DATES OF PRODUCTION: 2004
LENGTH: 55 mins with bonus material
All red blooded teenage boys have done it at one time or another. Maybe they were bored in math class, or wanted to pass a little time while seated on the porcelain throne. But at some point in their pre (or post) pubescent development, they have taken pen to paper or bathroom stall wall and sketched out a little hardcore sex scene to while away the moments. The men were usually overly muscled and endowed like a racehorse on steroids. The women were crudely constructed, with wide open beavers looking more like alien seed pods than provocative fleshpots. Tits were gargantuan and stood at angles that defied nature, physics, logic and reality. And any insertion or cartoon copulation had the grace of a stick figure fugue, with unusual physical parameters being explored like a crazy kiddie Kama Sutra.
Naturally, this one-dimensional ballpoint and ink pornography was seen are part of the coming of age, a line drawing way of exploring the taboo subject of sex and sexuality. But for the Japanese, such animated antics are part of the culture of carnality. Whether you refer to it as Japanimation, anime or hentai (which is actually a subcategory of the genre, but never mind) soft and hardcore animated films are part of the entertainment mainstream in the land of the rising sun. While their cultural and social impact and implications are far too varied to discuss in a simple DVD review, it is interesting how accepted this unusual art form is becoming among Western audiences.
Hoping to capitalize on this consumer confidence, Japanese company Hot Storm Anime has teamed up with Adult Source Media to release the incredibly popular Daiakuji – The Xena Buster series in America. Arriving in episodic installments, the first volume features the set up and initial adventure of this gang member turned anti-social stud. And the results are insanity wrapped inside an enigma. The storyline is straight out of your standard battle royale frame of mind. But there is an odd arousal factor to the cartoon fucking which is kind of creepy, especially if the last time you got wood from a drawing was back in middle school.
The DVD: The Daiakuji story is kind of complicated, and even with a 20 minute prologue at the start of the disc, the narrative is dicey at best. The basics are this: Yamamoto Akuji used to be a big wig in Osaka as part of his grandfather's house, which seems to be a sort of cultural slang for gang or mafia-like family. While he was in prison, there has been a war. Japan has become so powerless that a new nation (or it could be an alien planet, who knows) has taken over. The rulers are now all women; the ladies have somehow managed to overthrow the male population and take over. This doesn't keep them from getting raped and abused, mind you, but they do get lots of regal titles and important power poses. Upon returning to his home, he discovers his grandfather has been replaced by a domineering bitch who wants the ex-con dead. Unable to gain access to his old place in the underworld pecking order, Akuji falls in with a volunteer gang (read: resistance fighters) made up exclusively of unplucked virgins. In between sex sessions, Akuji plots to take back his place in the family business.
From this point on, it's a lot of stand offs and stare downs, with tons of interesting animation techniques and a weird attention to sexual detail. Dealing with the drama and the action dynamics first, Daiakuji is no more unusual than your typical anime title. The artistic technique is very evocative, giving is a visually arresting presentation of both human and hardcore ideals. While the doe-eyed, noseless features of all the characters are a little too Caucasian to be believable in a realistic manner, they do lend themselves to the futuristic facets of the story. When we witness a battle or a brawl, it is done in a suggestive, seamless approach. Instead of fast-paced fisticuffs and anarchic shot selections, we get single enigmatic images, expertly drawn and drafted, used to indicate, not overtly explain, the situation between the combatants. Occasionally, a series of drawings will be used to suggest a robust brawl, but the overall design is impressionistic, not based in pragmatism.
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There are also a lot of in jokes and asides here, obvious jabs at other anime titles or social morays that we never get a chance to understand. While the dialogue is translated well - if almost too literally - the signs and symbols scattered throughout this obtuse Osaka are left to our own diminished devices to decipher. One scene in particular has a character's penis blotted out by an obvious black bar. There are visible Japanese characters on the symbol, and even a spilt second sequence where an arrow and a few more figures appear. This is obviously a jab at the strict censorship issues that still plague Japan, but this is also just one critic's conjecture. Could also be a dumb dirty joke, but we'll never know.
The prologue portion of the DVD tries to help us through the more intricate aspects of the narrative, but it's so rapid fire and random (introducing far too many characters in a single sitting) that we can barely get a handle on who's who, let alone how they fit into the story. And while the reversion into a kind of video game cartoon style for the foreword is extremely novel (and reminiscent of the title's console based beginnings), it does give an incredibly false impression about the XXX facets of the feature. So, from a plot point of view, Episode 1 is all overtures and preambles, with very little in the way of character development, complex interpersonal dynamics or a real sense of adventure. Daiakuji is meant as a sampler, a way to whet your whistle for other wanton animated offerings. How you respond to this initial installment will probably predict your desire to delve into the rest of this randy retreat.
As for the sex, well, that is something all together different. The hentai approach to porn on this DVD is very straightforward. The petite, underage-looking women get absolutely STUFFED with cartoon cock. Mouths accept meat so large that you expect their jaws to dislocate and tiny, tight pussies are plowed with pud so massive that you cringe at the thought of these cunts doing the skin splits. Each anime gal is initially reluctant, putting up quite a fight before the fucking. But once they are touched in their tender vittles, they are more than ready to rock and roll, putting up a horribly wounded fight while simultaneously giving in to the ramdrodding. The fantastically endowed men are either suave, cool copulaters or outrageous sexual deviants, with the only difference being their character design and approach to the poon. The perverts are slobbering, demented fools, as dirty as the thoughts in their heads, and resembling demented demons in their desire to engage in erotica. The gentlemen are equally aroused, but they have a fashionable sensibility to the sharking. Indeed, they almost never disrobe when working their wang.
There are no real scenes here, just the occasional smut-based aside where characters crawl off to fuck and suck for a while. Instead of saying 'Hello', Akuji tends to greet with his groin, grabbing at tits or twat with aggressive abandon. The ladies make loud, irritating monkey noises while they are being molested, and they are so juicy and moist to the touch that torrents of love liquid are painstakingly animated to showcase their slit sluice. The hardcore is handled like the fighting – iconic images used to show and suggest. Oddly, there are no pops here, no delivery of dick drippings for the ladies to lick up and love. Instead, the gals flow freely, their passions turning into tonic that explodes and floods down the sides of immense man members like zany Zen waterfalls. The only anal sex is the occasional violation of a pucker by a single finger, and the positions run the routine gamut from doggy to mish to cowgirl. While there is a lot of fondling and tit play, digital manipulation and exploration, the XXX sequences here seem rather secondary to the entire enterprise.
Indeed, the first flaw in Daiakuji's release rationale is that we only get 55 minutes of material on the disc, and if you go on the theory that only about 30% contains carnal knowledge, that means there is only a mere 18 minutes of potential porn, and that is a very LIBERAL estimate. Indeed, it feels more like 5 to 10 minutes of guy on gal or girl/girl gratuity. Why the decision was made to limit the amount of anime here, to only provide the prologue and a single episode really makes no sense. If you love the series, you'll be pissed not to see more of it. If you hated it, the lack of any real economic value feels like an added insult to a wallet-based injury. But if you are up in the air about it – as the Dirge is, frankly – you'll be angst ridden over which path to take next. Do you buy the follow-up, hoping that the promise presented in the trailer preview for Episode 2 truly delivers? Or do you just give up on Daiakuji, realizing that even with a more interesting storyline or salient set of interpersonal dynamics, this is just cartoon smut, and very little of it? However you answer, you're bound to be a tad disappointed.
And that's the second folly in Daiakuji's facet. For all the hentai hype, for the promise of something promiscuous and potent, the hardcore action here makes Michael Ninn look like J&M Productions. This is XXX softened by cell shading, smut sullied by artistic design and dimension. When people pork, you can measure their responses by the look in their eyes, the sweat slicking their skin or the passion pouring off their pairing. But no matter how well constructed, drawn or detailed, what we see here are pieces of paper getting it on, inks and paints putting on the pounding without a lick of humanity or authenticity. This is fantasy taken to an unreal realm, a freakish fetish that might be best left to those who can appreciate and accept it. True, there is that tingle of innocence violated, of the dirty, disgusting ideas of one's youth being given lewd life in a form more favorable to our adolescent ideals. Indeed, watching Daiakuji – The Xena Buster is a lot like seeing a seedy stall drawing come to life. It may be erotic for a moment, but it has very little lasting impact.
The Video: One of the best things about the Daiakuji disc is the gorgeous transfer given to the title. The 1.33:1 full screen image looks incredible, highlighting the detail in the animation flawlessly. Colors are sound and never bleed, while the contrasts are crisp without being overly enhanced. As for the animation itself, it is smooth and seamless. No cell ghosting or optical printing problems here. From a purely visual standpoint, this DVD looks amazing.
The Audio: Perhaps the one word that best describes the aural offering here is OUCH! As with most non-dubbed offerings from Asia, everything is overmodulated, turned up to "11" and mixed with an ear for the cacophonic, not the subtle. Voices don't shout, they SHRIEK! Women don't moan, they BRAY like a banshee stuck with a samurai blade. Dialogue comes in huge, rapid-fire chunks, and the Japanese characterizations all sound the same – either insane, cutesy wutesy or massively macho. The resulting aural attributes will test your tolerance for the harsh, the distorted and the audibly anarchic. The Dolby Digital Stereo is flat, faceless and without much finesse, and while some can argue that an English dub should have been presented, having the original language here is far more interesting, even if it is also far more irritating.
The Extras: So, with only 55 minutes of material offered up, you'd think that Adult Source Media would give us something a little more substantial than a couple of trailers and a standard stupid photo gallery. The lack of extras adds to the already frustrating facets of this title, and makes its marketability and mercantile value that much less attractive. Context is important to something like Daiakuji, since it is coming from both a cultural and conceptual place most Western audiences aren't familiar with. This is not Fritz the Cat, after all, but a true attempt at mixing hardcore with anime style animation. Anything that would have complimented or supplemented our understanding would have been helpful and should have been included.
Final Thoughts: Admittedly, this is a niche title going for a formidable obsessive demographic, an offering that already has fans salivating while novices simply sit back and scratch their noggins in numbing disbelief. As an introduction to hentai, Daiakuji – The Xena Buster is a little too plot heavy and a little too porn light to really satisfy either proclivity. As a result, a rental is much more in line with the parameters of this presentation than an outright recommendation. On the Disco Dirge Peter Meter, Daiakuji rates a respectable 5.5 out of 10, but the lack of significant bonus material really undermines the replay value. Couples will be as baffled as beguiled by this carnal cartoon, therefore a Cohabitation Certification is withheld. There are a lot of items from Japan that translate well to a Western mindset – sushi, crazy kid vid fads, automobiles – but anime is a tough sell for a culture raised on Warners and Disney. Tossing sex into the mix just muddles things up. Daiakuji is an interesting diversion, but it won't be changing many minds about animated pornography anytime soon. While what we witness is definitely adult, the genre is still stuck in the scribblings of junior high school.