Twilight of the Dark Master

Twilight of the Dark Master is a silly cartoon based off of a silly comic with a silly title. What makes it notable, however, is the man behind it all–the dude, Akiyuki Shinbo. After proving himself as an animator, Shinbo then went on to direct a number of OVAs and a few TV series in the mid-to-late ’90s. While some of these earlier works are of questionable quality, they all tend to have something interesting to bring to the table, and are enlightening to those who follow the man’s work, such myself.

Twilight of the Dark Master is pretty typical of any OVA you’d find lurking on the shelves of Blockbuster in the late 90s–there’s a wealth of gore, naked women, and naked women being slaughtered horribly. It’s action, martial arts, sci-fi, comedy, straight from Japan AND NOT KIDS STUFF!!! Even though the piece’s narrative is about neck-deep in Japanese cartoon clichés, what makes it worth watching are the bold touches of Shinbo magic here and there.

In my eyes, Shinbo’s work is characterized by alternative colour schemes, abstraction and unique camera work. His style is fairly prevalent across the film’s forty-five minutes, but it doesn’t really save the piece from its cliché ridden plot. A lot of Shinbo techniques we see in later works make their appearances here, and do their work well enough. There’s a smattering of dutch angles, lots of faraway shots, a number of shots with silhouettes of random objects in the foreground, and a bunch of eccentrically designed interior locations. A 4:3 aspect ratio hurts all of this, as these techniques aren’t given the true cinematic presentation they require. Right at the end Shinbo decides enough is enough and everything goes widescreen for one pivotal moment.

While this is easier to recommend than the Hurricane Polymar OVA, it’s still a very flawed work, and probably not worth watching more than once. I’d only seriously recommend it to Shinbo fans, since that’s the best thing it has going for it.

One Comment