Peacock King: Spirit Warrior: Castle of Illusion Anime Review
孔雀王 2: 幻影城
Kujaku Oh 2: Genei-jiro
Peacock King 2: Castle of Illusion
US Release By
Quasi-religious Action Horror
In modern day Japan, the ancient warlord Oda Nobunaga (aka the 6th Lord of Darkness, at least according to the historians in the story) is busy trying to resurrect himself, and bring along a cherubim--and those are bad. The only thing standing between the forces of darkness and the modern world is the Peacock king, and a few of his fellow warriors.
First, be clear that each of the Peacock King stories has its own production team, story, and style--except for the Revival of Evil/Regent of Darkness two-parter they're all pretty much standalone works based on the same character. Second, just because that two-part story was fairly good, don't assume this one will be, too.
Here we've got a bunch of somewhat messed-up Christian Biblical stuff mixed in with some Buddhism and a lot of made up gods, all applied to Japanese history. Strange at best, and confusing the rest of the time--unless you really go for alternate takes on religion, there's frankly not much worth seeing here. The art is mediocre at best, the animation is awkward and uneven (not for lack of budget, it's just badly done), the characters have zero backstory and aren't anything special, and the plot is confusing and uninteresting. To be fair, there are a few interesting points: It's pretty funny that Onimaru, the big guy, has a glove compartment full of spare shades, a few scenes feature some good grim imagery, and what little music there is isn't bad. The villain's henchmen hold their own on coolness, too, but the villain himself just looks like a normal guy with pointy teeth (he'd do better to let his buddies do the posing) and that nasty cherub looks kinda like a really big wad of angry bubblegum, with teeth. To top it all off, the dubbing is abysmal--it feels like a bad school play (badly written and made worse by poor execution and weak acting).
Overall, Peacock King: Spirit Warrior: Castle of Illusion is a bad piece of animation with bad writing, bad acting, and nothing else. Unless you really, really like weird alternate takes on the Bible, or you've seen the rest of the Peacock King series and just have to see the whole thing, you're better off avoiding this one.
Notes and Trivia
The Peacock King series (aka Spirit Warrior) is loosely adapted from a lengthy manga series (also called "Kujaku Oh" - "Peacock King") by Makoto Ogino. The manga isn't available in English as of this writing.
US Manga Corps' release of the Peacock King series has been confusing, to put it mildly. I shall attempt to clarify.
First of all, there are actually two separate OAV series. The first was the three episode "Kujaku Oh" ("Peacock King"), originally released between 1988 and 1991, of which this is the middle part. The loosely connected episodes are (in order) "Festival of the Ogres Return," "Castle of Illusion," and "Harvest of the Cherry Blossoms." The second series "Shin Kujaku Oh" ("True Peacock King") shares a main character with the first, but has very little else to do with it, and is composed of a first and second part, "Demon Revival" and "Rumbling in the Kunlun Mountains" (renamed "Revival of Evil" and "Regent of Darkness" for USM's US release).
The confusion starts because USM released the whole mess as one series, and didn't make it clear that the stories aren't really connected (or that the production team was significantly different for each). They also added confusion by treating the second series as the "first" part of the set (volumes 1 and 2), with the earlier series being parts 3 through 5.
Finally, as if that wasn't bad enough, the original VHS release went by the relatively accurate title "Peacock King: Spirit Warrior" (volumes 1-5, each with a subtitle). The new DVD release, however, just uses "Spirit Warrior"--no Peacocks anywhere.
I will say in USM's defense that since the stories aren't really connected, the order isn't all that important, and I'd certainly have wanted to put the two-parter at the beginning, because it's much better than the older series.
Oh, and there's also a 1988 Hong Kong action movie called Peacock King starring Yuen Biao and Gloria Yip. It is also based on the comic version, and available in the US from Tai Seng.
Available in North America from US Manga Corps on bilingual DVD, part 4 of the Spirit Warrior set. All five volumes are also sold in a box set. Was previously available on subtitled or dubbed VHS, under the title Peacock King: Spirit Warrior - Castle of Illusion.