Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Makyou Gaiden Le Deus

As we've seen through such titles as Baoh, M.D. Geist, The Humanoid and others, the Original Video Animation was a sub genre of anime that usually worked to promote a manga or to act as a vehicle for artists and vocalists alike, very often they were no more than one-offs that had enough budget to make for a decently-animated 40 minutes or more, which typically jeopardized story in many cases. OVAs were a bit like mini-movies in that regard, and were much more digestible than full-fledged anime series, they were good for the video crowd. Cybernetics Guardian left me wanting more, while The Humanoid simply embellished the fact some OVAs could have done with being much longer, let's see which of these the 1987 release Makyou Gaiden Le Deus/魔境外伝レ・ディウス falls into.

Opening to an abstract depiction of water ripples and a neon outline of a tree, we learn that we're looking into the Eye of Zalem, an ancient lens that has fallen into the hands of treasure hunter Riot and his two twin female companions, Spica and Seneca. This lens is needed for a treasure called Rido, that lies in Zalem, however, there's another Eye of Zalem, that someone in Zigoa is holding on to. Cue what must be the most simplistic title sequence ever, which is nothing but the Eye of Zalem spinning on its axis, at least the shading on it is utterly gorgeous, and it's set to a catchy song. Riot meets his target, a girl called Yuta la Caradeen, the granddaughter of a man called Randall, who he got the first Eye from. However, they are hounded by a group of demons known as the Demsters, who previously murdered Randall, and are the foot soldiers of Kaiser, a heavyset brute who wants to use the powers of the Rido treasure for evil (obviously). During a break at the beach, Riot tells Yuta that Rido is the treasure left behind by the Quall civilization, and it has the power to rejuvenate life. Riot is only searching for it so it doesn't fall into the hands of Kaiser and his Demsters, plus, he wants to use its powers to bring his sister out of suspended animation.

The next morning though as they arrive at the ruins of Zalem, they are ambushed by the Demsters and their giant robots, who successfully kidnap Yuta and steal the two Eyes of Zalem. With Yuta in the grasp of Kaiser, Riot makes it his mission to rescue her and to stop Kaiser from abusing the power of Rido as he gains access to it. However, he's too late, and Kaiser's damage is too much to be undone as the underground realm of the Zalem collapses in on itself, Spica and Seneca call for Riot's giant robot, Le Deus, to combat the last of the Demsters in their own giant robots.

Directed by Hiroshi Negishi (the same animation director who worked on Roots Search of all things) and penned by Hideki Sonoda, Le Deus is a decent little piece that is very characteristic of late 80s Japanese fantasy, but with a myriad of problems. Like with many OVAs, Le Deus suffers from a case of having too much in too little time; the world the title takes place in feels more deserving of a bigger exploration and the sci-fi elements feel tacked on to give this thing more advertising power, as the giant robots have only been added in to give this thing some fanservice for the mech crowd, the titular Le Deus robot not appearing until the final ten minutes, making it feel very useless. Additionally, this same robot appears to be docked inside of some kind of giant alien whale, without so much as a few words on why. Worst of all though is how the subplot with Riot's sister is completely painted over after it's mentioned, and Kaiser's unknown boss essentially has no reason for appearing at all. I'm all up for Riot's magical bandage though, which he can even turn into a sword. Characters themselves are derivative with Riot being the fiery and cocky young adventurer and Kaiser being bad for the sake of being bad (at least he's not Governor Proud of The Humanoid, who took the archetype to stupefying levels of badness), but that's not to say they're unlikable, though much like the sci-fi element, the Demsters are near-pointless additions, with the three most important ones not even being named.

Voice acting is all well and good with the casting containing among its ranks Norio Wakamoto as Kaiser because he was in just about EVERYTHING in the 80s, and Kazuki Yao as Riot who has quite a list to his name, as does Yuko Mizutani as Yuta (she was the Japanese dub voice for Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Like with just about every OVA, Le Deus feels more like a pilot that is a giant compressing of every idea that was meant to go into a longer series, it's not bad at all and it's frankly nice to watch with its brightly-coloured, decent artwork and animation, music is not outstanding but it does contain three good J-Pop songs. It has to be said though the cover is a bit of a lie, showing a naked Yuta, when there's no real in-your-face nudity at all. It should be noted that this title was only released in the UK in 1995 and was called "Ladius", same thing phonetically really. Recommended for lovers of 80s anime, there's far worse that's been done with OVAs.   
  • Animation: 3/5   
  • Artwork: 4/5
  • 80s shading: 5/5
-James, 04 March 2010 (original date)

Review source: Japanese Laserdisc
Screenshot source: Japanese Laserdisc

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