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animefringe june 2003 / reviews

Devil Lady Vol.4: The Gathering
Format: bilingual DVD, 4 eps., 100 min.
Production: ADV / Go Nagai / TMS Entertainment
Comments: Another solid entry in a great dramatic horror series.
85%
Rating:
Animefringe Reviews:
Devil Lady Vol.4: The Gathering

Devil Lady starts out interesting and just keeps getting better as events unfold. Rather than annoy viewers with mysteries that take forever to solve, this show balances an aura of mystique with plot progression better than most other horror series. Additionally, while there is a good story here, what truly locked me into this show was the excellent character development that takes place as it progresses. It moves along by showing how fashion model Jun Fudou copes with the revelation that she is not entirely human.

In fact, she's not really human at all. In truth, she is a Beast, a race derived from man, but in many ways superior to us. They are far more powerful, and they are practically impossible to kill via conventional means. They have the intelligence of man, but for some reason they rely more upon their instincts rather than their intellect. That's essentially the problem with Beasts: their instincts are driving them to attack their less evolved brethren - humans.

If I have any beef with this series, it's with the need Beasts have to attack and destroy humans. I have no trouble with evolution, but it doesn't justify the Beast attacks. When one species evolves from another, if an environment can support both, then they both survive. If it can't, then one will die out. That's a rather general simplification of the process, but there it is. In the show, Beasts seem to instinctively want to kill humans, but that doesn't really aid their own survival at all. If anything, it actually threatens the survival of the Beasts, since it incites the humans to hunt and kill any Beast discovered. It would make more sense for the two races to coexist, but maybe I've been too heavily influenced by the recently released Marville graphic novel.

Of course, not all Beasts are as far removed from the human race as others. A very small handful of Beasts retain their humanity, their soul, and Jun is one of them. These anomalies are called "Devilmen," but in the case of Jun, it's all right to call her a Devil Lady.

At its core, Devil Lady is just a show about a woman trying to balance her duty with her desires. As a Beast with a soul, she is obligated by the Human Alliance to protect humanity from the Beast threat. However, she can't stand the idea of killing, even if she's dashing a bloodthirsty Beast to bits. She wants to live a quiet life, perhaps even a lonely, quiet life, but fate isn't exactly considerate of her desires.

This is a character-driven series, with most events being similar in nature and the primary changes in the plot coming about as a result of the way Jun deals with each event. At first, she felt nothing but fear and revulsion when she discovered what she was. However, her horror slowly faded and she began to accept her biological situation and embrace her darker side. Now, she's in danger of accepting her Beast instincts too wholeheartedly, and when the people that bind her soul to her body are threatened, so is her ability to control the Beast within.

In the first episode on this disc, we learn more about Shiro Sakazawa's past. In prior volumes, Sakazawa was snooping around Jun and her friends, asking questions about her activities. Here, we finally discover what he's after. As the story in this show is what keeps me entertained the most, I'm not going to give anything away about what happens. If you've seen the other three volumes already, then you know what to expect, anyway. I'd suggest starting at the beginning if you haven't, of course.

Visually, this is an impressive series, for it remains clear and detailed despite an overwhelming number of scenes set in the dark. The animation is not Devil Lady's crowning glory, but it doesn't really need to be, except when there's a fight. Luckily, more attention is allotted to the fight scenes than standard dialogue scenes, so I'm content with the animation quality.

Toshiyuki Watanabe's music remains perfect for the mood of the show, creepy and dramatic as needed. I think my girlfriend has started to sing along to the opening theme, which is cool and scary at the same time. It is admittedly catchy, in a bloodcurdling violiny sort of way. Seriously, though, the background music complements the visuals and story extremely well, and it's an essential part of the overall feel of the show.

As before, there are some neat monster cards included with the DVD. Extras include the original trailer, a textless opening and close, and four production sketches. That's right...four production sketches. I'd almost be happy to see fan art included to at least build up that gallery by ten or more pictures. You'd think that the cover art or something could have been included, but since I didn't buy the disc to see Devil Lady art, I guess it's not that big of a deal. It's just odd to have only four pictures.

This release, like the other three that came before it, is technically sound for the most part, save for the fact that the menu selections block the choice they activate. For instance, if you want to go to the extras, the cursor is a giant red blood splotch that is as big as the word, "Extras," so when you choose it, you can't really see what you're choosing. It's slightly disconcerting, but not nearly enough to make me enjoy this show less.

All in all, this is an excellent, mature horror title with characters viewers will care about and an interesting story. While there's gore and suggestions of sex and/or nudity, nothing is terribly gratuitous. There?s more concern shown for plot than fan service, which is always nice to see. I've enjoyed this series so far, and I have a feeling I'll be happy until it's done. If you aren't fazed by scary stuff and you're looking for a complex thriller, then chances are you'll be happy to see this too.

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