Shin Majin Den – Battle Royal High School (Battle Royal High School), directed by Ichiro Itano. 60 minutes. December 10, 1987.
No, not the 2000 R-rated live-action Battle Royale that was the notorious precursor to The Hunger Games, in which the government forces the members of a high-school class to kill each other until only one is left. This anime OAV was made in 1987, and is a standard action fantasy with an adolescent karate champion battling supernatural opponents – but more frantic than most.
Riki Hyoudo is a high school karate champion. (He wears a leopard mask; he doesn’t really have a leopard’s head.) He plans to drop out of high school and go pro. However, he is psychically linked to Byoudo, Master of the Dark Realm, whose royal court includes the evil Fairy Master. When a dimensional doorway opens to our world, the Fairy Master persuades him to possess Riki and take over our world. But this is a ploy. The Fairy Master really thinks that Byoudo will be easier to kill in Riki’s body, and she mutates Riki’s classmates into monsters to do so. Their interdimensional fighting attracts the attention of both a traditional samurai demon slayer and a space-time patrolman, and the result is BATTLE ROYAL HIGH SCHOOL!
Ta-daa! That’s it! But you don’t want a summary this brief for this column. So here it is in more detail.
The students of this high school gather outside the karate dojo to watch a leopard-masked fighter challenge the entire rest of the club. He’s just beaten Hontani, leaving only the club’s Captain Baba left. Those gathered include two girls. One, Megumi Koyama, is in love with Riki, but she has never been able to express herself as more than his friend. The other, Yōko “Ryou” Takayanagi, is a member of his Karate Club.
Baba tries to persuade Riki from quitting the Karate Club, but he says that when he wins, he’ll drop out of school to defeat all the sports clubs in Japan. They fight, and Captain Baba loses. Riki removes his name from those of the kendo fighters.
Outside of school, Ryou asks Riki what’s gotten into him? Why is he destroying the Kendo Club? He says he’s just felt like fighting suddenly. He’s decided to become the champion across all techniques, and he doesn’t care about the rest of the school. He doesn’t care if Captain Baba resigns from the club. Ryou berates him for his selfishness.
The title’s subtitles say “Legend of the True Demons – Battle Royal High School”, but the Japanese is just the first part of the phrase. “Battle Royal High School” is added for the Americans.
A robed figure floats into a throne room. “Lord Byoudo, the Dimensional Gate has been opened. As the legend foretells, when the Gate is opened, the leopard-headed warrior will appear and face a being of the Dark Realm. At that time, the legendary warrior shall be born.” Byoudo says it’s thanks to HIS power flowing through the Gate. Kayn, the horned, turquoise-skinned Fairy Master, says that perhaps it’s a plot by the heavens to limit Byoudo’s power. Byoudo doesn’t care; the Gate has been opened, and he will go through it to fight!
In class, Riki is open to the thoughts of Byoudo while he’s asleep. During lunch the other students admire his strength, but ask why he wore a leopard mask? He says it’s to draw attention; “besides, I found it in my house and I thought it was cool, so…” The admiring students give him their lunches, but Ryou punches him out for causing Captain Baba to resign.
Byoudo materializes on the school roof. Riki finds Ryou and the other students frozen, and he notices a strange classroom where the hall should be. He enters, and a voice proclaims that a legend foretells that a leopard-headed warrior shall fight the voice. When Riki dons the mask, the classroom desks turn into monsters and attack him. He bursts out onto the school roof and confronts Byoudo, who says that they’ll fight after he tests something. Three of Byoudo’s minions appear and attack Riki. When he defeats them, Byoudo says, “Just as I had expected. This was all a diabolical trap, sprung on me by someone who could not tolerate my relentless increase in power.” Kayn has tried to trick Byoudo into fighting Riki, hoping that Byoudo does not realize Riki is psychically linked to him. Byoudo possesses Riki’s body and returns him to “real time”.
In a satellite orbiting overhead, Sandy tells Captain Zankan of the Space-Time Police that she has analyzed the energy distortions and tracked them to the high school’s location. The space-time continuum distortion is more than enough to change the future of the planet. Zankan beams down to the school rooftop. He finds TWO groups of intruders; Byoudo and whoever hopes to kill him, and Toshimitsu Yuuki, a samurai Demon Slayer drawn from another dimension.
(It doesn’t help in figuring out what’s going on that Riki, Byoudo, Zankan, and Toshimitsu look virtually identical except for their clothes.)
Captain Baba has been taken over by one of Kayn’s fairy/demons. It makes Baba take over a criminal gang, tearing open the girl’s shirt. When Toshimitsu the Demon Slayer challenges him, Baba turns into a monster, which Toshimitsu slays; then into a bat-winged cat, then into a dinosaur-like monster, and finally into the fairy. Toshimitsu tracks them all to the school.
The school lets out for the day. Toshimitsu watches the students as they leave and homes in on Riki as possessed by Byoudo. Byoudo recognizes Toshimitsu as the Demon Master/champion of this world. “Wanna fight?” Riki kicks a car at Toshimitsu, who cuts it in half. Riki/Byoudo teleports to a nearby park. Toshimitsu follows on foot. Zankan, observing from a water tower, tells Sandy to keep track of them, and follows Toshimitsu.
Toshimitsu and Riki/Byoudo confront each other at the park. Byoudo tries to talk to Toshimitsu; when he doesn’t want to listen, Byoudo forces him to. Byoudo proves that the monsters that Toshimitsu fought earlier were controlled by the Fairy Master, not by him, and proposes that they unite their powers against her; postponing their own fight until they’ve beaten her. Toshimitsu agrees. Zankan, watching from a park bench, says things are getting complicated. Kayn, in the form of a beautiful woman, also watches.
Megumi, in her bedroom, expresses her love for Riki. One of the Fairy Master’s minions takes over her teddy bear to fight Ryou. The teddy bear turns into a giant which she thinks at first is also Riki; but when it tries to kill her, she is defended by Zankan, who transforms into a Robocop-like armored warrior. Then, after defeating the giant plushie, Zankan introduces himself to Ryou and questions her.
At school the next day, Ryou tells this to Riki/Byoudo and asks him what’s going on. Byoudo erases Ryou’s memory. Another student tells Riki that someone is waiting in the Karate Dojo to challenge him. It’s Zankan. He wants to talk to Byoudo, but first they have to fight almost to the death. (Byoudo shows that he’s in charge of Riki’s body by his ignorance of taking off his shoes to enter the dojo. He no longer needs the leopard mask.) They go to the roof to talk.
Toshimitsu goes to a Shrine to confront Kayn, the Fairy Master. Instead she shows him the rooftop conversation between Byoudo and Zankan. Zankan says that as long as Byoudo is there to defeat Kayn, and he goes back to his dimension right after, he’ll allow it. Byoudo says that he will stay on Earth and conquer it, challenging Zankan to stop him. Kayn offers a partnership with Toshimitsu against Byoudo. Toshimitsu refuses, but Kayn possesses his body.
Toshimitsu/Kayn enters the school grounds. Zankan tries to stop her and they fight. Riki/Byoudo, ignoring them, goes to the Chemistry Lab where the criminal gang, possessed by demons, are raping Mitsuko. Riki rescues Mitsuko, who tells Riki of her love for him. Meanwhile Zankan has turned into the armored warrior to fight Toshimitsu’s body. When Kayn threatens to kill him, he says that her confession is enough to let him remove all restraints. Back to Riki/Byoudo: Mitsuko’s love hasn’t prevented her from turning into a monster, which eats Riki. But Byoudo teleports their body to safety, and defeats the monster that Mitsuko has become.
Riki restores her body (without clothes) despite Byoudo telling him that she isn’t worth it. Kayn defeats Zankan (without killing him) and goes to see the Riki/Byoudo fight. She taunts Byoudo that in merging with Riki, he has limited himself to human weaknesses and will be easy to defeat. Their fight destroys the school. Kayn transfixes Byoudo/Riki with her fairy horn, but Byoudo laughs that its pain has mad Riki unconscious and removed the restrictions from Byoudo’s full power. Byoudo’s full power kills Kayn, but also somehow restores the school and returns him to the Dark Realm. Riki awakens as his normal self, but having to explain Mitsuko’s nudity.
Whew! Battle Royal High School is based on a manga by Shinichi Kuruma. The manga was just titled Majin Den (Legend of the True Devils). The “Shin” and the “Battle Royal High School” were added for the anime adaptation. The OAV was produced and released by Tokuma Shoten, with animation by AIC, A.P.P.P., and Studio Gush. The U.S. release was by AnimEigo, on VHS video on July 31, 1996 and on DVD on September 23, 2003.
Ichirō Itano, the director, also wrote the story and drew the storyboards. Battle Royal High School was a high-class OAV with detailed artwork (character design by Nobuteru Yūki), smooth animation, and excellent voices, despite the plot that called for the four main men to look so confusingly alike. (My main complaint is with the poor lip-sync, which is common in anime since the voices are usually dubbed after the animation.)
Here’s the OVA itself. Enjoy – and Happy New Year!
Next week: Forgotten OAVs #51: Grey: Digital Target.