a.k.a. Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma
a.k.a. Curse of the Undead Yoma
In the aftermath of the battle of Nagashino, a young ninja of the Takeda clan, Maro, apparently goes mad and runs from the battlefield. To prevent him from spreading their most valued secret that their lord Shingen has died, the Takeda send Maro’s childhood friend Hikage after him to kill him before he can betray his clan. Hikage is prepared to end the life of his former friend, but then he finds out that there is more to Maro’s apparent betrayal than what meets the eye. There are far greater threats than the warring clans in this world…
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Gloomy atmosphere; well-choreographed action; story devoid of true good or evil
Lows: Forced romantic subplot; essential characters lack exposition
Quite a few anime have a reputation for excessive violence, and this one is no exception. Spraying blood, exploding corpses and horribly mutated half-demons will probably appeal only to those who watch movies for that sort of content. The genre is usually called guro, and the plot mainly revolves around people having their limbs detached and bowels pulled out.
Fortunately, Yoma has a few redeeming qualities that sets this OVA apart from many other guro titles, the most obvious being the dark and gloomy atmosphere. Set in the aftermath of one of the most brutal battles in Japanese history (the one which ends Kurosawa Akira’s Kagemusha), an aura of hopelessness and decay emanates from every scene. Even during the many mostly impressive action sequences, there is none of the usual bragging with superior skills and no proudly announced special attacks. Nothing about dying or killing is depicted as heroic or even just “cool.” The script even goes so far as to completely blur the lines between good and evil. The demons that commit horrendous deeds have perfectly plausible apologies most of the time, and even Hikage, the one-eyed hero of the story, abandons the lord he’s sworn to and becomes a traitor to his own clan to follow his personal goals. While it’s not difficult to sympathize with his actions, he can hardly be categorized as a “good guy” while at the same time lacking the air of recklessness that normally accompanies a “badass action hero.”
While good at creating mood, the plot unfortunately fails on many other levels. The one romantic subplot has two characters meet, and a few scenes later, they are in love with one another without any further development or even an introduction to their beginning relationship. And speaking of lack of introduction, essential side characters in both OVAs have no exposition at all. They appear out of nowhere, only do disappear back into nowhere after they’re dealt with. “Monster of the Week” disease in a two-part OVA? Surprising, but hardly enjoyable.
Yoma is not exactly what I’d call a great anime, but just as the one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind, this OVA is probably as good as it gets when it comes to guro. Strongly plot-driven (and fortunately without any sexual content), it delivers a powerfully depressing mood and has well-choreographed action sequences that somewhat redeem the rather mediocre art. A mixed package, yes, but one in which the good things outweigh the bad… if you’re into blood and gore. And if you’re not, then avoid this title.