In those far-off times when I used to browse Amazon for second-hand games, I happened to notice that searches for “Suikoden” always came up with an interesting result in the VHS category- an OVA named Suikoden Demon Century. A few moments of research revealed that said OVA was not related to the videogame series of the same name, but nonetheless the title stuck in my head, and I vowed to track it down and watch it some day. Now, finally, that day has come.
I can’t say that I was expecting much from this OVA, which is as just as well, as it didn’t have a great deal to offer. The story is pretty much a carbon copy of any number of films from the same era; set in a lawless, post-earthquake 21st century Japan, it follows the tale of spiky-haired country boy Takateru Suga as he attempts to rescue his sister from the clutches of a villainous gang. After proving his destined hero status by saving children and collecting the obligatory set of allies, Takateru magically gains the power to defeat his enemies so that everyone can live happily (or at least adequately) ever after. I’d like to say that it was a hilarious slice of vintage cheddar, but apart from one or two amusing lines, it’s more of a tasteless mild cheese.
Why, then, you may wonder at this point, does the film even have the name Suikoden attached to it? Well, as it turns out, Takateru is not just any hero- he is the reincarnation of the leader of the 108 Stars (as featured in the original Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh story), and predictably, his newfound allies are reincarnations of the other stars. Naturally, 45 minutes is nowhere near long enough to introduce over a hundred named characters, and so Demon Century sticks with a more modest six. Perhaps more protagonists would have been revealed had this OVA led to further episodes or even a TV series, but as it stands, the inclusion of the 108 stars was something of a pointless addition.
Even the characters that do make it onto the screen are an underwhelming bunch- for the most part they simply appear, move around and go away again, having made so little impression that it is a struggle to even remember their names. The only vaguely interesting character is a transvestite who claims to only dress as a woman for aesthetic reasons, but nonetheless seems to develop feelings for the lead- by the end, however, we know as little about him as we do about any of the other protagonists.
Takateru’s sister spends most of the OVA wearing very little in the way of clothing, because that’s what female characters in this sort of film are supposed to do.
With such a poor story, one might hope that Demon Century can save itself with some decent action scenes, but unfortunately, the battles are as underwhelming as the rest of the film. Admittedly, they are a shade better than the current crop of stills that series such as .hack//Roots prefer, but even so, Demon Century’s fights can hardly be said to be good. The OVA cannot seem to decide what sort of style to adopt, including everything from melee attacks and gang brawls to gory beheadings and flame energy dragons. There’s even a completely ridiculous scene towards the end in which Takateru suddenly gains a destined fist powerful enough to not only punch a hole in one villain, but also cause the final boss’ head to explode on contact.
Although not tedious enough to send viewers to sleep, Suikoden Demon Century contains only the mildest hints of entertainments amidst an otherwise dull and mediocre offering. This sort of OVA can only appeal to fans of excessive gore or laughable cheesiness, and unfortunately, Demon Century is a good example of neither.