As I got to the third episode of Canaan, I was wondering what this show wanted to be. Was this an action thriller anime with some small light-hearted moments or was it the opposite: a light-hearted anime with cat-eared cosplay women and an idol singing J-pop, sprinkled with some short action scenes? Throughout my review notes, there was one word that I kept writing down: ‘weird.’ These are my feelings towards this 13-episode TV series, yet there are certainly points about Canaan that are at least worth watching.
Canaan was made by P.A.Works, which some might recognise as the studio that was behind the popular Angel Beats, and the director, Masahiro Ando, worked on Sword of the Stranger, so, considering the staff, I was looking forward to checking this out.
The first episode of the show briefly introduces us to various characters, the most noticeable ones being the photographers – Minoru Minorikawa and Maria Oosawa – who are travelling to Shanghai to discover any scoops that might be happening in the city. It doesn’t take too long for something unusual to happen while they’re looking around at a local Chinese festival, as strangers with masks start roaming the streets and acting very strangely.
Also in the first episode we meet our main protagonist, Canaan, who is said to have been a warrior who has been hurt by war. She is given a task by an unknown female contact to save survivors from a group known as Snake. This task leads her to a festival where she bumps into Maria before some masked men with guns (who, I would imagine are from Snake) open fire on both of them. It’s also shown that Maria has met Canaan before; after she splits up with Maria, a great action scene completes the intro to the show.
As I said at the beginning, there were moments at the start of Canaan that felt unnecessary. While some of the major plot points were starting to appear, mainly the issue behind the Ua virus and a brief talk on Maria’s backstory, some anime tropes seemed to keep appearing, which felt like filler that should have been avoided.
My main issue with Canaan is the characters. It took me a while to remember most of the names of the villains and supporting cast, Canaan seemed to be the only character that I was generally interested in, while I felt that Maria was more of a damsel in distress. As the series progresses, some of the characters and their interactions become really bad. One of the major villains (that I won’t spoil) becomes so bad that it’s hilarious, sucking out the serious tension that Canaan builds up to. Add in some strange character moments (most of them in episode 11) and you have one of the main gripes I had with this show.
It’s a shame because the ideas behind Canaan can be very interesting at times. Some people affected by the Ua virus, for example, develop supernatural abilities, such as improved agility or enhanced senses, adding more spice to the action scenes, which are probably the best thing about Canaan. The action is varied, including entertaining car chases, and fluid gun and close-quarter combat fights…
It’s also refreshing to see an anime that takes place in another country, which is another strength of the show. When I was watching this, it certainly felt as if I was in China; from the colourful decorations at festivals to the dark, brown narrow alleys, it was all very convincing. The presentation is the greatest strength of the show and it really is a visual treat at times. Both the English and Japanese voice cast try their best in projecting the characters, although some can be very over-the-top.
The last thing that I want to talk about is the plot, which does build up some potential but in the end, is unsatisfying, Canaan does attempt to explain character motivations or various issues, although ultimately it didn’t make me care very much. Again, I didn’t like most of these characters; some became so strange that I laughed at them for all the wrong reasons, and by the end of the show, I didn’t really care for them at all.
The OP by Faylan, “Mind as Judgment”, is a hard-hitting J-rock theme which gives us an appetiser for those fluid action scenes, and the ED by Annabel, “My Heaven”, has a more mellow intro that is very beautifully sung along with still shots of the female cast.
Extras include creditless Openings and Endings, including trailers for previous MVM releases.
Canaan has potential but squanders its plot and characters, leaving me disappointed. Nevertheless, both presentation and action are excellent, so if you want a great animated action anime and can ignore its flaws, then give Canaan a go.