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ADVENTURES IN ANIMATION: 'Demon City Shinjuku' (aka 'Hell City Shinjuku')

by Eli Kroes

The realm of 'adult' animation is an interesting one. For a lot of people, it begins and ends with the Adult Swim channel or 'The Simpsons.' Some associate the genre with gross-out borderline-porn flicks like 'Fritz the Cat.' To be sure, this is only a small chunk of the animation that's not intended for children. In fact, the earliest cartoons were meant for an adult audience, and there is a lengthy list of terrific animated features you don't have to be twelve to enjoy. 'Adventures in Animation' will feature reviews of such films... 

'Demon City Shinjuku' (aka 'Hell City Shinjuku') - 1988, Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Once again, I don't pretend to be an expert on anime, and I really don't like a lot of it, but I'm trying to 'expand my horizons,' so I've been watching some classic stuff recently. This one, like a lot of others, is based on a manga, or graphic novel. However, unlike most of the horror-type stuff, this is relatively tame and inoffensive.

Well, MOSTLY inoffensive. There's quite a bit of vulgar language, and some violence. But nothing like, say, 'Wicked City,' also by Kawajiri. The story is pretty simple...demons take over a city in Japan, a Samurai warrior gets killed trying to defeat them, then it's up to his son to finish the job. Most of this is set up right away through heavy-handed dialog, leaving the rest of the film to meander along creepily.

Most of the dialog, in fact, is kind of stupid. That might be the English dub, but who knows. Characters don't sound like real people--they're just there to let you know what's going on since otherwise there would be no indication whatsoever. But, it's not really important. The mood is the dominating factor here, and it's sufficiently somber and creepy. This is how horror movies should be: Quiet, menacing and dark. Both the demons and the city are expertly crafted to the point where nothing else matters, no matter how stupid it seems.

The stupidity in question is that EVERY character has a different accent, including Hispanic(!) and most characters drop at least a couple WTF lines of dialog. Once again, that might be the translation, but I'm pretty sure a lot of it is poorly written no matter what language it's in.

Regardless, I enjoyed the whole thing, and would easily watch it again. If you're looking for something a little more heady and bizarre than the average 'fighting and magic swords' anime, this is your ticket. Plus, it's gloriously 80's.

Photo by Animation Stuff.