What They Say:
The horrifying events that occurred on the unhallowed grounds of the Heavenly Host school were so gruesome and shocking that the entire school was razed in an attempt to wipe the events from memory. But, foolishly, a new high school, the Kisaragi Academy, was built in Heavenly Host’s place, and all true evil needs is an invitation. So when a group of students innocently perform a charm intended to bind them as friends forever, the nightmarish evil is unleashed once again.
Transported into a living hell where Heavenly Host still stands and undead horrors stalk the bloodstained halls, the students are now the prey in the most brutal test ever designed by inhuman minds. What follows isn’t for the squeamish or weak of heart, as they are hunted down in a savage orgy of torture, murder, and insanity. Japan’s most terrifying series of videogames comes to gut-wrenching life as the spirits of the damned host a Corpse Party!
The audio presentation for this release is done up in its original Japanese language only and is encoded in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. I can’t imagine too many actors wanting to get in on this one considering the brutality with the kids, but it’s also not a property that has huge recognition over here to warrant risking it. The show works a fairly standard one that works the forward soundstage well in setting the tone and atmosphere with the dialogue mostly center channel based while some of the creepy moments have a fuller feeling to it. There’s a lot of quiet moments here that have the right kind of pin dropping feeling that’s punctuated by some strong action moments to drive home the effect. The mix isn’t one that will stand out in a huge way but it’s a solid one that achieves the goals that it needs to.
Originally released in 2013, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The four episodes, clocking in at thirty minutes each, are on a single disc with no extras to be had. Animated by Asread, the show has a good look about it without being too detailed or too realistic so that it doesn’t freak you out completely. But it plays to the real world designs for the most part while also going for a dull color palette with the old school setting. There are a lot of dark colors throughout this and it has an almost oppressive feeling about it in the design, which the transfer captures pretty well overall. The character animation comes across well and the backgrounds are largely solid though some of the effects for the supernatural elements have a bit more noise to them by their very nature. It may not be a big, flashy transfer but it captures the look of it well.
The packaging design for this release gives us a standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the single disc where the front cover artwork goes for the creepy image of our lead female character surrounded by blood and body parts. It’s a brutal looking cover that lets you know from the get-go what you’re getting into – and it’s really just the tip of it. It’s a striking cover that stands out with the splash of red and the larger logo throughout it while also including the subtitle towards the bottom. The back cover is a dark and murky piece as you’d expect with some even darker shots from the show used to highlight what it wants to be. The premise is well covered and mostly easy to read with the white on black and red and it lists the episode count as well. The remainder is given over to the standard technical grid and production credits, both of which are clean and clear.
The menus for this release are appropriately creepy with the static screen that places the blood red logo in the center laid over the old and worn floorboards. Adding in a few hands and arms as body parts with splashes of blood only makes it even creepier as you’d expect. Keeping in theme, the navigation along the bottom goes for the box approach for each episode and it uses red and black with dripping blood to give it that extra oomph. With little here besides the show, navigation is a breeze both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu, so it’s functional, fits the show well, and is easy to use.
Based on the game series that has been around since the 90’s that I’ll say I’m thankful I’ve never played, Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is a four episode OVA that was released back in 2013 from Mages with Asread producing the animation. I’ve seen my fair share of horror anime over the years, some that go for atmosphere, some that go for blood and gore, and a good number of those involve school age kids. With Higurashi being a favorite, it’s also one that makes me cringe at the same time, so it’s not like there’s a huge draw to the blood and gore side. I just like a well-crafted horror story that gives us something to work with. Corpse Party pretty much tells you what it’s going to be from the title, and that’s both good and bad.
The premise is simple enough in that we’re introduced to the kids at their school that are doing cleanup after the school festival and are dealing with some changes coming up. One of them is moving soon so they won’t be all together for much longer and they’ve decided to have a little fun with a ritual about being friends together forever. With one of the guys in the group also having his younger sister in the mix, they do the nine-person ritual where you say the thing you mean that many times and bind it together. Unfortunately, the saying goes if you do something wrong or someone doesn’t finish it properly it can all go bad. And that’s exactly what happens as suddenly at the end of the ritual the floor falls out from underneath the mix of students and the teacher and the find themselves in another dimension.
This dimension is made up of an old, old, school where bad things happened back in the 70’s involving a principal that killed a number of kids. Those four kids now haunt the halls of the school as does the principal – and seemingly a bit more as well. Separated, the kids from the present try to figure out what’s going on and invariably end up getting butchered. And I mean seriously butchered. Let’s stick a knife in the youngest kid’s eye and pull it out, cut off a few tongues, dismember the guts kind of butchered. One of the kids from the 70’s that we see had the top half of their head cut off and is still wandering around the school looking to take revenge since they had no closure. In that sense, the show moves towards a typical resolution that you’d expect within the time frame presented here of the four episodes and it works well to make it tense and scary as the whittled down numbers try to figure it all out. It doesn’t help that some of their friends end up falling into the mindset of the school either and become pretty homicidal themselves.
A series like Corpse Party isn’t one that you can dig into the meat of it all that much because it is standard horror material. The trappings are what will either sell it or not for fans. The scary horror side is definitely there and there are some surreal moments where it’s all calm and in your face before it turns decidedly violent. But there are other areas where it’s just guts spilling out on top of more guts and the blood flows freely. Visually, the show does it right with a good bit of detail and smoothness to the animation so that fans of the genre are likely fairly well served by it. It doesn’t do much for me, but I’ve also been a bit desensitized to some truly gruesome hentai horror before where nothing is off the table. Things here are, in that sense, a little more restrained. But frankly, with the focus on the kids here from the middle school(?) level and a little younger with the 70’s kids, it’s pretty damn unnerving.
Corpse Party isn’t your usual slice of life series that dips in the scary stuff at a culture festival for a bit with some cute scares and chills. This is full on horror material in the modern sense and it executes it well. It’s plainly not my cup of tea, to be honest, but I can admire what they do and I imagine for your average viewer that doesn’t see this often it’ll be pretty disturbing. The whole thing, if recut into a movie length feature, would be a pretty constant barrage of cruelty, blood, and depravity and there’s a lot to like in that as something to experience. This release brings it out solidly enough in a market that has very, very, little of it, so it’s likely to be a bit of a cult show in the long run. And rightly so as I can imagine a good number of fans keeping this one handy to introduce people to an area of anime not produced often these days outside of some hentai shows.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening & Closing Animations
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.