Spirit Warrior: Regent of Darkness

There's nothing like ending a show when it's not even close to over. Spirit Warrior: Revival Of Evil virtually ended mid-sentence, leaving its viewers frustrated even if they enjoyed the dark show and its strong animation. That's where Spirit Warrior: Regent of Darkness picks up, and it is essentially the second half of the movie that the first DVD starts. It's a necessity to see the first DVD; otherwise the viewer will be utterly lost. However, the person who grudgingly picks up this volume to finish off the story will be treated to a welcome surprise. Whereas SW: Revival was mostly plot with a few doses of action here and there, SW: Regent is constantly in motion. Although it still has a few holes, mainly since it can't stand alone, it's a rewarding end to the storyline.

As we ended last time, exorcist Kujaku learned that he had a sister who could invoke the powers of the Regent of Darkness if she fell into the wrong hands. Of course, the Neo-Nazis that want ultimate power already have her under their control. It's a race to Germany and then Tibet as Kujaku and company attempt to keep Tomoko from unleashing ultimate darkness. They arrive just in the nick of time, but Tomoko recovers her lost memories of great pain and anguish. Devastated, she decides to fulfill her destiny, and in the process, Kujaku's consciousness is sent to the underworld. If he is to keep the ultimate demon king from his ruinous schemes, Kujaku must find his way back to the human world and confront his sister in a battle that could destroy them both.

This second volume of the story continues the lush artwork from the first volume, making it a real pleasure to watch. The character designs aren't exactly unique, but they are nicely realistic. I've been surprised by the quality of the production, which is much better than I expected (and leagues above the OVAs in the same series that were produced in the late '80s.)

Meanwhile, if the first DVD seemed to drag at all, it was made up for here. SW: Regent of Darkness has a few slow parts, but for the most part, it's a high-energy action fest. Now this isn't the violence of a Ninja Scroll where two million bad guys wind up slashed in two by the side of the road. The battles here are, for the most part, between just a few people. Although I've seen more exciting skirmishes in anime, they are well done. What's more, the story has a proper ending that makes sense given the previous context. It does not wimp out. It is tragic. It is unexpected. As such, I give this one high marks, as I so rarely see a show that doesn't pull its punches at the end.

On the down side, if you haven't seen SW: Revival Of Evil, this show will make little sense. Although there is a brief prologue to get us back into the action, as well as a couple of establishing "reminder" sequences, I wouldn't want to come in cold to this show. The other big issue--not a killer, but important--is that there is little character development here. The first episode sets all the groundwork and this episode has all the payoff...but by itself, it feels weak on the character side. There's so much action that there's just not time for it. Though the ending gives us a bit of that emotional outlet, it's missing to some extent.

The biggest problem for this show is reconciling it with the other parts of the series. The ending of this show makes it clear that this is the ending of the entire Spirit Warrior series. By all rights, it was intended to be a sequel to the three OVAs that were released in Japan in the 1980s. However, with their DVD releases, Central Park Media is positioning SW: Revival and SW: Regent to be the first ones in the series. This is not the case. In fact, the ending of SW: Regent is pretty final, all things considered. Somebody could get really confused trying to sort it all out. There is a safe way to look at it, though; since the OVAs from the '80s are just terrible, I would simply suggest picking up SW: Revival and SW: Regent and leaving the rest behind. The other three stand alone and aren't necessary in any way for understanding this story.

Had Central Park Media released Spirit Warrior: Revival Of Evil and Spirit Warrior: Regent of Darkness together on one disc for a good price, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. I wish they hadn't left them split up the way they are. Nevertheless, SW: Regent of Darkness is a solid conclusion that makes the whole story worth seeing. Add the director's commentary by Rin Taro on this disc, and you've got a worthwhile purchase.

Spirit Warrior: Regent of Darkness -- nudity, graphic violence -- A-