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Laughing Target
Reviewer: Guy Wheatley 02/28/2002

Yazuru and Azusa are descendants of the expiring Shiga clan. In order to preserve the family legacy, Azusa's mother and Yazuru's father agree to have cousins Azusa and Yazura marry each other when they are of age. Ten years later, Azusa's mother dies and Azusa goes to live with Yazuru's family. Azusa fully intends on claiming that promise of marriage from Yazura in spite of it being wrought during their childhood. She has been waiting, faithful, not so much speaking to another boy since that time. Yazura, however, has his own life as a high school student. He's the captain of the archery club, and he has a girlfriend named Satomi. Yazuru didn't expect Azusa to be so bent on the arrangement. But Azusa soon shows that she in fact is dead serious, to the point of terrorizing Satomi in order to claim Yazuru for her own. What lengths will Azusa go to have Yazuru for herself?
As most anime fans know, there are two sides to the coin of Rumiko Takahashi. One side showcases her zany penchant for romantic comedies ("Ranma ½", "Maison Ikkoku"), filled with clever wordplay, zany characters, and hyperbolic animation. The other side belongs to her epic fables filled with doomed romances, deadly power struggles, and tragic fates ("Mermaid Series"). Laughing Target falls squarely with the later.
Unfortunately, Laughing Target isn't very good. Mostly, this is because the themes, characters, and even the art seem recycled from Ms. Takahashi's other better anime works. Azusa looks like a Towa-in-training from "Mermaid Forest", Satomi looks like Mana with a haircut, and Yazura is a dead ringer for both Yuta and Godai-kun from "Maison Ikkoku". The three main characters of Laughing Target basically act as pawns in this tale of a Shiga clan power struggle, with Azusa at the helm, who won't take Yazura's: "Marriage? No thanks, got a girlfriend" for an answer.
The entire tension of the plot revolves around Azusa creating incidents and attacking Satomi. The progress is utterly predicable, up to the showdown at the end. There's some uncertainty about the significance of the Shiga bloodline as it relates to Azusa. Is it a demonic presence that has a hold over its carriers? Or is Azusa the monster who manipulates the ancestral power of Shiga to her own ends? Azusa's history with these emerging powers manifesting themselves are shown in a few flashbacks, and we're shown that those who tend to get in Azusa's way end up being devoured by giant spectral leeches. That's the most interesting thing to note about The Laughing Target, amidst an otherwise tepid plotline and paper-thin characters.
Perhaps this was just a mediocre adaptation of the manga, but considering someone of Rumiko Takahashi's talents this is an underwhelming effort. For devotees of her work Laughing Target is a passable, if unengaging, way to spend an hour.
Laughing Target is, along with Fire Tripper and Maris the Chojo, part of Rumiko Takahashi's Rumic World manga trilogy.

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Review Title:
Laughing Target
Alternative Titles:
Warau Hyouteki, Rumic World 3
50 Minutes
General Rating:
2 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Horror, Mystery
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