The Persona Century Corporation has purchased nearly every parcel of land on earth. Dissension is not tolerated within the corporation's borders and those who oppose Persona are dealt with swiftly. Of those few places not yet under Persona's control is the free town of Kabuki-cho, also known as "The Dark Side of Tokyo". Within the town, under the leadership of a woman named Mai, is a small resistance group called Messiah. Into this world steps a man who takes the sobriquet of Kabuki-cho: Darkside. Sealed up in another dimension eighteen years ago by Persona Century, Darkside now returns to aid Messiah using his unique mystic power of renewal.
Directed by: Nobuyasu Furukawa
. Starring: Akio Ôtsuka
, Hideyuki Hori
, Kotono Mitsuishi
, Kôichi Yamadera
, Masako Katsuki
, Maya Okamoto
, Akira Natsuki
, Nozomu Sasaki
, Keizo Horiuchi
, Hiroshi Yanaka
, Maki Kachisa
, Jon Avner
, Scott Cargle
. Music by: Kazuhiko Toyama
By the middling overall rating and the mid-to-low range reviewer ratings, you can probably tell that something is amiss here, but it's really not all too terrible of a film. The main problem is that it's unfinished, like many an OVA and series in the early 90s anime circuit. As presented, many questions aren't answered in the 80-minute running length, and while it stands alone just fine with a potential sequel coming along, it's clear that most of these questions will never be explored because there isn't a sequel that will ever be made.
This series is tagged with words like vague, ambiguous, obtuse, etc, but the really important one is INCOMPLETE; it's not easy to tell if something will remain vague until the work is complete. but it's true that few ideas are adequately explored or explained.
The reason I gave Darkside Blues a 5, when it probably deserves closer to a 4 or even a 3, is because of a strong synchronicity of sound design and visuals to create a compelling atmosphere, as well as the entertaining pulp of its well-animated action and set-pieces. Even if the ideas and storyline are a little half-baked, it's certainly more compelling than your average action sci-fi romp, and its clear that a completed work with the same level of production quality and more fleshed-out and, most importantly, COMPLETE script could easily be an excellent work of art with a great deal of potential. The ambiguity, the strange illusory nature of Darkside's tenement building, and the dream aspect are especially intriguing.
Of course, it has its flaws other than being unfinished. Some of the events seem pointless, and there are too many characters to have very in-depth characterization and development in the span of just 80 minutes, so there really isn't much there. It can definitely seem a little cheesy or b-movieish, and this definitely isn't a cinematic masterpiece. Many of the events don't flow together so well or can be a bit jarring as well.
The story seems alright--it's a kind of dystopiccyberpunk sci-fi with a dark, somber atmosphere, sometimes leading some to lump it into the horror genre. Persona Century Corporation (PCC) has bought out most of the land and resources of the world, possessing around 90%--the remaining 10% will either soon be bought up or is inhabited by A.P. men (anti-Persona). Kabuki-Cho, a city in Japan, is one of the remaining free zones, though it is a slum with roving gangs and rampant crime and despair. This takes the focus of corporate rule in cyberpunk and consolidates it into one cohesive corporation that rules the world, bringing to mind issues of globalization and a new world order, which is often called a conspiracy theory, but heavy globalization, as can be seen in the 90s, when this was made, and in current era tends to trend towards an NWO, though it may not be as simple or obvious as what you would see in fiction like Darkside Blues.
An A.P. manrevolutionary is being hunted by PCC assassins and mutants for his role in a terrorist attack, and a gang of delinquents with anti-PCC views, referred to as Messiah, are helping him to escape.
Where everything becomes a bit more speculative is with the character Darkside. With his gothic mannerisms and attire and his stoic, almost inhuman nature, he resembles Kikuchi's main character in Vampire Hunter D, but he acts as a catalyst for many of the events that will come, reminding me of the mysterious man in Texhnolyze who creates chaos in the underground city to "further human evolution."
From what I was able to gather from the film (with some help from the manga) is that there's a device called the Mirror of Arbis, which seems to be a portal to another dimension. For some reason, Darkside was placed in this dimension by PCC when he was 3 years old, and he developed rapidly into a full-grown man with incredible psychic powers. At the very beginning, he rides out of a wormhole from the fourth dimension on a flying horse and buggy. Why he was sealed away, the nature of the dimension, and what allowed him to leave is a complete mystery
Darkside assists our protagonists against PCC numerous times, and he specializes in some sort of dream therapy that allows people to be "renewed." This is all very unclear, and while we can't known what the creators intended for this renewal process and its importance to the plot, it can be seen as a sort of psychotherapy, but much more direct, allowing him to enter into the subject's mind and dramatically reenact his or her memories, rather than the more passive process of talk therapy; he even uses what appears to be the same process against Enji, so it was probably going to be used to "renew" both commoners, heroes, and villains alike.
The source material consists of a 380-400 page one-volume manga, and if you read this with hopes of finding out more... spoiler warning, you won't--for the most part. It was a collaboration between writer Hideyuki Kikuchi (Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku) and Yuho Ashibe (Bride of Deimos, which was also adapted into a VERY incomplete OVA). The anime is a pretty faithful adaptation, with a few scenes cut, added or reworked. There is a sort of elegance to much of Ashibe's art, with some of the more elaborate scenes reminding me of artists like Suehiro Maruo; however, the backgrounds are often rather simple, other than establishing shots and more stylized sequences; unlike, say, an adaptation like Berserk, where the anime is inadequate at adapting the technical precision of Miura's art, Darkside Blues is an adaptation that is mostly superior. The imagery is improved, and it benefits greatly from sound and animation. Most of the changes in the anime were actually for the better.
For those who are curious, the ending is about the same in the manga, but the man with the mask (who I think may be a distinct character from Guren in the manga) is revealed to be Guren at the end of the anime and there's a confrontation between him and Mai, which partially developsresolves a subplot... kind of. This isn't in the manga, but it makes the anime feel more well-rounded. The nature of the dialogue between Selia and Tatsuya about peace and tyranny is pretty much the same, but possibly expanded a little bit in the manga. Near the end of the anime Enji is ordered to kill Darkside, beginning an interesting sequence where a whole city block is turned to stone, although Enji's fate is... left open to interpretation; this never happens in the manga either, and may have possibly been more of an invention by the adaptation team to give the appearance of more closure and to shoehorn a nice fight scene in at the end.
Another difference is a very strange one: during the scene where Tamaki tortures the rebel, she is holding a replica of what appears to be the fake control center that the rebels bombed while thinking it was the real one, and a scene is shown between two workers, but it doesn't make a lot of sense, and when the girl's body is turning into gold, Tamaki rams the replica into one of her wounds. It's very weird and may have been seen as too graphic for the adaptation.
Other than that, Katari is changed up a little bit and actually has a few short lines of dialogue in the anime, compared to his effeminate and mute character in the manga. The little sphere he holds isn't in the manga, but it's a good symbol to represent Darkside's opposition to the current order. The ending is roughly the same, and there's not any further closure. Furthermore, both Kikuchi and Ashibe are in their 70s and there doesn't seem to be any plans to continue, and it's questionable whether or not they would care to return to something they dropped in the early 90s.
Review by CantileverCaribou from the Internet Movie Database.