Requiem from the Darkness: Series Review

Viarca Dresden (Contributing Writer) — March 30th, 2010
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The capacity of the human heart for both good and evil knows no bounds. While the legends of history extol the deeds of its heroes, it also makes one wonder about the origin of its monsters. Modern science tells us the corporeal existence of many of our demons is unlikely, but just as such myths often attribute good to the generosity of something divine, perhaps it is simply easier to assign malevolence to something inhuman to avoid recognizing the truth. After all, when a person really considers the matter, a human monster cannot be so easily distinguished as a horrible creature from a fable, and that makes it infinitely more frightening.

Requiem from the Darkness centers on the tale of an aspiring young author. Momosuke, having decided the management of the family business is not for him, retired from such work in order to pen a collection of one hundred ghost stories. Though well versed in legend, he lacks inspiration and decides to travel around in search of fresh ideas.

In the course of his travels, Momosuke encounters a small group that investigates macabre rumors. Consisting of the exorcist Mataichi, the puppeteer Ogin, and the shapeshifting beastmaster Nagamimi, the trio proves captivating to the writer, and when their meetings prove to be recurring, Momosuke begins to feel a bond with them.

Each episode tells a standalone tale that begins with a report of the supernatural. As the author and his new friends scrutinize the situation though, more often than not, the real culprit is a corrupt human being that has allowed stories to disguise their own evil. Trading in tales of cannibalism, incest and human sacrifice among other things, the series is not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

As Momosuke spends more and more time with the group, he begins to dread their inevitable parting. As the show proceeds, it is revealed through interesting glimpses that the three are the only real spirits present, and they are reluctant to have the young writer accompany them too often for fear of his own safety. One of the more tiresome aspects of the show is the incessant and unvariedly blunt verbal reminder that Momosuke is not of their world and never should be.

Ultimately, Momosuke is left to decide whether the killing of murderers is acceptable. While the theme is not blatant, the show as a whole raises questions about superstition and why believing in it may be easier than accepting that someone you know may be the real monster.

Visually unique, Requiem from the Darkness looks much older than its 2003 release date would suggest. The architecture and landscapes appear greatly deformed, reflecting the portrayal of characters, especially secondary ones and people in the crowd, who are given very strange anatomical details often reminiscent of animals or mannequins.

Much more gruesome than most mainstream horror anime, Requiem from the Darkness does a nice job depicting the grotesque, but falls apart a bit due to poor writing or translation. The dialogue between the main characters can be very boring, and seems to focus more on the argument of Momosuke not belonging in the world of spirits and his questions about the ethics of their actions in passing judgment, than the more interesting philosophical issues raised by the story. The individual episode plots are not that strong and are also rather predictable despite the gory subject matter. In conclusion, the series is recommended only if horror is your genre and you are looking for something a little different.