The first tape of this title is pretty common, but I'd always figured I'd never see much more. Fortunately a large, but really rundown, video store had this in their "dust collector" section. So I finally got to see more... which sadly proved a very mixed blessing.
The basis for this series is pretty familiar. The idea that in the side-streets and shadows of our humdrum mundane world is an entirely separate existence that goes on in secret. A world of magic, of monsters, dire plots and ancient artifacts. And perhaps it's a good thing most people avoid discovering this world, because it's a primal place where the life of an ordinary human being can be over exceedingly quickly.
But what happens when an ordinary Japanese boy gets dragged right into the middle of an ancient feud and made a part of the immortal darkness himself? That's the position Yakumo Fuji finds himself in when a cute girl, who's been seeking him for some time, proves to be a lot more than she appears. Ancient artifacts? no problem. An incredibly powerful adversary standing in the way of his goal? yep. An ally whom he certainly can't trust. It seems Yakumo is going to have to find his feet pretty quickly.
The synopsis doesn't really capture the pleasure of this series, but I'm pledged to avoid spoilers wherever possible. I'll just point out that there's lots of ways a story like this can go. The most familiar, from an anime point of view, is the monster bash, the magic warrior version. That's where the boy discovers massive power within himself and is soon kicking demon guts over the shop, generally while they molest his girlfriend. But this material is a lot better than this.
To start with the mythology of this shadow realm is excellent. It's deep and dark, giving a real sense that such a thing could be. There's legends, important characters and all sorts of people with both knowledge and secrets. The occupants of this hidden world actually do live in it, rather than just lurking in alleys and preying on schoolgirls. There, as here, alliances, power, trust and betrayal are always shifting. And the powers in this world don't mess about, they're both powerful and intelligent. And while Yakumo does have some power it's only a potential, he's got a lot of climbing if he wants to be anything other than a victim.
The characters are great too. The girl, Pai, who Yakumo meets is an interesting character. She has two sides, one ancient and cynical, one innocent and full of hope. And both sides are interested in Yakumo. A relatively normal Japanese guy, made somewhat tough by living an independent lifestyle, and now made a lot tougher by being physically changed. The interaction between them is good, and there's a host of characters all of whom have a sense of character and energy that makes this much richer than one might think.
Sadly, most of this comes from knowing the manga, because, to be honest, this anime sort of sucks. I saw the first two episodes and really liked it. It had decent animation that brought out the imaginative action that is a strength of the series. It had the character, the depth and the mysterious world. In short it looked good and I gave it a worthy rating sure the rest of the episodes would build on this strong foundation. And I do stand by that, the first two episodes, which basically chart the start of the story, are pretty good. The storyline is true to the manga, and it's a good one, horror and human elements neatly intermixed. Sure, I wasn't at all happy with the dub, but I could live with it.
And then comes the rest of the episodes I got my hands on, and the quality plummets. They take a look around and realize they don't have nearly the support, which means episodes, to actually tell the story properly. So the events start to get super-contracted losing both depth and coherency in the process. The focus seems to be on finding something that will sell, i.e. action, so a lot of character stuff is cut. Meanwhile the script just goes through the floor. I'm deeply suspicious of its accuracy because it's just doesn't feel like an anime script at all. Add in some over-acting as the actors try and ham up their parts and I'm pretty much writhing in agony. Some of the writing was so bad I almost wondered whose kid was responsible for writing it.
The third tape had a single longer episode on it. Possibly episodes 5 and 6 combined? It doesn't really matter because while the anime got brighter and cleaner, suggesting a more modern production, it didn't get any better. The animation didn't move that well, was sloppily drawn, and played up the blood and some nudity / flesh to truly ridiculous level. Meanwhile the writing, and the acting, had gone from annoying to "please stop the pain". I think the underlying anime is probably pretty bad, but this dub was determined to magnify every failure. I'd be curious to see it in Japanese (Megumi Hayashibara doing Pai apparently, that would have to be better) and if I do I'll extend the review. Meanwhile the underlying plot, which I know from the manga, was getting ripped apart by some very amateur horror stuff.
The end result being that I wouldn't wish this on anyone. The first two episodes are pretty decent, but the rating stands for all the episodes I've seen which drags them down and then some. Not only that but the manga does it much, much better than this. Even the action looks better in the manga, which has been commercially released although I've no idea where they're upto now.
I would strongly suspect that these episodes were made with some significant gaps between them. The animation on the first one is not bad. A little dark, because it's older, but it moves well and has a good ability to capture energy, character and stage the action scenes well. As has been mentioned throughout the review the longer it goes the less impressive it gets. A bit more glossy by the last tape but the character art is rubbish, the action lazy and flickery and the staging and design poor. The stories themselves aren't interesting and the action, even if it wasn't weak, is robbed of meaning as a result. I think I've made it really clear how I feel about the dub, although the guy who did the script has to accept much of the blame. I didn't noticed much in the way of incidental sounds. Oh yeah, and don't use crappy voice filters for monsters, it's not scary it's just annoying.
The world of 3x3 eyes runs in parallel to our own, but only a few know what terrible monstrosities and magic lurk in the shadows, following their own mysterious plans. This world has a rich mythology, a terrible fascination, and we follow a normal Japanese school boy whose strange new girlfriend has dragged him to center stage. Mind you that's the manga, this anime starts promisingly (2 episodes) but descends into a cheap gore and cheesy horror-fest as the dub actors see who can over-act the most to the appalling script.