Darkside Blues

Hideyuki Kikuchi is not a name that most anime fans immediately recognize, but it is a name associated with some of the most wildly popular anime in the US. Kikuchi isn't an animator or artist, however--he's the best-selling author of the Vampire Hunter D novels, and he wrote the stories behind Demon City Shinjuku, A Wind Called Amnesia, and Supernatural Beast City (AKA Wicked City). His work is very action-oriented and suits itself well for the animated arena, for the most part, and it's one of the selling points behind Darkside Blues. Unfortunately, Masayori Sekishima--the author of the screenplay for Darkside Blues--couldn't strip the essense out of the book, and so what we have is a mismash of unrealized ideas that make no sense apart from the novel they were taken from.

The plot is a bit convoluted, but it all revolves around the fact that the Persona Century Corporation owns all but the most limited sections of the earth's land mass. Of course, the corporation is run by a wicked family out to dominate the universe. There are pockets of resistance, one of which exists in a future-bleak version of the Shinjuku section of Tokyo. Mai is a young girl who leads one such group, and with her on-again off-again boyfriend, she casually helps those who attempt to bring the Corporation down. But one evening, a stranger in a horse-drawn carriage appears and takes the name of their city as his own--Darkside. Darkside was apparently a captive of the Corporation who was subjected to evil tests and now has various special abilities in multiple dimensions. Must come in handy at dull parties.

From here, the plot falls apart. On one hand, there is a sideplot about another young woman, Selia, who has lost faith in the rebellion who nevertheless harbors a terrorist and falls for him against her will. That was understandable and OK in a limited fashion. What Darkside does and is, however, are up in the air, and everything around him makes little to no sense. He stages "renewals" for people which seem to help them deal with their past, but they are so poorly explained that they simply lose the audience. There are fight sequences with the members of the family, but they go unresolved and are generally just an eyecatch from the essentially boring meanderings of the script. The subplot does get resolved, but that's it...by the end, we have no idea who Darkside really is, if the bad guys will win, and whether or not everyone will meet afterwards and have coffee at the nearest Denny's.

Ultimately, Darkside Blues fails miserably because it is all style and no substance. What substance is there looks like it could have been part of something fascinating, but it's all hints and teases that go nowhere. It would feel rather akin to having a show like Lain end after the first four episodes. If Darkside Blues were a running series, this would be a great hook to get someone into the mysteries. As it is, though, with no available translation of the original story and no further animation, it's almost worthless in its current incarnation. Unfortunately, only the most die-hard fans of Hideyuki Kikuchi's work should even consider it.

Darkside Blues -- violence, mild language, very brief nudity -- D+