YAMI NO MATSUEI - Descendants of Darkness
Reviewed in August, 2001 by Mark Vallen, Jeannine Thorpe, and John Lentini . Screen shots generously provided by John Lentini.

(Comments by Jeannine Thorpe) Even with all of the wonderful anime coming out of Japan in the past few years, I'll admit I've felt a bit of longing for the epic shoujo fantasy dramas of a few years back that really cemented my love of anime. It was series like Yuu Watase's Fushigi Yuugi that really grabbed my attention and rocked my definition of what anime could be, gorgeous animation, characters that you adore and relate to as much as real people, drama and tragedy, comedy and suspense. If this describes you too, than I am happy to introduce you to the next generation, Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of the Dark). Luxuriously drawn by Matsushita Youko, the only thing that amazed me more than the series itself was that I hadn't heard of it until so recently!

The story focuses on the fellows of Summons Division, a secretive organization that investigates unusual and unnatural deaths which result in the souls of the dead somehow being trapped on earth. But the twist is that the Detectives themselves are undead... beautiful yet powerful beings known as Shinigami who walk the earth with the living yet whose electric colored eyes speak of their supernatural identities.

Tsuzuki is the veteran who hides his troubles in humor, and can command the magical powers of the animal gods Suzaku and Byakko at his whim, while Hisoka is the beautiful rookie with expertise in traditional Martial Arts and an extremely troubled past. Together they must solve mysteries and unravel the plans of the enigmatic Muraki, who seems to be controlling both of their destinies.

This amazing manga recently made into an anime combines the fantasy and humor of Fushigi Yuugi, the male comraderie of Weiss Kreuz, and the gorgeous and dark romantic visual style of CLAMP's X / 1999.

You will immediately sense the deep friendship and emotional ties between the characters, you'll laugh at Tsuzuki's antics, and the dramatic lighting and gorgeous animation will take your breath away. The opening animation sequence is one of the best I've seen in years... the kind of opening that is so good you actually get restless in your seat, because you know a truly great show is about to follow.

The melding of computer and hand drawn animation allows for fantastic mood-creating visual effects... at times the lighting seems as real as a live action scene, other times the abstract blurring takes you past realism into an almost hallucenogenic trance. This computer enhanced animation combined with Tsuzuki's ability to command both animal gods and traditional paper charms (ofuda) result in some of the best magic fight scenes I've seen, when Suzaku rears and flaps his massive flaming wings you'll think to yourself, "Now THIS is how it was meant to be done!" I can't wait to see more of this wonderful series, right now, it's the beautiful Art that has me hooked!

(Comments by Mark Vallen) Vampires prey upon the innocent and the Undead walk the streets of Tokyo in Yami no Matsuei, but this anime isn't a spine tingling chiller like BLOOD: The Last Vampire. No, "Yami" doesn't take itself that seriously, it is more like a supernatural adventure series with a comedic edge. Full of handsome characters, easy laughs, and humorous situations, you'll find yourself caught off guard by its friendly, comic exterior. And then... just when you've relaxed, it comes at you full throttle with angst ladden scenes replete with fiendish monsters.

The Yami no Matsuei anime constantly goes back and forth from the macabre to the mirthful, and to fans of the Gothic horror genre that might seem a bit unnerving, but those who stick with this show will be richly rewarded. At first I didn't know what to make of the gushoushin (pictured at right), the bird-like, twin God librarians who chronicle the good and bad habits of people. They seemed an unneccessary comic relief, but then they grew on me. The same thing can be said of this entire show's unusual story line and style, it will get under your skin!

The offbeat tale is about a group of young men called the shinigami. They are undead... and detectives of sorts, who investigate unnatural deaths and guide lost spirits to the underworld. The show abounds with Japanese style goblins and demons, and the top notch animation is sure to impress even the most jaded soul.

(Comments by John Lentini) Looking for something completely different in the world of anime? Than I suggest you check out Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of the Dark), to crave your variety and need for another anime series. This series has a little bit of everything, the supernatual, nice character designs, CGI, magic, summuning of creatures, demons, sword fighting, a little comedy, and even The Hong Kong Knife. Don't worry, that's the group singing the ending theme, Love Me, which accompanies the fantastic manga images you'll see in the closing credits.

Of course every excellent storyline needs a good opposition or the 'so called' bad guy in the story. Meet Muraki Kazutaka, who kind of looks like Professor Tomoe (of Sailormoon), with his very light silver hair. However he's not as light hearted as Tomoe-san, in fact the one word I would use to describe Muraki Kazutaka is, sadistic.

Muraki Kazutaka will be one of the features in the first three parter to open up the series that will definitely get your attention. By the way this show uses a detective story type format, and you better grab a snack because each mystery will span over three episodes, except for the series finale which is a four parter. When you finally sit down to watch Yami no Matsuei, make sure you're paying attention and put on your thinking cap. Because this anime series is wonderous and has a very deep plot line right from the beginning. So enjoy this little gem we've reviewed for you and make sure your soul isn't branded.

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