The Skull Man – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 29, 2010 by  

Suspense, mystery and action rolled up into one!  “The Skull Man” is a riveting anime series that is dark, captivating!  The anime series is also the prequel to Shotaro Ishinomori’s “Cyborg 009” series.  A thrilling anime series from beginning to end!  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2007 Shotaro Ishinomori/THE SKULL MAN PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Skull Man – The Complete Series

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Japanese 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks


Release Date: February 2, 2010

Originally created by Shotaro Ishinomori

Directed by Takeshi Mori

Series Composition by Yutaka Izubuchi

Script by Hiroshi Ohnogi, Seishi Minakami, Shingo Takeba, Yutaka Izubuchi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Jun Shibata

Mechanical Design by Yoshinori Sayama

Director of Photography: Susumu Fukushi

Anime Production by BONES

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Tsuchida as Skull Man

Ayako Kawasumi as Kiriko Mamiya

Fumiko Orikasa as Maya Kuroshio

Hiroyuki Yoshino as Akira Usami

Makoto Yasumura as Hayato Minagami

Masayuki Katou as Yoshio Kanzaki

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Masaki Kumashiro

Otomo City: where freedom and justice have atrophied to the bone; where conspiracy rules the day and death stalks the night… Death in the form of the Skull Man, a literal Grim Reaper whose skeletal grin presages grisly mayhem and murder, even to the monstrous mutants that haunt the city’s underworlds!

To investigate a bizarre slaying, journalist Minagami Hayato and photographer Kiriko Mamiya must stalk this ultimate predator, through a festering cadaver of a city where the corruption flows in rivers as deep and foul as the sins of the reigning elite, and unearth a secret so shocking that an entire city has been turned into a tomb to contain! In a nightmarish necropolis where nothing is as it seems, vengeance comes in the form of a living Death’s-Head!

Contains episodes 1-13.

In 1970, one of the more popular manga series in Japan was Shotaro Ishinomori’s “Skull Man” which graced the pages of Shonen Magazine and selling over 1.5 million copies.   Ishinomori is well-known in Japan for creating the “Kamen Rider” character, as well as the manga series “Cyborg 009”, “Kikaider” and “Miyamoto Musashi” series.

But what made Ishinomori’s work for “The Skull Man” so unique at the time, was that manga series was among the first to showcase an anti-hero as the series revolves around a hero who was orphaned when his parents were murdered and now takes up the disguise of Skull Man to exact his revenge.

Before the death of Ishinomori in the late ’90s, he asked mangaka Kazuhiko Shimamoto to do a remake of his manga continuing the storyline and was released in Japan and the US.  In 2007, director Takeshi Mori (“Gekkou no Piasu”, “Kimaure Orange Road” OAV’s, “Stratos 4”) and anime production company BONES began working on an anime adaptation which aired on Fuji TV.  Now, the anime series is available through Sentai Filmworks/Section 23 Films in the US via a complete collection (featuring all 13 episodes).

Joining Mori for the anime series was well known character/mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi (“RahXephon”) who wrote the screen composition, character designs by Jun Shibata (“Ninja Nonsense”, “Dokkoida?!”), mechanical design by Yoshinori Sayama (“Mobile Suit Gundam UC”, “Patlabor” movies, “RahXephon”) and music by Shiro Sagisu (“Bleach”, “Evangelion” re-build films, “Kimagure Orange Road”, “Megazone 23”, “Nadia – Secret of Blue Water”).

In the anime adaptation of “The Skull Man”, journalist Hayato Mikogami returns to his home in Otomo City to investigate the alleged murders by a mysterious person known as “The Skull Man”.  While going home, he runs into a teenager named Kiriko Mamiya and helps her get entry into Otomo City.  But Mikogami didn’t expect Kiriko to follow him wherever he went.  As for Kiriko, by tagging along with Hayato, she wants to become a photographer and help him out while he investigates.

One day while Hayato was out in about in the city by himself, he sees a man running away from something.  When he goes to help him, the man throws Hayato and hurts him.  We then see this man being chased by two canine monsters followed by the Skull Man himself.  When Hayato goes to check out the commotion, he sees the man dead and sees the Skull Man before passing out.  Confirming that the story of The Skull Man is true, now Hayato is more than determined to investigate this story.

The main characters of “The Skull Man” are:

  • Hayato Mikogami – A journalist from Tokyo who returns to Otomo City to investigate “The Skull Man” murders.  He and his partner/assistant Kiriko work together to investigate the murders.  Typically in the right place at the wrong time, he is often followed by Detective Shinjou because Hayato gets into trouble frequently.
  • Kiriko Mamiya – A 16-year-old girl who is helped by Hayato to get into Otomo City.  She aspires to be a photographer and clings onto Hayato.  Her purpose of going to Otomo City is not yet known.
  • Detective Shinjou – The naive and stern detective who follows Hayato around and suspects Hayato has information on the murders.  He develops a crush on Hayato’s friend Nami.
  • Kyoichiro Tachigi – A mysterious older man who is a detective who seems to come in contact with Hayato quite a bit.  The two help each other once in awhile.
  • Yoshio Kanzaki – Hayato’s childhood friend who is a priest that runs an orphanage.
  • Gozo Kuroshio – The most powerful man in Otomo City.  He feels indebted to help Hayato for some reason.  While kindhearted on the outside, he is up to something mysterious and uses the Skull Man murders as a way to create a fake Skull Man to further more killings of prominent officials.
  • Sara Kuroshio – The wife of Gozo who is the chairwoman of the religious cult Byakureikai (White Bell Cult).
  • Maya Kuroshio – Gozo’s 17-year-old daughter who is weak.  She is attracted to Father Kanzaki and helps out at the orphanage against her mother’s wishes.

“The Skull Man” is 13-episodes long and are featured on two DVD discs.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:


  • EPISODE 1: The Town Where the Mask Dances – Hayato Mikogami and Kiriko arrive in Otomo and begins investigating “The Skull Man” murders.
  • EPISODE 2: The Man from the Past – After Hayato spots “The Skull Man” and the death of a man, he becomes a murder suspect.
  • EPISODE 3: Crimson Rain Falls in the Afternoon – Yui and Sayoko go to a theater where The Skull Man and his beasts are waiting.  Kiriko follows.
  • EPISODE 4: Wandering Phantom – The mayor is killed and strung up near the subway, Hayato decides to investigate.
  • EPISODE 5: Fabricated Blindspot – The Skull Man impostor versus the real Skull Man.
  • EPISODE 6: Grim Reaper’s Banquet – Hayato and Kiriko disguise themselves as part of the White Bell cult to infiltrate the Byakureikai.


  • EPISODE 7 – Human-beast Tamer – Kiriko runs into the man that she has been looking for all this time.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Maiden Whispers in the Moonlight – With a lead left by Jin, Kiriko and Hayato investigate. Meanwhile, Hayato’s former flame Nami arrives back in town.
  • EPISODE 9 – Blessing Be Upon the Tainted – Nami starts to realize that something is going on with her body.
  • EPISODE 10 – The Circus Laughs at Midnight – The police issue a manhunt on Hayato who is wanted for murder.  Both Hayato and Kiriko hide in the woods.
  • EPISODE 11 – O Darkness, Take My Hand – The Skull Man and the beasts versus the cyborgs.  The secrets are revealed.
  • EPISODE 12 – Holy Night of Blood – Hayato now is determined to stop Masaki Kuroshio.
  • EPISODE 13 – Black Allegory ~All That Love Vanishes – The Skull Man versus Masaki Kuroshio.


“The Skull Man” is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen.  The animation by BONES is fantastic.  The artists did a great job in creating the world of Otomo City and the fact that every episode, there are literally difference scenery instead of rehash or reusing scenery.  Painted backgrounds emphasize the character designs by Jun Shibata.    Character and mechanical designs are well-done!  If Sentai Filmworks plans to get into Blu-ray in the future, this is one title that I would love to see on HD.

As for the audio audio is presented in Japanese 2.0.  For a more immersive soundtrack, I chose to have my home theater receiver set with stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape.  But for the most part audio is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English.


The Skull Man – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Skull Man Japanese Promos – Several Japanese promotions for the “The Skull Man”.
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmworks trailers

Suspense, mystery and action rolled up into one!  “The Skull Man” is a riveting anime series that is dark, captivating!  The anime series is also the prequel to Shotaro Ishinomori’s “Cyborg 009” series.

I absolute enjoyed “The Skull Man”.  There was no need for the series to be stretched out past 13 episodes, the storyline was tightly paced and every episode just pulling you in and literally making you want to watch more and more.  The ending is the true payoff and I have to admit, I was shocked.

Both director Takeshi Mori and series writer Yutaka Izubuchi really took the character and the series into a different direction from the manga series and I definitely was not expecting the connection to Ishinomori’s “Cyborg 009”.

In some way, viewers can see “The Skull Man” being similar to what the first three movies of the “Star Wars” films were (hint: Anakin->Darth Vader).   The question is, with this latest reimagining of the “Skull Man”, it’s going to be interesting to see if BONES continues with a new “Cyborg 009” or viewers need to track down the older anime series.   I have no doubt that with the way “The Skull Man” ends, fans are probably hoping to get a new “Cyborg 009”.   I know that I am and I hope they do it.

“The Skull Man” DVD contains all 13-episodes of the series.  The live action episode zero is not included in this set.  The complete set is actually a pretty good deal as in Japan, viewers had to purchase each volume (with only two episodes) for over $50 on DVD.  But granted, each Japanese volume came with a large number of special features while this complete set only comes with the Japanese promotional videos. But viewers are getting all 13-episodes for a very good price.

Overall, “The Skull Man” is definitely a thrilling anime series from beginning to end.  A solid storyline especially for those familiar with Ishinomori’s work, well-written, interesting characters, very good character design and awesome artistic backgrounds.  “The Skull Man” is Definitely recommended!

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