Posted by psgels on 26 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


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.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

5 Responses

  1. Petrouchka says:

    I’m guessing you got this on Share? I’ve no idea how to use that thing so I’ll try to look in some other places, but I have the feeling this is gonna be a hard one to find. Which is a shame, it sounded interesting.
    Also, if you’re a fan of horror, can I suggest you to give Kikoushi Enma a shot? It’s worth watching for the last two OVAs alone, as they give the humans more time in the spotlight than the main character. Not exactly original, but quite well-done.

  2. psgels psgels says:

    Petrouchka: actually, I got my version from the site below. You can just use bittorrent to download it, if you’re able to understand a bit of Japanese:

    http://saiei.edwardk.info/

  3. Petrouchka says:

    Awesome ! Thanks for the link, there’s a load of interesting stuff in there.

  4. jan_l says:

    where exactly did you download yours? i’ve been searching for it like mad and yet seems like not alot of people knows about this anime.

  5. Al says:

    There is indeed a Karura Mau movie and it is excellent. It takes place before the OVAs and gives much of the back story for the main characters. If you can, you should absolutely watch the movie first.

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  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:34 AM)
    And directed it as a co-production with America, using a Japanese cast.
    Yeah…this is impossible…
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:32 AM)
    The only way a live action ghost in the shell film would work is if Mamoru oshii directed it.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:29 AM)
    Wait wait…his Van helsing film is a reboot sorry I confused it with the other one.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:28 AM)
    @Bam: Zack Snyder should be kept far far away from adapting comic books. The only film by him I enjoyed was the dawn of the dead remake. In terms of Sanders the only film I have seen by him is Van Hellsing and I was alot younger when I saw it, even then it was a guilty pleasure.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:21 AM)
    @Bam: I considerably enjoyed his films terminator, terminator 2 and the abyss. I wish Nolan would go back to making films on the level of insomnia and momento.Johannson is an attractive woman and under the skin which she was recent in was a good film but I think shes not much of an actress.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 04:50 AM)
    @Emma: I still think Cameron is substantially more talented than Rupert Sanders. At least Cameron knows how to get the package together and made a watchable, and technically groundbreaking, film out of Avatar which would’ve been utter B movie shit in lesser hands. GitS was never going to work regardless of Scarlet Johansson, while Alita could’ve been something. I do believe however that Nolan and Snyder would’ve probably been a much more compatible match for the franchise.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 01:57 AM)
    @Bam: James Cameron hasn’t made a film I’ve enjoyed since terminator 2.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 01:55 AM)
    @Bam: Wow, someone else who noticed the Elysium/battle angel commonality, I’ve been thinking about that for a while myself also.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 01:18 AM)
    Also looking back I notice heavy thematic similarities between Elysium and Battle Angel Alita. The labor division and the great disparity in life-quality of Earth versus Elysium is almost a direct parallel to Tiphares and the Scrapyard. I wonder if this is going to hinder the Alita’s Hollywood adaptation, in which case good- that horrendous GitS one is more than enough.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 01:13 AM)
    Truthfully Seinen is an age/gender demographic and not really a genre or category, but even within Japan the term has come to be identified with manga that have sexuality and violence like the works of Go Nagai instead of those that contain general adult themes. That’s why comedies are pretty much never considered Seinen, even though some are probably only appreciated by the Seinen crowd.

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