Right from the word go, this is one stylish series. It’s not just the cool theme tune, or the Bond-esque feel of the opening sequence, Speed Grapher hits the floor running and never slows down.
Tokyo – A city where the rich get richer and the poor just try to get by. Saiga, a one time war photographer, now works as a tabloid photographer taking pictures of politicians just to make ends meet. Asked to investigate the recent deaths of politicians who opposed a new drug reform bill, Saiga is drawn in to the decadent world of the Roppangi Club, a secret society giving the ultra wealthy all that they could possibly desire.
Infiltrating the underground club, Saiga finds a ceremony whereby anyone who receives the Goddess’s blessing has their most desired wish turned to reality. It is here that Saiga is given his darkest desire, the ability to kill by clicking his camera, a power he never wanted. The Goddess is a girl called Kagura, daughter of a wealthy family whose mother runs the Tennozu group, the most powerful company in the city. Exploited and abused, Kagura turns to Saiga for help, wanting to escape, a prisoner in her own life.
Saiga is our narrator and our eyes into this selfish world. With his jaded outlook, camera in hand, he delivers some of the show’s best one liners. There is one scene in this volume where Saiga sees a billboard poster of one of his photo’s. It’s a picture of a smiling girl in the third world with a slogan beside it reading: ‘Are you happy?’ He tells Kagura that the girl’s village was wiped out by war, but even she found a reason to keep living. Saiga is an interesting hero for this story, he is both cynical and optimistic, often at odds against a society driven by the pursuit for wealth.
There are some fantastic characters in this series. There’s Ginza, Saiga’s sometimes stalker, sometimes girlfriend, with a tendency to shoot criminals in ‘self-defense’ instead of making arrests. But dare I say it, it’s the villains who almost steal the show, most notably, Suitengu, the white haired man who runs the Roppangi Club. Corruption is rife in this city and people’s lives are fair game, but Saiga is more than a match, out-witting Suitengu with humorous style.
Sharply written with a compelling story, Studio Gonzo have created one hell of a monster. A dark and decadent fairy tale, exploring the very ugly side of humanity. Morals, principals, they mean nothing here, especially when everyone has their price.
Do your anime collection a favour and check out this series. Life through a lens has never been this sexy.