Twilight of the Dark Master is an OVA co-produced by Madhouse Studios and Toei Animation in 1998. Not many people know this, but Akiyuki Shinbou, one of the most well known SHAFT directors of this age, often jumped studios quite a bit when he was first starting out. Jack Fletcher, co-director and script writer, would go on to work on Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. Together, they created Twilight of the Dark Master for their respective audiences, a one-shot movie that both would probably want have stricken from their resumes.
The narrative starts with the creation of humans. In order to make the frail and weak humans stronger, Mother Earth created demon masters who have neither fear nor a conscience. However, the demons soon threatened to destroy the world, thus the guardians were created to protect mankind. Skip ahead to year 2089, once again a powerful demon threatens to destroy the world and the Shijo Tsunami is the only guardian remaining.
That is essentially the entire plot of Twilight of the Dark Master. The premise is very straightforward; a demon wishes to rule the world and humanity’s only hope is an anti-hero who couldn’t care less. It’s the same story that countless other anime and movies have used over the years. If there’s anything positive that can be said about Twilight of the Dark Master, it is definitely the character designs and animation style. Then again, what good are character designs if the characters themselves can’t take full advantage of them?
The film’s cinematography is also of worthy of mention. The black and white color scheme that makes up Neo-Shinjuku employs the 50s hollywood film noir style. The science fiction aspects can also be likened to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner while the setting itself is reminiscient of Wicked City, a world where ambiguities capture the enigmatic question posed by the ending. The finale itself and overall message of the film is surprisingly thought provoking. The film poses the question, what truly is evil? What separates light from darkness? By the end of the film, it is no longer clear which character is the “dark master,” Tsunami or the demon.
Final Thoughts: 5/10
Twilight of the Dark Master is not a terrible film per se, just an immensely predictable and boring one. The premise is formulaic and has been done time and time again, with demons no less. Despite great character designs and animation quality, the show attempts to be philosophical but ultimately falls short due to providing nothing new that hasn’t been done before. Still, it is watchable, if only to see Shinbou’s early years as an animator and director.