Demon City Shinjuku is a movie adaptation of the light novel of the same name and is another collaboration between Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Hiedeyuki Kikuchi. You can watch the film without having to read the book beforehand as the plot is simple and straightforward. Some of the scenes of the film were even used in Johnny Mnemonic.
The film is about the center of Tokyo Shinjuku which has now become off limits due to a disaster. It opens up between two rivals, Levai Rai and Genichorou fighting on top of a tall building. Levai Rai, possessed by evil spirits, defeats Genichorou whose sword is lost in the depths of sea. The film then jumps to nearly 10 years later where Genichorou’s son Kyoya, a wooden sword teacher, is summoned to stop Levai Rai after he sends his demons to kidnap the world president. Kyoya has only 3 days to stop Levai Rai and there is not a moment to lose.
The highlight of the film was its flawless animation which even today, still looks nicely detailed and clear and very fluid. Small details like leaves blowing and rain falling were nice touches. Other visual effects like lightning strikes looks impressive.
Action in the film is really well done. Each of the sword fights were unique and nicely choreographed. Visually, they all look different. Violence in the film is more subdued and some of it happens off screen such as a cat getting its head ripped apart by a demon. There is some suggestive content in the film but it is more subdued. There are just glimpses of it.
Shinjuku is torn apart and becomes a demon infested ruin. The highly detailed city was dark, dreary and looks a very dangerous place to be. Death lurked around every corner, building and alleyway. Coloring in this film is nicely done and it is similar to Wicked City with its shadowy visuals and shades of black, blue and red hues.
The 80s synth music soundtrack sounds a lot like Wicked City and Bio Hunter. While the music was decent enough, it did not fit well into the film itself. The characters in the film are not that great. They are completely one dimensional and unmemorable. Rama Sayaka, the daughter of the world president who is on the mission to rescue him, is very naïve and clumsy. She keeps getting in the way and is more a hindrance to the mission than anything else. Rah Levai is a demon and his main goal is to take over the world and make humanity his slaves. He is purely evil with no redeeming qualities. Kyoka, the cocky reluctant hero, is just resentful that he has to go on this dangerous quest to rescue the world president and cannot see beyond his own narrow world view. He cannot perceive that Rah Levai is a threat to all humanity and is not really that concerned with stopping the threat.
Voice acting is pretty bad and unconvincing. The script and dialogue were cliched and attempts at being melodramatic comes off as cheesy. They offer stark contrast to the dark and brooding atmosphere of the movie. One Mexican character has the worst accent and sounds extremely silly. It was annoying and distracting. Kyoka is often nonchalant and the casual tone of his voice is often at odds with the current situation. Much of the humor comes from him and it does not feel funny and can more than often come off as flat. Rama Sayaka’s voice sounds more British than Japanese. The words do not sound clear at times mostly because of the terrible accents.
Some of the character models look recycled from other Madhouse works like Ninja Scroll and Wicked City. One demon in the film looked strikingly like Tessai from Ninja Scroll. The main antagonist Rah Levai looks a lot like Meier Link from Vampire Hunter D.
The movie feels empty and unfinished like there is going to be a sequel. There is really nothing much else to say for this film other than its just average.
The film gets 3 stars out of 5.
If you want bland entertainment without having to think too much, then you might enjoy Demon City Shinjuku.