02 February, 2009

Experiencing the Overfiend

My Urotsukidoji experience started off with amazement, and ended in utter disappointment. For years, I had been no more than vaguely aware of Urotsukidoji, knowing it only as one of those forbidden classic hentai titles that had always been out of my reach. There had been curiosity, but I never put much effort into procuring any of those titles, since I've never been all that interested in hentai. I prefer a much more subtle approach to erotica (you might call it ecchi instead), rather than the hardcore stuff.

But, my growing interest in illicit activities involving tentacles (aided in no small part by certain experiences in Second Life), led me inevitably to the point of investigating (purely for educational purposes) some of this legendary animated tentacle rape. And, the wikipedia entry on tentacle erotica awards Urotsukidoji the honor of having created the modern paradigm for the genre, so I figured it was a great place to start.

A modern reimagining of
The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

It can be a little confusing putting the pieces of Urotsukidoji together, since there are six installments, and of course multiple versions of each with various levels of censorship and editing, depending on a number of factors. I'm not in a position to be picky, so I've had to take what I can find. It bugs me that it's so difficult to find a complete version of this classic series through official channels, that's unedited *and* in the right language. There's really no way they can blame me for resorting to underground channels. Unfortunately, even there it's hard to find exactly what I want. Maybe it's an exposure/hindsight sort of thing, but I can't even imagine how this stuff could be considered /so/ deviant that they wouldn't make uncensored versions more easily available for those who are interested. But then again, censorship has never been an exercise in logic.

Anyway, on to the series itself. I watched the first installment, also referred to as "Legend of the Overfiend", and was completely blown away by it. Despite the questionable and explicit material, it is, without a doubt in my mind, a masterpiece of animated erotic horror cinema. Everything about it is fantastic, and it's far more artistic and intelligent than I would have expected from a title of such reputation among the darker corners of anime fandom.

Allow me to briefly describe the plot, so you have an idea of what the story's like. There exist two realms in addition to the human realm - the beast realm and the demon realm - and there is a legend that states that every 3000 years, a being known as the Overfiend reappears to combine the worlds into an eternal paradise. That's the legend, at least, and it unsurprisingly leaves a few details out. At any rate, the story follows beastman Amano Jyaku, who is a really cool character, and his sister Megumi as they wander the human realm trying to find the person who is destined to be revived as the Overfiend. Many demons and beasts alike are wary of the Overfiend's reawakening, afraid of it's true purpose (and rightfully so), but Amano Jyaku is the curious, revolutionary type who thinks that the Overfiend's renovation will bring an exciting new world for all.

And this allows a fascinating setup where we eventually discover that the protagonist (sort of) is the one who wants to destroy the universe, and the antagonists (largely consisting of demons) are the ones actually trying to /save/ the world (that's not to say that they don't enjoy casual rape, though, so they're not exactly "good people" either). Anyway, it's a refreshingly original story, and the whole supernatural aspect mixes in quite well with the "school days" environment that arises as the result of the Overfiend residing within a (arguably) normal schoolboy. All in all, it's very well done and very entertaining to watch.

The ending, though climactic, is less than conclusive, and so the story continues. The second installment of Urotsukidoji, also known as "Legend of the Demon Womb", is actually an unanticipated side story that occurs during the events of the first installment. And though there are some decent scenes, the experience is overall far far far far far far far inferior to the first story. Despite that, it does set up new elements to the plot that drive the rest of the sequential installments (one of which, at least, is not as bad as this one). The important element is the introduction of the Lord of Chaos (called also by other names), which basically acts as a primary antagonist for the Overfiend. Frankly, I think that when your protagonist is the anticipated destroyer of the universe, you really honestly don't /need/ an antagonist. Besides, I found the cloaked character who facilitates the Lord of Chaos' awakening to be far more annoying than the cool he was clearly /supposed/ to be (his evil maniacal laugh is way overused). I'd say just skip Legend of the Demon Womb, but for the setup of the Lord of Chaos, and the fact that the cloaked guy does return in the next installment.

Part three, "Return of the Overfiend", starts out better than part two but still far inferior to part one. It does, however, take place after the ending to the first part, so it satisfies your curiosity there. It's post-apocalypse, although the promised "eternal kingdom" is yet to come. The Lord of Chaos in part two was just a stepping stone to finding the real Lord of Chaos, which forms the backbone of the story to this installment. Many new characters are introduced, including Caesar, the leader of an empire, who is working with the cloaked guy to find the Lord of Chaos and stop the Overfiend's dubious plans for the universe, and the "Makemono", which are a new race of creatures who were disfigured by the apocalypse.

I was kind of bored with it at first, especially in the parts that involved the cloaked guy and which were a continuation of the story from the second installment of the series, but I eventually got attached to some of the new characters, and I have to say, at around the climax of the third episode (of four), it got really good. I'm talking dark, cyberpunk, immortal morphing machines, mad revenge, good. Plus, plenty of good quality extended tentacle scenes. Part three ends at a crossroads, with the empire taken down and the characters setting off to meet the Overfiend for his final confrontation with the true(?) Lord of Chaos.

All of which I understand happens in part four, "Inferno Road". Unfortunately, the version I acquired is in English, which is a real shame, because I'm quite interested in seeing the continuation of the series. Plus, it has a reputation for being particularly explicit and gratuitous (even by Urotsukidoji standards, apparently), and frankly, that makes me curious (for purely educational reasons, of course). On the other hand, from what I've read, my suspicion is that the material isn't any more explicit or gratuitous than the usual Urotsukidoji fare, but it's only considered as such because this time around there are (animated) children involved in some way. Gasp. The horror.

There's also an incomplete fifth installment, "The Final Chapter", consisting of a single episode. As stated, this installment is unfinished. It's also not available in anything other than straight Japanese (without subtitles), from what I can tell. I'd watch it straight, just to see what happens (since it's not finished anyway), but since it's a further continuation of the story, I'd prefer to see the fourth installment first.

Finally, the sixth installment, "New Saga", is not a continuation of the story, but basically a remake of the original installment. I have to say, it sucks really bad. And not in any kind of a good way. Honestly, I couldn't even watch more than about fifteen minutes of it. The animation is bad, the CG is horrendous, the characters are ruined, the story is destroyed, not even the sex is good - in fact it's terrible! To compare this piece of trash to the original installment of Urotsukidoji would be to compare a cheap porn with no redeeming value whatsoever to an undisputed erotic masterpiece. It's that much of a difference.

Disappointing, but you can hardly expect better with a remake, particularly in an already much-maligned genre. Anyhow, the original is still indeed a masterpiece. A masterpiece that I would proudly recommend, with one strong caveat: if the idea of erotic horror itself, or more specifically, monsters raping people violently (keeping in mind that these are animated fantasies, with no flesh and blood persons involved), severely offends you (imagine that), you should probably avoid this title. Truth is, it's not for everyone. However, in Urotsukidoji's defense, I'd like to emphasize that even when dealing with offensive subjects, there are tasteful approaches, and there are tasteless approaches. You may not believe it, but there do exist some things that, though defined as pornography, are indeed of quite good quality and carry a lot of artistic merit. But I'm not here to change anybody's mind - you probably already know if you would enjoy Urotsukidoji or not.

I have to wonder, when I watch something like this, and don't find it to be particularly depraved or disgusting, despite its reputation, if my standards are that much different from most people (not, however, unlikely), or if maybe I've just been so exposed to this kind of material (I do watch a lot of horror films) that I'm used to it, and it doesn't particularly shock me anymore. I've never really considered myself to be the depraved and perverted one amongst my group of peers. There are things out there that, quite frankly, do disgust me, and that I want nothing to do with (things that certain of my peers do in fact revel in). But this is just not one of them. You wonder why I have so much trouble dealing with people, when the truth is, I really have a hard time relating to most of them.

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