Want to know something cool about anime? The adventurous viewer can find plenty of series fitting under even the most specific sub-genre. So, say you enjoy super hero power fantasies and doom-laden horror thrillers in equal measure – there are actually plenty of shows to whet your ever-so-particular tastes.
Be fair warned, though… while all these “super horror” titles have plenty of color, action and spectacle, not one is intended to fulfill the sort of escapist catharsis you generally expect from cape fiction. Indeed, they mean to confound expectations, if not outright frustrate them. Good is never guaranteed to triumph over evil, and you may also leave each series feeling a little less great about the world (you know, as you do after watching horror).
So, in time for Halloween, here are some striking titles to check out under this little umbrella…
At first, this seems like anime’s answer to Kick-Ass. A naive male model puts his superhero fandom into action, fashioning an amateur vigilante persona to fight crime, for real, on the streets. The added gag is that his city is pretty safe already, so he doesn’t have much to take care of aside from jaywalkers. But the Kick-Ass parallels continue when he meets a rival vigilante who, like Hit Girl, has a cuteness belying a deadliness.
However, the show takes the first of several trippy turns about a quarter of the way through, and winds up feeling more like anime’s answer to Animal Man by the end.
Samurai Flamenco discovers there may actually be real supervillains out there. Or they could just be figments of his fracturing psyche. It’s hard to say, for sure. And yes, his journey gets majorly meta. Whole episodes are meant to be hokey, eerily recreating the simplistic TV shows our hero grew up idolizing. And like many of Vertigo Comics’ off-beat superhero reinventions in the early 90s, there’s always a menacing undercurrent bubbling under the post-modern derring-do.
Your enjoyment of this will vary depending on how long you can tolerate your leg being pulled, though.
PARASYTE — THE MAXIM
The elevator pitch would be Spider-Man as reinterpreted by Clive Barker. Or perhaps David Cronenberg directing an adaptation of the “Symbiote Saga” that introduced Spidey’s nemesis, Venom.
This invasion of body snatchers happens when alien parasites rain down on a quiet Japanese city and wriggle into the flesh of random humans, turning them into shape-shifting cannibals. Our lead is Peter Par… er… Shinichi Izumi, a bespectacled nerd who manages to trap his parasite in his hand and thereby gain all its ghoulish powers while retaining control of himself. The aliens play the long game, so Shinichi has time to adjust to how he’s changing–gaining muscle and confidence while losing nearsightedness and empathy.
Alas, there are no dance numbers to mark Shinichi’s mean-streak makeover. However, he does have many disturbing and thought-provoking conversations about human nature with the bug in his hand. An especially creepy sub-plot sees them battle one of Shinichi’s teachers, a parasite who got her host pregnant out of morbid curiosity, and her baby is ruthlessly used as a human shield. Eesh.
The series isn’t quite the sum of its parts. At times, Shinichi will swear vengeance on the aliens, then forget his vow in the next episode, and you’re never sure if that’s due to his parasite’s wavering influence, or sloppy plotting. And it does tie off with an infamous Irresolute Anime Ending. Still, Parasyte has enough sharp moments to warrant a watch, if only to experience the superhero origin from a host of terrifying new angles.
Basically, this is Mega Man: The Opera, taking the retro future of Neo Human Prince Casshern into far more dire territory than even the Mega Man X series that borrowed so heavily from it. Out of this set, it’s definitely the biggest downer…
If you thought you couldn’t get any darker than a series beginning with the end of the world, then brace yourself, because it’s all the hero’s fault, too. Turning the 70s classic entirely on its head, Prince Casshern is reinterpreted as an unwitting assassin who dooms all of Earth to a slow catastrophe, dubbed “the Ruin” after he murders the messianic robot, Luna.
Again, that is just the starting point. Melancholic from front to back, Casshern’s quest through the desolate wastelands isn’t about saving the world so much as coming to terms with the sin he’s committed (hence, the title). There are plenty of brilliant fight scenes, as hordes of decaying robots hunt Casshern under the desperate belief that eating him will grant immortality. However, the futility of combat is always stressed, and our lonely prince ever laments being a killing machine who can’t save anybody. Enjoy!
Featured Image Credit: FUNimation