While stumbling around the depths of anime I came across the show Kishin Douji Zenki and was immediately interested from seeing video clips (mainly the amazing title sequence set to music by Hironobu Kageyama of Dragonball Z, Shin Getter Robo and *shudder* M.D Geist fame) and I decided to give it a try. I can immediately tell you that this is an anime which you will either like or hate depending on how accustomed to older anime your are, as well as actively adjusting your watching habits for the type of anime.
The show is focused on action and battle sequences which typically occur near the end of each episode. Each one of these battles is typically over a Seed of Evil, which has the power to possess an individual and transform them into a monster. It is Zenki's purpose to destroy the seeds of evil. Below is a more detailed (i.e spoiler-laden) look at the show. If you are not wanting any spoilers, then please skip to the fourth paragraph.
The first 13 episodes of the anime are episodic and if watched immediately one after the other, then it can feel very repetitive. For the first twelve of 13 episodes it is mainly Zenki and his keeper Chiaki Enno, the 55th descendant from the great mystic Ozune Enno (if you are unfamiliar with him, there are good articles on Ozune Enno across the web), battling evil dispersed by the seeds of evil. Episode 13 is a clip show of highlights from the prior episodes, but while it may be tempting to skip this episode, I feel it to be necessary as the anime soon gets a running plot and I feel without this episode the plot transition from an episodic to a running plot would have been too great for me.
From episodes 14 to 25 it is a running plot dealing with the main antagonists being Anju, Karuma, Guren and Goura, each a sorcerer of evil, as well as the acquisition of the golden axe from the dragon Ryu. In order to acquire the axe, Chiaki, and Zenki, along with Chiaki's grandmother, Saki, as well as Abbot Jukai Enno, his disciple Kuribayashi and the mysterious Miki Souma have to travel back in time, when there, several beasts of evil have to be fought, including ones of the nearby elements of Chiaki's town (this is important later). Once acquired, the golden axe serves as a powerful tool, but only against a powerful enemy: the antagonists themselves, having sent Anju out to destroy Zenki. She fails, but in doing so her past is revealed though a flashback the Souma has: when Souma was younger, Anju was one of the best students who trained with the Kagekouya monks, strong and fearless, she overcame all obstacles and soon became the hero of the Kagekouya, however, she has changed since, this cues another flashback from Anju where she is alone in a snowstorm and all hope seems lost, but suddenly, a shadow appears, then a body, it was Karuma. Karuma was the one who save Anju, but also the one who made her evil. This starts a battle arc, where Anju is defeated and then killed off, something which makes Souma consider leaving to reflect and channel his inner strength for the inspiration that Anju had provided. In the meantime, the other antagonists have broken a seal that has held the forces of evil for millenia, five monsters, each representing an element, as with some of the monsters in the golden axe arc, are summoned. Each one must be defeated and a spell cast to sell them and with it evil, now a tree which grows seeds. The tree (which turns out to be the true form of Karuma) is only destroyed by using every member of Chiaki and Zenki's team and their strengths, Souma leaves on his spiritual quest shortly thereafter. The antagonists are defeated, but Karuma escapes at the last moment, only to have later dispersed her rage in the form of seeds, known as Seeds of Karuma (revealed in episode 27).
Episode 26 is another clip show for the series thus far and at the end introduces a new villain: Roh, The Dog Deity, and his servant Kokutei. They test Zenki's power and often, Zenki finds that the monsters which Roh spawns are only able to be defeated with the golden axe, even then, it sometimes has no effect. Additional characters of Kazue and Akira are introduced, the former is a scientist equipped with spirit tracking and destroying technology and the latter is later revealed to be the guardian spirit Goki, who has the appears of agility and the ability to revitalize Zenki's power. They continue the fight between good and evil where then the evil Karuma beasts, but are still outpaced by the Roh each time.
Episode 32 is particularly notable for its emotional depth in character relationships and further establishes spirits, here the character of Hikawa was introduced, a former coworker and lover of Kazue, believing in living with the spirits rather than fighting them, which had caused him to leave the workplace which he and Kazue shared; he resides by the lake where he has befriended the spirits, but one, Mizuchi, has been possessed with a Seed of Karuma. Hikawa tries to reason with it and Mizuchi seemed to have responded, but soon gave in to the Seed of Karuma's power, leaving Zenki to destroy Mizuchi with the Golden Axe; While all seems lost, Zenki tells Chiaki that spirits never die, I found this particularly heartfelt.
Starting in Episode 35, another antagonist is introduced to be alongside Roh. Named Hirumaki the Seer, he was sent by the Roh's father, Lord Engai, to aid in finding the Seeds of Karuma by using his power of clairvoyance. He also bears the ability of unlocking the power of dormant Seeds of Karuma (also revealed in episode 35). While Hirumaki is a helpful tool in locating the Seeds of Karuma, he often finds them too early and they seeds have not fully developed, which only angers Roh, and fails to properly nourish Kokutei. By episode 40, Roh and Hirumaki the Seer become at odds with each other and wind up fighting, resulting in Hirumaki being obliterated. This only leads to the conviction of Roh by Kagetora, leader of the Army of the Dead, Zenki tries to ward them off by using the Golden Axe in episode 41, but the attack is blocked. At once, one of Kagetora's servant Nagi takes away Kokutei and Kagetora uses the weapon of Shadow Fang to take out Roh and Zenki, as well as trapping Chiaki, Akira and the other so Kagetora can escape. Kagetora looks to activate Kokutei's power, by bringing rage upon Kokutei. At this time, Hirumaki has been summoned, confirming that he was not dead and then is given a Seed of Karuma which possesses him, he is the first antagonist of the Realm of the Dead to be deated at the end of this episode, but with the help of Roh, who quickly goes back to his plan of evil, once having rid of Hirumaki. Roh turns into an anti-hero at this point, turning against Kagetora and targeting his servants so he can claim Kokutei, first slaying Kabura, the strongest of Kagtora's servants, before Zenki even has the chance to get him with the Golden Axe.
In the same episode as this (Episode 42), Souma reutrns after warding off some unnamed servants of Nagi and Kabura acting out a plot against Akria/Goki. In episode 44, a new internal conflict is revealed, where Chiaki's energy is drained in each fight with Zenki in his ultimate form, this sends her into a coma and leaves Zenki unable to transform, unbeknownst to them, there is another problem: Kazue has been posessed by a Seed of Kaurma. Kazue's power has the ability to crate Karuma beasts outside of her own body, which target those whom Kazue loves and respects. At the end of episode 45, Kazue orders Goki to kill her while she is at the mercy of Kagetora, but he refuses and Kagetora orders them killed, but Roh shows up and attacks Kagetora.
The next battle that ensues pans out like a Dragon Ball Z one, that is to say, it is more dialogue heavy revealing Kagetora's true intentions to release the power of Kokutei to Roh, then a fight heavily focused on the channeling energy, Roh loses and can only watch what follows, including the taking away of Kazue, as a beast to fuel Kokutei. At the end of this episode, it is revealed that there is another Dog Deity, Hazuki, Roh's mother, where in episode 47 she restores Roh's forgotten memories, but Roh quickly breaks from it, only to have it telepathically communicated back to him. The story of Roh is as follows: born in the Realm of the Dead to a mother of Hazuki and the light as a father, Roh was soon taken away by the servants of Lord Engai to be raised by him.
Hazuki asks Chiaki and her party to stop Roh and/or Kagetora from unleashing the Evil Beast within Kokutei, they must work as a team to succeed and with the return of the professor and his new weapon, they are able to stave off Kagetora, his servants and a summoning of Kazue from taking Hazuki. In the next episode, Hazuki wanders off and finds Roh and they finally reconnect, but only at the cost of Hazuki's life to Kagetora while saving Roh from his death. Kagetora then shows up and Zenki is transformed, but Kazue is then summoned, which prevents Zenki from entering his ultimate form. This is when Roh plants two Seeds of Karuma inside of him. Now in his ultimate form, he fights Kagetora and sends him out of the realm of Earth, then he turns his attention to getting the last seed from Kazue, but is challenged by Chiaki and Zenki to fight, but only if he is in his Ultimate form, but is unable to do that due to Kazue's poweres as a Karuma Beast. Meanwhile, Miki, the Professor and all of Chiaki's party, minus Zenki and herself go to Kazue and, using a weapon developed by the Professor and revealed in the prior episode, frees her spirit and the Seed of Karuma. The seed is handed to Zenki who then challenges Roh to a fight, after a battle much like the ones of Dragon Ball Z, Zenki wins, but his Seed of Karuma, as well as both of Roh's are taken by Kagetora which he uses to awaken the Evil Beast.
Now released, the Evil Beast is an almost unstoppable force. The following episode starts with an introduction to the Kagekouya as well as one final item the professor has: a system which magnifies spiritual energy to summon a sealing pentagram. They use it to hold the Evil Beat in place. Meanwhile, Roh returns, this time to put an end to the Evil Beast. Alongside Zenki and Goki, they fight to destroy the Evil Beast, eventually materializing leading up to a combined attack using both Ludora and the Golden Axe, with their combined powers, thus defeating the Evil Beast.There is a heartfelt sendoff by Chiaki to seal Zenki back in the rock from which he had emerged at the beginning of the series, but is summoned shortly thereafter for a montage sequence of Zenki defeating Karuma Beasts after a new box of Seeds of Karuma had been discovered. The series then ends.
I can say that I like Zenki for its action sequences, as they are in a similar vein to earlier Dragon Ball episodes in the way that they are panned out, except Zenki lacks the comedy elements around the fight scenes, giving it a more serious tone (though Zenki is not devoid of humor as a whole, but it is mainly relegated to the slice of life segments in each episode). Every few episodes Zenki and/or Chiaki use a new fighting move, which I feel saves the plot from becoming entirely repetitive. That said, I can recommend this series, but it has great action sequences and an equally great set of characters, who though align with some of the tropes from that era (think Dragon Ball and Ranma 1/2), are still likable. Additionally the lack of the cliche teenage boy shounen protagonist with (family, self-worth, etc.) issues, which seems to be oh so common in shounen from the early 2000s forth (e.g: One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, etc.), makes this anime so refreshing. In short, an enjoyable watch. Recommended!
As a footnote, there is technically a fifty-second episode, which was released as an OVA a few years after the series ended. Its events are mainly contained in the plot and do not reference the series. I am looking for this OVA in a subtitled format (despite hearing bad things about it), but it seems near impossible to find. If anyone knows where to watch it, or has the file, then please contact me on the profile page provided by Neocities or E-mail.