by Theron Martin,

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls

Sub.Blu-Ray - Complete Collection

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls Sub.Blu-Ray
In the wake of a high school festival, seven students participate in telling ghost stories as part of a send-off party for one of their number who is moving away. When the younger sister of one of the boys and one of the teachers of most of them joins the group, they decide to use a “Happy Sachiko” spell one of them found on the Internet in order to ensure that they all remain friends forever. What they didn't know is that it was a false spell, one which results in all nine being transported to the place that had come up in the ghost stories: Tenjin Elementary, a school fraught with bloody calamity which supposedly once stood on the same ground as theirs. There they find themselves trapped and separated in a haunted multidimensional space, one where they and other unfortunates from other schools gradually get driven insane and kill each other – if they aren't killed first by the resident spirits of several murdered children and their murderer (a former teacher), that is. To escape alive they must appease the ghosts, get the murderers to repent, and solve the mystery of what really happened at the school.

Whatever else might be said about this four episode OVA series, there's exactly one thing you need to know: it ranks among the most gruesomely graphic anime titles ever made.

And really, does anything else about it actually matter? If hyperviolent fare on the level of Elfen Lied, Ninja Scroll, or Hellsing Ultimate is beyond your tolerance range then give Corpse Party a wide, wide berth. If, however, you revel in such titles then this one is a must-see. It is full-blown horror of the most grotesque variety, one where splattered innards abound, a bucket of severed tongues might be seen in one scene and the ghost of a child whose head has been sliced off horizontally at mouth level inhabits another. Do not let the relatively mild first episode (yes, by this series' standards, a girl graphically being hung to death is mild) mislead you; the gore factor ramps up dramatically beginning with the opening scene of the second episode. While a few panty shots do get mixed into this, the “fan service” in the series is much more along the lines of “how cruel can we be to our characters?” What is implied to be happening off-camera is also just as bad as what you can actually see; the sound effects used in some scenes are truly marvelous in a cringe-worthy sense, and boy, does the Japanese dub get some unsettling screaming efforts out of even its most minor cast members!

Supporting all of the blood and gore is a top-caliber visual production by studio asread, which is probably best-known to Western fans for taking the lead on Future Diary and Ga-Rei-Zero. That this production had a higher budget than normal TV series animation shows, as it takes almost no animation shortcuts, remains almost constantly visually active, and makes its characters convincingly expressive. And it probably goes without saying that the studio devotes loving attention to its more grisly aspects, too. Character designs are distinct enough to make the characters easily identifiable and show rock-solid consistency in remaining on-model. Great attention was also paid to detail in background art, resulting in the classic horror movie feel for an abandoned, decrepit school building. Shaky or tilted camera angles are commonly-used to promote a sense of unease, although that is the one aspect where the visuals are not so effective. Desiccated or maggot-strewn corpses also tend to fade into the background after a while.

Given how well the visuals and ambiance succeed, the story and characterizations are almost inconsequential. The anime directly adapts the 2008 PC game Corpse Party Blood Covered, which was itself an expanded remake of a 1996 computer game simply titled Corpse Party. All of the characters in the anime were also in the game, so there should be no surprise that the personalities are basic and clear-cut; the series simply does not have the time or inclination to give any of them any significant degree of complexity. The process by which the characters go around gathering clues and trying to solve the mysteries of the school has an RPG-like feel to it, although the story does condense the more tedious parts – way too much so in some places. Clues such as journals and nonhostile ghosts are conveniently scattered about so that characters do not have to spend too much time being cerebral; showing them scared or the subjects of violence is, of course, far more important. That does not prevent a lot of the content from feeling rushed; even though these are 28 minute episodes, being limited to four episodes for this was unquestionably a tight restraint. The one neat aspect of the storytelling involves the “multidimensional” aspect of the setting; because the characters are not necessarily all in the same dimension at any given time, they can be in the same place without encountering each other and sometimes see the results of later actions before the viewers see how that came to pass. That puzzle-like aspect is not consistently used, however, and tapers off in application as the series progresses.

The musical production mostly involves the kind of creepy piano, synthesizer, and orchestra-driven sounds typical for a horror title. It is only modestly effective at driving the tension of individual scenes but it isn't a detriment, either. As noted before, the strength of the DTS HD Master Audio sound lies much more in the sound effects. Opener “Ring of Stardust” has a suitably ominous sound, though its visuals alternate between darkly-shaded horror and bright and cheery normal life, the latter aspect of which is not at all representative of the series' content. Closer “Firefly Light,” which is set to just a black screen with rolling credits, is even more disconnected from the series content; its inclusion feels entirely random.

Sentai Filmworks is releasing this one under their Maiden Japan label. Though they have put it on Blu-Ray (a DVD version is also available), they opted not to dub it – a curious choice, as I would think fare like this would sell well enough in the States (and possibly even beyond the normal otaku crowd) to warrant an English dub. The release includes no Extras beyond company previews, though it does retain the original Japanese credits for the opener and closer and only translates them after the end of each episode. Some early scenes seems a little grainy and rough on the video transfer, but most of the content looks quite sharp. This is a good-looking series and, except for a handful of scenes, Blu-ray quality brings that out quite well.

For all of the ugliness that goes on, Corpse Party still shows the limitations of what animation can do with a horror format. The additional layer of unreality just makes it too hard for it to generate much actual scare factor. Weak story development and characterization also hamper the production; to see this kind of content done much, much better in that regard, check out “The Bloodstained Labyrinth” arc of Ghost Hunt. Still, the series absolutely nails its main selling point – its graphic content and the visuals supporting it – and that is, indeed, all that really matters.

Production Info:
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B

+ One of the most graphic anime titles ever; quality visuals, sound effects, and screaming.
One of the most graphic anime titles ever; weak pacing, storytelling, and characterizations.

Director: Akira Iwanaga
Script: Shoichi Sato
Takashi Hamada
Mao Hamamoto
Original creator: Makoto Kedōin
Character Design: Seiki Tanaka
Art Director: Manabu Otsuzuki
Chief Animation Director: Seiki Tanaka
Sound Director: Katsunori Shimizu
Director of Photography: Satoshi Fujita
Kozue Kananiwa
Atsushi Masaoka
Ryousuke Naya
Yasuhiko Nomura
Shinsaku Tanaka

Full encyclopedia details about
Corpse Party: Tortured Souls -Bōgyaku Sareta Tamashii no Jukyō- (OAV)

Release information about
Corpse Party: Tortured Souls - Complete Collection (Sub.Blu-Ray)

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