Four more days of OVA reviews after this one!
There’s a brief overview on the form itself below, before I get to the actual review.
I hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned before, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂
- An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
- Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
- No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
- To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
- Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
- Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
- First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
- The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent
Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)
Twilight of the Dark Master is a pretty dark OVA released in 1997 US / 1998 JPN, at a time some years after the peak of the direct-to-video format.
Even so, it’s mostly exactly what you might expect from an OVA – extra detail in general, extra detail on the violence and nudity, with some of it gratuitous but here, not exactly falling into the realm of modern shock-horror either.
And there is a story. And some great animation and use of colour and light at times too – not just via the general high-level from many OVAs, but there was one sequence in particular that was pretty compelling. Not because it was the greatest thing in the world, but because it was just really effective.
I think it’s the mix of flicker, of slow-motion, and the use of muted and also selective colour, that brought things together – I wonder how much of it was computer-assisted via layering, possibly? Seems like a lot of work to get everything in place.
The story follows the conventions of a revenge* thriller mixed in with some procedural, magic, horror and cyberpunk aspects too, and has at least a couple of surprises to go with the wide range of genres.
Now, that might sound like a lot going on, and it is, but I enjoyed the mix.
Today, director Akiyuki Shinbo would probably be best known for March Comes In like a Lion. Obviously, something such as a previous work by Akiyuki, The SoulTaker, is a far closer comparison in terms of content, when it comes to Twilight of the Dark Master.
In the end, I’m not sure how much of the visuals I can attribute to Akiyuki Shinbo or storyboard artists, verses manga artist Saki Okuse, but from the composition to lighting to framing, it’s definitely all well-above average for me.
So too, some of the character designs, which have both detail and some range. (Again, I mention this to contrast what seems like one of my more recent pet peeves – anime with characters who all look generally quite similar).
Now, this OVA is most definitely not suitable for the younger viewers out there – although, I doubt Twilight of the Dark Master is on the radar for that age group anyway.
(Or perhaps, on anyone’s radar for the most part).
I must note that for all the things I enjoyed about the OVA, Twilight of the Dark Master suffers a little from its reliance on low-key lighting and some pandering, but maybe more than that – as the ending just wasn’t as strong as the rest of the short film.
Ridiculously, I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is… maybe the shift in scale? It feels too sudden for me. If you’ve seen this one, that might make sense. Or maybe not!