When an American scientist carrying a cure for the AIDS virus is kidnapped by an arms merchant, John Kyosuke is forced back from retirement. He accepts the challenge to regain pocession of the anti-serum. He finds out that some of the people he is after are closely related, which gives his conquest a whole new meaning.
Before I start with my review, I have to say that action anime from the 80's and 90's, despite not having much of a storyline, are a guilty pleasure for me. Secondly, I'd like to say the this review is going to have some spoilers. They aren't very important, since this anime is just 45 minutes, but hey, you can't be too careful with this stuff.
Now, without much further ado:
"Dog Soldier" is an anime that promises a lot, but does only a little. Just from the poster, you can notice the character looks like Rambo. Since the main character, John Kyosuke Hiba looks and fights
like Rambo, one might expect the anime to have more Rambo-ish characteristics. And that's where it falls flat.
The story of Dog Soldier isn't that good, but given the type of anime it is, the story is only there to give the main character a justification to join the battle. John has to save a scientist, as well as retrieve a virus for AIDS, which has fallen into the hands of a arms merchant who intends to use it as a weapon. However, this is not the most interesting part about the story. (spoiler warning) The most interesting part is that Johnny, the scientist, as well as the arms merchant, have once been childhood friends. This revelation would make the character interactions more interesting than a normal "good guy vs bad guy" plot, however, the anime does not manage to pull it off well. Instead, we have too many flashbacks and too many useless dialogue, while the action scenes, which are supposed to be the main part of an anime of this kind, do not last very long. This makes the whole project fall apart in the end, making this anime not good enough.
As for the art, it's typical of the era. However, there are several scenes, especially flashbacks, that get recycles. As for the soundtrack, I have nothing against it.
Overall, this anime could have been much better, but it fails to deliver on the action scenes, as well as the character interactions, resulting in a lackluster final project.
I wrote a much more scathing review on my Atlanta Fried Critic blog, but given that I can't go all-out on this site, I'll tone it down a bit. It's important that I do this, because you need to know never to watch this OVA. Everything about it, from the laughable story to the dreadful animation to the complete jumps in logic that apply to both of those things, is awful.
Let's start with the laughably named protagonist, John Kyosuke Hiba. The characters can never decide what to call him. In the same sentence, they'll call him "John", then "Kyosuke." What's up with that? Did
they forget his name in a split second? Is it really that hard to just stick with one name? I don't know, but it makes absolutely no good sense.
Anyway, John is an ex Green Beret who now works a mellow construction job. He gets involved with an international conspiracy involving Chinese weaponry and AIDS. In the middle of this, he dresses up as Rambo and starts blowing crap up. Oh, yeah, that's right, this is Rambo with AIDS.
Throughout the whole thing, we're treated to a terrible backstory involving him and the female love interest/antagonist/protagonist, Cathy, as well their childhood friend Makoto, who now goes by the incredibly clever villain name of "Phantom." Oooh, Phantom. That's almost as original as Shredder from "TMNT" or Doctor Claw from "Inspector Gadget." Just almost.
So, we've got a half-baked conspiracy plot, a half-baked backstory, and a thoroughly terrible military thriller. It gets worse, though, thanks to the animation. Oh, lord, the animation... if you could even call it that, that is. A whole scene gets repeated with different music, character cels are used for minutes on end, and when there is movement, it's stiff and unconvincing. Even by 1989 standards, this is some of the worst animation possible.
The only good thing is the music. It's not amazing, but it's easy to nod your head along to while zoning out. And trust me, you're going to want to zone out while this garbage is on-screen. As a funny little side note, the ending theme is called "Sissy on the Roof." Sounds kind of like a mid-90's gay adult video, doesn't it? I think it does, at least.
"Dog Soldier" is awful... actually, that doesn't begin to describe it. Given that the LaserDisc is rare and costs around 50 bucks, the unauthorized DVD release runs 10-15 bucks, and the VHS is hard to find in general, the universe seems to be telling you something about this. That thing is that you, under any circumstances, should watch never this trash heap. It's not the worst anime I've ever seen (that honor belongs to "Harmagedon"), but it's darn close. Avoid this trash. It's barely even good enough for a cheap laugh, and the only thing I'll ever remember about is being "Rambo With AIDS."
When one thinks of Dog Soldier ~Shadows of the Past~, quality isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Well, aside from "Quality" being with a capital 'q' and only in the instance where that indicates a mistake of real quality in a piece for irony. Looking at the scores assigned to this review, it's pretty mediocre with one shining moment; however, looking at my own personal view of it, it's an abysmal 3. One's final opinion is all in what is expected from the viewer, which is probably it's greatest strength.
If you're looking for a serious adventure about a man's fight against a military
industrial complex, you're going to find an anime that rounds out to that 3 I assigned it. This anime is bad. The art style is decent; it's a bit clunky and it shows its age but it is not so horridly ugly or spectacularly beautiful that it'll leave you clamoring for more. When I viewed this anime, I viewed it on my Japanese LaserDisc release and I've seen the dub at anime conventions over the years. The OAV itself was from the late 1980s and was licensed in North America in the early 1990s - and hasn't been seen since on a retail shelf. The sound is what you'd expect from it; again, a decent rating but I'm not trying to devise the ultimate speaker set-up to watch this.
The story and characters are also fair, but I rated the enjoyment much higher. That's because I find these elements to still be more subjective than visual and sound qualities. Again, if you're looking for a serious adventure about one-man-versus-military-industrial-complex, you'll be missing out. If, you have a penchant for the absurd, though, you should be pleased. The characters are over-the-top and stereotypical of 1980s pop culture. The plot points, which shouldn't be spoiled, are a new level of absurd, you can only expect them from someone like Saruwatari Tetsuya (Riki-oh, Shootfighter Tekken). Just when you tell yourself "They can't be serious", they are. The stoic facial expressions used very liberally aren't like when Jimmy Fallon spoils a joke (in Fallon's defense, it's much easier to do in animation than live comedy). And because they are so serious, it is that much funnier.
If you can find a copy of this, then it's certainly worth checking out. Don't expect a cinematic masterpiece because you won't find it. This is something that has to be viewed through the same lens as you would a really horrible B-Grade science fiction film. The creators, both of the original manga and of the anime did their best to make something good, but it didn't quite come through this time. I say, enjoy it for the absurdity; get your friends together and have a good laugh!