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3x3 Eyes Anime Review

3x3 Eyes Box Art

3x3 Eyes (Immortals)

3 stars / OVA / Drama / 16-up

Bottom Line

Rough around the edges, but creative and enjoyable on the whole.

It’s Like...

...Blue Seed with way more violence and foreign travel.

Vital Stats

Original Title

3x3 EYES (サザン アイズ)

Romanized Title

Sazan Eyes

Literal Translation

3 Times 3 Eyes

Animation Studio

Toei Animation

US Release By

Geneon Entertainment, Pioneer Animation, Streamline Pictures


Supernatural Drama... Action Horror Comedy(?)

Series Type



4 30-minute episodes

Production Date

1991-07-25 - 1992-03-19

What's In It


Look For

  • Gunfights (some)
  • Beasties
  • Demons n' Devils
  • Cute Kids (again, sort of)
  • Slapstick (a bit)

Objectionable Content

  • Violence: 4 (heavy)
  • Nudity: 2 (moderate)
  • Sex: 2 (moderate)
  • Language: 2 (moderate)

full details

Plot Synopsis

Pai looks like any young girl, but is really the 300-year-old last survivor of the Sanjiyan, an ancient race of three-eyed demons that were destroyed in a war with Kaiyanwan, their own leader. In addition to being immortal themselves, the Sanjiyan hold the coveted secret to immortality. Pai, however, wants nothing more than to become human. When she runs into Yakumo, an average high school student, she ends up with no choice but to turn him into her Wu--an immortal servant tied to her as long as she remains a Sanjiyan. As the two of them search for a way to make both Pai and Yakumo human again, they will both have to grapple with just what that means. And the search is not an easy one: There are dark forces seeking to extract the secret of immortality from Pai.

Quick Review

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3x3 Eyes is a sort-of-classic based on the beginning of a long-running manga series. It's an interesting beast: A surprisingly comfortable crossbreed between a "high school kid with supernatural powers comedy" and a gory demon-fighting flick. On the negative side, it suffers from "too much manga, too little time" syndrome, leading to uneven pacing, a story that jumps around, and a glut of confusing mythological tie-ins. It also looks rather dated, and the action, while moderately interesting, largely consists of the immortal-but-not-invulnerable Yakumo being ripped to shreds dramatically for several minutes. On the positive side, the characters are appealing, the story is dramatic yet confident enough to poke fun at itself on occasion, and there's a nice international flavor. The Japanese dialogue features big names and quality acting, including an unusual combination of extremely harsh and extremely cute yet believably awkward Chinese-accented Japanese from Megumi Hayashibara.

3x3 Eyes could have been an average-quality paranormal high school comedy, and it could have been an average-quality monster/gore horror flick. What it is is an unusual combination of both, and although fun and interesting, it never quite manages to be more than that.

Read the full-length review...

Full Review

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Note that this review is of the first OVA series, Immortals. It and the sequel, Legend of the Divine Demon, were at one point packaged together as a set, but they were produced four years apart and are different enough that I'm reviewing them separately.

3x3 Eyes (pronounced, at least in Japanese, "Sazan Eyes") is a sort-of-classic based on the beginning of a long-running manga series. It's an interesting beast: A surprisingly comfortable crossbreed between a "high school kid with supernatural powers comedy" and a gory demon-fighting flick. It suffers from too much plot and too little time, leading to pacing problems and a rather scattered story, but is still unusual and fun.

On one hand are all the pieces of a classic anime comedy. Pai is disturbingly cute and Yakumo, though stuck with immortality and chased by demon hordes, is a nice guy and has a sense of humor about his situation. Throw in a couple more quirky characters (a tomboy schoolgirl and a money-grubbing Hong Kong psychic investigator), a hint of a high-school love triangle, and a few amusing situations, and you're done.

On the other hand, it pulls no horror punches: The demons are scary, Pai's got an alter ego who's anything but cute, there's a lot of gore (Yakumo is immortal, not invincible), and the plot is mostly serious.

Combined, you have a serious story with enough of a sense of humor to keep it fun, and enough confidence to allow the characters to poke fun at the plot once in a while. How well the mix works is a matter of taste, but it's enjoyable as long as you don't expect it to be straight horror or comedy.

That said, the story is paced inconsistently, pruning out all but the essential points from the manga. The first episode is uncomfortably rushed, things level out for the middle two, and the last is, if anything, too slow. It also jumps around a lot; just when the story seems to be headed somewhere, it veers off in another direction. The first episode sets up the search for the Statue of Humanity... then, suddenly, we're back in Japan talking to Yakumo's friends. After that, we're thrown into a dramatic rescue... followed by a slow, creepy set-up of the villain. And then it ends. At least they didn't try to fit everything in.

Thankfully there is a sequel, since the end is left wide open. (I can't imagine waiting four years for a follow-up to the cliffhanger.)

Among the things trimmed is some of the international and multilingual flavor of the manga, but it's still quite colorful. The story takes place in Japan, Hong Kong, and central Asia, and draws on mythology from all over Asia, particularly India. Pai does retain her imperfect Japanese, though the glut of mythological tie-ins pretty much lost me a few times.

For all its flaws, the story is interesting, and the heart of it--what it means to be human--kept my attention. The characters are all likable enough, but Pai and Yakumo are, not surprisingly, the most interesting. Pai is innocence embodied, simultaneously trying to become human and learning what that really means. Yakumo is just a confused guy trying to deal with the chaos around him and learning something about humanity though Pai's and his own predicament. It's disappointing that we don't get to see much of Yakumo's internal torment, and the "what it means to be human" theme is laid on thick, but overall the emotional end of the plot holds its own.

Worth a quick mention are the villains. Most of them are ugly, two-dimensional, "I wanna be immortal!"-screaming cannon fodder, but the real bad guy, who we only meet toward the end, is all kinds of scary.

The action, a centerpiece of the series, is unusual. The fights are relatively exciting and quite well animated, but mainly consist of a monster ripping Yakumo to shreds for several dramatic minutes before Pai eventually blows it up. There is a sense of tension, and it's interesting to see a hero who just isn't very effective (immortal, yes... super-powered, no), but it gets tedious after a while. On the subject, when I say Yakumo gets ripped to shreds, I mean it--he single-handedly loses more limbs and spits out more blood than a carful of teenagers in a slasher flick. Add a couple of other scenes, and you have a lot more blood and gore than you might expect.

That said, while 3x3 Eyes isn't bad-looking for its era, it hasn't aged terribly well. The animation isn't a problem (above average for an OVA of the era) and the art is good enough. The character designs, although not impressive, are faithful to the manga. (Also faithful to the original, the squinty Yakumo has his eyes closed 99% of the time, a notably annoying look.) The coloring, however, is stuck uncomfortably between moody lighting and garish hues that are anything but. Other problems include uninteresting monster designs, helmets borrowed from Imperial Storm Troopers, somewhat bland backgrounds, and grainy film stock. The series is also guilty of "no sense of space," a major pet peeve of mine--several action scenes lack a clear image of what the layout of the location is and where everyone is standing.

Kaoru Wada's musical score is split between exotic, slightly creepy drum pieces and broad orchestral themes. It's a little sparse, and a little overblown in style, but well above par and fits the production nicely.

The Japanese voice acting is one of 3x3 Eyes' strongest points. The veteran cast (although most weren't veterans at the time) turns in solid performances all around, with a lot of variety in roles that could have easily been lacking. The standout is Megumi Hayashibara as Pai--a surprising stretch in both the overly cute and very harsh directions. The latter is particularly impressive, and even on the cute end she manages a fairly convincing awkward, vaguely Chinese accent. That's a rarity in anime--usually everybody speaks perfect, unaccented Japanese or, occasionally, in a caricature of a Chinese accent, neither of which Pai does. Almost all the performances are broad, but that's well within the mood of the series (including Ai Orikasa's unmistakable voice in an amusing supporting role as the trigger-happy detective).

The newer Pioneer English dub isn't bad. Christian Campbell is very good as Yakumo, though Pai sounds a bit too mature, and her lack of an accent makes her dialogue sound unnatural. There's also an older Streamline dub, which Arcane's 2nd opinion covers and contrasts.

All in all, 3x3 Eyes: Immortals could have been an average-quality paranormal high school comedy, and it could have been an average-quality monster/gore horror flick. What it is is an unusual combination of both, and although fun and interesting, it never quite manages to be more than that.

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Related Recommendations

The closest series in the light-action-horror category are Blue Seed, and Ushio and Tora, which is also of a similar vintage. Another gory not-quite-serious horror action flick is the little-known Battle Royal High School.

Notes and Trivia

Based on the epic manga series by Yuzo Takada. The manga, recently concluded, consists of 40 volumes published between 1987 and 2002; this first anime series is based on the first story arc ("Book of the Ominous Attack of the Divine Demon"), spanning only two volumes.

The manga is available in English from Dark Horse, first serialized as part of the now-discontinued Super Manga Blast anthology, then in compiled book form. They've apparently ceased translating it as of book 8, however. Way back in the mid-'90s Dark Horse also published a few issues in the more traditional US comic format, one of their earliest manga translations.

The title, for those wondering, is something of a pun. "Sazan" is the way you say "three times three" if you're reading the multiplication tables in Japanese, which fits how it's written. It also sounds the same as the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "southern." This is apparently not a coincidence, as the author is said to be fond of the band "Southern All Stars" ("Sazan Ooru Sutaazu"), very popular in Japan since the late '70s.

In addition to the two OVA adaptations of the manga, there were a number of video games produced throughout the '90s, none of which are available in English.

US DVD Review

Pioneer's older DVD set includes all 7 episodes of both OVA series on two discs (one for each series) in a double-sized clamshell case. To start with, it includes the expected English and Japanese (both stereo) dialogue and a subtitle track. The video transfer is fine, although the first series does look grainy and a bit harsh (probably because the source material wasn't great, and the high-quality video brought the flaws out). The audio is better; even the older Japanese track sounds crisp. The animated menus provide chapter access to sections of each episode, and a small collection of goodies.

The extras on each disc consist of some black and white character design sketches, a gallery of color art from the creator of the manga, and a list of the cast. The cast list is actually pretty cool--it includes a photo of most of the voice actors, a small picture of the character(s) they play, and a list of other roles they've been in. Most of the cast covered are from the dub, but the second disc includes a few of the Japanese actors as well. The credits, of course (this is Pioneer), cover both languages in their entirety, though oddly they threw the voice credits over some dialogue at the end of the first episode and left the Japanese credits intact (probably because there was an image under them--if that's why, I commend the choice, but it'd have been better to have left the actual production alone).

It was later re-relased on a stand-alone DVD volume, sold separately from the sequel series.

Parental Guide

Pioneer rated it 16-up, appropriate on account of the gore and one particular human sacrifice scene.

Violence: 4 - Very little actual death, but Yakumo gets ripped up in graphic detail many times.

Nudity: 2 - No actual nudity, but a surprisingly long compromising scene with a human sacrifice in episode three features a lot of exposed skin.

Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Again, nothing graphic, but that same scene.

Language: 2 - Nothing particularly strong.

Staff & Cast

Original Japanese Cast

Pai/Sanjiyan: Megumi Hayashibara
Yakkumo Fujii: Koushi (Kouji) Tsujitani

Episode 1:
Lee Ling-Ling: Ai Orikasa
Professor Fujii: Osamu Saka
Chou: Takeshi Aono
Mrs. Wong: Yoshiko Fujita
Mama: Yukimasa Kishino
Transvestite 1: Masato Hirano
Transvestite 2: Michitaka Kobayashi
Newscaster: Arihiro Masuda

Episode 2:
Tatsuya: Hiroyuki Sato
Hide: Hikaru Midorikawa
Monkey: Masami Kikuchi
Natsuko: Yuko Mizutani
Mama: Yukimasa Kishino
Frog Demon: Kouzo Shioya

Episode 3:
Lee Ling-Ling: Ai Orikasa
Mei-Shin: Mayumi Tanaka
Steve Long: Manjo Ginga
Ryouko: Kyoji Totani

Episode 4:
Lee Ling-Ling: Ai Orikasa
Mei-Shin: Mayumi Tanaka
Steve Long: Manjo Ginga
Mrs. Wong: Toshiko Fujita
Benares: Akio Otsuka

English Dub Cast (Pioneer)

Pai/Sanjiyan: Brigitte Bako
Yakkumo Fujii: Christian Campbell

Episode 1:
Lee Ling-Ling: Susan Chesler
Professor Fujii: Keith Szarabajka
Chou: Yuji Okumoto
Mrs. Wong: Jean Gilpin
Mama: Keith David
Transvestite 1: Rick Simone
Transvestite 2: Yuji Okumoto
Newscaster: Jean Gilpin

Episode 2:
Tatsuya: Rick Simone
Hide: Greg Weisman
Monkey: Thom Adcox
Natsuko: Mia Korf
Mama: Keith David
Frog Demon: Taliesin Jaffe

Episode 3:
Lee Ling-Ling: Susan Chesler
Mei-Shin: Erin Mathews
Steve Long: Bill Faggerbakke
Ryouko: Keith Szarabajka

Episode 4:
Lee Ling-Ling: Susan Chesler
Mei-Shin: Erin Mathews
Steve Long: Bill Faggerbakke
Mrs. Wong: Jean Gilpin
Benares: Earl Boen

English Dub Cast (Streamline)

Pai: Rebecca Forstadt
Sanjiyan: Alexandra Kenworthy
Yakkumo Fujii: Eddie Frierson


Original Story: Yuzo Takada (Young Magazine Weekly) Director: Daisuke Nishio
Assistant Director (ep 4): Takahiro Imamura
Screenplay: Akinori Endo
Art Design: Tomoko Yoshida, Miyuki Sato (ep 4)
Producers (ep 1)/Executive Producers (ep 2-4): Ryohei Suzuki, Shigeru Watanabe, Hidetoshi Shigematsu
Producers (ep 2-4): Yoshimasa Mizuo, Minoru Takanashi, Toshinori Otzuki, Katsunori Haruta
Animation Director: Koichi Arai
Art Directors: Toshikatzu Sanuki, Junichi Taniguchi (ep 2-4)
Director of Photography: Fumio Hirokawa (1), Takeshi Fukuda (ep 2-4)
Music: Kaoru Wada
Music Arrangement: Hideyuki Tanaka

Produced by Kodansha, Bandai, King Records
Animation by Toei Animation Co, Tavac Co.


Formerly available in North America from Pioneer (Geneon) on a single hybrid DVD, and prior to that on a hybrid DVD set that includes the second OAV series as well. Going farther back, it was available on subtitled or dubbed VHS from Pioneer, and even farther back on four dubbed VHS volumes (with a different dub) from Streamline, as well as a combined single-tape "Perfect Collection", which was also released on LaserDisc. All of the above are currently out of print, though the DVDs are easy to find.

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