Directed by Takeshi Mori
Featuring Voices of Hiroshi Tsuchida, Ayako Kawasumi, Makoto Yasumura
After a series of bizarre murders take place in the corrupt Otomo City, reporter Hayato Minagami travels to town to investigate the rumored culprit – a mysterious masked vigilante known as the Skull Man. With young photographer Kiriko Mamiya tagging along, Hayato sinks deeper into the dark mysteries and mutated creatures that surround the town and its past.
The Skull Man is a 2007 13-episode anime reimagining of an anti-hero out for revenge. The dark concept was originally created the 1970s by Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of Cyborg 009, Kikaider, Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (about time Sentai Filmworks releases something somewhat related to sentai). Fans of Ishinomori’s works will be sure to notice references to other works scattered about the series.
While not necessarily the same plot as the original 1970 manga or the 1998 remake (released in USA by Tokyopop), the series stays with the dark anti-hero battling corruption. Instead of focusing on the Skull Man himself, the series follows Hayato and Kiriko as they investigate the Skull Man and uncover the secretive underworld of Otomo City in a fictionalized Japan.
Those looking right off the bat for a hardcore blood fest with a Punisher-esque character will have to wait a couple of episodes. The series starts off slowly, introducing a lot of characters, sometimes being difficult to keep up with if you’re also trying to figure out who the Skull Man is. This gets easier as the show goes on, as the pace picks up and the cast is…narrowed down, so to speak.
Past those slow first couple of episodes, the plot is compelling. The viewer is captivated by the mysteries of who is the Skull Man, why he’s killing seemingly random people and what conspiracies fill the town of Otomo viewer. The sporadic moments of violence and action peppered throughout further cement the interest.
The end of the series touches on pretty much every mystery, but some only lightly. There’s still plenty of ambiguity left over. Unfortunately, viewers wanting an ending wrapped up with a nice bow are going to be left wanting. There is no nice bow at the end of this series.
Speaking of the ending, it’s somewhat deceptive. After the climax in the finale, there is an epilogue and then end credits, which are followed by a second epilogue. Of course, all good geeks of cinema should know by now to sit through the end credits.
The series could have used some translation tweaking and rewriting. Some of the subtitled dialog reads very unnaturally. I honestly can’t remember anyone using the term “ink slinger” to describe a reporter, but that one is actually kind of neat. One more quality check once through would have been nice though, but it’s otherwise it’s a good show.
The series is in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen. The animation itself is decent. Some of the CGI usage sticks out like a sore thumb, particularly with vehicles and a river that looks more like blue static.
The biggest complaint would probably be the translation of text on screen being placed directly over the text. This occasionally makes reading difficult, especially when the translated text is stylized to look similar to the Japanese text it overlaps.
Japanese language with subtitles in stereo. One neat trick in helping with the mystery of who the Skull Man is, the Skull Man character has a different voice actor from everyone else. Just have to watch it to find out.
The soundtrack works but isn’t anything special. The ending theme is forgettable. The opening theme is entirely instrumental, starting out kind of creepy and dramatic before randomly going into a weird jazzy, almost elevator music tune. Even weirder is that it’s not the original Japanese broadcast opening, which is slightly better and catchier.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
It’s a standard two-disc case. The jacket front is very eye catching with the black-suited Skull Man in red blood on a white background.
The back summery does make the mistake of switching the given and family names of the main character Hayato Minagami. The show subtitles maintain given first, family last, while the back cover flips it. Wouldn’t be a bad thing if they other character mentioned in the back followed the same naming convention.
As for special features, the first disc has trailers for other Sentai Filmworks series and DVD credits. The second disc has Japanese promos for the series. It plays four in a row, all pretty much the same with the fourth promo having some longer scenes taken from the series.
One extra noticeably missing is a single live-action prologue episode that aired before the series’ Japanese television premier. The story doesn’t seem any worse for its loss, but it’s odd not to have it.
The Skull Man is a good murder mystery rife with conspiracies with a little masked vigilantism thrown in, though its ambiguity leaves more to be desired. Too bad the missing original opening and the live-action prologue hurt this so-called complete collection.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
The Series 9/10
The Video 6.5/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10