Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 14th 2007
DVD 1 - Immortals and 2 - Legend of the Divine Demon
The Sanjiyan-Unkara, a legendary race of three-eyed immortals, have been reduced to their final survivor. With his dying breath the archeologist studying them sends the last one, the childish Pai, to find Yakumo, the son he had left behind in Japan, who is to help her become human. Though initially put off by the situation, Yakumo finds himself dying to protect Pai from harm – and then his story truly begins. When Pai opens her third eye her Sanjiyan personality takes over, making her a powerful enough sorcerer to bring Yakumo back to life as a Wu, an immortal zombie linked to the fate of Pai; when she becomes human, so will he regain his humanity, but should she die, so does he. Attacks by demons seeking the Sanjiyan's immortality soon prove that Yakumo cannot return to his normal life, so he eventually agrees to help Pai. While seeking a statue necessary for the ritual that will make her human, Pai and Yakumo get caught up in a scheme to resurrect Kaiyanwang, the godlike individual responsible for the destruction of the rest of the Sanjiyan. Yakumo also gradually comes to realize the he is developing feelings for Pai, feelings which only grow stronger when she disappears for four years after a climatic fight only to reappear under a new identity, suffering from amnesia.
Based on a long-running manga of the same name, the 3x3 Eyes anime consists of two separate OVA series: a 1991-92 original containing 4 30-minute episodes and a 1995-96 follow-up subtitled Legend of the Divine Demon, which contains 3 45-minute episodes. Both were originally distributed on VHS by Orion on behalf of Streamline Pictures, but Pioneer/Geneon picked them up in the late '90s, redubbed both series, and released them on DVD as a Perfect Collection in 2000. Over the summer of 2007 Geneon rereleased both series on two separate economically-priced volumes, which are being reviewed together here. If you already own the original 2000 DVD release then buying these two volumes is a waste of money, as they offer exactly nothing that was not in the 2000 release (Geneon didn't even bother to update the “Pioneer Entertainment” tag at the beginning), nor has there been any remastering of the visuals or upgrades to the sound. For those who have not had the chance to experience this bloody '90s OVA foray into action and mysticism, now is the time, for the combined price of the two releases costs only half of the original DVD Perfect Collection price.
And “bloody” is the operative word here. As a Wu, Yakumo is effectively unkillable but is most certainly not immune to harm; he can just quickly recover from any injury, including restoring lost body parts. The series exploits this with great relish, offering frequent intensely bloody displays of Yakumo getting torn up as he gradually learns to fight and take advantage of his status as a Wu. Because he gains no other special powers, strength, or fighting ability upon becoming a Wu, he must initially regularly rely on Sanjiyan to bail him out, though he does develop far greater skills in the interim between the series. More important is his role as Pai's mutual love interest and, in effect, her anchor to humanity.
Pai, for her part, offers considerable variety with her three distinct personas: the somewhat whiny, childish immortal seeking to become human; the imperious, arrogant, and powerful Sanjiyan sorceress who still wants the best for Pai, even if it means she has to disappear; and Pabo, the purely normal teenage human persona she assumes after losing her memory. In both series the central duo surrounds itself with an array of inventive demons and colorful side characters, including a brother and sister martial artist/exorcist team in the first series and an American thief and young/old monk duo in the second series. Throughout both Benares, the powerful Wu of Kaiyanwang, stands as the main villain, though lesser demonic foes periodically rise to threaten Pai and Yakumo or execute their own schemes.
The appeal of both series lies in their ability to lay the action, graphic violence, and mysticism on thick and yet still tell an interesting and involving story, one which shows the downfalls of being immortal without beating the viewer over the head with the “it's better to be human” rhetoric. The blood-splattering sometimes gets taken to annoying extremes, but both series – especially the second one – generally find a proper balance of more visceral elements with character and plot development. They also sprinkle in a bit of fan service here and there (including the requisite “accidentally feel up the female character” scenes) as an additional enhancement, with the first series limited to racy near-nudity and the second series also mixing in some actual nudity. A bold musical score, which combines heavy action-oriented pieces with intense thriller numbers, pounding tribal rhythms, and sentimental dramatic themes reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian and Braveheart, contributes greatly to the entertainment value by being suitably ominous or emotional depending on the situation.
The artistry represents typical early '90s OVA quality, although the second series makes notable refinements in the drawing and coloring and a significant improvement in overall visual clarity. Human character designs sport rounded features, thicker and stockier builds than the anime norm, and oddly-shaped eyes, especially on male characters. Yakumo spends so much time with his eyes closed that he looks odd on the rare occasions when he does open them, especially in the first series. Demons offer a wide variety of appearances, some of which conform to typical anime standards; fans of Inuyasha may find some of the monster designs here to look familiar. Background quality can sometimes be a bit rough in the first series but also improves for the second. The animation has the greater smoothness one would expect of an OVA production, though it also does take big short cuts at times.
The original Streamline/Manga dub used a host of names which should be familiar to any well-versed anime fan, but the New Generation Pictures dub used for this release is notable for its heavy use of voice actors with Hollywood movie, TV, and/or Disney voice acting experience, including Ed Asner in a minor role as Grandpa Ayanokoji. Many of them don't have another anime credit to their names beyond these two series, but they did a quality job while here. Canadian actress Brigitte Bako gives the Pai and Pabo voices distinctive vocal qualities while making the Sanjiyan personality sound sufficiently different to suit the personality contrast. Mileage may vary on how well her performance compares to the original by Megumi Hayashibara, but in all other cases the performances are sufficiently similar in style, casting, and quality that there should be few complaints. The script takes a lot of liberties but avoids straying far enough to ever change the meaning of a scene, with one exception: the subtitles in the second series establish that Pai retains her given name while an amnesiac and only occasionally gets called by the nickname “Pabo,” while the English script strongly implies that Pabo is instead the given name of the amnesiac personality. As a balance, it does not translate the name of the Statue of Humanity like the subtitles do. The subtitles are also subject to occasional grammatical errors and incorrect word usage (“old wise tales” instead of “old wives' tales,” for instance).
Extras on both volumes include typical entries like line and art galleries and reversible covers. The unusual extra on each are the Actor's Credits features, which shows a picture of the VAs, the role(s) they play, and other acting/voice-over credits. Obviously these are now years out of date, but they still provide more info about the VAs than what is normally found on anime DVDs.
While not a spectacular series, 3x3 Eyes is nonetheless a very solid production which should entertain those who don't mind high levels of bloodshed and rampant mystical content. It has an occasional humorous moment, but is mostly a serious tale with a decidedly open ending.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Strong and bold soundtrack, good balance of action, mysticism, and storytelling.
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