Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse: The Other Dynamic Armageddon
Manga legend Go Nagai's studio, Dynamic Productions, is just about as well-known as the man himself. But one must remember that Go Nagai is only half of what made Dynamic Pro the name it is. We must never forget about the late Ken Ishikawa, who met Nagai back in the 70s and had been just as important as Nagai up until his unfortunate death back in November of 2006. Still, there are similarities between these two men. Aside from having their own giant robot series (Nagai's Mazinger to Ishikawa's Getter Robo), they both also have their own stories about the apocalypse. Unlike Mazinger and Getter, though, Nagai and Ishikawa's takes on the end of the world aren't anywhere near as equally-known. As a fan of anime & manga it's very easy to hear about Devilman and Violence Jack, which are Go Nagai's stories about the apocalypse and what happens afterwards, respectively, but Ken Ishikawa's Majuu Sensen/Demon Beast War is nowhere near as well-known.
Majuu Sensen originally ran in Futabasha's Shonen Action magazine, debuting back in 1975, and lasted four volumes. As you can tell, the manga was Ishikawa's personal story about the apocalypse. In 1990, a 3-episode OVA adaptation was made, directed by Shunji Oga, who also directed the Amon Saga OVA and would later be the chief director of Golgo 13 TV in 2008. Majuu Sensen would go into hiding pretty much after that, outside of some references in later Dynamic Pro anime like Getter Robo Armageddon (where Ryoma's character design is based on MS's main character Shinichi Kuruma), until 2003 when animation studio Magic Bus (Mad Bull 34, Play Ball, Cobra the Animation ) created a 13-episode sequel of the story with the TV anime Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse.
On a seemingly normal day an entire city is destroyed by two gigantic and godlike beings, which signified the beginning of the coming apocalypse. Professor Genzou Kuruma is the leader of a cult who wish to awaken God so that humanity can finally be destroyed, but in order to awaken God he needs a specific type of blood. There are two people who carry this type of blood: Shinichi Kuruma, Genzou's own son who left his father, and Ayaka Sanders, a normal teenage girl who has a similarity to a woman named Maria, who Shinichi cared for up until her death. Genzou sends his genetically-altered beast people, called "New Humans", after Shinichi and during his adventures Shinichi meets up with Ayaka as well as a boy named Tomizoro (who claims is a descendant of ninjas). The only thing on Shinichi's mind is revenge against his father, since Genzou has experimented on his own son and wife, the results of which left his wife dead and Shinichi with the ability to absorb the power of beasts from his enemies as well as summon one of three animals from his body (a lion, a bear, and a hawk), and he will do anything to kill Genzou and protect Ayaka from harm.
As one can see simply from that synopsis, Majuu Sensen certainly has some backstory and craziness to it... But considering how Ishikawa worked with Nagai that is not surprising one bit. And that's really what you get from this series: A lot of craziness, violence, blasphemy, and lots and lots of blood. The story starts off a little monster-of-the-week, but eventually goes into a fully-focused story when Noah, a mysterious boy, is introduced and Shinichi finally meets up with his crazy father once again. At that point, though, the series truly goes off the deep end and hits you with some honestly surprising twists before reaching a final episode that results in you scratching your head in a "What exactly just happened?" way. But, hey, I saw this show after watching Getter Robo Armageddon (which had a weird-as-hell ending) and New Getter Robo (which the ending of still confuses me to this day), and when comparing all of these endings to each other, Majuu Sensen definitely makes to most sense and at least has some sense of understanding going on. I'm not complaining about any of these endings, though, since confusing as hell endings are kind of a staple of Dynamic Pro. The story of Majuu Sensen is an interesting one, though, so though the ending is weird and somewhat confusing the journey to get there is enjoyable.
Overall, the production itself isn't exactly anything amazing. Magic Bus isn't exactly know for breaking the bank with its animation budgets, outside of a few titles like Cobra, so Majuu Sensen looks good but not great overall. The show does get the bleak look of an apocalyptic world really well, so I commend the show for that, but not much else is really outstanding or memorable. The soundtrack isn't anything to write home about, though the opening and ending themes are good. Opener "Kaigenrei no Yoru" by 03 is a cool rock/jazz song that fits with the show's style for the most part, and ending "Kuuhaku no Toki" by Eri Hasegawa is a nice slow song that shows off the family-like relationship that Shinichi gets with Ayaka and Tomizoro. This is really a title you'll end up watching more for the crazy story than for the overall production.
For those who normally read this blog you might remember Majuu Sensen being brought up at one point before. That is because I did bring this title when I took a look at Enoki Films USA's catalog of licensed anime. Majuu Sensen is one of the titles in Enoki's "Anime Action" section (i.e. the section that killed Media Blasters' licensing deal with Enoki), and simply being licensed by Enoki means that the show is seemingly even less likely to be licensed than if a company had to talk to the Japanese about it. This anime did hit Latin and South America, though, where it took the name Beast Fighter - The Apocalypse and it was aired on TV over there since Latin and South America do have their own versions of anime TV station Animax.
Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse, though a good (& absolutely crazy) story, isn't anywhere near as recognized as Devilman and Violence Jack for some obvious reasons. Naturally, Devilman has it's satanic stylings and Violence Jack is psychotically violent and "rough" (i.e. you get things like rape being shown), while Majuu Sensen has only its blasphemy really behind it. This show has never been licensed nor fansubbed, though, making the only way to watch it is through bootleg subs, which have been ripped and distributed online, so there's no worry about giving those dirty bootleggers money they don't deserve. Still, I would mainly recommend Majuu Sensen to fans of Go Nagai's and Ken Ishikawa's works. If anything, it's really neat to see a version of the apocalypse that isn't from Go Nagai.