!Special Note!

I am aware that this tape is most likely a horrible place to pick this series up from. I just think, as it stands on its own, its really funny and I want to write about it here. I know of the TV series as well as the other Manga Video release, I just have not watched or read up on them at all. I'm sure they'd all help provide context and make this tape more coherent.

Short, Bad Synopsis Written By a Dumbass

Written by: Audrey :J

I still am having a hard time fully grasping what is going on in this tape. So, I'm going to just paste in the synopsis from the back of the box which does a lot better at explaining it methinks. (NOTE: I did not read this prior to watching the tape because I've been spoiled in the past by these back-of-the-box blurbs.)


For fourteen-year old Gau, it is time once again for him to return to the graves of his parents, murdered by bandits when he was just ten. In this company of his adoptive sister Ella, Gau quickly comes to realize that his journey is more than a pilgrimage, and that his combat abilities as a student of the Karuda school of martial arts are about to be pushed to their breaking point!

Attacked by the demonic Wolfman, left for dead then forced to fight by Ella and Karuda master Scarface, Gau's dreams of becoming a new generation of warrior are put to the ultimate test - can he face his sister in single combat? Will he be able to match the unearthly abilities of Scarface? And can Gau ever uncover the secrets of the Shadow Skill?

One day I was a few cities over in a retro game store just browsing. The guy who owns it is SUPER chill and I’ve kinda followed him around as he’s gone from store to store. This latest incarnation of his store is the best one by far. He also has imported stuff, board games (new and old), TTRPG rulebooks, DVDs, Blu-rays, and, of course, VHS tapes! The VHS tapes are only on one bookcase, and its a rather small selection. A lot of them were just regular old movies (Terminator, Halloween, etc., y’know, classics), but he also had some anime VHS tapes. About 90% of them I’d say were DragonBall Z tapes, which he said he bought solely to pad out the shelves. Most of the others were scattered tapes from other episodic a nime, particularly ones popular over here in the 90s and early 00s. Things like Ranma ½, Cardcaptor Sakura, Yu Yu Hakusho, Beyblade, Pokemon, etc. But there were a few that caught my eye, one being this tape! Not only was it something I had never heard of but, from what I could read, it was a movie! I didn’t need any prior context to understand this one (OH HOW WRONG I WAS)! So I gleefully bought it and took it home! Now that I have watched it (multiple times for this), here are my thoughts on this...thing.

So, I now know that this was a piss-poor choice to try and know anything at all about what’s happening in this tape. From start to finish was probably the most confused I’ve been ever viewing any piece of visual media. Apparently, this was originally a TV show that they condensed into a movie for western releases (at least back then). I’m no big anime connoisseur, but, from what I’ve heard from friends, this was somewhat common? Anyway, this was the first release of Shadow Skill in the west, and not only did they condense it into a movie, they condensed it into two movies...and released the second part first???

So many of these characters are just shown to you with Zero introduction. I’ve watched this tape many times and the main duo, Gau and Ella, are the only people whose names I remember. They are obviously part of the main squad in the show, but you only even catch their names said in passing, if they’re even said at all. I had very little context for anything about this world other than this: Gau is apparently making a pilgrimage to his parents grave and is trying to become basically the best warrior dude ever. Ella, his adoptive sister, is also a part of this in some way. Ella also, by the way, is the most memorable character to me for one reason and one reason only. Her voice actress sounds like the stereotype of someone’s aunt. She sounds like she’s 42 years old with an addiction to Cabernet Sauvignon specifically and a PTA meeting in the morning. It’s awesome.

The introduction of random-ass characters throughout the movie doesn’t stop the entire time. There is apparently a man named Scarface (hilarious) who I believe is just this story’s “bestest warrior ever that protag is trying to one-up.” He only barely seems relevant to anything that’s going on in this tape. He shows up here and there, either says some broody shit or kill-steals Gau and leaves. The action scenes are very cool, which is just typical fare for a lot of anime I’m learning. Problem is they are kinda far and few in between? It’s enough to not bore you to death but there’s a lot of unnecessary talking in this tape. It wouldn’t be unnecessary if the plot wasn’t completely incomprehensible because we’re starting off mid-series. However, since we are, a lot of the conversations are either very shoe-horned in exposition to explain (poorly) what’s going on, or just conversations that mean nothing to the viewer unless the viewer has seen either the tape they put out AFTER this one (Shadow Skill: Origin) or have seen the original anime or read the original manga.

Truth be told, it’s been very hard to write this page because I had and still have no idea what was really going on in it. I haven’t read up on it much beyond the history of how the tape itself was put together, because I’m trying to look at this how I found it. If I got this tape back when it came out this is probably how I would have felt about it too. I’m dumbfounded, and what little I have gleamed, doesn’t help make any of this make any more sense. Maybe I’ll happen upon Shadow Skill: Origin and make heads or tails of more stuff, but for now...uh...whatta hell..

Go Back to the TV