is an interesting, stylized look at feudal Japan with excellent animation and wonderful use of CG compositing. Being only forty-five minutes in length, however, it suffers from some of the same problems that its predecessor, Blood: The Last Vampire did: the characters are somewhat bland and one-dimensional and the plot can be confusing at points.
To start: The Bad.
Kai Doh Maru would be considered my most fans of "samurai action" films to be extremely boring. Most of the plot revolves around political intrigue and Heian court manuverings. Ninja Scroll this is not. The few action sequences presented are very well done, but do not hold up the show on their own. The characters also suffer from a lack of development. This is mainly due to the short time frame of the movie, but still it would have been nice for characters like Kintoki and Raiko to have more screen time, and certain others to have less. And finally, the plot is about as twisted as it can get in forty-five minutes. With a little bit of inferring, the viewer can pick up what's going on, but unless you are a fan of shows like Boogiepop Phantom or Serial Experiments: Lain, this can be frustrating.
And now: The Good.
Kai Doh Maru is beautiful. The art style used, with lots of soft brushes and pastels, lends itself to an effect which is not quite unlike having an ancient wall scroll drawing come to life. The atmosphere of some scenes is so thick you could cut it with a sword, and the CG effects used for everything from personal wagons, to snow, to fast pans and zooms, are so flawlessly integrated that you barely notice them. The music is also good, and appropriate to the era, if modernly produced. The animation is extremely well rendered. All the character movements are swift and natural looking. As the lead character designer said in the round table discussion on the DVD: in animation, motion is everything. I couldn't agree more.
One minor point I'd like to make, which is not the fault of anyone associated with the actual production of this film in Japan, is that the translation for this film is somewhat strange. I understand Manga trying to word their translation to make it assesible to a western audience, but replacing honorifics with "Mr." seemed anachronistic considering the setting. Also some words like "Hime" were not translated, but instead worked into the character's name. Come on now. Boo to the translators at Manga who really should know better.
In all Kai Doh Maru is an excellent film that is worthy of a look, but fans who enjoy action or prefer more well-developed characters will probably find it average. There are some films that can be rated purely on their artistic merits, and Kai Doh Maru is one of those. Highly recommended for fans of animation and art films.
Remove one star if you prefer action films. Remove two stars if you prefer better developed characters and plot. — Jason Bustard
Recommended Audience: Violent and often bloody, Kai Doh Maru is best left to the teenage crowd and up. Children wouldn't understand what's going on anyway. Most adults won't for that matter either.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Kai Doh Maru © 2001 Production IG / ANX
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