ADV Films presents
Doomed Megalopolis Complete (1988)
"Masakado, ARISE!!!"- Kato (Jeff Winkless)
Stars: Cam Clarke, Mike Reynolds, Jeff Winkless, Joan Carol O' Connor
Other Stars: Steve Bulen, Sam Fontana, Kirk Thornton
Director: Rin Taro
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme violence, some nudity, sexual content, supernatural/occult themes)
Run Time: 02h:54m:12s
Release Date: 2002-11-26
DVD ReviewDoomed Megalopolis is a memorable bit of supernatural horror from the early days of anime's penetration of the Western market. Even today, when anime is far more commonplace, the 4-part mini-series still holds much of its charm and interest, which is entirely fair since it is a pretty good bit of escapism. It also uses a creative gimmick: taking a real, historical event in Japanese history, and changing the point of view to a fictional one that reveals possible elements unknown to the general public. Set in the early 1900s (and then progressing into the early 1920s), Doomed Megalopolis dramatizes the brutal earthquake that shook Tokyo in 1923 by wrapping it in a story about a sorcerer's obsession with bringing destruction upon the city and, indeed, all of Japan.
Although the complex story can be hard to follow at times, the core plot deals with Kato, a mysterious magician who dresses as a military man. He arrives in Tokyo with the goal of awakening an ancient spirit that lies beneath it; a spirit that, if awakened properly, it would wage a destructive campaign of revenge on the citizens for having forgotten to properly respect and worship their gods. The problem is, despite being frightfully powerful, Kato alone cannot resurrect this spirit. Instead, he must go through a decades-long plan to carefully engineer the success of the destruction of Tokyo, which involves combating a powerful Shinto priest, kidnapping an innocent maiden and a variety of other, dark challenges along the way. Each of Doomed Megalopolis's four chapters sets the clock ahead just a bit to see exactly how this horrific drama will play over a period of many years, involving most of the same characters and those around them. Most important is the Yukari, whose innocence and young mind make her the perfect target for Kato to manipulate into his plots. Eventually her child (which may be Kato's) grows up with mysterious abilities, undoubtedly connected to what's going on with the cursed spirits waiting to engulf Tokyo.
The series does not falter in its promise to deliver a horror story, and indeed this is a very brutal and dark tale. Although it's a little easier to get wrapped up in the story and figured out what's going on by knowing something about Japanese supernatural concepts, especially those rooted in the Shinto traditions, it still functions on a very basic level. It's more than a simple ghost story, it's an incredibly dramatic and rather epic, multi-generational account. At times, the pace can slow down quite a bit, but this is usually to provide better details for the audience, or to better flesh out a certain character. While the storyline might seem incredibly complex at first, don't worry, it all gets explained and makes more sense as you get deeper into the show. Things are meant to be vague; just enough to keep you asking questions. What really intrigued me about the series was how it went to great lengths to provide a successful motive for Kato's evil project. By the end of part one, any viewer would likely ask himself, "Why bother with all this elaborate junk just to destroy Tokyo?" Interestingly, this question gets some good answers, but not enough to demystify Kato.
I wouldn't go so far as to call Doomed Megalopolis 'classic,' but it's a horror anime that actually delivers on the "horror" part, as opposed to other series in this genre that are just lots of action and violence without the moody, creepy elements needed to really be chilling. While the Streamline Pictures dub is the only version available (more on that later), it's still worth taking a look at this wonderful stage in the now-famous careers of animation producers "Mad House" and Rin Taro.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The source print is a little aged, resulting in a not-quite-accurate black level, which adds a little gray into some scenes meant to have a lot of flat black. Other than that, the transfer is very satisfactory and does not allow the age issues to really cause any serious problems. Occasional pixelization shows up in some of the darker sequences (in dark color schemes), but it's negligible. Overall, the quality of the hand-drawn work is retained nicely and should function well for any fans of the original VHS volumes.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: As Doomed Megalopolis was one of the Streamline Picture/Carl Macek Productions series ADV acquired in a special deal, they were unable to gain access to the original Japanese audio. As a result, all we have is the dub. Despite the relatively hit-and-miss reputation of Streamline's dubs, I freely admit this is probably one of the finest dubbing jobs I've ever heard. There is one caveat, though: Cam Clarke (the voice actor who appears in numerous cartoons, games, and commercials) is far too familiar to work well as part of the cast. After his overexposure in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television show and the Streamline dub of Akira, his continued usage in certain anime titles has started to grate a bit. (He'll also be voicing the title character in the new He-Man cartoon.)
Other than that, the audio is definitely more impressive than I expected from an old dub made in a time when respect for the original Japanese intentions was usually thrown out the window. While the stereo track isn't too lively or exciting (it is a slow moving horror story after all), it does deliver the goods whenever directional or moving effects are needed.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Full Metal Panic, Samurai X: Reflection, Dai-Guard, Noir, Saiyuki
Packaging: Double alpha
Extras Review: There aren't really any supplemental features apart from some ADV previews for other shows soon to be released, including Saiyuki (not based on the video game, Saiyuki). The presentation is pretty minimal and ADV left the original cover intact (which looks a little silly in my opinion). My only complaint is that each episode is given the usual "Intro, Act 1, Act 2, Closing" treatment, which is a little thin considering each episode is 45-50 minutes long.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsDoomed Megalopolis is a deep, supernatural yarn that surprised me with its ability to entertain despite moving so slowly. At times it can be a little heavy-handed, but the dub is amazingly good and there seem to be no edits or cuts of any kind (all the violence and other controversial material is left in), so the story doesn't suffer any missing parts. It's well worth checking out, but just remember the whole thing is about three hours long, so get the big popcorn.
Dan Lopez 2002-12-15