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[ café reviews ]

Warau Yoteki
(The Laughing Target)

Copyright: © 1985 Shogakukan / Kitty © 1993 US Manga Corps.
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Occult
Length: 50 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Advised
Format: Original Japanese Dialog, Subtitled (VHS), English Dubbed (VHS)

Director: Matsuzono Toru Screenplay: Kaneharu Tomoko, Takayashiki Hideo Music: Kuni Kawachi

[ rated pg ]


Parental Guidance Advised

  • Profanity: None

  • Sex/Nudity: There is a five or six second scene with Satomi in the shower (full nudity, but very little detail) and she runs around the school locker room in just underclothes for a couple of minutes, but there is nothing remotely sexual in the entire movie.

  • Violence: Definitely present, but not overwhelming. Azusa kills several people (and a dog) but in general there is little blood. There aren't even any bodies, since all the dead bodies are consumed by the "hungry ghosts" (they look like glowing slugs) that follow Azusa. Probably the most graphic death in the movie is Azusa's when she is stabbed through the forehead with an arrow.

    There is one very disturbing scene where Azusa's mother realizes that her own daughter is a demon and tries to strangle her, which directly to the mother's mysterious death.

    One more scene that should be mentioned appears when Azusa thinks back to her childhood. In this scene he is being chased by older boys, and kills one of them in self defense. The implication is that they are trying to rape or molest her, but it's pretty veiled.

[ plot summary ]

vhs jacket

On his way home from school one day Yuzuru Shiga, a High School student and captain of the Archery Club (a skill which comes in handy later on) makes an off-hand remark to his girlfriend (Satomi) that his fiancee is coming from the country to live with his family because of her mother's (Yuzuru's aunt's) mysterious death. After convincing Satomi not to kill him, he explains that the marriage was arranged when he was six and means nothing to him.

His fiancee, who also happens to be his cousin, is named Azusa and stuns him by being quite beautiful and still quite set on marrying Yuzuru. Azusa seems creepy from the start, and she has abnormally pale skin and arrives wearing a black dress that makes her look like a Japanese version of Wednesday from the Addams family. Satomi does have things to worry about, however, starting with Azusa's obsession with marrying Yuzuru. When Satomi becomes the target of mysterious supernatural attacks, she suspects the jealously possessive Azusa, but how could quiet, sweet Azusa have anything to do with this?

[ capsule review ]

This movie is a great little supernatural thriller, like a cross between "Fatal Attraction" and "Poltergeist" told in the smooth straightforward style that Rumiko Takahashi is so famous for. Azusa is largely one dimensional, but even that's well done so that it becomes eerie instead of boring. This is really a surprisingly good anime, with detailed (but not super-realistic) artwork and convincing, well rounded plot development. The characters are especially good; Rumiko avoids stereotyping Yuzuru and Satomi, creating a very believable relationship between them. I especially enjoyed the characterization of Satomi as the jealous girlfriend. She's just possessive and strong willed enough to be funny, but not so overboard that she become one-dimensional. Azusa is also fascinating because she has something of a split personality: whatever control the demon has over her, some of her still remains to recoil with horror at what she sees herself doing. In many ways I feel more sorry for her than any other character.

The voice acting was very good with no real standouts or poor performances. Music was an important part of this film, and ranged from adequate to excellent. The song played as Yuzuru and Azusa walk to school for the first time is really creepy.

Underneath the deceptively simple storytelling, the movie raises some interesting points and questions. Yuzuru's aunt was the head of the clan, and strong willed enough to force Yuzuru into an engagement that he didn't understand (what with being six years old and all). The relationship between Azusa and Yuzuru is also fascinating and Yuzuru has to deal with Azusa's question: "Does a childhood promise mean any less?"

Final note: I have no idea where this title came from. While most of the characters in this movie are targets at one time or another, none of them find the situation particularly humorous.

Overall, a very enjoyable anime.
- DB, 98.11.30

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: N/A N/A 4 stars
Direction: N/A N/A 3 stars
Acting: N/A N/A 3 stars
Animation: N/A N/A 3 stars
Music: N/A N/A 4 stars
Translation: N/A N/A N/R
Overall Rating: N/A N/A 4 stars

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