Suikoden Demon Century Anime Review
妖世紀水滸伝 - 魔星降臨
Youseiki Suikoden - Masei Kourin
Mysterious Century Suikoden - Descent of the Demon Star
US Release By
Martial Arts Action Comedy
What's In It
- Massive Gunfights
- Four Guys vs. An Army
- Tokyo Getting Wiped Out... Again
- Transvestite Piano Players
- Downright Weird
- Violence: 4 (heavy)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
Sometime in the near future, Tokyo was reduced to rubble (as usual). A number of unfriendly gangs now call the areas that haven't yet been rebuilt home (as usual). Controlling these gangs is a crime syndicate trying to take over the world (as usual).
Onto this scene walks Takateru, a friendly young brawler from the boonies looking for his sister, who disappeared in town a while ago. It only takes him about five minutes to find out that she was kidnapped by the head of the gangs (as usual), so he sets off to rescue her (as usual), joined by a motley crew of city dwellers looking for a little payback (as usual).
Oh, there's also some business about a demon running the company and the motley crew being the reincarnation of heroic warriors of ages past. Mayhem ensues (as usual). Much mayhem.
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Suikoden Demon Century has all the earmarks of generic cheesy action: Motley crew of good guys get together and kick bad guy butt. Except motley doesn't even come close--this contingent of good guys has to be one of the strangest this side of the Tendo Dojo. From the transvestite martial artist Miyuki who is constantly hitting on our hero to the priest and nun who run the local orphanage... no, make that commando priest and ninja nun--the cast makes up for the total lack of backstory or substance mainly on the "you've got to be kidding" factor. Miyuki and Takateru actually have a funny, awkward relationship that makes for some fun by itself, but mainly what Suikoden has to offer is heaps of crazed action--everything from sword fights to four guys versus an entire army. It's all surprisingly good looking, though again somewhat ironically the nifty character animation--particularly Miyuki's distinctive design and expressive face--are the most memorable parts. The English dub is cheesy and isn't afraid to flaunt it, making for some goofy bad-movie fun.
Suikoden Demon Century is a short, action-packed nugget of so-bad-its-good anime for those with the right taste or some friends over for late-night anime watching.
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Expecting the classic Chinese story of 108 warriors, or perhaps an adaptation of the series of RPG/strategy games? Nope, this is Suikoden Demon Century--pay attention to that extra "Demon Century" in the title--something entirely different.
It has all the earmarks of generic cheesy action: Motley crew of good guys get together and kick bad guy butt. Except motley doesn't even come close--this cohort is one of the strangest this side of the Tendo Dojo. That leads to a short, action-packed nugget of anime that's so bad it's good for those with the right taste or some friends over for late-night heckling.
Protagonist Takateru is entirely generic, and his backstory sounds like a bad joke: "A kid walks into a bar looking for his sister..." But have a look at the rest of the cast: The secondary hero is Miyuki, a transvestite piano player from the bar who has a crush on Takateru... and is also some kind of martial artist. Then there's a former commando (now selling his skills for drinks) and a cop looking to bypass the law (and avoid the bad guys' literal arsenal of military hardware), who also happens to be the brother of the commando.
Not enough yet? How about the nun and priest from the local orphanage: The company wants their land, and they're not selling. Sounds like a Disney movie, except you'd better make that a commando priest and a ninja nun. I kid not.
Oh, and there's a weird Buddhist monk that tells the group that they're really the reincarnations of the warriors of good who won a battle 500 years ago with a demon... that's now running the corporation.
Got all that straight?
As if the heroes weren't wacky enough, there's the list of villains: A few sleazy gang members, a fat businessman, a psychotic killer swordsman who enjoys cutting people into small pieces, a demon, two samurai who took speech classes from Beavis et al, a small army... no, make that large army, and the bad guys' whiney lawyer. Again, I kid not. It's like a laundry list of wacky anime cliches and bad '80s action movie cliches all in one big basket full of explosives.
You've gotta wonder why the evil, demon-run, army-equipped corporation is starting their bid for world domination with the scrap-heap that used to be Tokyo, but then I guess Tokyo is by definition where all demon invasions must start. Maybe it's in the demon corporate charter somewhere.
How they manage to cram that much crazy into 45 minutes of anime consists basically of a complete lack of background or personality and a whole lotta mayhem. Serious mayhem. There is a little teeny bit of drama, but it's mostly just an excuse to blow more stuff up.
The high point, somewhat ironically, is the interaction between our hero and Miyuki, who keeps hitting on him; the two have a fun dynamic, and Miyuki in particular has a great look, funky personality, and marvelously expressive face. The rest of the cast basically gets by purely on the "you've got to be kidding" factor, which is worth some laughs all by itself.
The bad guys are sort of the same; the MTV-educated Samurai and the simpering lawyer are amusing minor villains, and the murderous bad guy is quite the opposite--not quite Silence of the Lambs psychotic, but pretty unnerving.
The only real down side is that there isn't more of it; being that it's based on the first of a lengthy series of novels, it has the feel of being set-up for a longer series. Thankfully, it does end on a final-enough note to be satisfying.
Artistically, Suikoden is surprisingly well done. The animation is very smooth, and the fight scenes (both those involving fists and plenty of heavy weapons) look great. The character designs are the most eye-catching, though--sharp, attractive features, distinctive, unusual looks, and very nicely drawn. I enjoyed the visuals entirely on the strength of the two main characters and their impressively expressive faces.
I can't speak for the original Japanese, but the English dub is loads of fun. The acting isn't much to write home about (not that there's much drama to speak of anyway), but the writing and delivery have that "this is silly and we know it" attitude that makes the whole thing way more fun than it should have been. To cite a few examples: The hero keeps muttering amusing comments to himself, the commando sings "I'm Too Sexy" in the shower, and the aforementioned doofus samurai henchmen and their banter, not to mention the awkward interaction between Miyuki and Takateru. Not high art, but lots of fun in that late-night-action-movie-on-a-cable-channel-with-a-high-number kind of way.
Overall, Suikoden Demon Century has a downright strange cast of characters, a generally odd if not particularly interesting storyline, top-notch art and animation, and fantastic character designs. The best part, at least in the dub, is probably the intentionally silly dialogue and acting. Not a masterpiece, but lots of fun if you're in the right good-bad-movie mood.
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Nearly unique in its blend of action, serious, and really wacky. Probably the most similar would be the unhinged samurai dramedy Samurai Champloo, and perhaps its kin Cowboy Bebop. In the fantasy department, something about Rune Soldier Louie strikes me as similar, though it doesn't have much in common.
Notes and Trivia
This anime adaptation is based on the first in a series of 14 Youseiki Suikoden light fantasy novels by Hitoshi Yoshioka, published between 1990 and 1995. The first novel included illustrations by JET, while all the rest had illustrations by Riho Yagisawa. The novels have not been translated into English as of this writing, nor have there been any manga or other media adaptations apart from this anime.
Yoshioka is probably better known for writing the series of light novels on which The Irresponsible Captain Tylor was based. He also wrote the novels on which Idol Defense Force Hummingbird was based, along with many other novels that were never adapted into anime.
Note also that this Youseiki Suikoden is not based on the Suikoden series of video games--the only similarity is the Chinese story from which both take a basic concept.
The "Suikoden" of the title refers to a famous work of classic Chinese literature, "The Water Margin." Written in the 16th century, it tells the tale of a heroic bandit (loosely based on a historical figure) who gathers a group of 108 outlaws imbued with 108 spirits.
In modern times, it has been adapted into a number of martial arts films, TV series in both Japan and China, and several video games--both Bandit Kings of Ancient China (an early Koei title for the NES and several computer systems), and the long-running fantasy-themed Gensou Suikoden series from Konami for the PlayStation and PS2.
Note that the Suikoden III manga series by Aki Shimizu (available in English from Tokyopop) is directly based on the game of the same title, not this.
US DVD Review
No English-language DVD exists as of this writing.
Several raunchy jokes and a lot of violence bump this into at least the 13-up category, and I'd call it 16-up.
Violence: 4 - Not extreme, but lots and lots of shooting.
Nudity: 1 - Not much
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Nothing physical, but some mature themes.
Language: 2 - Not extreme.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
Takateru Suga: Spike Spencer
Miyuki Mamiya: Aaron Krohn
Ryo Hamura: Jason Lee
Owen: Rob Mungle
Masaru Ohshita: Brett Weaver
Kyoichi Amamoto: Tristan MacAvery
Takayuki Kurihara: Jeff Gardner
Agu: Robert Peeples
Saeko Kishima: Traci Shannon
Kiyomi Suga: Allison Keith
Hostess: Tiffany Grant
Bartender Sato: Brian Granveldt
Isamu Mizushima: Doug Smith
Sho Muzushima: Kurt Stoll
Lawyer Toki: Matt Greenfield
Girl: Wendy Hughes
Boy: Tiffany Grant
Additional Voices: Everett Battle, Charles Campbell, Moe Foley, Andy Orjuela, Lorraine Reyes, Doug Smith, Tiffany Grant, Allison Kieth, Jason Lee, Amanda Winn
Producers: Haruki Kadokawa, Makoto Hasegawa, Tomoyuki Miyata
Director: Hiroshi Negishi
Original Creator: Hitoshi Yoshioka
Original Manga published in "Sneaker Pocket Books"
Screenplay: Masayori Sekijima
Character Designer/Art Direction: Nobuyuki Tsuru
Art Director: Osamu Honda
Photography Director: Akihiko Takahashi
Music: Yoichiro Yoshikawa
Produced by: Kadokawa Shoten, Nippon Victor, JC Staff