Next up in the category of “very obscure OVAs from the 80s and 90s” is Karura Mau (or as its full title reads: “Hengeitaimayakou Karuramau! Sendaikokeshienka”, which I’d rather keep abbreviated for rather obvious reasons). It aired back in 1990 as a six-part OVA (there was a movie too, I believe), but my guess is that it never really caught on. Which is a shame, because it’s really good. If you’re looking for horror and know a bit of Japanese (yes, I watched this in raw, so don’t bother asking me where to find subs) then you should check this out.
Before I start this review, I’d like to note one thing about the OVA’s rather questionable promo-art that you can find on sites as AniDB and MyAnimelist, because for the love of god… it’s got absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens here. Where the heck did that overly BL-picture come from anyway, because this is a story about two sisters who work for a shrine. These two guys who appear in the promo-art never appear in this story at all.
Anyway, Karura Mau is a pure, unadulterated horror thriller. At first sight, it may seem that it’ll be a collection of 6 random horror stories, in which our lovely leads exorcise one ghost every episode, but instead this turns out to be a continuous storyline. It’s easy to just stab someone in the hand, or draw some random corpse or goon, but horror really tries to make these scenes have impact, and Karura Mau succeeds really well in this department. It knows exactly that good horrors comes with good characters, and so it makes sure that throughout only 6 episodes, the antagonists are fleshed out and developed really well into sympathetic characters. The result is that this anime gets better and better with every single episode.
Another major plus for Karura Mau is its terrific soundtrack, full of influences from the eighties that manages to create a perfect scary mood. The graphics also look really good for something that’s nearly twenty years old, but I want to give especially credit to the gory scenes and blood. Because this OVA comes from the time of hand-painted cells, the bloody limbs and corpses are drawn in such a way that can’t possibly be mimicked by today’s computerized animation techniques. The budget for this series isn’t stellar, but nevertheless it shows the beauty of hand-painted cells.
Unfortunately, this is yet another one of these anime with the “the manga is so much larger”-syndrome. In Karura Mau, this doesn’t show through the story (it’s pretty standalone and wraps itself up nicely), but through the main characters. It’s obvious that they were developed in another arc than the one of the OVA, and so they pale in comparison to the well-fleshed out antagonists. Especially the two main characters are guilty of this, and the OVA partly assumes the viewer to be familiar with the manga (which, considering the popularity of this OVA, must be even more obscure)
It’s really a pure coincidence that I managed to discover Karura Mau, but as a fan of horror, I’m really glad that I did. It’s another one of those ancient gems that nobody knows about, and it deserves to be subbed or licensed. Its protagonists may feel a bit weird at times, but the antagonists really make up for it.