One day on his way home with a friend, they meet a senior who invites them to a party. They decide to go for the free food, and there, Abe meets Kyoko Sawara, the girl he falls head over heels for her. At first, the party appears to be an ordinary social club but the new members soon find out about the 1000 year-old tradition upheld by the four universities of Kyoto and the “Horumo” battle. Based on the popular fantasy novel of the same name, the film combines the bizarre, outrageous antics and high energy that I love in Japanese comedy with authentic folklore and solid acting with an all-star cast.
Try to keep up because the plot gets a bit weirder. Basically, from what I could grasp, members are trained to lead their own squad of of small demons to fight for their respective universities. The four schools then meet in tournaments in which the demons fight to determine which is the champion and if any regiment loses its battle, its leader must face divine punishment. For me, this was a live action teen anime. It was over dramatic when it wasn’t ridiculous. If this sounds pretty silly, it is, and the battles between the demons are really goofy. They are fully 3D rendered animation, done by Studio Gonzo who is well known for their CGI work. Although it is billed as an action flick, the emphasis is far more on the comedy than the action.
Battle League Horumo’s cast try their best to make their characters interesting. Takayuki Yamada is still a lovable loser but he gets to be a little cooler here even though he is clearly not top dog. He does a good job of making his character seem young and dumb, but capable of learning, as opposed to just an oddball screw-up. Much of the antics are typical Japanese over-the-top physical comedy, like all the boys getting naked and performing a choreographed pop routine at the shrine in order to gain the god’s favor. This wackiness doesn’t excuse some of the scripts faults however.
In addition, the love triangle part of the story is unnecessary and has also been done before and drags the story down at times. Battle League Horumo features stunning visual effects and some quirky sound effects and I can honestly say I wasn’t turned off by the uniqueness of the film. Again, the actors commit to these roles and convincingly sell their relationships, and that is really the glue that holds this film together. All in all a fantastic film that I completely enjoyed. There are plenty of surprises in the film too, so see this movie with as little foreknowledge as possible, as it would spoil the movie if you knew too much about it.