Review written by John McGinn
Beware for Darkside is coming to Earth. No I am not talking about the DC comic super villain who terrorizes the heroes of the DC universe. I am talking about the unnamed dark clad man who comes through a dimensional portal on a horse drawn carriage arriving in Kabuki-cho “The Dark Side of Tokyo” which is one of the last places on Earth that isn’t controlled by the Persona Century Corporation. This mysterious Darkside brings a coming change and renewal to poor and disenfranchised people of Kabuki-cho, as well as the power hungry rulers of Earth that run Persona Century, and the rest of the citizens of Earth.
I had originally watched Darkside Blues around fifteen years ago, and at the time I really enjoyed the film, but after seeing the film again after such a long time I realize that while Darkside Blues is an entertaining film with some grand ideas it is also a very flawed anime film as well. The film follows a whole cast of characters from wayward rebels living in Kabuki-cho to members of the anti-Persona group to Persona representatives. There are so many plot threads, genres and themes taking place in a miniscule running time of eighty three minutes that it takes away from the quality of the film. There is the plot thread revolving around Darkside and the Persona Corporation. Apparently the Persona Corporation sealed Darkside in another dimension, but the film never tries to explain the reasoning behind it only implying that the return of Darkside will be extremely bad for Persona. I found the plot and the character Darkside interesting and wished the film could have explored that plot thread better. There is another plot thread that revolves around Mai and her past dealing with the Guren the heir to the Persona Corporation, and there are many more plot points, and plot twists in Darkside that might have worked better if Darkside had been a longer film or had a thirteen episode anime series.
There were obvious messages that writer Kikuchi Hideyuki and director Yoshimichi Furukawa wanted to convey in their film as “renewal” or “rebirth” in overcoming loss, rape, or some other kind of hardship and being reborn. There are many religious undertones to the film and other themes about peace, like whether world peace can be achieved peacefully or must it be achieved by force and ruled by a dictator, and if that is achieved is that truly peace. There are many interesting themes that could have explored better if the film had been longer or had Darkside Blues been turned into a short series. You can see the running theme I am going with as I continue my review. The other problem with the film is the all the different genres being blended together. Darkside Blues is a Dystopian film that blends fantasy, action, science fiction, drama, suspense and romance to name a few, and at certain points in the in Darkside it did work well, but you know where I am going with this so I’ll stop here.
While the plot, characters, themes weren’t fleshed out enough one of the things that did work for the film was the tone of Darkside Blues. The anime film was dark in color to emphasize the themes of the film and it works really well. Even when it is daylight you can still see the shadows of the darkness and it just emphasizes the points the writer and director are trying to convey. While I am sure the animation was good nearly twenty years ago when the film came out Darkside’s animation certainly does not hold up as well as other anime films, but is still decent and enjoyable. Now to what is perhaps the best part of the film which is the music scored by Kazuhiko Toyama. The music is beautifully scored and fleshed out fully encompassing each scene in the film. Then there was the ant-persona ballad song. I don’t know who sang the song, but it was wonderfully written and exquisitely performed by the singer with a simple guitar. I tried to looking online to find who sang both the Japanese and English words for the song, but I could not find out who performed the ballads.
I truly believe Darkside Blues could have worked extremely better as an anime series. The plot, characters and themes could have been completely fleshed out in a twelve or twenty four episode series. Unfortunately instead we get a jumbled mess that is at times an entertaining film in Darkside Blues that blends to many plot threads, themes, genres and characters into a short film that. I give Kikuchi Hideyuki and Yoshimichi Furukawa props for trying to create a meaningful film, but they have sadly failed and I can’t recommend Darkside unless you are a true anime fan then you might find the film worthwhile or entertaining like I did.
3 out of 5 stars