Waaay back, before I started this page, Akira, Ghost in the Shell and this movie were about all the anime you would find in cinemas. And as a result I saw all of them many times. And this is definitely the weakest of the three which led to it getting a pretty mean review... the time has come to re-examine it.
The vast majority of humanity happily assumes that the world of steel and concrete they have built is the sole reality. However, as the introductory voice over assures us, they're very much mistaken. There is another reality running parallel to our own, and it's occupants are monstrous creatures, worthy of bearing the name demon. Should they gain unfettered access to our world they would wreak unthinkable havoc and destruction... Then again, this is anime, so demonic invasions are just part of living in Tokyo.
The difference, that powers this anime, is that both sides have politicians. And these two factions have decided that cross dimensional invasions are not the way for right thinking.... creatures to move to a more prosperous future. As a result there's a contract of non-aggression with the black guard as enforcers of the agreement. However the treaty need to be re-negotiated and re-signed which gives an opportunity for those with more predatory minds the chance to shatter the fragile piece. We follow two black guards, the rather tragically named Tachi and Machi, as they try and guard a VIP who's central to the process, and thus a prime target of those who oppose it.
It was a Mike Toole review on Anime Jump that mentioned the name "Yoshiaki Kawajiri". He's been involved in Ninja Scrolls, Cyber City Oedo and this title. And it's really pretty clear once you put them side by side. Very distinctive women with strong, almost masculine, faces, strong men, supernatural horrors and a taste for the erotic / adult end of the content spectrum. All of those qualities show up here.
Specifically we get to watch a human blackguard, who's tough enough but has a bad haircut and a name that really does him no favors in an English Dub. I imagine it's meant to be Tachii or something but it's pronounced "tacky" and I kept agreeing. We also get an attractive, in a rather severe way, female blackguard who's actually from the other side. They've both got the proper "men in black" outfits and attitudes. He gets a massively oversized revolver, seemingly adapted for demon hunting, while she has elegant claws. There's not all that much time for deep character work though, they have a job to do.
Mind you things go a little downhill at this point. One of the reasons is that the guy they're meant to be guarding is more than a little over the top. If you know Ranma then imagine this important VIP actually being Happousai and you have the exact image. He's diminutive, insanely energetic for his age and entirely perverted. This is a problem for the blackguards because he's far more interested in getting some sexual action than being guarded. It's also a problem for us because he's not nearly funny enough to make up for the amount of over-acting he's doing. A lot of people are going to have problems taking the film seriously at this point, although I suspect the dub amplifies this negative reaction.
Then comes the next thing to be dealt with. Unsurprisingly the demon resistance has every intention of wiping the cast out, and they seem to have little problem in locating them. They also seem to have all the power they need to carry out their goal. This bit is sort of cool, on the run from the far more powerful demons. It's even made clear that mankind hasn't been entirely idle and has learnt some of the demons magic to be used against them, with Tachi's gun being the most obvious example but a "guarded hotel" being far cooler. But ultimately what stops them is Machii, the blackguard from the other side.
You might think this is because she kicks much butt, and to be honest she is a pretty cool character. However the real reason is because her adopted shape is that of a human female. And demons appear to just lose it when confronted by such a temptation. Thus rather than just kill her when she fails in her duty they can't resist the urge for a bit of sexual harassment, even if it means the actual target getting away. As a result she, who is in theory only in the form of a human woman, spends rather a lot of the film playing the victim. It's not entirely sensible, it makes her look quite weak, and it's another reason why this really wasn't a great film to be introducing people to anime with.
On the positive side the conclusion, which has been set up neatly by the story, is rather good. It turns out there's more than one plan being played out and not all the characters are precisely what they seem. It's satisfying as a conclusion while still making you wonder what they next stage would lead too, would make a great series if in good hands. Not in the hands of whoever made this though, there isn't quite the subtlety needed to actually translate the writing into believable events, which means parts of the ending are a little bit corny. I have pretty strong memories of their being laughter in some of the theatres I've watched this in.
So in my original review I was pretty dismissive of the film and gave it a flawed rating. I'm still going to rate it the same, it still has some annoyances and weaknesses that do a lot to draw the power out of an actually pretty cool story. It has two reasonably cool characters, but the dialogue (and once again, the dub may be a large part of the reason) and story doesn't really manage to do all that much with them. Meanwhile the hentai humor and sex, while not without power in their own way, don't really have much to do with the main story and breaks up the flow. On the other hand I will admit it has some pretty cool bits, and some moments of solid atmosphere, that mean that a watch is not going to be without some return.
There's a definite feel of "80's" in some of the style in this film, a bit of disco taste in there. It also has an extremely subdued palette, given that the two options are "earth night" and "dark world" this isn't too surprising I guess but it does take some energy out of the appearance. Especially since the character designs are relatively heavily shadowed anyway. There is an interesting design sense though, and while the money for fancy animation seemed short there are some nice, both in staging and in movement, action sequences. There is a reasonable amount of sex, generally either with some horror or psychological aspect being involved, which is not without a certain power. The characters are somewhat under developed (it isn't that long a movie after all) and the dub is pretty bad. Machii is alright, but the VIP's over-acting, tachii's attempt at cool and some bad minor voices (the chinese call-girl comes to mind immediately). I didn't notice any music of note.
The ordered world of mankind and the shadowy realm of monstrous demons... today planned the signing of a non-aggression pact to work towards global prosperity! Yep, it appears there's politicians on both sides. Now two members of the black guard, a male from the human world and a female from the other, just have to keep the VIP who will oversee the signing alive. Something which won't be easy given there's lots of opponents, generally on the demon side, to the enforced peace. A nice concept, but some misses in handling and a lot of adult humor, make the experience a bit less impressive.