Review by David Bingham:
Note: I have no idea where this title came from. While most of the characters in this movie are targets at one time or another, none of them spend a whole lot of time laughing. This 30 min. movie is available subtitled.
Laughing Target is part of the Rumic World series by Rumiko Takahashi. There are three installments of this series that I know of, all indepedent of one another. The main character is Yuzuru Shiga, a High School student and captain of the Archery Club (a skill which comes in handy later on.) On his way home from school one day, he makes an off-hand remark to his girlfriend (Satomi) that his fiancee is coming from the country to live with his family because of her mother's (Yuzuru's aunt's) mysterious death. After convincing Satomi not to kill him, he explains that the marriage was arranged when he was six and means nothing to him.
His fiancee, who also happens to be his cousin, is named Azusa and stuns him by being quite beautiful and still quite set on marrying Yuzuru. Azusa seems creepy from the start, and she has abnormally pale skin and arrives wearing a black dress that makes her look like a Japanese version of Wednesday from the Adams family. One of my favorite scenes is Yuzuru trying to explain to his suddenly jealous girlfriend that she really doen't have anything to worry about. Satomi does have things to worry about, however, starting with Azusa's obsession with marrying Yuzuru. Strange things begin happening to Satomi, and we quickly discover that Azusa was been either posessed or replaced by some sort of demon when she was very young, and now this demon is trying to remove all obstacles from her path, including Satomi.
The movie raises some interesting points and questions. Yuzuru's aunt was the head of the clan, and strong willed enough to force Yuzuru into an engagement that he didn't understand (what with being six years old and all). The relationship between Azusa and Yuzuru is facinating and Yuzuru has to deal with Azusa's question: "Does a childhood promise mean any less?"
This is really a surprisingly good anime, with detailed (but not super-realistic) artwork and convincing, well rounded plot development. The characters are especially good; Rumiko avoids stereotyping Yuzuru and Satomi, creating a very believable relationship between them. Azusa is also fascinating because she has something of a split personality: whatever control the demon has over her, some of her still remains to recoil with horror at what she sees herself doing. In many ways I feel more sorry for her than any other character.
The voice acting was very good, and the song played as Yuzuru and Azusa walk to school for the first time is *really* creepy.
If you like "Laughing Target" I also recommend "Fire Tripper," also from the Rumic World series.
Parent's Guide Rating:
yellow (parental guidance advised)
Nudity/Sex: There is a five or six second scene with Satomi in the shower (full nudity, but very little detail) and she runs around the school locker room in just underclothes for a couple of minutes, but there is nothing remotely sexual in the entire movie.
Violence: Definitely present, but not overwleming. Azusa kills several people (and a dog) but in general there is little blood and no gore. There aren't even any bodies, since all the dead bodies are consumed by the "hungry ghosts" (they look like glowing slugs) that follow Azusa. Probably the most graphic death in the movie is Azusa's when she is stabbed through the forehead with an arrow.
There is one very disturbing scene where Azusa's mother realizes that her own daughter is a demon and tries to strangle her. This leads directly to the mother's mysterious death. One more scene that should be mentioned appears when Azusa thinks back to her childhood. In this scene he is being chased by older boys, and kills one of them in self defense. The implication is that they are trying to rape or molest her, but it's pretty veiled.
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