AKA: Kaidohmaru, Kai Dou Maru, Kaidoumaru, Complete Phantom
Genre: Historical Drama/Action
Year Released: 2001
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
Running Time: OVA, 45 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 16+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Rurouni Kenshin, Peacemaker Kurogane, Yona of the Dawn, The Breadwinner, Hamlet, Strings (2004 animated film), Throne of Blood, Ran
-The Japanese language track was used for this review.
-Kai Doh Maru is the directorial debut of animator Kanji Wakabayashi. He has done episode directing and/or storyboard work for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Gankutsuou, and Trigun: Badlands Rumble. The only other anime he directed was Steins;Gate: The Movie.
-The main character Kintoki is voiced by Mitsugi Saiga in the Japanese version. You might know her as the voice of Tsukasa and Elk from the .Hack series, the title character from Jing: King of Bandits, and interestingly enough, she did the Japanese dub voice of Garnet from Steven Universe.
-Kai Doh Maru is based on multiple tales of Japanese folklore, but the biggest twist is that Kintoki who was formally depicted as an uber-masculine powerhouse of a prince was gender-swapped into a tomboy princess who was disguised as a prince when she was younger.
My habit of rewatching anime I remember seeing a long time ago has returned. I was still surprised that the DVD was still around on Netflix and it would certainly give me material for Iridium Eye. There comes an advantage to this because I can remember certain things even if it was long ago whenever I rediscover something I previously watched in the past. There are times when my opinion becomes positive or even grows like how I checked out Shinesman again not long after I started this blog. Much like Shinesman, this OVA is from Production I. G. They certainly have a big track record as an animation powerhouse in Japan and they’ve made fan-favorite properties such as Ghost in the Shell, Attack on Titan, Psycho-Pass, and Haikyu!! to name a few. They’ve certainly been lauded for their high-quality animation whether it’s with their TV series, OVAs, and movies.
This sounds like a sure bet in rediscovering this period piece anime OVA.
Kai Doh Maru starts out in the year 889 AD. In Mount Ashigara, a young Kintoki witnesses a major battle against her own family. She was disguised as a boy and was the next in line to rule the throne, but her uncle slaughters her parents and her family’s army. Kintoki fights back and takes out one of the opponents, but is forced into exile. She is saved by Lord Raiko who takes her to the capital. Five years later, she trains alongside the warriors in the city. However, there have been roving bandits, pestilence, and major political unrest. The capital is under attack by a gang known as Shuten-Doji which is led by someone of the same name as a pseudonym. In reality, it’s Ohni-Hime who is Kintoki’s cousin who was also in love with the exiled royal (context: she legitimately didn’t know Kintoki was female this whole time). This leads to a sinister plot where the city is under attack and about to be burned by the Shuten-Doji gang.
I didn’t remember this anime all that much besides the basic plot and the ancient Japanese art-style animation, but it’s good to remember everything. I will say the fight scenes were pretty intense and got quite gory to show how immense the family blood feud was. One major highlight for me was the ending theme “Ai Suru Koto Ga Boku Wo Ugokasu (Loving Is What Moves Me)” by Akira. Okay, it was anachronistic since it’s an electric guitar-driven waltz ballad for a story that takes place in the ninth century, but the song itself was certainly powerful with the lyrics and grungy guitar work. Miss Hokusai was also guilty of this, but at least the usage of modern instrumentation was tasteful and nowhere near as present as that later Production I. G. film. It was interesting to see some political intrigue happen instead of all the fight scenes which gives it a decent foundation and reason for the overall plot. The Japanese voice acting was certainly decent. While it’s certainly on the dry and more serious side, the voice actors at least did a competent job of emoting.
Hey, it’s a Production I. G. work, so that must mean that’s automatically sakuga quality-level animation with a nice complex story to back it up, right?
Have you read enough of my reviews to see where this is going? Because if you have then you should know where this is leading to regardless of how you feel.
Kai Doh Maru failed to live up to the caliber of what Production I. G. is capable of. The animation has horribly aged with the CGI sticking out so much and the Japanese painting style did not mesh with everything. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya did a far better job in that regard. The plotting was way too contrived and relied too much on cliches. The fact that Kintoki’s family is killed by an evil uncle to usurp the throne is beyond overdone and it’s not even done well like Strings which was at least creative and had way more depth than other stories with similar plot points. What makes it even crazier is that said evil uncle isn’t even the main villain and that storyline gets dropped less than halfway through this anime to focus on Shuten-Doji. WHY?! The story even ends on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved which was infuriating. There were subtitle inconsistencies like how Shuten-Doji is spelled that way, but also Shuten-Dohji. My biggest problem with Kai Doh Maru was that I didn’t care about any of the characters. Most of them were so bland and barely had personalities. The villains were cliche and made no sense. Despite my severe issues with The King of Fighters: Another Day (the first anime I ever reviewed that was also animated by the same company), at least I could care about some of the characters, and the animation was better. Don’t even get me started on the whole Ohni-Hime issue with her having the hots for Kintoki. That is lesbian incest even though she didn’t know Kintoki was female for most of her life. Regardless of gender, she STILL wanted to fall in love with her own cousin? Eww! Just…Ew! Did no one think this through when it came to those implications of that romance subplot? Everything was just wrong while being pretentious in the presentation.
Please skip this OVA. Kai Doh Maru may have some good music like the ending theme and good voice acting, but nothing else could really deliver. I know Production I. G. is better than this and I don’t even like all of the works that I’ve seen from them (The Prince of Tennis and the aforementioned KOF ONA are some of them). The story was cliche, yet too convoluted and incomplete. The animation is a joke for a company that has done better work even prior to the existence of this OVA. I will not hesitate to say that this is the worst Production I. G. work I’ve ever watched. If you seriously think everything that studio does is star-spangled awesome, then I’ll show you this pretentious and tedious anime. You WILL change your mind if you seriously think it’s the case from one of Japan’s premier studios. For shame, I. G. For shame.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like anything involving Production I. G. and/or their subsidiary studios.
Add 1 point if you like samurai dramas.
-Good voice acting
-Nice ending theme
-Some good political intrigue
-Convoluted and incomplete plot
-Horribly aged 2D animation and CGI
-The characters are all boring
Final Score: 1/10 points
Content Warning: Kai Doh Maru is only for older audiences assuming they aren’t bored out of their gourds. The violence gets extremely bloody as people and animals get stabbed, decapitated, impaled, or dismembered in violent ways. The subplot with Ohni-Hime/Shuten-Doji is very squicky when you realize that she’s in love with her own blood-related cousin whom she doesn’t know is actually female, so it’s easily a case of lesbian incest going on.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Kai Doh Maru is property of Manga Entertainment. The DVD cover is from IMDb and is property of Manga Entertainment.
Oh, I missed that angle, I had only been thinking it was obsession/possession that Ohni-Hime had in mind, woah.
But yeah, this is not a peak for I.G, huh? ‘Princess Kaguya’ definitely achieves a better look and feel.
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Yeah, it wasn’t my favorite I. G. work by a long shot. Princess Kaguya was SO much better in terms of story, characters, and animation.
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Agreed – there’s even a little (vaguely) similar thing in ‘Batman Ninja’ that works better, the benefit of modern techniques, I guess?
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Gotcha. I’ve heard about the Batman Ninja movie, but I’ve never seen it. Modern technology certainly helps.
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