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"3x3 Eyes" Vol. 2: Worthy Sequel to Great Original

Set four years after the conclusion of the first series, the second volume of 3 x 3 Eyes finds Yakumo wandering Tibet, and ultimately Tokyo, in search of Pai, who he knows must be alive somewhere.

After a dynamically animated opening sequence with Yakumo showing off his new skills, it’s back to Japan where we find Pai as a typical high-school girl who doesn’t immediately stand out. Now known as Pa-bo (!) and claiming to be living with her grandparents after her parents were killed in a car crash in Hong Kong, she lives an otherwise normal life. That is, until Yakumo finally tracks her down after spying her picture in a schoolgirl photo magazine. Naturally getting the wrong idea, Pa-bo is at first very resistant to Yakumo’s attention and implications that he already knows her. Thereafter, both of them as well as Pa-bo’s school-friends all come under attack by a horde of particularly creepy dolls, who make for effective adversaries. That they are eventually defeated by Pa-bo’s reawakened powers is no surprise, but it is interesting that this conflict does not result in the restoration of her memories.

Instead, in the second episode, Pa-bo and Yakumo head off to Tibet, where they hope to restore Pa-bo’s memories. Along the way we’re formally introduced to Yakumo’s priest friend Tinzin, who amusingly is able to have a hearty laugh at just about anything, and cynical treasure hunter Jake MacDonald (who, in a dub-only line, is amusingly compared to Ling Ling from the first OVA series). There are more battles in this episode, this time with the very sinister human-formed Choukai, which ultimately results in the reawakening of Pai’s third eye. However, even as Sanjiyan once more, she still doesn’t have her memories, which potentially makes her more dangerous than the dark forces already at work.

From there we move to the eventual conclusion, where our characters finally make it to the destination of the Sanjiyan Holy Land. In a series of effectively creepy scenes, they find nothing but a dead land, with only a message from a young Pai to tell any travelers to turn back. However, it’s not long before Choukai comes calling again, and this results in some exceptionally animated scenes with him doing battle with Yakumo and MacDonald. Then, it’s on to the ultimate conclusion (of the series at least, if not the story), as Benares finally makes his move, and along with it, reveals a very surprising plot twist concerning Pa-bo’s true identity. The final scenes add up to a satisfying conclusion, but again as with many OVAs of the time period, there’s little sense of any true finality, and indeed the manga’s story does continue for a couple of more volumes after the end of these OVAs.

Even given the not entirely satisfying ending, there are many noteworthy points to comment on the second 3×3 Eyes OVA series. In terms of characterization, it’s an interesting counterpoint to the, in that the main characters’ roles are essentially reversed. Pai is now the clueless individual who wants nothing to do with the demonic forces at play and wishes to return to a normal life, while Yakumo is her protector, now armed with four years of experience at battling demons. Pai’s new Pa-bo persona is appealing, but ultimately she doesn’t come across as being particularly original, as she’s all-too-willing to get involved with events beyond her understanding. Having warmed so much to Pai in the first series, I found this ‘personality reset’ rather jarring.

Yakumo however, is far more engaging, having truly changed and become fittingly more involved in the world of magic and fantasy, and at last grown into his role as an immortal protector, his fate tied with Sanjiyan’s. His newfound skills bring home that until he can fulfill Pai’s quest to become human, he has temporarily given up on all traces of his old normal life as well. But I found many of the additions to be only marginal to the plot, and since Pai, Yakumo and Benares are the only returning characters from the first volume, I rather missed the Hong Kong cast from the earlier installments.

The picture quality is much sharper than the first OVAs, but this is something of a detriment as the animation itself looks rather less moody and atmospheric than that of the first volume. The character designs this time around are also far more conventional than the first series, and although this is in itself not necessarily bad, I found I did miss the old drawing style, particularly on Pai and Yakumo (here seen opening his eyes a lot more this time around!). Coming after the early 90s peak of anime, the post-bubble animation itself is also not quite as good as many of the sequences seen in the first series, although there are many standout moments in the battle scenes, with the final episode in particular representing some high points of animation in both series. Clearly the animators were saving their best work for last.

That contrast between the calmer scenes and more action-packed ones is made even more noticeable since the battles are far more spread out in the second OVA series. The pace is far slower than before, but the level of characterization of the secondary characters is about the same as the first series. This is mainly due to there being far more exposition this time around, as the makers may have been aware that there probably wouldn’t be another series. Nevertheless, the more measured and thoughtful pace of these later installments allows for some good moments for us to become more emotionally involved with the story and characters, which is always a good thing.

The voicework this time around is just as impressive as on the first volume, with notable actors such as Ed Asner and The Greatest American Hero himself, William Katt, turning in impressive performances to complement everyone else’s. As before, special mention should go to Earl Boen, who just oozes unremitting evil as Benares. One thing I did miss from the earlier dub however, was Jack MacDonald’s Australian accent, which while ludicrous was somehow very fitting for the character. As for the DVD extras, they are again pretty light, but the welcome voice actor profiles are also present on this second volume as well.

In conclusion, this second series of 3×3 Eyes has just as much to recommend about it as the first, with some very welcome character growth for Yakumo, and more entertaining additions to the series’ cast, as well as some more supreme villainy from Benares. Both volumes of 3×3 Eyes represent exactly the sort of animated storytelling that used to be showcased brilliantly on the unrestrained and highly-budgeted OVA format, and any chance to see such productions should be strongly encouraged. So, unsurprisingly, this comes highly recommended.

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