KARAS Volume 1

Lauded as anime’s answer to The Crow, Karas is a slick retooling of the superhero myth courtesy of anime impresario Keiichi Satou (who will be best known to western fans for his contributions to Wolf’s Rain and The Big O) that casts a badass samurai in the role of the dark avenger. Boasting a cutting edge combination of traditional and CGI animation Karas aims to redefine the traditional action series, and despite a few narrative hiccups, and a slightly befuddling plot, largely succeeds.

Chief among the reasons Karas works so well are the visuals. It’s evident a lot of care, not to mention cash, went into this production and it shows in each and every frame. Now, I’m not a big fan of CGI in anime, sure it’s purdy, but more often than not it looks about as out of place as a Star Trek fan at a swingers’ party, with Karas, however, the ante has certainly been upped and the whole thing looks and feels absolutely stunning.

For all its visual oomph, though, Karas comes up a little short in the story telling department. The series’ biggest failing is undoubtedly its unnecessarily convoluted plot, if you’re looking for a simple action-“em-up you’ll be left feeling sourly disappointed, and a second viewing is nigh on essential to really get the most out of the story. The cast, while sporting some snazzy design work, are scant on development and Karas himself occupies only a very small part of the running time, only showing up now and again to put the hurt on some hapless demon foe. Bizarrely, it’s two of the least important characters, a pair of ghoul chasing flat foots, who make the deepest impression.

The series one main draw, however, is undeniably the action scenes, and true to form they don’t disappoint. If you’re looking for proof look no further than the opening sequence, a stunning aerial skirmish that takes place over the neon lit skyline of Shinjuku. It is without a doubt the most convincing display of CGI in any anime I’ve seen to date, it’s smooth, seamless not to mention amazingly choreographed and easily lifts Karas above your average action romp.

Aside from it’s groundbreaking visuals a lot of fuss has been made over Karas’ English dub, which brings together the “inimitable’ talents of Hollywood z-listers Matthew “Shaggy’ Lilliard, Piper Perabo, and Jay Hernandez. Now I’ll be the first to admit, dubs and me don’t usually get along, but given the names involved I was curious to see how this one played out and decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Surprisingly it’s Liliard, whose goofy onscreen persona suggests he’d be perfectly suited for voice work, who comes off the worst, his languid, wooden performance instils the villainous Eko with all the menace of a kitten with a water pistol. Hernandez and Perabo fare much better, with the former in particular turning in a fantastic performance as double-crossing demonite, Nue. As dubs go, it’s one of the better I’ve been privy to and will be sure to delight the increasing number of dub fans out there.

In Summary

Karas is a stunning action series with amazing production values, jaw dropping animation and slickly executed set pieces let down slightly by a confusing plot and sparse characterisation. I have faith the plot will begin to pick up once the second, and final, volume rolls round, but as openers go, Karas: The Prophecy is a fine piece of animated mayhem that any self respecting action junkie won’t want to miss.

7 / 10