Depending on your point of view, the mid 80s through to the mid 90s is either a golden period of violent anime schlock, or a nadir of low budget, exploitative rubbish. At a time when Japanese animators seem to have been enamored with American genre movies (& Mad Max), video nasties & FIst of the North Star, Japan's OVA boom saw a plethora of violent exploitation shows that can often be summed up as “muscly man walks around, kills people & has sex with women.”
Kumo ni Noru is instantly recognisable as a product of its time. A violent, incoherent hero's journey, it tells the story of Nio-maru, a demi-god (I think) who has to fight his way through ogre's, Hell & Heaven itself in order to reunite with his sister. With the help of several companions he meets along the way, Nio-maru fights the gods themselves in order to reach his goal, only stopping to have sex with every woman he meets.
Like many OVAs of the period, watching Kumo ni Noru involves a lot of shouting questions at the screen. Why is that mountain turning into a giant bird? Why is his sister talking to a frog? Who is that woman & why is Nio-maru raping her? Why is he now raping those other women while the previous one has shrunk herself into his ear? How did having sex with a corpse bring her back to life? What's going on!?
Yet despite what's happening on screen making little sense, Kumo ni Noru is pretty easy to follow. Kind of. It's an epic journey where our hero, having been knocked off course by an ogre with a bag of winds, must fight monsters, traverse Hell & ultimately reunite with his family, aided & thwarted by the gods, all the while having sex with beautiful women. Oh my God, it's The Odyssey! With a healthy mix of Buddhist & Shinto iconography & mythology thrown in. The lack of a subtitled version* or a dub may make the specifics of why Nio-maru has to have sex with every woman he encounters etc unclear, but it's not like you really need to be told.
*That I'm aware of. Google auto-translate tried it's best but I don't think “the five minute civilian was assume the funny” is an actual line of dialogue.
Visually, Kumo ni Noru can be summed up as a mix of Heavy Metal, He-Man & Violence Jack. While clearly made on a shoestring & probably in a rush, if you are a fan of the character designs & background art of this period, it's serviceable if rather unimaginative. The animation is pretty sparse, the quite frequent sex scenes being a notable exception. On that subject, while there is frequent nudity & sex, it never gets explicit, nor is the violence ever particularly gory. There are a couple still frames when Nio-maru is being punished in Hell that should be grotesque, but the cartoony artwork makes them funny rather than disturbing.
There is a scene in Kumo ni Noru that I think perfectly sums up both it & most anime of it's type. Nio-maru, apparently confronting a group of female goddesses, finds himself surrounded by beautiful women who dwarf him in size, pointing down & laughing at him, much to his frustration before he puts them in their place. That's Kumo ni Noru in a nutshell. It's an incoherent power fantasy for men who want to indulge in a scenario where they're the badass out to conquer both evil & women, no ifs, buts or prior consent required (not much has changed).
Yet there's a charm to Kumo ni Noru that is often lacking in OVAs of it's type. It doesn't have the hateful misanthropy of Violence Jack; nor is it a dull, macho rehash of a film you've already seen like Dog Soldier or Riki-oh (the Lam Nai-choi directed version of Riki-oh is great, though). Most important is that while baffling, it's not boring &, though it doesn't reach the heights of schlock achieved by, say, Battle Royale High School, it will appeal to those who enjoy shouting at the screen, laughing & cheering at what's unfolding before their eyes.read more