Mamono Hunter Yohko
Mamono (Devil) Hunter Yohko was one of the first anime (Japanese animation) series imported to the U.S., unless you count the number of cheesy television shows that were adapted for American audiences. It has also become one of the most popular. Mamono Hunter Yohko chronicles the adventures of a teenage schoolgirl as she inherits the family duty of protecting the earth from the demons who would cross from their own plane to ours. While the first movie has much of the dark, sinister action one would expect from a series called Devil Hunter Yohko, it's also tempered by the lighthearted humor that spurs much of the plot. Everything looks fun and rosy as Yohko flirts with her dream man, and as her childhood boyfriend, Osamu, pines for her, but there's something black and evil working underneath.
Yohko is initiated into the mysteries of devil hunting by her grandmother, Madoka. The duties of devil hunting are passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, in the Mano family. Yohko's mother, it turns out, forfeited her right to the devil hunter position when she lost her virginity before completing the training. What that has to do with anything we don't know, but Madoka insists that Yohko remain pure of body and mind while she trains to be a devil hunter. For a sixteen year-old girl, this may be more difficult than slaying monsters from another dimension.
The plot thickens when it turns out that the principal of Yohko's high school is actually a demon, preparing for the coming of the Black Queen, who will lead the demon hordes into our world. One would think that the government might be a good place to put a secret demon agent, but the demons obviously think the public education system is a more appealing target. And it gives this particular female demon the opportunity to hit on the teenage male populace -- including our underdog-boyfriend-contender, Osamu.
Osamu, then possessed by the principal-demon, sets out to deflower Yohko, thereby robbing her of her devil hunter heritage and ensuring the success of the Black Queen's arrival. Fortunately, a mysterious biker in black saves her from this hideous fate in a sequence which reminds us that anime is oftentimes NOT for kids. In fact, given the number of times we see Yohko naked and demons cut in half, "concerned parents" should probably watch this one after the tots have gone to bed. Normally we wouldn't bother to mention this, but cartoons have so long been thought the domain of children that it would be easy to mistakenly pick up Yohko as a children's movie.
The rest of the movie progresses pretty quickly: Yohko gains the ability to call forth her demon-slaying sword, and then learns the true identity of the principal and discovers the shocking truth about the Black Queen. A big fight ensues, with Yohko tossing out one-liners ("Look what you did to my dress!") and performing athletic stunts to make any Olympian jealous. Evil is vanquished, and Yohko lives to fight another day.
If you're interested in anime, Devil Hunter Yohko is a good place to start. It uses many of the established conventions of the genre (many of the school and poolside scenes are reminiscent of another anime classic, Project A-ko) and immediately showcases the differences between Japanese and American styles and uses of animation. It's also damn funny and an amazing film to watch in terms of visual creativity. Best of all, it's one of the few anime films you'll find on the shelf at Blockbuster (look for it under "D" for Devil).
Review date: 3/14/97
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