Reviewed by: Azure
Released by: Manga Entertainment UK
Age Rating: 15
Region: 2 - UK
Length: 80 minutes
English Dolby Digital Stereo
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese 5.1 Surround
Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo
Kai Doh Maru is set in the Heian era of feudal Japan a time when power struggles weren’t just political but bloodthirsty. Kintoki a daughter of a powerful family is raised as a boy in order to maintain the illusion that her branch of the family has a successor. Things go wrong when her power hungry uncle murders her parents, Kintoki flees to the mountains, where the locals name her Kai Doh Maru (hence the title). There she is found and rescued by Lord Raiko captain of the ‘four knights’, who continues to raise her as a boy and teachers her the art of combat
Kai Doh Maru has an unusual style; this is partly thanks to the detailed character design of Sho U Tajima, who leans a strong element of realism. The colouring of the animation is also unusual being comprised exclusively of washed out shades of colour. The aim of this was to evoke a feeling of artwork of that period, the extent to which this succeeds is mixed, the colours lend an unearthly feel to the animation but in turn makes it much harder to watch, everything seems to blend into each other which isn’t helpful during the fights. Kai Doh Maru also makes extensive use of 3D animation to render backgrounds, again the success is mixed, in places this animation looks totally out of place especially when rendering plants, which look blocky. Other times the way the camera pans around is impressive.
Unfortunately Kai Doh Maru is extremely short around forty minutes or so. In most films this would where we would expect the second half of the film to start, Kai Doh Maru just stops. I’m sure some viewers would argue that Kai Doh Maru’s ending was well done, it’s certainly subtle, it would have perhaps been more effective if we had know more about the characters, the plot of the main feature is so unsubstantial that the ending has nothing to rest on. It simply ends.
What Kai Doh Maru amounts to is an animation test; everything has been pored into developing a look and feel and not enough into plot or characterisation. Frequently characters appear without little explanation of who they are and then they are gone or dead, without furthering the story at all. Animation fans particularly Production IG fans might enjoy the feature especially since Manga Entertainment’s release has bulked the DVD out with a variety of making of extras. If you’re looking for a good story look elsewhere, Kai Doh Maru just isn’t substantial, it’s style over substance.