Just like Hollywood movies, anime comes in a variety of forms. Delving beyond the standard shonen, seinen, and shojo, there’s almost everything you can dream up. Buddy comedies, female empowerment, even teeny bopper fantasies all come to life in Japanese animated features. But sometimes the standard fare makes for the most engaging form of entertainment, and that’s exactly where Tokyo Majin exists. The show doesn’t try to pull a veil over the viewer’s eyes… it is a simple, action-packed fight-fest where the heroes are always destined to win, but it’s not the end results that matter. It’s the blood-and-gore-filled journey.
Based on a series of mythology-rife video games released for the various Playstation systems, Tokyo Majin follows a cadre of six teenagers that are in their final year of school somewhere in the heart of Tokyo. After a sudden flair up of a magical force known as the “Dragon Stream” imbues them with magical powers, the students pit themselves against the forces of darkness that have (just as suddenly) started to bring death and destruction to the city and its residents.
One look at the background of that plot may have you rolling your eyes, and rightly so; the entire basis for the story is more than a bit contrived, and it doesn’t help that the series continually interjects new and unknown elements into the plot and storyline. For the first few episodes, you’ll be scratching your head in utter confusion. There is a lot going on in each moment of these thirty-minute chapters, and if you don’t pay attention to one random character that pokes his head onto the screen, you may suddenly find yourself trying to rationalize why the main characters are even giving this individual the time of day.
However, there is a huge amount of information going on within each episode… and I imagine that the creators of the show took a painstaking amount of time fleshing out the backgrounds for each individual character and setting that viewers see in the series. One prime example of this can be seen in Tatsuma Hiyuu’s romantic journey with a girl who he knows is just a walking corpse, resurrected by the dark arts. As the foremost character in the anime, it could have been easy to simply have Tatsuma “fall in love” with this girl and never actually know she’s a shambling cadaver until much later.
But from the very start, the viewers know that Tatsuma should have a sense that something isn’t right about the girl he’s traveling the countryside with. Couple that with Tatsuma’s previous encounter with a zombie girl and his constant feelings of loneliness, and you have an incredibly complex character who is utterly believable when he states that he’s “known all along” about the girl.
Unfortunately, the depth of each character, the setting, and the entire conflict between the forces of light and darkness in Tokyo Majin simply don’t have enough time to be truly cultivated before everything is jammed into a quickly resolving conclusion. In the final ten episodes, we learn much about particular characters, but other key characters seem to be forgotten (can we get a bit more on Komaki Sakurai please?!), while seemingly important characters are introduced and killed almost immediately in the span of only a few episodes.
Yet, even despite its plot failings, Tokyo Majin is an absolutely impeccable show to simply sit back and watch. The art style for each character is tremendous and every creature – big and small – has its own distinct feel. Even zombies, who are often the least characterized out of media monsters, feel like they could have easily once been human and still elicit the appropriate emotional responses to the people that see them. To use a cliché… it’s total eye candy. The gore never gets old, and actually enhances the show from “watchable” to “recommended” for fans of action animation.
The music and sound equally bolster the viewability of Tokyo Majin. Both the opening and closing themes are appropriately “heavy” and use their rip-roaring guitars to the fullest. While the cast may not feature the most familiar of names, they pull off each character very well, especially Tatsuma’s Brandon Heamsberger, who pulls off the teenager’s soft-spoken intensity with great success. The lines don’t have the best fluidity at times, but every character certainly does his or her part in making the cast of Majin a cohesive group.
Even though Tokyo Majin may not have the strongest plot or the best writing, I still must recommend the show to any action fans. The smooth animation coupled with the intense fight scenes and evocative interludes really keep you watching. Once you make it past the first few episodes, you’ll find that you’ve been sucked into the often outlandish world of Tokyo Majin… and you’ll come out smiling for it.