Weekend Review – Karas

This weekend I’ve got a review for you of the 6-episode OVA Karas, which was released in the US on DVD as two hour-and-a-half long films Karas: The Prophesy, and Karas: The Revalation. We’ll see how this anime version of a Henshin (transforming hero) series works out.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Asuka Shibuya as Hinaru
Kasumi Suzuki as Yurine
Keiji Fujiwara as Nue
Toshihiro Wada as Otoha
Takahiro Sakurai as Houshun’in Ekou

Story and Directed by Keiichi Satou
Screenplay by Masaya Honda & Shin Yoshida
Animated by Tatsunoko

The Premise

The balance between the supernatural forces of Japan (ghosts & goblins, called the youkai) and the modern human world is kept by an champion known as Karas, who represents originally the spirit of the people of a country, and then each city getting its own Karas, as they developed their own character), who prevents one side from preying on the other. When a former Karas, Ekou, turns evil and starts combining youkai with machines for the purposes of ruling over humanity (starting in Shinjuku) as a god (and kills the current Karas), the new Karas, Otoha, must fight against Ekou and his forces, the Mikura, to save both humans and the youkai from distruction.

High Points

The fight scenes are gorgeous, splendidly combining CGI and traditional 2d animation to an excellent effect. The voice acting is also very solid, and the supporting cast is fleshed out excellently as well. Also, the concept of Karas is also interesting, and – approaching the film from an American perspective, and seeing the different characters of the cities of Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit & Chicago (not in the movie, in real life), the concept of a hero representing the “spirit of a city” makes sense and generally appeals to me. This series also has one of the best scores I’ve heard in anime (composed by Yoshihiro Ike, who did the score for Blood: The Last Vampire) outside of Yoko Kanno’s work

Low Points

While the visiting Karas, from another city has an interesting character, and brightens up her scenes, Otoha has only slightly more personality than Golgo 13. For those unfamiliar with anime – Golgo 13 has all the personality of a brick. If you get a good artist to draw a very nice looking sad face on the brick, you get Otoha. I’m not exaggerating (much). Also, the story is kind of hard to follow – in that information isn’t made clear, and some of the implications the audience is supposed to pick up on their own are sufficiently Japan-centric that I wouldn’t have known about them if I didn’t know bits and pieces about the youkai coming in, and hadn’t done some research on Wikipedia before I got part two from Netflix.

Nudity and Violence

Minimal nudity, but a lot of violence, with gallons of blood, people getting impaled, dessicated corpses lying around, people getting eaten alive by monsters, amputation, etc. No gore though (I’m defining gore as disembowelment or general stuff involving innards – and yes, this would mean I’d define the Taun-Taun scene in Empire Strikes Back as gore).

The Scores

Originality: This is a new character from Tatsunoko, and one with a new concept on the Henshin hero. 5 out 6.

Animation: The animation is solid, particuarly the CGI animation is great. 5 out of 6.

Story: The story is interesting, but it’s tricky to follow without doing some research into youkai on your own, and the first “film” really doesn’t make any sense without the second half. 3 out of 6.

Voice Acting: The voice acting of the supporting cast and the Ekou is solid, Otoha’s voice acting isn’t quite as good. 4 out of 6.

Emotional Response: It’s an exciting series, but it doesn’t draw much more of a reaction other than excitement, and a bit of horror during what I call the “Demon City Shinjuku” sequence. 4 out of 6.

Production: The sound design is excellent and, again, this is currently one of my top 5 greatest musical scores in anime (I’ll do the actual top 5 list in a seperate article if anyone is actually interested). 6 out of 6.

Overall: It’s a good anime, but it’s the anime equivalent of Rambo, or maybe Blade. Enjoyable to watch, but not the most intelligent action anime in the world (putting it in the same league as Ninja Scroll or Demon City Shinjuku). 4 out of 6.

In total, Karas recieves 31 out of 42.

Note: Karas appears in the video game Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, for the Wii, which is getting a US release.