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Demon Prince Enma
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 03/28/2009

Review:
One doesn’t normally equate Go Nagai with children’s stories, especially not after such nefarious titles as Devilman and Violence Jack.  He does, however, have a number of anime and manga series aimed at the younger generation under his distinguished belt, and Demon Prince Enma is based off one such series.  Known as Dororon Enma-kun, which was penned and animated in 1973, Demon Prince Enma is a reimagining of the series for a more adult crowd.  The strangest thing about it, especially with regards to Go Nagai, is that it focuses much more on the stories and characters than one would expect from a purveyor of sex and violence such as himself.  Now don’t get me wrong, my sex and violence loving self is a fan of Go Nagai, but he has really weaved something special here.  It’s a shame it only lasts four episodes.

Starting out as a supernatural mystery and adding some horror elements towards the end, Demon Prince Enma gives us a taste of evil and the havoc it can bring about.  With the world again plagued with demons running amok and ruining people’s lives, Enma and his group of demon hunting cohorts have come back to the world of the living to do a little house cleaning.  As the leader of the group, Enma takes a very carefree approach to his work and life, constantly looking for women and peeping on his female counterpart and semi-love interest Yukihime.  But don’t let his reckless demeanor fool you; he’s a master of fire which he uses to great effect in sending demons back to the depths of hell.  The yin to his yang, quite literally, Yukihime is his right hand woman who uses the power of ice to vanquish their foes.  Her icy disposition is a fact that causes intimate problems between the two of them, if you catch my drift.  They’re accompanied by a surface dwelling demon named Kapaeru and a mysterious living hat named Chapeauji, both of whom help in their quest to find and destroy those demons foolish enough to invade the human world.  They best not let their guard down though, not all the demons they encounter are as weak as they appear, and one may just come back to get his revenge.

While each episode is forty minutes in length, there are only four of them, so there’s no rest for the weary.  After a brief setup in the first episode, giving us a feel for the main characters involved and just what exactly they’re trying to accomplish, things kick into high gear.  The first tale centers on a daddy’s girl who’s secretly working as a prostitute.  Her life starts to go awry when she keeps finding herself covered in blood and all the men that she sleeps with are dead by the time she wakes up.  Amid the blood, decapitations, sexual assault by an invisible demon and flesh torn asunder, episode one gives you a taste of things to come.  After which the series takes a slightly more frightening turn as we follow a girl who’s working as a hostesses to support her deadbeat boyfriend, whom she soon finds is cheating on her while she’s at work.  She doesn’t take too kindly to that, and neither does the demon dwelling inside her precious doll, which starts killing everyone who crosses her.  Even though each of the two episodes is focused on a different story, the nice thing about having forty minute episodes is that it affords the ability to fully develop the story and characters involved.

The final two episodes take an unusual twist as the OVA moves further into the realm of horror and the main characters are largely taken out of the picture by an abnormally powerful demon that’s out for revenge.  In their place are a couple of reappearing characters from earlier episodes, including a police officer who’s been investigating all the murders going on lately and an investigative journalist who’s been trying to find out more about Enma’s Detective Agency.  They’re joined by a couple newcomers who really have nothing to do with anything; however, they do give the finale more depth given the lack of characters to use otherwise.  They’ve all ended up trapped in a mansion with seemingly no way to escape.  While searching for a way out they’re continually assailed by their inner demons, of which all the people seem to have.  Exploring those dark places in each person’s heart, we’re given a brief look into each of their pasts and the cascade of events which lead to their inner darkness.  This trip down memory lane achieves better results with the characters we’ve previously been introduced to, but is nevertheless interesting for all the characters involved.  Things deteriorate quickly as some members start to go crazy at the constant bombardment of that which they fear most.  Even Enma may not be able to stop a demon feeding on all this negative energy!

What really makes Demon Prince Enma an enjoyable watch is how thought-out each of the stories is, particularly with regards to the characters.  We’re shown their plight and internal struggle as they try and come to grips with the events transpiring around them.  Needless to say, in a melancholy title such as this their efforts typically don’t turn out too well.  Unfortunately the character development is mostly focused on side characters only, leaving Enma, Yukihime, and Kapaeru out in the lurch.  Maybe if it were longer they would have had time to develop them as well, but as it stands they’re effectively the same at the end as they were at the start.  The other major disappointment has to do with the action scenes, or lack thereof.  Not only is there a lack of action, but even in the action scenes not a whole lot happens.  It would have been nice if they could have expanded on those scenes, just a bit, to give the series more flair.

The animation isn’t the best, but it gets the job done.  There are quite a few corners cut and every now and again side characters look like they were drawn during an earthquake, though the main characters typically look solid.  Some of the backgrounds are quite nice though, showcasing a stark contrast in detail compared to the rest of it.  The only real anomaly comes during the two episode finale when, for whatever reason, they decided to do the mansion in 3D graphics.  They apparently didn’t have the budget to do it as well as they should have, because it sticks out like a sore thumb, at least until you become accustomed to it anyway.  Certainly not the optimal move on their part though.  There is no English dub to speak of so you’ll have to placate yourself with the superb Japanese track.  It captures the harrowing mood quite well, especially with all the screaming and shirking girls all over the place. 

Demon Prince Enma successfully weaves mystery, suspense and horror into a very enjoyable, albeit short, experience.  Focusing more on the story and characters than the action, those looking for more depth and substance should find a happy medium here.  It may have some rough edges, but it’s a title you should definitely check out.

Miscellaneous:
Demon Prince Enma is one of Bandai Visual USA’s interestingly priced releases.  It came with no dub, two episodes per DVD and with an MSRP of $39.95  You can get a fairly good deal on it over at Amazon however.

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Demon Prince Enma
Demon Prince Enma
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Review Title:
Demon Prince Enma
Alternative Titles:
Kikoushi Enma
Type:
OVA
Episodes:
4
Duration:
160 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2006-2007
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Genres:
Ecchi, Fantasy, Magic,
Mystery, Supernatural
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