The Laughing Target
Part of the Rumik World series, The Laughing Target is another entry into the horror field by Rumiko Takahashi. After watching Mermaid Forest and Mermaid's Scar, I knew that Takahashi was very capable of writing in this genre. However, as this movie shows, not everything she writes is all good.
When Azusia and Yuzura were mere children, they were betrothed to each other by their parents. Many years later, after Azusia's mother mysteriously dies, Azusia returns to Yuzura with the intent of marrying him. Of course, Yuzura has a girlfriend, Satomi, and this doesn't sit to well with Azusia. Add to the fact that Azusia is anything but "normal", and she has no problem eliminating the competition by any means possible.
Like every work of Takahashi's, this movie features good characters and strong character development. The three main characters are able to fill their roles in a believable way, without becoming stereotyped. You've got the main guy, Yuzura, caught between two women who both want him. Satomi is the innocent female being threatened by Azusia, the raving psychotic. Everyone is fleshed out, and I ended up liking the "good guys" and despising Azusia.
However, the problem with this title is the story. While the concept isn't terribly inspired, it's still decent, but the execution isn't that good. Initially, things seem headed in the right direction. There's a very weird beginning, followed by introductions to the characters. I found myself enjoying things well enough until the horror began. That's when things become very repetitive and predictable. It's simply one horror scene followed by another, with no breaks in between to help vary the mood. Eventually things reach the ending, which was anything but climactic. The end result is a tale which starts out well, but dissolves into tedium.
Production values were decent. Takahashi's character art is pretty recognizable, and the visuals did a good job of setting the mood. The English voice-acting was another story. British voice actors were used, and while they weren't bad, they tended to mispronounce things (Satomi's name, for example). Also, Azusia completely failed to act menacing, sounding more like she had a sore throat.
For a horror title, it wasn't overly enthralling. There were a few memorable moments, but not enough to justify my recommendation. If you enjoy horror, or are a Takahashi fan, then go check out Mermaid Forest and Mermaid's Scar instead.
The Verdict: * * 1/2 (below average)
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