Yoma: Curse of the Undead

Yoma wants to be something important, something edgy, something new. In some ways, it nearly succeeds, but it nevertheless winds up lacking. I admire it for trying, but it doesn't quite measure up. It bends a few rules and tried to make a horror film out of a samurai epic, but it never really decides which it really is.

Yoma is essentially the story of a Shinobi named Hikage who finds that his lord is dead. To keep invaders from attacking his homelands, he must make sure that the word doesn't spread, and there's only one other person who knows: Maro. Maro has fought beside Hikage for years, and the show opens with them surviving an incredible battle. Maro runs off after the fight, and nearly kills Hikage with a poisoned shuriken. Hikage, puzzled and upset, accepts the task of finding and killing Maro. In the first of the two episodes that comprise the show, he goes into a strange village where the inhabitants are under the control of a spiderlike demon who keeps them from carrying out their deepest, darkest desires. The second episode is a bit more straightforward, and it pits the Yoma (demons) against Hikage in various cataclysmic battles.

Although the first part of Yoma is pretty dull, honestly, the second part moves quickly and holds the audience well. The fight sequences are well done, though they are quite gory. What lifts Yoma up is that the demons are not the tentacle beasts of late, but visions of the earth--a horse, a butterfly, a serpent. There is plenty of obvious symbolism here, and it almost works. However, the show follows the easy path and ultimately becomes predictable. The artwork and style is fine, but nothing new. From the way the story is told and the intent of the symbols themselves, you can tell the writers thought they were on to something. Unfortunately, at the last frame, it's not any more significant than Fist of the North Star or its brethren, and certainly not as entertaining as Ninja Scroll. It's a strong case for rental first, since I think it will appeal to those who like the martial arts genre.

Yoma: Curse of the Undead -- strong graphic violence, disturbing imagery -- C+