Friday, December 16, 2016

Wolf Guy

Here's another good show that was lost on Laserdisc: 1992's six-part OVA, Wolf Guy. This is an action/adventure/sci-fi story about immortals who can transform into wolves battling the Phoenix Group, a hideous conspiracy led by an American company called Biomeasure. It's quite baffling at times, because it starts in the middle of a complex situation and ends without reaching much of a conclusion. The nominal hero is fighting not only the Phoenix Group but also Chinese Intelligence's Tiger Corps (immortals who can transform into tigers) and Japanese Cabinet Intelligence. Add to this four-sided battle characters who change allegiance and appearance, and you've got quite an explosive and confusing story.


The protagonist and immortal "wolf guy" of the title is Inugami Akira, who transforms at full moon and when he needs to into a golden wolf. He's deeply attached to his high-school teacher, Aoshiko Akiko, whom he has saved on more than one occasion. The Phoenix Group is aiming to seize the secret of immortality from the wolf-men, wipe out most of planet's population, and then rule the world. Their agents kidnap Akiko, drug and rape her, and use her as bait to try and catch Akira. He in turn seeks an antidote for the poison and to defeat the Phoenix Group.

After some initial hostility, Akira is aided by Hu Ssu, a tiger-woman from the Tigers Corps. She gradually falls in love with him, to the detriment of her loyalty to the Corps. He's also aided by another wolf-man, Jin Akira, a journalist who is out to uncover the truth about the Phoenix Group. Occupying a more villainous role is Saijou Kei, the Phoenix Group agent who, among other bestial acts, raped Akiko. After he is betrayed and left for dead by his bosses, Saijou starts working as an agent of Japanese Cabinet Intelligence, but he's really out for himself.

With all these combatants, there's lots of action, bloodshed, and death, but the series is surprisingly calm in spots, allowing time for character development and interaction. Saijou has as prominent a role as the two Akiras and Hu Ssu. Akiko, reduced to dazed obedience by the Phoenix Group's "Narcotic 800," is mostly a cipher.

Wolf Guy was originally a two-volume manga by Hirai Kazumasa; it has never been published in English. Hirai worked the manga into a novel series than ultimately included 19 volumes. (The OVA appears to start in the middle of book two and cover through book four.) In 2007, the story was re-adapted as a longer and more violent manga known as Wolf Guy: Ookami no Monshou. This later manga version is available in English but diverges considerably from the plot of the original manga and from the OVAs.

The voice cast is stellar. Morikawa Toshiyuki (Inugami Akira) has had a long and distinguished career, including the lead roles in Ear of the Golden Dragon, Gallery Fake, and numerous other shows, as well as a scene-stealing performance as Panda Mama in Polar Bear Cafe. Yokoyama Chisa (Hu Ssu) has also appeared in many shows, playing Sasami/Pretty Sammy in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, as well as the title role in Galaxy Fraulein Yuna. Gouri Daisuke (Saijou) has been in many long-running franchises, including Dragonball and Kinnikuman. Horiuchi Kenyuu (Jin Akira) continues to be active; he played Lt. Colonel Yuki in this year's Joker Game. The director, Yoshonaga Naoyuki, worked on several classic shows, including Maison Ikkoku and Patlabor. The music is by the peerless Kenji Kawai; for some reason, Wolf Guy doesn't show up in his English discographies. I'm still looking for the two soundtrack albums.

The Laserdiscs came from two sources. The first three volumes are from Erik's collection and were encoded by him as Piyo Piyo Productions. The last three volumes are from an anonymous collector and were encoded by M74. The significant differences in color and brightness reflect the sources as we received them and were probably a result of different players and capture setups. Iri translated, ninjacloud timed, I edited and typeset (not many signs), and Nemesis and Calyrica did QC.

I really enjoyed Wolf Guy; it's far-fetched and violent, but it's not a cookie-cutter retread like so much of modern anime. I hope you'll like it too.

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