Pile of Shame
Dark Warrior (Makyu Senjo)

by Justin Sevakis,

Dark Warrior (Makyu Senjo)

It's pretty rare that an anime gets released in both the US and the UK, and with English dubs no less, and yet hardly anyone even remembers the show exists. Dark Warrior (AKA Makyu Senjo) is one of those, seemingly having made zero impact on fans upon its release.

The hackneyed story is pretty much straight out of an old pulp novel. Joe Takagami is a gifted computer programmer for the Rockford Corporation, working in Silicon Valley. There's talk of him being in line to receive a Nobel Prize (the writers clearly having done no research on the Nobel Committee or how those things are announced, of course). But soon, things start unravelling in strange directions. His girlfriend doesn't recognize him (and claims to be someone else). When he goes back to his computer and starts looking things up, including data on himself, that's when things really go off-kilter. His best friend Lloyd kidnaps him at gunpoint, and when Joe escapes and goes to the police for help, the officers are ripped apart by bionic hit-men.

After giving chase, Joe returns to what he thinks is his hometown, but is forced to admit that he doesn't really remember his childhood. Lloyd informs him that he's actually a year-old clone, and when he awakens, he'll become a human weapon of mass destruction. Joe doesn't want to be a weapon, but once he transforms into a big muscle-bound he-man, he may not have much of a choice.

Dark Warrior was produced by Daiei Studios, which was one of the old major movie studios in Japan, but by the early 90s had been reduced to releasing live action softcore porn and hentai anime. (They were the original distributors of such illustrious works as La Blue Girl and Venus 5.) Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl producer Rusher Ikeda was also brought in to work on the OAV. Daiei never funded its mostly-hentai anime projects very well, and with little money to throw around, the animation quality on this production is just balls. The staff is mostly either unknowns or people working under a pseudonym: Director Masahisa Ishida did some episode direction for a handful of TV series in that era, but this seems to be his sole directorial credit.

There is little here to indicate the OAV's hentai pedigree (save one bizarre, clothed rape scene). But gore is everywhere, and it's the sort that both features sadistic glee (lots of people being disemboweled while conscious and screaming), and cringe-inducing use of said gore. (Joe literally punches his fist INTO a character's skull, and that character gives a touching soliloquy with Joe's hand still stuck in his face.) More than anything, the show is just sloppy and sleazy. Highly kinetic fight scenes rely on single frames of animation, puppeteered across the background. Characters constantly stray off model, clothing disappears and reappears, and whole cuts just look deformed and stupid. It's every bit as janky looking as a cheaply made hentai OAV from the early 90s, and that's saying a lot.

ADV Films released the show on VHS, and made quite a big thing about it back in the day. However, either it didn't do well, or there was a materials issue or both, and only the first episode got dubbed. (Both parts were released subtitled.) Being one of their early in-house dubs, it was a pretty weak dub at that, directed by Tristan MacAvery and starring a completely miscast Brett Weaver as the mostly mild-mannered Joe. Given how few people remember it today, I'm guessing it sold pretty poorly. ADV never put out a DVD of it.

Meanwhile, Manga Entertainment released both parts in English in the UK under the title Makyu Senjo. The release was during its cash-strapped post-Ghost in the Shell days, when dubbing had been outsourced to a cut-rate team in Cardiff, Wales and the company was releasing almost nothing but garbage OAVs like Psychic Wars and Sword for Truth. (One memorable low point: releasing a compilation tape of nothing but fight scenes from its various anime -- which is something no Japanese licensor would ever approve of even in the 90s.) I don't think any anime from this era sold particularly well for them, and their dub of the series is pretty poor. it never made the jump to DVD in the UK either.

There is nothing good, or noteworthy, about Dark Warrior. It's a cheap, pulpy relic with bad writing, worse animation, and not one but two terrible dubs to its credit. Sometimes bad anime gets forgotten because it's genuinely bad; because few people even have the ability to watch it and extract anything close to pleasure from its consumption. This is one of those times.

Daiei Studios was bought out by Kadokawa Shoten back in 2002, and turned into what is now the respectable Kadokawa Pictures. Nearly everyone involved with this OAV is no longer a significant part of the anime business. Failure can be a good thing for the world at large.

Japanese Name: 魔宮戦場 (Makyu Senjo)

Media Type: OAV

Length: 2 x 50 min.

Vintage: 1991

Genres: Sci-fi, horror, monsters

Availability (Japan): No DVD release in any country. Just the original Japanese LDs and VHS tapes.

Availability (English): The old VHS releases from ADV Films and Manga UK are all we've got.

Edit: Clarified Daiei Studios' status in the 90s. Thanks, Greboruri!

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