Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge Anime Review
US Release By
Fighting-game-based Supernatural Action/Horror
4 45-minute episodes
1997-03 - 1998-03
What's In It
- Superpowered Brawling
- Gothic Darkness
- Immense Swords
- Musical Metal
- Creepy Kids
- Retro-future Fantasy
- Violence: 3 (significant)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 1 (mild)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
Sometime in the future, humanity has been returned to the dark ages, both literally and figuratively. The sun has not shined upon the earth for an hundred years, and strange beasts wander the land--all because of the power of the banished lord of the Darkstalkers, Demitri. Exiled from the dimension of the Darkstalkers by Morrigan, their princess, Demitri has now subjugated the humans, and is preparing for an assault on his home dimension to retake his throne. Meanwhile, wandering the human world are a few righteous people with the power to fight the mighty Darkstalkers--Donovan, a half-vampire with a big sword, Anita, a silent girl with telekinetic powers, and Mei-Ling, a Chinese ghost accompanied by her sister, Hsien-Ko. Somewhere in between are Felicia, a young Darkstalker, and Lord Raptor, a rather violent rock musician with some superhuman powers. Above it all, an alien by the name of Pyron has shown up with an army of robots, the Huitzil, with the intent of wiping out any potential threat to his power.
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Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge is yet another fighting video game turned anime. It has something of a classic ultraviolent anime feel to it, and the majority of the series is composed of very bad people meeting bad ends at the hands of not-quite-as-bad people. All the badness is largely an excuse for fighting, but it does work in some worthwhile story about prejudice and persecution surrounding the handful of characters who're trying to do good in the face of overwhelming darkness. The plot devolves into metaphysical sci-fi chaos at the end, but even before that it's jumpy and uncoordinated. Then again, that's common when you're squeezing in a heap of game characters for obligatory face time, and it is, after all, an action series. On that end, it's an attractive gothic series except for the battles--they're so faithful to the 2D button-masher it's based on that most of the fights look rather silly.
Night Warriors is no masterpiece, but it is a decent dark action series. Fans of the video game should find all their favorites even if the action is often a little too faithful, and if you want violent action with plenty of evil to go around, it's a solid piece of anime.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge is yet another fighting video game turned anime. This particular one isn't bad, and has the general feel of old, ultraviolent classics like Fist of the North Star. It's not full-on splatterfest, but there is plenty of gore, and the majority of the series consists of bad people meeting bad ends.
One thing I was a little put off by is that almost everybody in Night Warriors is bad. Some of the Darkstalkers are really bad, most of the humans are pretty bad too, and the big, bad man from outer space is really, really bad. There are a few good guys, but they paint such a bleak picture of the world that you wonder if anybody's even worth saving.
To be fair, all the misery is sort of the point, as the story offers an unusual take on the theme of prejudice and suspicion. Most of the humans hate the powerful Darkstalkers because they are different, most of the Darkstalkers hate the humans for rejecting them, and only a few can see beyond the differences, lead by a man who is not entirely of either world. The series is at its best, dramatically speaking, when it addresses paranoid rejection or focuses on the few characters who try their hardest to be kind despite the prejudice.
The rest of the time, all the badness just seems like an excuse for a lot of fighting, which is why Night Warriors doesn't end up breaking with its genre despite squeezing in some depth between brawls. The story is often jumpy and random, partly from the old pitfall of trying to cram a gameful of characters into a short OAV series. Since they can't very well have the main characters offing each other, the Huitzil robots keep showing up en masse to give them something to tear apart.
Ignoring the folks who're only around for obligatory face time and a few punches (a few of the sillier ones thankfully get pretty much stiffed), the characters and their development are divided into two basic camps: There are Darkstalkers who are trying their best to be accepted and help folks despite the prejudice toward them (Felicia) and people on a personal quest trying to come to grips with themselves (Anita and Donovan, as well as the ghost sisters). Well, there's also the malevolent duo of Morrigan and Demitri, but they don't do much other than scheme and look cool.
Felicia is a reasonably sympathetic character, and the wandering duo of Donovan and Anita actually seem to have something resembling plot following them around. Though Donovan sounds like he's trying a little too hard to be deep, I must admit that the unlikely pair have unusual and at times very effective chemistry going. These three serve up some surprisingly good dramatic moments, in particular a powerful, albeit short, scene at the end of the third episode.
The series builds some momentum as it goes along, so I was optimistic going into the last episode, but the plot goes haywire at the very end. A weird blend of heavy-handed sci-fi, metaphysical rambling, sword surfing (?!), and who knows what else completely breaks with the fighting game theme, jettisons the worthwhile drama, and doesn't make much sense on top of it. Disappointing on multiple levels, and entirely unsatisfying.
Visually, Night Warriors offers plenty of moody backgrounds and cool-looking gothic locales, in keeping with the grim theme. The character designs are sharp, varied, and a little out of the ordinary--this is often a strength of fighting game-spawned anime. Anita is my favorite; her face is subtly expressive and much scarier than any of the big monsters.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of action, but sadly, the adaptation is a little too faithful; many of the fights look exactly like the game, which is to say spastic and kind of silly when put beside the rest of the more realistic animation. Cool, anime-ized adaptations of classic 2D fighting game showdowns are usually a highlight of this sort of series, but here several scenes might as well have been replaced by sprites from the game. Other than that (and it's a huge "that"), the action is fine.
Much of the dialogue is intentionally wordy and archaic-sounding, but the acting itself is solid in both English and Japanese. One strike against the dub is that the script is identical to the subtitles; the stilted dialogue reads better than it sounds when spoken. I like the Japanese casting (loaded with big names) even if it is more or less formula, and the English casting matches up well. I do think Ari Solomon sounds a tad old as Donovan in English; I much prefer Unshou Ishizuka's subdued, menacing baritone in the Japanese. The standout Japanese performance, however, is the versatile Akiko Yajima as Anita. She's believable for her age, her hurt but slightly scary (not scared--scary) tone is seriously unsettling, and what few lines she has are acted effectively. The aforementioned short scene at the end of episode three is particularly good, though she's a little less interesting at the very end.
The music isn't terribly noteworthy, but is appropriately dark and gothic sounding. I'm sure fans of heavy metal will enjoy "The Trouble Man," the end theme. (It was originally recorded in English despite being by a Japanese group, in case you were wondering.)
Overall, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge is no masterpiece, but it is a decent dark action series. Fans of the video game should find their favorite characters, and all the moves look just like they're supposed to--often too much. For some violent action and plenty of evil to go around, Night Warriors is a solid piece of anime.
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Has a lot in common with the original Vampire Hunter--D, that is. Of course, if you like fighting-game-transfer anime, you should also check out Street Fighter II and Battle Arena Toshinden, to name a couple.
Notes and Trivia
The original incarnation of Darkstalkers - The Night Warriors was a 1994 arcade game (2D, one-on-one fighting with a horror theme) by Capcom. It was followed by arcade sequels (theoretically even continuing the plot) in 1995 and 1997, as well as two sort-of-remakes released in 1997. In addition to a number of arcade adaptations released for home systems, there was a Darkstalkers 3 released for the Playstation and a 2005 PSP game. A number of characters have also appeared in the various Capcom vs. [something] games.
In the non-game department, in addition to this anime adaptation there is a second Darkstalkers animated series that is drastically different from this one. Produced for American television, the plot is completely unrelated and the art is, frankly, ugly. It's available on DVD from ADV. There is also a short manga adaptation, available in English from VIZ.
Translation oddities: The original Japanese title of this series is "Vampire Hunter" (the logo looks identical, with different words), but in keeping with the game translations VIZ went with "Night Warriors." The original title would have probably confused it with a certain fellow by the name of D, anyway. Another language quirk inherited from the game translations is that many of the characters have different names in the English and Japanese versions; most notably, Hsien-Ko was originally Rei-Rei. This comes across a bit odd in the subtitles, as they don't match the dialogue.
An amusing note on the casting, Unshou Ishizuka, who voiced Donovan, also supplied the anime voices of Blanka in Street Fighter II: The Movie and Heihachi in the recent Tekken: Blood Vengeance. Akio Ohtsuka (Demitri) also had roles in the older Tekken anime and the anime Street Fighter II V and Street Fighter IV: The Ties That bind, as well as narrating several King of Fighters drama CDs. Several other big-name actors in the Japanese cast had roles in assorted Street Fighter video games.
US DVD Review
These early DVDs from Viz (since out of print) include all the standards: Japanese Dolby 5.1 and English Dolby soundtracks (2.0 on the first disc, 4.0 on the second), English subtitles, both English and Japanese credits (something of a rarity back when this was first released), and an illustrated chapter index. Plenty of goodies, too: Both discs include an image gallery, a shortcut to the fight scenes, conceptual drawings of the characters, character profiles, the original Japanese trailer, and a heap of promo videos for Viz's other releases of the time. The first disc also includes an interview with the director. The discs come in plastic clamshell cases with a small insert.
Not that extreme, but has enough bad people and gore for most people to want to keep their younger kids away from it. Viz appropriately categorized it as 13-Up.
Violence: 3 - Not terribly gory, but lots of blood at times.
Nudity: 1 - A few lean outfits.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Some harassment in front of a bar.
Language: 2 - A little rough.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Demitri: Akio Otsuka
Morrigan: Rie Sakuma
Donovan: Unsho Ishizuka
Anita: Akiko Yajima
Lord Raptor: Koichi Yamadera
Felicia: Yukana Nogami
Hsien-Ko (Rei Rei): Yuko Miyamura
Mei-Ling: Maya Okamoto
Bishamon: Shozo Iizuka
Hannya: Masashi Ebara
Pyron: Shinji Ogawa
English Dub Cast
Demitri: Paul Dobson
Morrigan: Kathleen Barr
Donovan: Ari Solomon
Anita: Andrea Libman
Lord Raptor: Scott McNeil
Felicia: Janyse Jaud
Hsien-Ko: Nicole Oliver
Mei-Ling: Jane Perry
Bishamon: Don Brown
Hannya: Michael Dobson
Pyron: David Kaye
Director: Satoshi Ikeda
Producers: Kenichiro Zaizen, Toshiki Onishi
Character Design: Shuko Murase
Screenplay: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Music: Koh Otani
Ending Theme: "The Trouble Man"
Vocals: Eikichi Yazawa
Lyrics: Andrew Gold
Composed by: Eikichi Yazawa
By Amuse Video/Digital Media Lab/Capcom