Goku Midnight Eye OVA (1989) *Non-Spoiler Review*
An important part of my teen years that is in need of a proper look at as well as being an easily overlooked classic from my teen years worthy of seeing a possible revival, not to mention another example of why Yoshiaki Kawajiri was a big deal to this specific kind of genre in Anime of the 80’s to mid 90’s.
The first ova focuses on a strange series of murders happening to several police officers whose deaths have been reported as suicides which leads both to Shinjuku’s yakuza kingpin Genji Hakuryu and a mysterious woman who is able to distribute peacock feathers with eyes that just by having someone gaze at them leads into a daze (and then suicide). As Goku ends up being one of the victims of this hypnotic gaze he stabs his left eye out to break the gaze, at death’s door he is miraculously gains a new eye with some incredible features.
• Process data based upon sight so everything is analysed based upon what information has been stored.
• Hyper sensitive audio and sensors with the ability to hack any computer on the planet.
• Based upon every technological secret known to man gain access codes to nuclear arms and plunge the world into another war.
So essentially hyper-advanced super computer in his eye that can see and do anything, as well as the eye he is given a staff (much like The Monkey King and his staff) made of metal that can punch through any solid material and act as a powerful weapon. All whilst using it to fight Genji Hakuryu and his female laser shooting cyborg in the form of a stripper with motorcycle handles.
The second ova focuses on Goku as he has been tasked by Ryoko Kadoma to find her long lost brother Ryū Kadoma who has been made into a psychic super soldier who has gone missing but all tampering leads to a man known as Zenzo Kadoma as he uncovers the truth behind the lies and corruption behind Ryū Kadoma’s homicidal rampage.
What’s set up here in this is an incredibly engaging and promising detective noir story whilst at the same time adding a grimy and dystopian cyberpunk twist to his rendition of Journey to the west. But at the same time this has problems that for Anime it needed addressing.
Both OVA’s run for about 60 minutes, while the stories in both OVA’s are well told the biggest and really only problem with this is that there is so much here to be told. The story of how one man is given this rather unique and at the same time incredibly dangerous piece of technology and based on what he could do with it is never really developed on properly, all the while the characters whilst some of them are developed in tiny amounts needed to have more time focused on them so that some back-story as well as some insight on who they are and what they do needed to be addressed. So really the biggest problem with this is that it’s just too short.
The positives though outweigh the one major negative. Goku Midnight Eye is a cyberpunk tale through and through, the misty and dark atmosphere makes every part of the anime feel haunting and foreboding which harkens back to cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner and how the scope of the setting really brings so much to the story in how much the use of technology effects the characters and weaponry used. What makes this a gem is that this was made by the great studio Madhouse and done by legend Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, Demon City Shinjuku, Cyber City Oedo 808) and the style shows in the look of the characters and high resolution of detail in the set pieces. While this isn’t one of Kawajiri’s best works it falls in the typical setup that his films usually used where the male characters are either stoic, brooding badasses and the women are sexual livestock for the villains to abuse in some form or another as well as end up dying or dropped from the story. However for the most part the animation for being a product of the late 80’s is exceptional with its neon brightness to the cityscapes to the darkness of the alleys, sewers and dim-lit bedrooms for the two opposite love interests to engage in sexual intercourse are done well which is why this works well for being a noir styled anime, as well as for the character designs done by Hiroshi Hamasaki (BioHunter, Terraformars, Junk Boy, Zillion) it adds a sort of realism to the production.
Now from an audio perspective…First off the soundtrack by both Kazz Toyama & Yukihide Takekawa is barely noticeable for it being mostly a synth score to give it Goku Midnight Eye that cyberpunk feel, however the score doesn’t feel really that heavy or leave that much of an impact. The ending theme however by Yuki Katsuragi called Fighting in the Danger is easily a highlight as she offers a heavy roughness to the song which fits for a story like this.
The dub by Manga UK (Which was my first exposure to this when I saw it) works in little ways, not enough to leave an impression but to help carry the story and make the performances sound natural. Jeff Harding plays Goku a little better to make him sound somewhat cynical and dry as well as give any of the lines he says some form of memorability, which due to the incredibly short running span feels enough for him to do. The Manga UK dub also features names such as Garrick Hogan and Bill Roberts to help make something of the characters they play and make them sound natural.
Bottom Line when all is said and done Goku Midnight Eye is kind of a disappointment sadly. The use of the mythology from Journey to the West shows how much of a life there clearly was as well as seeing how it could be incorporated in a Cyberpunk setting, but all the while it’s just too short and the characters really have no development, not really enough to make them interesting. For a work of both Buichi Terasawa as well as a work by Yoshiaki Kawajiri this builds up the excitement and fails to deliver all because of the length, So much potential in this series and easily why as something as good as this clearly could be it deserves to be rebooted.
It’s an okay watchable little series that could be so much more, Worth watching anyway.