Brief Thoughts On: Demon City Shinjuku

Demon City Shinjuku kicks off on a big victory for evil. In a climactic battle, demon worshipper Rebi Ra defeats humanity’s hero and turns all of Shinjuku into his hellish domain, Given 10 years, he’ll be able to open a portal to hell itself, unleashing all of its horrors upon Earth. However—mere days before his plan can come to fruition—an unlikely new hero rises to challenge Ra.

PHOTO: Kyoya and Sayaka standing amid the ruins of Shinjuku, lit up by hellish lighting.

Kyoya Izayoi may seem like a laidback guy, but he is a prodigy in kendo and has mysterious, magical powers. When a important politician is kidnapped by Ra, Kyoya is approached by the spirit of an old man, who urges him to help. Kyoya is unwilling to get involved. At least, until the politician’s beautiful daughter shows up to beg for his help as well. Thus the two set out for Shinjuku to put an end to Ra’s reign of terror.

The plot is a routine walk through the hero’s journey. It chronicles Kyoya’s growth from a selfish, pervy guy into a genuine hero. An effective story, though one that leaves Demon City Shinjuku with few surprises. Despite the cool setting, the motions end up feeling uninspired. Especially since details like the unironic inclusion of a spiritual mentor character invite comparisons to Star Wars.

PHOTO: A demon being cleaved in half.

That doesn’t make the movie bad, of course. It’s a fun action-horror movie about fighting demons in a hellish setting. Madhouse handled production of the movie, which they did a fine job at. Demon City Shinjuku actually precedes a lot of their later horror OVAs that became much more famous.

It has horrendous monsters and gore aplenty, though its most standout feature are actually the backgrounds. There are so many awesome shots of Shinjuku and how the demonic presence has warped it. It does sometimes cheap out, though. Those lingering action shots that are set to flashing backgrounds are hard on the eyes and too frequent for my liking.

Unlike so many other OVA’s, Demon City Shinjuku doesn’t take the edge too far either. It never feels like it’s trying too hard and the story, as a whole, comes of as idealistic. Female lead Sayaka is a good example of this. In any other work I’d have expected her good-heartedness to be punished somehow. Instead, it turns out that her pure intentions can pierce the corrupting energies of Shinjuku itself. She manages to reach out to its warped inhabitants and sway them to her aid.

PHOTO: A field of skeletons and dead trees, clouded in purple mist.

Don’t go into Demon City Shinjuku expecting narrative brilliance. It’s a straightforward anime with cool visuals and the occasional impressive display of gore. Do make sure to stick with the original Japanese audio, because the dub is notorious for its wacky accents and script changes.

Leave a Reply