Battle Royal High School

For years, AnimEigo has been the boutique shop of American anime distributing. They've established a reputation based on releasing older favorites and occasionally picking up a new license, rather than being gung-ho to get their hands on the latest and greatest titles. They're also known for quality in their physical product, going back and correcting DVDs at their own expense to meet fan demands, as well as quality in the actual shows they release. But when it came to Battle Royal High School, I had my doubts. A one-shot action OVA from 1988, I thought AnimEigo might have unleashed a stinker. Instead, I found a grade-B show that reaches the limits of what grade-B shows can do, with action and excitement many shows would like to emulate. It's classy trash, in essence, but you know what they say about one man's trash being another's treasure.

Riki's a brash high school student so confident that he wears a leopard's head when fighting the karate club. Besting even its leader, Riki plans to head into the world to become the best martial artist ever. But before he can chase his dreams, he finds himself at the center of an otherworldly conflict. The head of a parallel dimension, Byoudo, comes to our world, lured by the promise of power by an evil fairy prince. Riki is his "soul match" in our dimension, predicted by prophecy, and Byoudo eventually possesses Riki to try and destroy the fairy lord who's determined to take his crown. Meanwhile, a demon hunter shows up to eliminate the paranormal threats...and if that weren't enough, a galactic squad that tracks down multi-dimensional jumpers appears on the scene, too! Combine those elements with a love triangle, grotesque supernatural creatures, and ultraviolence, and you have the melting pot that is Battle Royal High School.

Battle Royal High School was made at the height of the OVA boom, and it's readily noticeable in the character designs and artwork. Although BRHS has very distinctive and unique design work, it's carried out with panache. It's not gorgeous animation, to be certain, but it's a far cry from some of the barely animated shows appearing nowadays. Watching the animation here was a pleasure, particularly because the character designs were just different enough (in a good way).

I can't exactly defend the plot of BRHS in typical terms. At first, it appears that we're going to get yet another "person A is prophesied to do event B in order for group C to take over the universe" anime. There are far too many of these in the world. When the prophecy came up, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "Here we go again." But surprise! It virtually never comes up again. And then BRHS decides to give us everything we could possibly want in an anime. Want humor? It's there. Want gruesome creatures exploding? It's there. Want alien visitors and Vampire Hunter D and a love triangle and power armor and trash talk and girlfriends coming back from the dead unclothed? It's there. Is it too much? Oh, yeah. Like I said, I can't defend it. I can only enjoy it.

And enjoy it I did. BRHS is not confusing, despite having a kitchen sink full of groceries for a storyline. It's exciting, humorous, and a bit grotesque. It throws so much stuff at you that you don't mind that it's preposterous. Does it withstand careful analysis? Of course not. And even AnimEigo's liner notes advise that a couple of the main players do appear to pop out of thin air!

But it doesn't really matter. If you don't enjoy movies like X2 or Pirates of the Caribbean or Terminator 3 because you're busy picking out plot holes, then you won't like this either. But if you want a popcorn adventure with strong animation and a plot you can forget ten minutes later, Battle Royal High School is a video you'd enjoy.

Battle Royal High School -- graphic violence, nudity, strong profanity -- B+