Otomo City: where freedom and justice have atrophied to the bone; where conspiracy rules the day and death stalks the night... Death in the form of the Skull Man, a literal Grim Reaper whose skeletal grin presages grisly mayhem and murder, even to the monstrous mutants that haunt the city's underworlds!
To investigate a bizarre slaying, journalist Minagami Hayato and photographer Kiriko Mamiya must stalk this ultimate predator, through a festering cadaver of a city where the corruption flows in rivers as deep and foul as the sins of the reigning elite, and unearth a secret so shocking that an entire city has been turned into a tomb to contain! In a nightmarish necropolis where nothing is as it seems, vengeance comes in the form of a living Death's-Head!
Manga, Anime: The Skull Man was originally a 100-page one-shot story done by Shotaro Ishinomori (famous for Cyborg 008 and Kamen Rider), released in Shonen Magazine's 1970 issue, and is cited as one of manga's first anti-heroes. Ishinomori did a rework of it just before he started work on the live-action show Kamen Rider (translated as Masked Rider) in 1971, as Toei wanted to use it for the basis of the show, and it was just a bit too dark and gory for a kid's show. And then in 1997, just before his death, he contacted Kazuhiko Shinamoto with plot
points for a remake that would have a continuing storyline and have more complex artwork than the original. This version was released by Media Factory, and ran from April 7th, 1998 to May of 2001. The latest version is the one that Tokyopop picked up Stateside; the seventh and final volume was released August 12th, 2003.
The anime itself was done by Studio Bones (famous for Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club) and directed by Takeshi Mori (famous for the Gunsmith Cats and Otaku no Video OVAs, both of which you've probably never heard of) . It ran on Japanese TV from April 28th, 2007 to July 22nd, 2007, and has yet to be licensed at this point time.
Story: Mkay, so the episode kicks off with this guy on TV lecturing about how medicine and the military are becoming too closely entwined, even after the war, then cuts to woman being chased by these demon-dog-looking things, and a guy in a leather trench coat, a cravat, and a skull mask.
Turns out that she ends up murdered, and there's been other reports of incidents like this involving the dogs and the skull mask man in Ootomo City, and a newspaper reporter (Hayato) wants to go and investigate it. He ends up picking up a bit of an annoying brat named Kiriko, getting put under surveillance, and going back to his old hometown, which is just outside of Ootomo. After he gets kicked out of his house in the evening by Kiriko for accidentally seeing her naked, he sees a guy get attacked by the skull mask man and the demon dogs.
From there, the rest of the series is spent trying to find out who the Skull Man is, and what it is that he wants, which leads into all sorts of interesting things.
I was worried here, for a bit. Most of the series is spent building and building up the mysteries around the Skull Man and the involvement of various organizations within the town and conspiracy upon conspiracy upon conspiracy that I was afraid it was not going to touch on any of them, like Rozen Maiden, or would end up falling victim to poor pacing and try to use a deux ex machina to take care of things or be handled sloppily, like in Nishi no Yoki Majo: Astraea Testament. Luckily, I was wrong; things start coming together in the tenth episode, and are fully explained in the eleventh and expounded on further in the twelfth episode, which set everything up for the final episode, which wrapped things up perfectly.
You'll see a lot of elements of V for Vendetta and the Count of Monte Cristo in the story, and mentions of Nietzsche, Wagner, and Shakespeare. It's these elements, along with the way pacing was handled, that makes this such a good show.
It's not without its rough spots, though. It's hard to remember all the characters' names, and I usually ended up referring to them either by their job, or by their relation to the main characters if I couldn't remember their given names. They bring up some elements, toss them aside for a few episodes, and then bring them up again just as you forget about them, which annoyed me a bit. And it seemed all nice and resolved in the last episode, up until I watched the bit after the ED, which practically screams for a second season, or at least an OVA for explanation.
Art: The art for this is overwhelmingly dark in its tones. The designs for the monsters are very well done, too, even when they end up showing en masse later in the series. However, when CG is used, it stands out quite a bit, and ends up looking a bit unattractive.
Music: The OP is this awesome little rock piece, and seems more like something you'd hear in an older show, which is a nice touch, and very singable. The background music itself is very noir-ish, and in the case of some pieces, very dramatic at times, but not overly so. The ED is kind of... eh, as it's your typical wistful female JPop ballad.
Seiyuu: Fumiko Orisaka (who also did the voice work for Firiel in Nishi no Yoki Majo: Astraea Testament and Chise in Saikano) plays one of the main females names who I can actually remember, Maya, and Ayako Kawasumi (also known for her work as Saber in Fate/Stay Night) did the voice work for Kiriko, the other main female whose name I can remember. Also, Toshiyuki Morikawa (who was Sephiroth's seiyuu) did work for one of the main characters I can't remember for the life of me. Also, Hiroshi Tsuchida did the voice work for the Skull Man, which was absolutely outstanding, along the lines of Joji Nakata's work. So, overall, outstanding seiyuu here.
Length: Perfect. Any longer, and it probably would've had to resort to filler, which just wouldn't have fit, and any shorter, and it wouldn't have been able to play things out the way it did. I would like that sequel/OVA to explain that bit after the ED in the thirteenth episode, though.
Overall: An excellent story with elements of V for Vendetta, perfect pacing, excellent music and seiyuu, even if it's hard to keep track of all the characters. Let's hope they expand on that bit after the thirteenth episode's ED, though.
This is based on an old manga by the legendary Ishinomori Shotaro, which would later pave way for Kamen Rider. Despite that, it is very much different from that series. The Skull man is a background character shrouded in mystery as well as why people turn into monsters. The anime is very slow if you don’t give it much attention, it isn’t really action oriented and emphasizes more on cracking the case, and yet defining what true evil is and covers a lot of philosophical and social issues on a local to international level such as corruption in relation to martial law and organized religion.
It takes awhile to really develop the characters but the wait is worth it. Because some of the main characters are adults at a certain age, the only thing they have left to develop is a defining moment in their life that will define their respective careers or something like that. But if you give it your full attention, it will be fast and you will be fascinated at the plot twists and resolutions it delivers, and how it loosely connects to another creation of Ishinomori-sensei. Due to the nature of this anime being mystery and suspense, I really don’t want to give away much because I believe this is one of those things you really have to watch.
What kind of disappointed me about this anime is that very little of the character design is faithful to the style of Ishinomori-sensei like how the recent Cyborg 009 was, but there are some that obviously are faithful at specific times. He had this distinct way of drawing that further helped define what anime and manga is today, and I felt a large portion of that was absent and that a majority of the design didn’t really come across as distinguishing. Maybe it’s a modern day interpretation to his art style, I don’t know, but I felt that Ishinomori-sensei should have been owed that much. However, some of the design of later characters are also very unique and faithful to his art style, but once again, that’d be a spoiler and I don’t want to get into that too much since it relates to that other creation he did.
On the other hand, I loved the monster design and the design of the Skull man himself. You can easily tell that not only just story wise, but in an artistic sense, how this paved way for Kamen Rider such as his fondness of motorcycles, the scarf, and the martial arts action that is present in certain times. The action is exciting and intense and it picks up in the 2nd half of the series. It’s high octane but not excessively over the top or ridiculous, cliché, or cheesy like in tokusatsu. However, it is quite bloody, but not necessarily gory like in the recent Rambo film.
What I also found very unique is that even though some of the vehicles and the architecture are very modern, they still use some old fashioned items such as audio tapes and records to represent some feeling of the old school influence and to probably give the viewer a possible sense in time it could take place in. I also liked when they showed vehicles, it was in the cel-shading style that the recent Initial D seasons and Wangan Midnight uses and it blends very excellently.
One of the best traits this anime has is its soundtrack. I love the opening theme sung by the band Tokio. It is really intense as well as the scenery in the song. But I felt that because it is nearly 40 years old, I felt that some of the soundtrack could have been a little old school with the use of the instruments. But the music for the most part is very dark and eerie and gives a noir and horror like feel to the show. The ending theme I felt was kind of out place with this anime though it is a nice song. I felt it belonged more in a shoujo anime that a graphic and cerebral one like this. In the same way, I guess you can say it felt out of place like the ending theme in Elfen Lied though they are still good songs.
Hayato, the main character is played by Yasumura Makoto. I really don’t know much about him. But I thought he did a great job as a tabloid reporter who knows how to get his scoop. He can be funny, and he can be serious. And Kiriko is played by Kawasumi Ayako, who plays Natsuki in Initial D. Her voice in this role in comparison to Natsuki is more childish and higher pitched. In addition to these two, the cast has some pretty big names. Like Tomokazu Seki, who played a lot of roles such as Miyata from Hajime no Ippo and Kenichi from History’s Strongest Disicple Kenichi plays the detective assigned to follow Hayato. In comparison to his other roles, he sounds a whole lot more gruffy which I felt was awkward for his high pitched voice, but later got accustomed to it and further expands his talents. And further elaborating who is in this anime and who plays who is another spoiler which I don’t want to get into and feel you should watch it.
Even though this paved way for Kamen Rider, don’t expect Kamen Rider. In comparison, this series is much darker, gruesome, and more though provoking, but doesn’t really try to mess with your head. I really want to explain the nature of Skull man’s character, but it’s very difficult for me to say in this review because this is truly an anime I want you to see for yourself, and I hope you watch this with high expectations that this is truly something unique and distinctive. It is very engagingly philosophical with very effective unpredictability, and exciting action. It has many themes that everybody can relate to or reflect upon.
I've been itching to write a review for this anime. I finished it just a few hours ago, and it left a (pretty darn) big impression on me.
Story: The story revolves around a young man named Hayato, who decides to revisit his old hometown and look into the mysteries revolving around the masked murderer, "The Skull Man." It is only later on that he finds himself and his female partner, Kiriko, deeply involved in the dealings of The Skull Man, and something must be done to stop these events from happening.
The story holds HEAVY religious mention I would want to say that it was an
undertone, but oh gosh would I be wrong. The entire story revolved around two religions, and their views. Now, I found this topic very interesting: its rare that you see it in anime, nowadays. The plotline easily intrigued me from the very beginning, and new twists and turns seemed unexpected which I loved. Obvious anime are never fun. And so, I would give the story a 9. The pacing was very fast as times, given the amount of episodes it had, so its one of those anime that you really couldn't let your mind wander away from. First they're talking about The White Bell Association, and the next thing you know they've delved into the past of something relating to the Association who's name you missed (one of my experiences, actually. xD; ) So the story was unbelievably unique and compelling, but I would have to give it a 9 due to its execution.
Art: If you're a BONES fan, you will get a g-r-e-a-t vibe of Wolf's Rain mixed with Darker Than BLACK from the characters. The designs were simple, yet colorful, and the design for the Skull Man himself was neat. I would not say that this art is groundbreaking, but it certainly mixed well with the storyline. A bit of eyecandy here and there for the fights, but otherwise, nothing hugely special. It recieves an 8 from me.
Sound: The soundtrack was a neat combination of classic jazz and orchestral speedy pieces. Overall, the music sounded nice together, but it didn't make me stop and think, "This music fits PERFECTLY with this scene." The Opening theme was certainly one of the catchier songs I have heard in awhile, but the Ending theme was slow: real slow. Is it only me who can't stand slow ending songs? I mean I know its the end of the episode, boo-hoo, but if you're going to make an ending that makes the fans lose interest, why bother? Thus, it recives only a 7 from me.
Character: I LOVED the characters to death in this series. Hayato and Kiriko are easily two of the coolest anime characters out there, and the Skull Man's intent, though slightly evil, was mesmorizingly great. It added an air of mystery to the guy, which was a nice touch. Also, there is an old man in this anime who basically makes an appearance in every episode (with good reason, after who he is revealed as by the final episode) and he is just a riot. Not only is he cunning, but he also has a sense of humor, and, by the final episode, a classic intent for revenge. I think I liked his character the most, even if he was a supporting role. Character gets a 10 from me!
Enjoyment: Looking at the anime overall, I really, truly enjoyed it from the depths of my soul. It was an anime that was so unique, it was simply gripping and thrilling. I loved practically every minute of it right up until the final episode. Well, if you're a BONES fan, you'd know what a BONES ending is usually like: rushed, left open, and leaving the audience thinking, "What the HECK just happened here?!" Really. I honestly believe it to be BONES' most confusing ending ever created by them.
Now, that's not to say that it doesn't make total sense. One of my pet peeves is when people say, "This made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!" Well of course it made sense, just not in a context which you can think of. And its apparent that you're too lazy to Google some discussion on its ending.
I always looks forward to an ending by Studio BONES, because I love deciphering them if I don't understand it. If I can't figure it out at all, I look to Google and lurk through forums discussing said ending. I've been doing it ever since I've started watching BONES stuff: some of their endings can be rather thought-provoking, you know.
Anyways, I can honestly say that I sat in my chair for five minutes after the final episode ended, completely dumbfounded and lacking any sort of answer to its ending. So, I went to Google. I shall not spoil anything, but I will say this: be familiar in Ishinorii Shotaro's works if you plan on watching this. Apparently, the ending is some sort of prologue to another of his works, and some of his original characters make an appearance in the anime. Who doesn't love pointing out those? =D
Overall, I really enjoyed this anime. Its issue for me was mainly its pacing, seeing as I believe it could have gotten the same message out in 24 episodes rather than 13. The ending hints a sequel, which I do hope is on the horizon as well. If the pacing had been perfect, I'd have given it a 10. But alas, it recieves a 9 from me.
If you really love detective work, views on religion, supernatural occurences, AND a totally win opening song by TOKIO, then you should really check out this anime. =)
The thing which initially drew me into watching this anime was the poster for it. The skullman kneeling in a pool of blood. When I first saw that glorious picture I thought to myself, "yes! this is going to be legendary!"...little did I know that this would be the hope which propelled me into watching the whole series and not to drop it half way through. Let me explain.
The anime starts by introducing the characters and setting the mystery at hand, which is good. It doesn't just drop you into the story without any explanation. However, as I continued to finish one episode and go
onto another, I felt a sort of heaviness. This was because I had the preconceived notion that this anime was going to be action packed, and due to this dissapointment, one after another in the first 9 episodes I felt like stabbing myself in the face with a spork. Contrary to what I thought it would be, the first 9 eps reminded are a has a more mystery-drama air to it. It's only from episodes 10 to 13 that things start to pick up pace and all the pieces fall into place. For example, you now receive the intriguing action scenes you had been waiting for, you're now at the edge of your seat and you cannot wait to click onto the next episode. These last 4 episodes were what really saved the anime for me.
In conclusion, don't go into this thinking it's going to be action packed from the very beginning because it's not! If I had known this beforehand, I would have probably enjoyed this anime a lot more instead of constantly being disappointed for 9 episodes straight. However, it is still a very good anime. If you like mystery dramas which then turn very dark and somewhat 'traumatic' with good fighting/action scenes close to the end, you'll like this.
(it's pace is sort of like in 'higurashi', it slowly builds up but then the ending is absolutely brilliant!)