Kai Doh Maru (Kaidōmaru) 2001
I got the sense that Kai Doh Maru (and its focus on incorporating CGI into the storytelling) was somewhat connected to the same Production IG approach and era that included Blood: The Last Vampire.
The visual style of Kai Doh Maru is striking in a different way however, thanks to the washed out or water-colour look, an aesthetic the team use to evoke a historical feel. And it is distinctive, but watching it now… the early 2000s CGI is quite dated, at times reminding me of old architectural software, due to that flatness.
On the other hand, direction of the sharp action sequences feels great – and when colour appears it really stands out. I also liked both character design and the soundtrack but overall this isn’t one of my favourite OVAs.
The main issue I had was with the pacing and plot. Since Kai Doh Maru is around 40 minutes long, and takes on a pretty large story, there are a lot of gaps in what occurs onscreen. If I knew the Heian period and stories around the Shitennō well, maybe I’d have followed better – especially in regard to what I’d consider an abrupt ending. (And so maybe that’s not a fault of the storytelling truly, but a deficiency in my knowledge.)
Further, I surely missed many subtleties throughout due to that. I did pick up on the heavily restrained romance between Lord Raiko and our heroine of course – but having said that, the focus is on war, politics and historical details. There’s also a supernatural element too, but I won’t spoil how it’s used.
I certainly don’t see Kai Doh Maru mentioned much, even among older fans, but it’s memorable even if I don’t precisely think I enjoyed it from top to bottom.