Spirit Warrior: Festival of Ogre's Revival

The world of Original Video Animation, or OVAs, has always fascinated me. It has consistently surprised me how popular these are in Japan. In the US, direct-to-video usually means "awful". In Japan, it's not such a big deal. Spirit Warrior is a series of 5 OVAs released in the late 80s/early 90s that include the same characters, but you don't have to see each one to appreciate the whole story...it's not unlike watching 5 separate episodes of Matlock. From what I've read, the first couple of episodes are great. For the sake of those who have seen them/rented them/bought them, I hope so. Unfortunately, the episode I saw, The Festival of Ogre's Revival, was a dog.

In this episode, a very rare and valuable statue called Asura has been stolen. Not a real big deal in the grand scheme of things, right? Wrong. As Kujaku (a Tantric Buddhist monk) and his friends soon find out, the statue actually holds the spirit of an ancient demon who wants to destroy the universe, blot out the sun, blah blah blah. Asura was stolen by Tatsuma, a powerful necromancer who feels he was born in the wrong time, a time when all his powers mean very little. Thus, he plans to release the demon to take the world back to a state where he would be appreciated for his black arts. Against his better judgment, Kujaku must team up with Onimaru, a renegade warrior who'll use his knowledge of the Forbidden Curses to help whichever side pays him enough. Together, the two of them must stop Tatsuma before, literally, all hell breaks loose.

This whole hokey-jokey mess from 1988 is really unimpressive. The artwork is alright in certain action sequences, but the facial features and such are completely off during less tense moments. It just looks awful. Music, production, etc. is just a write-off. Now each segment of this show was created by a different studio and director, so it's always possible the others were better, but I can't see it from this.

Meanwhile, the story is tired and clichéd. How many times are we going to see evil people bring back spirits for the whole purpose of destroying the earth? It's just gotten old. The dub, which is the only version available in the US, does the story no favor either. It appears that lip flap was far more important to the dubbers than making the dialogue snappy or even something better than silly.

But that couldn't save this piece of work. Although those who are into Buddhism might be interested in the chanted prayers that make all the spellcasting here work, it comes off as boring, especially since we understand none of it. I'll be honest and say I was also uncomfortable with the direct Buddhist symbolism, which has never bothered me before. Don't know why, I just was. Frankly, it made the good guys seem as creepy as the bad guys.

At any rate, my only suggestion is to skip The Festival of Ogre's Revival. It's an hour I wish I had back.

Spirit Warrior: The Festival of Ogre's Revival -- violence, brief nudity/adult situations -- D+