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Sakuya, The Slayer Of Demons
(Region 2 Special Edition)
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Japanese Title: Sakuya Yokaiden (“Sakuya, The Demon Slayer”)
Director: Tomoo Haraguchi
Original Release Year: 2000
Running Time: 88 minutes

DVD Released By: Warner Home Video (Japan)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese 5.1
Extras: Audio commentary, behind-the-scenes videos, trailers and TV spots, character / cast & crew bios
Subtitles: Japanese
Closed Captions: None
Region: 2
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 30
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: 1,500 yen
UPC #: 4988135536365
Catalog #: HP-SP 18765
Status: Available


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Sorry the pictures don't show up better.  The cover art is highly reflective, which gives it a cool "metallic" look, but also makes it hard to scan.
CLICK ON THE PICTURE FOR A LARGER IMAGE
Reviewed by:  Jen
The Film: In the year 1707, eruptions of Mt. Fuji have released numerous demons upon Japan.  The Sakaki family is destined to fight the demons using Muramasa, the mystical Vortex Sword, which drains its wielder's life.  Sakuya Sakaki's father is killed in battle with a Kappa (a turtle-like water demon).  Sakuya inherits the sword and the demon-killing destiny of her family.  She finishes off the Kappa, but saves its infant son.  She raises him as her own brother and Sakaki heir, Taro Sakaki.

Six months after the defeat of the Kappa demon, Sakuya and Taro (now grown into a 10-year-old boy!) set out for the source of the demons, the field of Kasanagi at the base of Mt. Fuji.  They are accompanied by two ninjas, Hyoeh Mashiragi and Shuzo Nigarasu.  On the way to fight the ultimate demon, the Spider Queen, Sakuya and her company encounter a cat-demon, a wicked puppet master, a group of thieves, and demons both friendly and fierce.

Along the way, Taro's loyalty to Sakuya is tested.  Is he the Sakaki heir, as Sakuya thinks of him, or will he side with the demons?  Sakuya is tested as well.  She vowed to never use the Vortex Sword on humans (the only way to replenish her own life-force), but along the way she encounters men that may be even worse than the demons.

Sakuya, The Slayer Of Demons is a fun action / fantasy.  With the lead characters being a teenage girl and a young boy, the movie is aimed at a younger audience.  However, it is enjoyable for all ages.  The movie is often very stylized, with comic book-like subtitles popping up to describe new heroes and villains.  There is also a guest appearance by several creatures from Daiei's classic Yokai movies.  The special effects (by Shinji Higuchi of the Heisei Gamera series) are generally very good, with only a few fake-looking shots.  Sakuya, well played by Nozomi Ando, is a very strong female lead and she carries the movie well.  Even young Taro is not annoying, as some might expect him to be.  Grade:  B+

Video: Sakuya is presented in anamorphic widescreen.  The video quality is excellent.  The image is very detailed.  Darker scenes, such as night shots, are clear.  The bright, stylized color pallet of the movie looks even more vibrant than the Hong Kong release from Universe Laser & VideoGrade:  A

Audio: The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound comes through loud and very, very clear.  The sound is so good that it even has a “5.1 feel" to it on a standard stereo television.  Every individual aspect of the sound is distinct:  Music, voice, and sound effects are heard simultaneously while the most important sound is still the most dominant.  Excellent.  There is also an audio commentary track, in 2.0 stereo.  Grade:  A

Extras/Menus: This disc is loaded!  First up are character / cast & crew bios (Japanese text), some with behind-the-scenes and publicity photos, some with short (less than a minute) behind-the-scenes videos.  The good guys and bad guys each have their own menus.  There is also a map with little silhouettes of all of the demons.  The silhouettes may be selected to view the scene featuring that particular demon.

Next is a 21 ½ minute production video.  This video covers everything from Ando training for her role, to press conferences, to interviews, behind-the-scenes filming, a cast party with sake and barbeque, the blessing of the set, and costuming.  The video is not narrated.

Another informative extra is the audio commentary.  Well, it might be informative if you understand Japanese.  I don’t, so I can’t really comment on it.

Next up is a series of five special effects videos that can be watched all at once, or individually.  The first shows the miniature set from the opening Mt. Fuji sequence, as well as the demons that were released by the eruption.  It runs 3 minutes.  The second video shows the eruption of Mt. Fuji in CGI.  It runs 2 minutes.  The third video shows the effects for the “ghost horsemen” scene.  It runs 1 ½ minutes.  The fourth runs only 42 seconds and shows the effects work for a scene where Sakuya runs on bridge that blows up behind her.  The final segment shows the giant Spider Queen effects.  It runs 4 minutes.

The next extra is a series of screens with pictures and information on several objects, such as the Eight-Layer Cloud Mirror and the various weapons, from the movie.  All have links to the scene in which each object is featured.  Some have short behind-the-scenes videos involving these props.

Finally, there is a set of trailers and TV spots.  There is the Japanese theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, and four Japanese TV spots.  There is also a trailer with poorer film quality than the rest that appears to be dubbed into another Asian language.

The main menu is animated, and selecting any of the options from the main menu leads to a brief, humorous CGI animation of Taro before opening the submenu.  The rest of the menus are still pictures.  All text is in Japanese.  The menus are fairly easy to navigate, even with no understanding of Japanese. 
Grade:  A

Final Analysis: An excellent presentation of a fun movie, with a lot of extras.  If you understand Japanese, pick this disc up!  However, if you are like me, and don’t understand Japanese, you can still have quite a bit of fun with this disc.  Recommended, with the warning that this DVD is region 2 and does not contain any English dubbing or subtitles.  It is entirely in Japanese.  Grade:  A
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