The Persona Century Corporation has purchased nearly every parcel of land on earth. Dissension is not tolerated within the corporation's borders and those who oppose Persona are dealt with swiftly. Of those few places not yet under Persona's control is the free town of Kabuki-cho, also known as "The Dark Side of Tokyo". Within the town, under the leadership of a woman named Mai, is a small resistance group called Messiah. Into this world steps a man who takes the sobriquet of Kabuki-cho: Darkside. Sealed up in another dimension eighteen years ago by Persona Century, Darkside now returns to aid Messiah using his unique mystic power of renewal.
If you are a fan of 90s anime, then I'd recommend taking a look at Darkside Blues. If you haven't seen many anime from this time period, then this is a fairly good example of the visual styles of the 90s. However, most people will probably find the story somewhat mediocre and maybe even confusing.
Darkside Blues is a nice little gem from the 90s based on a manga by Hideyuki Kikucho who is one of the most respected horror writers in Japan. Often called the Stephen King of Japan, many of Hideyuki's novels have been adapted to anime such as Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, and Demon City Shinjuku.
Animation - 8
I'll go ahead and draw attention to the elephant in the room: this is an old anime. The art and animation styles likewise reflect the 90s. Whether you enjoy 90s style or not is your choice, but compared to other works of the time, Darkside Blues fares very well. The art and animation themselves are slightly above average, but I don't think many people can deny the style this show brings to the table. While there's nothing too progressive as far as the direction or choreography at work here, I still can't help but be impressed at how easy everything seems. By this I mean that it seems the style just flows off the screen naturally and can be seen in the fluid movements of the characters in many scenes. While there are many action sequences, they aren't so much edge-of-your seat and jaw dropping as they are seamless and fluid which is very pleasing to the eye.
Sound - 9
While maybe a handful of people out there won't like the music here, I think the sound is perfectly done. The melancholy music does a great job setting the mood and enhances the feel of Kabuki-cho as a city.
The Japanese voice actors do a good job and are obviously cast well for their roles. Natsuki Sakan is a great fit as Darkside and this is one of those times when a female voice actor really does seem more appropriate for a male character.
Story - 8
Set sometime in the future, Darkside Blues depicts a world almost completely owned by the Persona Corporation. One of the few free areas is the slums of Kabuki-cho, often called the dark side of Tokyo. There are various 'enhanced' humans running around who boast supernatural powers, though it's never explained whether this is actually magic or achieved with technology. Taking place in the future, there is quite a bit of technology around in the form of watches that fire lasers, robotic attack drones, and even a massive quantum cannon.
Something interesting I noticed was how similar this movie is to the Clint Eastwood movie Pale Rider (which was in turn a retelling of the classic western Shane). The reason I say they are similar is that, just like Pale Rider, Darkside Blues follows a small group of people (Messiah) whom are resisting oppression at the hands of a wealthy group (Persona Corporation) and then inserts a mysterious stranger (Darkside) who has a score to settle. While Darkside may seem to be the main character, the movie really seems to focus more on the effect his presence has on the members of Messiah.
Unfortunately, the movie seems like a small part of a whole that the viewer is never fully aware of and some things are left unexplained. Despite that, the sub-plot involving the escape of an Anti-Persona resistance fighter is covered well. The main confusion involves the backstories of many characters.
Character - 7
There are a lot of good things here, unfortunately most of the characters are undeveloped with only hints given regarding their past. The only characters really explored are the resistance fighter Tatsuya and Selia, an acquaintance of the Messiah members.
Darkside himself is almost a walking cheat code as time and time again various Persona assassins run across him only to find their attacks have no effect. Darkside only bothers to take his hands from his pockets on a couple of occasions and really he never seems worried no matter what attacks are being thrown at him. Darkside's past is only ambiguously explained, but really his character is in the movie to bring about change in others.
Through a process he calls 'renewal', he enables various characters to overcome hurdles formed when they were emotionally scarred in the past. Though for some people, this renewal simply brings about their death.
Enjoyment - 9
I personally love 90s anime and Darkside Blues is a great one. This show walks a fine line of psychological and action so there is substance to chew on mentally, or if you just wanna sit back then there's plenty of action as well. While I wouldn't call this an action anime, I don't think more than 5 minutes ever go by before the next altercation starts.read more
Darkside Blues is a film that manages to be both very interesting and very dull simultaneously. On one hand it dabbles in a ton of interesting things and provides intriguing presentation, but then again the topics aren’t explored very deeply and the presentation amounts to very little in the end. The source content was written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, who also did Vampire Hunter D and Wicked City. I bring this up because there is obviously a strong world that this film is based on thanks to him, but it appears that the production wasn’t enough to do it justice. This was the first project by studio J.C. Staff, and due to the things they would make in the future, it’s obvious that they tried the sci-fi genre for starters and never picked it up again afterwards.
The story revolves around the walled-off section of a futuristic Tokyo, the only place of land that hasn’t been bought by a big bad business that runs the world from their headquarters in space. One day a mysterious man in a flying horse drawn carriage arrives in town and opens up a service looking into people’s dreams. Since the city’s name is Darkside, he takes up that name too. At the same time, a resistance to Persona is led by a woman known as the Messiah, trying to create a change in the world.
The movie throws you into the world without much exposition, leaving the audience to figure out most of the workings through pure observation. I always respected a story that doesn’t spoon-feed information to viewers, but since the film doesn’t focus on one particular protagonist, it makes it difficult to keep track of everything. This doesn’t mean that other stories that lack proper exposition and a main protagonist have been failures (notable examples in anime include Darker Than Black and Baccano). Darkside Blues falls flat when none of its characters are particularly interesting and it fails to utilize presentation opportunities effectively to compensate. Because of the safe presentation, an equal amount of attention is given to Darkside, the Messiah’s group, the business people, and the terrorists. The disconnected developments become intertwined as the film progresses, and while it turns out weak connection, it does build the world decently. Some characters end up getting more development than others by the resolution, but with that comes the realization that hopping from character to character didn’t deliver anything different or creative in the overall picture.
Darkside himself is shrouded in mystery but kinda cool when fighting. The messiah is a pretty strong woman even though her sidekick is rather annoying at times. The people at the business are foreboding to say the least, and there’s also a nurse character they focus on who goes through some big changes as well. Intrigue amongst them isn’t strong, but the final changes amongst those aforementioned few prevent a completely stale cast. One character that made no sense whatsoever was a reoccurring little kid who doesn’t do anything but sit and look at the camera. This guy pretty much opens and closes the film, but nothing can really be derived from his existence in the movie. I just thought he was a tool for fake symbolism and a waste of animation.
For a J.C. Staff that was just starting out, select sequences look pretty great. Unfortunately, the animation gap they conjure up is pretty bad, regularly cutting to really cheap really fast. My biggest complaint about the art is how the backgrounds were handled in the film. Again, some of the paintings and the details are impressive, but then the next shots end up being generic and flat. This prevents our immersion in the setting, especially when Darkside Blues came out between two sci-fi giants like Akira and Ghost In The Shell. In those films, consistent attention to how the setting was presented turned out amazing results. Every little thing is seen, we constantly know how things work and how the world ticks. In Darkside, we get those few detailed images but then cut back to the bland parts of the town or the run down slums for most of the running time, which doesn’t look that good. A tight budget is pretty evident, but there should have been a middle ground on how to portray the world consistently. Take notes from Trigun.
As far as music went, there may haven been a bit riding on the title of the film itself, and to be fair, there are a few solid tracks. An insert song about 15 minutes into the film solidifies the mood for the movie, and an energetic organ is always a pleasure to hear. Side from a nice ending song, everything else on the OST was pretty poor, but credit given for a pair of nice standouts. The voice directing in the dub was awful, with dozens of awkward deliveries and even more weird stutters. Not to say that all the actors were bad, in fact some did fine, it just wasn’t a very good script adaptation.
The last thing I’ll talk about is what they try to do with their themes, and how they miss more than they hit. In the beginning, the ideas they want to get out are done through lazy one liners. A bunch of characters will be talking simple people talk, and then out of nowhere somebody says something philosophical, but then they go right back to normal talk and never go into it. They get more focused in the end like they should, and what they do talk about is pretty worthwhile. The characters throw around concepts having to do with the justification of violence as a suitable means for change, or when peace itself becomes corrupted, and it all comes to fruition in the closure. At the same time, however, the Darkside guy talks about unfinished concepts being passed to another person and how they have to start anew, almost as if they’re being reborn. This is only done through the repetition of a few vague phrases, never really fleshed out.
Most of the film can be described likewise. Never able to present itself consistently, whether it be from a misplaced narrative structure or a mediocre animation job. About halfway through, the movie had a mirage hotel where the lobby was shifting and changing all the time. That could have looked especially fantastic if the funds had been a given, but the constraints were too much for J.C. Staff to do anything striking with it. The intentions of following the content are there, and a bit of effort and money was put into the cool bits of the setting, but for the most part it’s a very slow trip through the boring parts of the city. Even the characters who get development take their time before they do. Combined with the brief and messy thematics, the film ends up being underwhelming on all levels. It’s certainly not the worst anime movie you could pick for a watch, but it’s far from the best.
True to the manga, Darkside Blues is a little gem for the mid-90s with older looking art but it really goes well with the atmosphere of the story. There's a particular part my friend had pointed out to me during a fight scene when one of the men has a lit cigarette and as he's moving around there's a streak of red following the cigarette's movement. Sounds nerdy, I know, but it's things like that that makes good movies and anime REALLY good. If you like mysterious sexy men riding a horse-drawn carriage check this one out.
Beware for Darkside is coming to Earth. No I am not talking about the DC comic super villain who terrorizes the heroes of the DC universe. I am talking about the unnamed dark clad man who comes through a dimensional portal on a horse drawn carriage arriving in Kabuki-cho "The Dark Side of Tokyo" which is one of the last places on Earth that isn't controlled by the Persona Century Corporation. This mysterious Darkside brings a coming change and renewal to poor and disenfranchised people of Kabuki-cho, as well as the power hungry rulers of Earth that run Persona Century, and the rest of the citizens of Earth.
I had originally watched Darkside Blues around fifteen years ago, and at the time I really enjoyed the film, but after seeing the film again after such a long time I realize that while Darkside Blues is an entertaining film with some grand ideas it is also a very flawed anime film as well. The film follows a whole cast of characters from wayward rebels living in Kabuki-cho to members of the anti-Persona group to Persona representatives. There are so many plot threads, genres and themes taking place in a miniscule running time of eighty three minutes that it takes away from the quality of the film. There is the plot thread revolving around Darkside and the Persona Corporation. Apparently the Persona Corporation sealed Darkside in another dimension, but the film never tries to explain the reasoning behind it only implying that the return of Darkside will be extremely bad for Persona. I found the plot and the character Darkside interesting and wished the film could have explored that plot thread better. There is another plot thread that revolves around Mai and her past dealing with the Guren the heir to the Persona Corporation, and there are many more plot points, and plot twists in Darkside that might have worked better if Darkside had been a longer film or had a thirteen episode anime series.
There were obvious messages that writer Kikuchi Hideyuki and director Yoshimichi Furukawa wanted to convey in their film as "renewal" or "rebirth" in overcoming loss, rape, or some other kind of hardship and being reborn. There are many religious undertones to the film and other themes about peace, like whether world peace can be achieved peacefully or must it be achieved by force and ruled by a dictator, and if that is achieved is that truly peace. There are many interesting themes that could have explored better if the film had been longer or had Darkside Blues been turned into a short series. You can see the running theme I am going with as I continue my review. The other problem with the film is the all the different genres being blended together. Darkside Blues is a Dystopian film that blends fantasy, action, science fiction, drama, suspense and romance to name a few, and at certain points in the in Darkside it did work well, but you know where I am going with this so I'll stop here.
While the plot, characters, themes weren't fleshed out enough one of the things that did work for the film was the tone of Darkside Blues. The anime film was dark in color to emphasize the themes of the film and it works really well. Even when it is daylight you can still see the shadows of the darkness and it just emphasizes the points the writer and director are trying to convey. While I am sure the animation was good nearly twenty years ago when the film came out Darkside's animation certainly does not hold up as well as other anime films, but is still decent and enjoyable. Now to what is perhaps the best part of the film which is the music scored by Kazuhiko Toyama. The music is beautifully scored and fleshed out fully encompassing each scene in the film. Then there was the ant-persona ballad song. I don't know who sang the song, but it was wonderfully written and exquisitely performed by the singer with a simple guitar. I tried to looking online to find who sang both the Japanese and English words for the song, but I could not find out who performed the ballads.
I truly believe Darkside Blues could have worked extremely better as an anime series. The plot, characters and themes could have been completely fleshed out in a twelve or twenty four episode series. Unfortunately instead we get a jumbled mess that is at times an entertaining film in Darkside Blues that blends to many plot threads, themes, genres and characters into a short film that. I give Kikuchi Hideyuki and Yoshimichi Furukawa props for trying to create a meaningful film, but they have sadly failed and I can't recommend Darkside unless you are a true anime fan then you might find the film worthwhile or entertaining like I did. read more