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Kujaku is a young monk and an avatar, the incarnation of a god. His friend and cute blonde fellow-avatar Ashura, his teacher Ajari, and the leather-clad biker/magic master Onimaru band together to fight the demons released by Tatsuma from the ancient temple statues at Nara. Tatsuma is a powerful psychic, but he's never learned proper control of his abilities, and in seeking to test his powers, he puts humankind in terrible danger in the first episode, Feast for Returning Demons. In the second story, Castle of Illusion, Onimaru and graduate student Hatsuko are the sole survivors of a team digging up relics of medieval warlord and supposed black magician Nobunaga Oda (see Yotoden). If the two scrolls found by the team are joined, Azuchi Castle will rise again and the warlord will unleash hell on Earth. For the third story, Harvest of Cherry Blossoms, the threat is undead shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, who has joined forces with the restless ghost of an actress murdered during WWII and intends to sink Japan beneath the waves.
The story of Kujaku-myo'o (to some esoteric Buddhist sects, a manifestation of Gautama Buddha often depicted riding on a giant peacock) was updated by Makoto Ogino for his 1985 manga in Young Jump, using the idea of avatars of the gods as inspiration for a modern-day adventure. The franchise returned as True PK (1994, Shin Kujaku-o), more faithful to Ogino's original, and it replaced the Madhouse-look-alike animation of AIC with actual animation from the Madhouse studio itself, under veteran director Rintaro. His versions throw much of their budget into the movie-quality opening scenes, creating impressive images that soon devolve into less expensive animation. Trawling outside Japan for villains, it features twin avatars, a boy and a girl, born to reincarnate god of light Kujaku-o and god of darkness Tenja-o. The boy, Akira, is a member of a Buddhist sect charged with guarding the Dragon Grail, a mystic vessel that has the power to release Tenja-o into the world. Power-crazed neo-Nazi Siegfried von Mittgard plans to steal the grail and reincarnate himself as Tenja-oh; this will prevent Akira's twin, Tomoko, from fulfilling her destiny, but Siegfried has another role in mind for her.
Like the director's earlier Doomed Megalopolis, PK suffers in English simply through the weight of the original source material-American actors, working with the Japanese names for the Chinese versions of Buddhist takes on Hindu gods, create a predictably confusing roster, though translators Bill Flanagan and Yuko Sato make a heroic effort to incorporate the original Sanskrit. A live-action Japanese--Hong Kong coproduction, PK: Legend of the Phoenix (1988), was directed by Story of Riki's Nam Nai Choi and starred martial-arts legend Yuen Biao. Another Kujaku appears in CLAMP's Rg Veda. LNV