Lackluster sword-and-sorcery anime based on manga
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 07/10/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"MADARA (1991) is a sword-and-sorcery anime based on a multi-volume manga adapted into two hour-long OAV episodes contained on this disc. Not only is the original story greatly condensed, but its basic elements are jumbled quite a bit in the adaptation. "The Anime Encyclopedia" asserts that MADARA consists of four hour-long anime episodes, but the ending here gives no indication of a continuation and the DVD case makes no reference to any other volumes.
The anime tells of a boy, Madara, whose limbs, torso and body parts are made up of "gimmicks" (machine parts called "gadgets" in the manga), which give him greater powers than ordinary humans in this post-apocalyptic world over a thousand years in the future. Despite its future setting and occasional displays of high technology, everything looks awfully medieval and the denizens of this world include all sorts of grotesque monsters and animal-derived humanoid creatures, such as the giant wolf men who attack Madara's village early on, much to their immediate regret. Madara goes off on a mission to find and kill the demonic tyrant, Lord Miroku, with whom Madara has a secret connection. He is accompanied by an attractive teen girl sidekick, Kirin, who has helpful powers of her own. At some point our hero is joined by two renegades from Miroku's court, Chaos and Seishinjya, both of whom are powerful warriors in their own right. Their journey takes them through all sorts of rugged terrain, abandoned castles, underground chambers, and alternate dimensions before arriving at Miroku's massive castle for the big showdown.
A lot happens in the two hours it takes to tell this tale, but not at a very fast pace. There are long slow stretches which give viewers enough time to wonder why they should care. Sure, Madara and Kirin are cute and endearing, but they're kind of callow and we don't know what's at stake for them. We don't really get a sense of what kind of world this is, so we don't ever feel anchored in any sense of community, any sense that things can be set right by Madara's actions. What happens if he wins? How will things change? We don't know. So there's no suspense and no sense of emotional engagement.
It's all adequately designed and animated and there are occasional bursts of entertaining action, but overall it pales next to so much better sword-and-sorcery anime from Japan, such as the 1997 TV series, "Berserk" (also available on DVD). There are occasional dramatic music cues by renowned anime composer Kaoru Wada ("Silent Mobius"), but they are few and far between. The manga series is currently being published in English by CMX and may be of greater interest to fans of sword-and-sorcery tales than the anime."