The best way to fight the darkness
is to become the darkness yourself.
Believe it or not, I’ve always been a geeky collector. (Shocking, right?) In high school I collected comic books. I was a proper comic book geek, too, searching for first editions and keeping them in pristine plastic casings, reading them delicately by opening the pages as little as possible. Example of geekdom: While on a road trip I found a random comic book shop in the middle of nowhere. I had just enough money for either a huge stack of Tank Girl comics, or one (1) comic, a first edition of Death: The High Cost of Living Volume 2. I bought the latter.
Somewhere amidst my collection of Vertigo, Slave Labor, and Dark Horse comics, I bought a few issues of Lady Death. I haven’t so much as looked at those comics in years, but when I discovered that there was a Lady Death movie, well, I had to check it out for nostalgia’s sake. As it began, I wasn’t sure if the film followed the same ivory-haired thong-wearin’ gal that I remembered from my comics, but sure enough, it’s the same Lady. The movie, called Lady Death: The Motion Picture (imaginative title there) is your classic comic book superhero origin story, only this one takes place mostly in Hell. The titular Lady in question begins life as Hope in medieval Sweden. From the get-go things look bad for her: Hope is ripped from the arms of her lover by her father, an evil warlord. Later that night, surprise, she discovers that her dad is actually Lucifer! (Maybe the story isn’t that classic after all.) Her dad/Lucifer disappears and causes his castle to explode in the process. Because Hope doesn’t die in the wreckage a local priest rallies the town to burn her at the stake as a witch. (But the priest was at the castle and didn’t die, either, how come he’s off the hook? Whatever.)
Hope, engulfed in flames, breaks down and calls out a prayer to Lucifer. Instantly a couple of winged demony-things appear to pick up her charred carcass and ferry her to Hell. Lucifer had promised that she’d be reunited with her lover, but instead she gets a hellish beat-down upon arrival. Finally she’s dragged to Lucifer’s throne room and reunited with her devilish dad. He tells Hope that she possesses a power within her that is greater than any in Heaven or Hell, and if she’ll join his team, he’ll free the trapped souls of both her mother and her boyfriend. Hope spits in Lucifer’s face, which is the badass version of the ol’ “fool me once…” proverb, so Lucifer throws her out a window and into a deep watery chasm below, claiming it’s no biggie, she’ll be back. (What a great word, “chasm.” I should use it more often.)
After Hope drags herself out of the water she tames a couple of hell-wolves with some blue crackling lightning-esque power (probably brought on by her justifiable rage) and yells out to Lucifer that “Hope” is now dead. Thus Lady Death is born. A dude named Cremator, who forges the weapons of Hell, emerges from the shadows and tells Lady Death that he’s been waiting for someone like her, because she’s the one who can take Lucifer down. She just needs to learn how to harness her power, and of course develop some fighting skills. Cue training montage! The rest of the film is basically Lady Death building an army of demons, finding the ideal weapon to use with her lightning power, and then setting out to tear Lucifer a new a-hole.
There’s quite a bit of violence in this film, naturally, and Lady Death herself basically wears a thong bottom and string bikini top, but on the whole I found it to be surprisingly tame (compared with my expectations, that is; this still isn’t anime fare for young kids). As I mentioned before, I couldn’t recall that much about Lady Death’s story, but the movie did ring a few bells. I’ll have to go back and explore my comics to see how closely the movie matches up to the original story. The pacing was fairly brisk, especially at the beginning, which created a nice sense of action. I thought that it slowed down just a bit after the training montage, but the building of armies and huge battles never interests me, so that’s probably just a personal perception. The animation was good in that He-Man way, if a bit dated, but that’s to be expected as the film is from 2004 (which is like 1884 in animation years). Also, it was kind of strange to watch an anime movie where the English voices matched the animated lips, as I’m so used to Japanese-language anime!
The characters weren’t that personable or identifiable, but I still found them to be engaging. It was more like interacting with a painting rather than a novel. I kept hoping that Evil Ernie would show up somewhere, because I remember collecting his comics as well. He didn’t, though one character did have Ernie’s hair, so I thought that perhaps he somehow became Ernie later on. After checking into it, that’s certainly not going to be the case. This movie was a great origin story, and it seemed to set everything up nicely for an interesting, but sadly non-existent, series. The end was solid and satisfying enough, but it definitely left me wanting more. Lady Death: The Motion Picture was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. It’s not the greatest anime film ever made, and there’s little to no rewatch value, but it has inspired me to dig out my old comic book collection and have a read, and that’s worthwhile in my (comic) book.