Kai Doh Maru : légende absconse

Kai Doh Maru
OAV de 45 mn
Production I.G. , 2001

Japon, moyen-âge. Une bande d’hommes en armes poursuivent une jeune fille, qu’ils nomment Kaidomaru. Capturée, elle réussit à tuer un de ces soudards grâce à sa vivacité, mais elle ne doit finalement la survie qu’à l’intervention d’un chevalier archer : le noble Minamoto no Raiko, de la Cour impériale.

Quelques années plus tard, Kaidomaru – Kintoki de son vrai nom - fait partie des Shitenno, les « quatre chevaliers » légendaires aux nombreux exploits qui assurent la sécurité du château impérial, sous le commandement de Raiko. Kyô, la capitale, déjà affaiblie par une mystérieuse épidémie, subit les razzias du bandit Shuten Doji. Meurtres, pillages, enlèvements… tout cela n’est-il pas un complot plus grave encore?

Ce que j’en pense :
Kai Doh Maru est l’adaptation d’une légende très célèbre au Japon : l’histoire de Kintaro, l’enfant à la force surhumaine, dont il existe plusieurs versions selon les époques ou les régions. Grosso modo, c’est l’histoire d’un garçon élevé par une sorcière ou une ogresse, peut-être l’enfant abandonné d’une princesse, qui devient célèbre par ses exploits contre des monstres redoutables, avant d’entrer au service de Minamoto no Raiko, gouverneur et chef de la garde impériale de l’ère Heian (10ème-11ème siècle). Kintaro prend alors le nom de Sakata no Kintoki, et devient le chef des Shitenno, quatre guerriers de légende nommés d’après les quatre rois célestes du bouddhisme. De cette histoire sont issus de nombreux contes populaires, avec plusieurs variantes, mélangeant l’histoire réelle, le folklore et la magie ; ils sont une des source d’inspiration des spectacles de No et de Kabuki, et Kintaro est toujours présent dans les coutumes traditionnelles, puisqu’il est associé à la fête des garçons, Kodomo no hi, sous forme de poupée ou même de friandise.

Tout cela, je l’ignorais avant d’avoir visionné le DVD. Et c’est bien là tout le problème. Car l’anime Kai Doh Maru ne peut être compris et apprécié que s’il l’on connaît déjà le folklore japonais ancien. Cela va probablement de soi pour des spectateurs nippons, mais le spectateur occidental est totalement ignoré par une telle production. En effet, il ne faut pas s’attendre ici à la moindre introduction ou explication préalable, sur ce qui est supposé déjà connu. Le récit, bien qu’adapté et modernisé, reprend les personnages célèbres (Kintoki, Raiko) sans ré-expliquer leur histoire, le nom seul de Kai Doh Maru suffisant apparemment à situer l’action. Admettons. Cela pourait encore aller si la mise en scène n’était pas aussi… elliptique. Je vois une succession de scènes, parfois belles, mais sans lien les unes avec les autres. J’ai beau m’accrocher, lorsqu’apparaît un nouveau personnage, rien ne me permet de comprendre qui il est, quelles sont ses intentions, rien. Cela devient grotesque avec un des personnages dont je pense qu’il est l’Empereur, mais je n’en suis pas sûr, même après avoir rediffusé la scène.

Cette absence de fil conducteur est d’autant plus gênante que les auteurs ont choisi de modifier l’intrigue de base, et de la moderniser en féminisant le personnage de Kai-Doh-Maru/Kintoki : Kintaro, le garçon trapu aux allures de sumo nain devient une jeune fille élancée, au look androgyne assez troublant, et une vague intrigue sentimentale vient se greffer sur la relation Kintoki-Raiko. Pourquoi pas, mais elle n’est pas plus développée que le reste, et demeure trop sous-jacente à mes yeux pour m’apporter enfin une clé de compréhension.

Vraiment, c’est dommage, car visuellement, j’ai trouvé le spectacle flatteur. La première scène, pré-générique, est superbe, en style pseudo-crayonné noir et blanc (quoique utilisant un peu déjà la 3D), et le générique lui-même est sobre et beau, une série de vraies-fausses peintures anciennes, qui annonce un spectacle historique et grandiose. La suite est très étrange, et m’a plutôt séduit. C’est un mélange de 3D (ratée) et de 2D (splendide), avec un design stylisé et une palette de couleurs pastel, pour rendre l’apparence des couleurs passées des anciennes peintures. C’est osé, et je trouve cela très beau lors des scènes nocturnes, avec des effets de halos qui en accentuent le caractère fantastique. Les scènes d’action, brèves et intenses, profitent également de cette palette restreinte, prenant un aspect expressionniste saisissant. En revanche, cela m’a dérouté lors des scènes de dialogues, ou le pastel finit par noyer les personnages dans un flou onirique sans le moindre contraste, comme si les êtres n’avaient pas plus d’importance que le décor.

Le décor : parlons-en. Une 3D systématique, qui détaille les subtiles architectures de l’ère Heian, aux textures plates, et aux lignes de perspectives trop nettes, sans la moindre aspérité. C’est froid, clinique, totalement déshumanisé. Les arbres ont l’air d’être en plastique, la pelouse ressemble à un tatami en synthétique, on dirait du lego, c’est sinistre.

La jacquette du DVD annonce fièrement : « par les créateurs de Blood the last vampire et Ghost in the shell » , mais c’est à la limite de la publicité mensongère. Que ce soit à la réalisation, au scénario ou au chara design, on ne trouve aucun nom en lien avec les anime cités. Il faut chercher parmi les animateurs clé ou 3D pour trouver un rapport (et pour la 3D, comme je l’ai dit, y a pas de quoi se vanter). De tout le staff, le seul nom qui me soit connu est celui de Sho-U Tajima, le dessinateur de MPD Psycho. Je ne l’avais pas tout de suite reconnu, mais les artworks en bonus montrent bien le trait dans le design des personnages, surtout Ibaraki (ci-contre), sorte de double maléfique de Kintoki, hélas sous-exploité. Quant au réalisateur, Kanji Wakabayashi, il m’a fait une étrange impression lors de l’interview bonus. Il a l’air gêné, décalé, il s’excuse presque du résultat… Soit il est très modeste et poli, soit il est conscient que ce n’est pas avec cette oeuvre qu’il aura réussi à laisser son empreinte dans le monde de l’anime. En tous cas, rien dans ses propos (ni dans ceux des autres intervenants) ne laisse apparaître de véritable ligne directrice, en dehors du travail purement technique et graphique.

Bref, avec un scénario confus, et avec des ambitions artistiques élevées mais une 3D hideuse,  à qui conseiller le visionnage de Kai Doh Maru? Je reste circonspect devant l’opportunité de publier ce DVD tel quel en France. Ok, acheté d’occase, l’investissement reste modeste, et avec au moins le prétexte de me documenter sur l’environnement artistique et historique de l’ère Heian, et de ses légendes, j’ai appris pas mal de choses nouvelles sur le folklore japonais. Mais mis à part cet effet indirect, Kai Doh Maru ne m’a, en tant qu’anime, pas apporté grand-chose. De belles images. Quelques scènes à l’ambiance bien rendue. Pas assez pour pallier les lacunes de ce qui ressemble fort à un projet inachevé…

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