An early CLAMP OVA, really a brief animated excerpt from one of their manga. Not entirely satisfying as a standalone work, but still attractive. Two episodes.
As our story opens, Princess Ashura is trying to get her own back from Taishakuten, who overthrew and killed her father Ashura, the Emperor of the Heavens. A prophecy says that the usurper's throne will be hers only when she has gathered five companions referred to as "stars". Accompanied by four of them, her search for the fifth inevitably leads her into a series of traps set by Taishakuten, who knows the prophecy just as well as she.
The story is adapted, extremely loosely, from the ancient Hindu myths as interpreted by the Chinese Buddhists who brought continental learning to Japan. There is plenty of interesting action, both physical and psychological, courtesy of some very messed up characters, but the viewer may be left wondering what else is going on.
Character designs are glossy but somewhat stereotyped. The style, although recognizably CLAMP, is not quite as developed as in later productions. Art design, if not inventive, is appropriately exotic, although Taishakuten's throne room looks a good deal like the bridge of the Souja from Tenchi Muyo!, an impression only reinforced by his having the same voice actor as Kagatou. The use of colour is not as effective as it might be, particularly in the strangely tinted night scene which begins Episode 1. Animation is somewhat limited in places and employs a certain amount of repetition, but is adequate to the task.
Music is very atmospheric, mostly of the synthesizer type, and sufficiently involving. Effects are intriguing and unusual, principally owing to unusual subject matter. Both make heavy use of bass, perfect for subwoofer owners. There are no surprises in the voice acting, familiar actors playing familiar roles in the old familiar style.
Nothing spectacularly great, but worth a look especially for CLAMP fans.
For those without strong Japanese language skills, Central Park's usual periphrastic white subtitles do their usual halfway-decent job of rendering dialogue; interestingly names, used as exclamations or in sentences &c., are sometimes subtitled and sometimes not.
As usual with CPM/Image releases, these are single-side CLV discs with no extras, and the chapter marking is correlated more with running time than with programme content.
For whatever reason, the translators have not bothered to look up the original Sanskrit names of the characters, and so the viewer who is at all conversant with Hinduism or Indian Buddhism may find himself distracted trying to remember who these people all are. Let's see, Kujaku, he's the one they call the Peacock King, and there's Kendappa-oh, does anybody remember who that is? and Aizen-Myoo, I think that's Avalokitesvara the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion... oh dear, such a mess.