“Karas” is not your typical anime
Instead of a yapping on about the latest soulless Hollywood release, I’m going to talk about a series I found hiding in the bowels of Netflix: A two part Japanese animated film (Wait! Don’t run!) called “Karas.” Originally it was a six-episode OVA but was edited into two hour and a half movies for English release, subtitled The Prophecy and The Revelation respectively.
It’s set in a fictional version of Shinjuku, Tokyo, which is inhabited by both humans and mythological creatures called youkai, guarded over by a superhuman being called a Karas, empowered by the will of the city itself. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I find the idea of a city giving someone superpowers incredibly fascinating. Cityscapes have always been an important part of the superhero concept. It’s not very impressive to leap over a barn in a single bound, so the idea of the city being the source of the hero’s power just works on every level for me. Eko (pronounced like “Echo”) who has been the city’s Karas for over 400 years, has grown jaded and decided that humans have grown arrogant and need to be cleansed. To bring about his apocalyptic dream, he has created the mikura, youkai fused with machines, turning them into blood drinking monsters. The plot follows three different people and their attempts to stop Eko’s scheme: Otoha, the new Karas with an unknown past; Nue, a wolf mikura who has a personal reason to go gunning for Eko; and Kure, a recent transfer to the police’s youkai department.
The story, like “Kill Bill,” is divided into two parts, and like “Kill Bill,” the first half is mostly action while the second half is more story focused. The idea seemed to be that the action would suck you in and get you to stay for the rest, but this means throwing a lot at you at once without giving you any context, which can be confusing, so much so that the official DVD release came with a short comic book to include context. Some other reviewers felt that the characters were underdeveloped, but I disagree. While they could expand on the characters a bit more, they still do a good job of establishing who everyone one is in the time they have. And the visuals more than make up for it. This is one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen, on par with “Avatar” and “TRON: Legacy.” It’s like Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas making passionate love to your bisexual eyes. It’s one of the few times that traditional animation and CGI have blended together almost seamlessly. Normally when you put computer animation in a traditionally animated movie it’s just jarring and out of place. But not in “Karas.” Here, the animation flows like a river. Every action scene moves at a breakneck pace, dragging you along in its wake.