Oct 10, 2022
“Tengai Makyou: Jiraiya Oboro-hen” is a 2-episode OVA set in the universe of the game “Tengai Makyou,” but with an anime original plot. This OVA has an action-driven, although rather predictable story, and the art and character designs make it look more like an ‘80s western cartoon than an anime. It’s easy to watch, but due to odd character interactions, questionable narrative choices and an underwhelming ending, it’s not a particularly compelling one.
The gist of the story is that the thief Jiraiya has run out of treasures to plunder in his current town, and decides to travel to another area where there’s a legend of
a mysterious treasure called “Hiruko.” Not much is known about Hiruko, except that it’s dangerous, and that it could even be alive. At his destination, he gets involved with a samurai named Orochimaru, who looks a lot like Goemon from “Lupin III”; the ninja girl Tsunade, who is obsessed with Orichimaru; and Yukihime, the local princess who holds the key to understanding the mystery of Hiruko. Coincidentally, at the same time, there is an evil cult targeting Yukihime for her Hiruko connection; they plan to use Hiruko’s power to awaken a giant skeleton samurai robot and have it destroy the world. (Why? Who knows.) Aided by members of Jiraiya’s thief gang, Jiraiya, Orochimaru and Tsunade become unlikely allies as they try to protect Yukihime from the bad guys and prevent the power of Hiruko from falling into the wrong hands.
The plot is relatively straightforward, and does go from point A to point B, but there are a lot of liberties taken in between. For instance, the way the characters come together doesn’t feel realistic. They meet each other and almost immediately decide to become allies and share the same goal. They try to put in a subplot to give Orochimaru’s character motivations a little more depth, but it’s not executed very well. The antagonists don’t have a backstory, and their goal is that they want to “destroy everything.” And in the end, we aren’t even shown or told what happens to most of these antagonists; they’re just forgotten about.
Speaking of forgotten about, there’s a scene in which the wooden tank/submarine that the protagonists are riding in starts leaking water in several places and sinks to the bottom of a lake. They’re all panicking and trying to plug up the holes, but this somehow magically resolves itself by the next scene.
There are also narrative decisions that feel like wasted potential. As an example, Tsunade gets caught infiltrating the antagonists’ lair. You’d think that the antagonists, with all of their magic powers and resources, would do something with her. Maybe torture her to get her to tell them some information about the protagonists? Brainwash her and send her back to the protagonists? Or at least search her and remove her weapon. But no, they just throw her in a dungeon, from which she easily escapes with the help of her allies.
The magic powers here are also ill-defined and contrived. The antagonists’ powers aside, the protagonists’ abilities mostly stem from 3 colored spheres they each have, which signify that they’re members of an ancient tribe. The powers seem elemental, but aren’t explained much at all. This could be something that players of the game would have a better understanding of, though.
This OVA has only around a 1.5 hour runtime, so there is little character development or backstory, minus the bit about Orochimaru mentioned earlier. At face value, the characters seem pretty stereotypical or annoying, especially Tsunade with her obsession with Orochimaru. Orochimaru is similarly grating due to how rudely he treats Tsunade. The titular Jiraiya is your typical rogue hero, and Yukihime is your typical damsel in distress. The villains have no defining characteristics, and the rest of the characters are mostly forgettable.
As far as technical aspects go, this anime is slightly above average. The animation is cheap, but fluid, and the character designs and backgrounds are interesting. They feature a distinctly 1980s cartoon feel to them, and wouldn’t look out of place if they showed up in, say, “He-Man” or “Thundercats.” While the insert song doesn’t leave much of an impression, the mid-tempo, jazzy ending theme is pleasant, although perhaps unsuitable for the tone of the series. The soundtrack has a lot of variety and is pretty good, actually — it was composed by Kouhei Tanaka, the person who does music for “One Piece” and many other iconic series.
Meanwhile, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. There are some major voice actors in this, but their performances are forgettable here and wasted on lines like: “I’ll send you to Hell!” “No, the one who gets sent to Hell will be you!”
There isn’t really any objectionable content in this, except for some apparent deaths (but nothing is shown or stated outright). There’s also a scene where the protagonist hits a bird with a rock to knock it to the ground, which might make some uncomfortable.
Overall, “Tengai Makyou: Jiraiya Oboro-hen” is watchable, and a rather harmless watch at that, but many elements of the plot don’t make sense or aren’t explained well, and the character interactions, motivations and backstories are lacking in depth. It looks and sounds decent enough, though, so I’d recommend watching if you want to see something that has the look and feel of an ‘80s cartoon. As of this writing, it’s available on the studio’s official YouTube channel (TMS Entertainment), although it’s only in Japanese. The full soundtrack is available there, too, which I recommend giving a listen to.
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