Friday, May 8, 2015

Review: Suikoden: Demon Century (1993)

Way back in 1995, Japan gave birth to a beloved RPG series that captured the hearts and minds of many gamers, myself included. It involved the gathering of 108 heroes to rise up against evil and was generally rather epic in scope, having a story that branched out from game to game. That game series is Suikoden, which is sadly not quite as well known as some other Japanese RPG games.

Maybe if they had a main character with a giant sword & tons of hair gel it would be the king of the RPG scene.
Now me, I'm a massive fan of the Suikoden games and have played most of them multiple times. Trust me, that's a lot of time dedicated to playing, because these games are truly impressive with their massive cast of characters and rather interesting battle mechanics. Sadly, we're not talking about nay of the games today. Nope, instead we're talking about an animated film from Japan based on a series of light novels. Now, you may be wondering how it can have the same name as the game series while being mostly unrelated to it. The answer to that is that both were actually based on an old Chinese legend about 108 heroes. They're also not the only things to be based on that legend as there have been comics and even cartoons based on it.

If you've pulled all-nighters, like myself, you may have found this on a certain network known for cartoons.
Most things based on the Suikoden legend obey the general rules: 108 heroes being gathered to face a great evil, fantasy setting, interesting characters, mix and bake. But then there's this movie. What does this movie do wrong right off the bat? Well...it's not really fantasy based. It's not that I'm saying this concept can't work in a different setting, it's just that it generally involves armies facing off and when you set it in the middle of a more modern Tokyo...it loses something in translation. Of course, it's unfair to judge it based on the one thing, so let's dive into this rather forgotten piece of animation.

If I start drowning...just let me drown.
The movie begins with an explanation that in the early 21st century a large earthquake leveled Tokyo. Yeah, because that hasn't been done to death, right? It also says that in the aftermath of this Japan has become a rather lawless place and government collapsed. I dunno, guys, it doesn't look that bad to me. Shouldn't it look something like Fist of the North Star if it's that bad? Because it still looks rather city-like to me. There are ruined buildings, sure, but Detroit seems to be coping. I think they're just being over-dramatic. Anyway, the sexy sax music leads us past the title screen and we get to our plot. We see an old monk wandering in the rain, eventually collapsing as a priest and nun find him and take him to be nursed back to health.

Spoiler alert: the priest looks like Dolph Lundgren with a beard/mullet combo. So he's probably a former soldier.
After that, the narrator tells us that ancient foes are reincarnated and reborn...wait...are you seriously gonna pull an Ikkitousen? Because I don't think you have enough fan-service in you to pull that off, movie. Also, that priest seems to not have any nipples, which is kinda weirding me out the more I look at it. The main character of our story is finally introduced and boy does he look generic. His name is Takateru and apparently he's a hick. I don't really think he is, but everyone in the movie calls him one, so clearly they know something I don't.

Nothing says "bumpkin" quite like wandering a city in a trenchcoat while looking intense & broody.
It turns out he's in the city looking for his missing sister, but nobody wants to help him because the plot calls for it. So that probably means the main villain has her, because clearly our hero needs some reason to challenge whoever that is. The people in the bar try to kick Taketeru out, but he's not really giving up too easily, which leads to the local tough guy getting involved. And wouldn't you know it? He also looks like a generic action movie hero from the 1980s.

How his voice actor didn't start doing a Stallone impression is beyond me.
They both stop just short of hitting one another, as they're impressed with one another's style, because this is an anime. The bar lady then tells him what happened to his sister, she gives him some exposition to help him along his way. His sister was taken by a local gang and apparently they have a psychotic guy named Amamoto who made sure she got taken. All of this is then interrupted by the sudden appearance of another main character, a cross dresser named Miyuki. They end up walking together afterwards and our hero acts rather homophobic, as this is the early 90s and he's clearly too manly to associate with a transgendered person. They end up running into some low-level thugs from the gang that took his sister and a fight ensues.

In the future, everyone can fight. All you have to do is be an important character in a bad movie.
After the fight, they seem to become friends and we get exposition intermingled with awkward sexual tension. They bring the kids they saved to their home, which just so happens to be the priest's place where he an his busty nun friend are nursing the monk from earlier back to health. And yes, it is pointed out that it's rather ironic that Bhuddist monk and a Catholic priest should cross path in a demolished city that is apparently full of demons. That last part I'm not too sure of though, as I haven't seen any demons thus far. Thugs, sure, but demons? Nah. The most demonic thing I've seen is the monk making his prayer beads levitate and glow, which should probably alarm the priest more than it does. Seriously, I know I'd be more than a little freaked out.

Then again, maybe this is normal in the future. Maybe he's actually David Blaine?
But before our heroes can get to the priest's place, a mysterious black car pulls up and that can only mean something terrible is on the horizon. Yes, surely it must be...THE AXE GANG!

It's hard not to reference better movies when nearly every movie is better than what I'm actually watching.
No, sadly it's not the Axe Gang, as they're in a much better action comedy. Instead it's a weaselly looking guy who looks like every other weaselly henchman that has ever existed. He's standing outside the church in his shit brown suit looking all sleazy and he has the most cliche voice ever. It's fucking terrible. Also, he's a lawyer, because why not be as cliche as possible? It turns out he's here because he's the gang's lawyer and is serving them an eviction notice to take the orphans and get the fuck out. He apologizes, saying it's just business, then says if they need help with any of the kids...he can take some of the girls.

BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!! STRANGER DANGER! GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE, KID!
But, before the creepy pedo lawyer can lay his hands on the frightened orphan girl, the priest grabs his arm and says "don't touch her" in such a way that I'm pretty sure just made the lawyer shit his pants. The pedophile and his surfer samurai leave in their limo and he thinks to himself that the priest isn't like the others. What was your first clue? The fact that he's Catholic or the fact that he's 7'2"? Because honestly, you really should've been able to tell the priest was a bad-ass just by looking at him. Dude looks like his beard could hold Chuck Norris down and shave him. The heroes are then introduced to the manly priest and is offered to stay there, which he agrees to because the thought of staying with Miyuki frightens his fragile masculinity. I guess no one told him Marlon Brando went both ways and still managed to be manly as fuck.

I really wish I were watching a Brando movie right now.
Taketeru gets a vision of himself in the middle of vast army of people in armour (something that never happens in the movie) and the people in the immediate vicinity just so happen to be the people he's met since arriving in Tokyo: Miyuki, the priest, the nun, and Rambo. This scene exists to fool the audience into thinking that this movie will somehow lead to a massive battle of warriors. It doesn't. He snaps out of it, he meets the monk, and we then fade into the gang headquarters where we see the boss and the lawyer. He scolds the lawyer, exposition happens again, and we then learn that he worships a demon. Huh, I guess there's at least one demon in this movie. And they kidnapped Taketeru's sister for bait.

They also chained her up in a sexualized position with almost no clothes on, because this is a classy sort of movie.
We then go back to Rambo who is seen naked in the shower, because apparently they wanted someone naked in this movie and he got to be it. He meets an old friend who just so happens to be a cop, he talks about the gang leader and demons, exposition frenzy! This really is only here so we have a reason for Rambo to be back in the plot. The film then jumps to Taketeru and Miyuki so we can get an introduction to Amamoto, the gang leader's main enforcer. He's gambling and accuses the other players of cheating, which means they've gotta die.

It's probably not a big loss, as these guys were walking cliches. But then, so is everyone in this film.
He kills them, Taketeru gets mad and confronts him, and nothing comes of it because Rambo and the cop break up the fight. We're close to the end and the rest of the plot is easily summed up from this point on. The heroes all band together and attack the gang headquarters, the priest was a mercenary, the nun's a ninja, Rambo looks even more like Rambo by wearing a red headband, there's more awkward sexual tension between Taketeru and Miyuki (even though neither of them are even supposed to be gay), and there's a big fight between him and the crazy enforcer. The demon lord takes over the gang leader's body and you think and big fight will happen...but it doesn't. He actually just sorta punches the guy so hard that his head explodes. It ends with his sister being saved and the heroes all survive to return in an obvious sequel that never got made.

What a surprise that this didn't do well enough to justify a sequel...
This movie was awful. It checked off nearly every cliche there is, but not in any sort of fun way.No, it is instead do in a rather mundane way that made it so predictable that I was grateful for the head explosion, as it was the only thing I didn't expect. The jokes as tasteless and largely unamusing, the characters are literally all lifted from action movie staples from the 1980s, which just reminds you that's you'd rather be watching any of those movies. Well, except for Miyuki, who is instead a rather offensive stereotype character used mainly for comedic effect because two guys are clearly attracted to one another but Taketeru is too macho to go for any of that. It's just...dumb.

This movie makes me feel deader than the crazy guy.
And really, that's the crux of the problem with this movie. I couldn't get into the story or come to care about the characters because all I could think as I watched it was that this is so mind-numbingly stupid that I'd rather watch something intentionally stupid. Like Teletubbies. Or Fox News. This movie could've been interesting, turning the classic legend into a post-apocalyptic tale of heroes standing up against and evil force to bring hope to the hopeless. Instead it was probably one of the worst action movies I've ever sat through. True, there are worse action movies out there, but that doesn't really excuse this one for being shitty. The one good thing I will say about the movie though is that it has some decent animation. It's just a shame that everything else about it is so bloody boring and bland. If you want to check out something titled Suikoden, check out the games and leave this movie in the dark corner of yesteryear. Because this thing was clearly forgotten for a reason. So, until I gather together 107 other critics to stand up against the evils of Michael Bay and his army of bad movies, I'll be here trying to find a hole to bury this thing in. Later days, bleeders.

Also I'm pretty sure his sister was raped earlier, because Japan loves rape for some reason. Bye.

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