Ogre Slayer

One of the reasons I love anime is for its creativity. At its best, we get introduced to new worlds, beautiful and compelling characters, and situations that challenge our minds. But lack of originality can destroy an otherwise reasonably competent anime. Ultimately, that's what's wrong with Ogre Slayer, a 1994 entry in the action/horror genre that includes other shows like the original Vampire Hunter D and 3x3 Eyes. It has the basics together, but we've seen everything here before, and without ingenuity, it gets old quickly. Combined with gratuitous nudity, splatterfest sequences, and some overarching unpleasantness, and you've got a title that could have been much better, but settles for mediocrity that will likely offend as much as entertain.

Ogre Slayer is two episodes long, and it follows the adventure of an ogre who looks just like a normal man who has made it his mission to destroy his own kind so that he might someday become human. He has no name, and he is only known as "Ogre Slayer", which is the title of the sword he carries. (He was supposedly born with the sword in hand, which I'm sure made for interesting stories in the delivery room.)

The first story starts with the memory of an attack by an ogre haunting a young girl in her dreams. She vaguely remembers the slayer protecting her and telling her that she would remember the event in three years time if the ogres had lodged themselves inside her body. Sure enough, for the past several years, she'd never been harmed by a variety of dangers, due to the ogres who'd taken residence in a form of unconscious possession. She realizes that these ogres will do anything to protect her, though, and decides that she wants to keep them around. Problem is, the ogres want out, and in a couple of sequences where she needs help, she literally (and I do mean literally) births them into the world, where they squash heads and terrorize the neighborhood. Ogre Slayer must return to finish what he started three years previous.

In the second tale, a woman is attacked in a park, but before her assailants do any harm, they all see a vision of an evil creature hovering over them, paralyzing them with fear. When they are taken to the hospital, all they can do is mutter over and over again about an ogre. The woman's old school friend, now a photojournalist, comes into town to see her, and she starts investigating the rash of similar incidents. Of course, an ancient villain is involved, and Ogre Slayer will be at the heart of the mystery.

Kusunoki Kei, author of Yoma: Curse of the Undead, is behind the popular manga on which this series is based. From reading around the web, the manga has its fans, but even they comment on the gruesomeness of the title. It appears the anime follows the same format as the manga, telling individualized tales all involving our hero in the sidelines. The animation is non-descript, so I'm not going to even really discuss it. It's about on the same par as the anime of Yoma, for fans of the author who've seen that show.

What disturbs me most about this title is the complete lack of charisma from its main character. Our slayer cannot become human until every single ogre on the planet is dead. Well, what will that take? Anybody who's watched anime for only a few minutes knows that undead meanies from assorted galaxies and ancient histories will pop up at any given time. From that perspective, our hero's quest is hopeless. His character is similar to that of the half-vampire D in the Vampire Hunter series; however, D does what he does because it's his very nature. D is condemned to a virtual immortality of living between two worlds, but his stoic resolve and heroics bring us to care for him. With Mr. Slayer, we get so little time with him that we don't grow to like him; instead, we become more attached to the characters involved in each episode. Even if they don't die, they won't show up again.

If that were the only thing wrong...but this show is wrong on so many levels! First, the nudity in this thing is brief, but it is completely and utterly pointless. Second, though the attackers don't get anywhere, the attempted assault at the beginning of the second episode is unpleasant and unnecessary. Third, the gruesome ways the ogres take out their prey (especially in the first episode) is just way over-the-top. I've seen more gore before, but I've rarely seen such glee taken in it. Fourth and finally, even though the sequences don't show any body parts, I don't need to see the live birth of a nasty creature from a human. 'Nuff said.

Ogre Slayer actually has a total of four episodes; I watched the first two, which are together on one videocassette. I don't imagine the show getting any better, so you'll have to live with my review as it is. Whereas Yoma was a noble failure with some attempts at originality, Ogre Slayer doesn't even try hard. The only thing saving it from a lower rating is its basic storytelling competence. After reviewing Wicked City a few weeks ago, I was hoping for another show that might be a worthwhile entry in the horror genre, even with a few flaws. This isn't it.

Ogre Slayer -- violence, harsh profanity (in the dub), attempted rape, brief nudity, adult themes -- C-