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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Karas: The Prophecy
Karas: The Prophecy
Manga // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted April 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

The anime company Tatsunko Productions (Speed Racer, Gatchaman) has been around for 40 years, and to mark this feat they decided to do something special: create an OVA series that showcases just what they are capable of.  The result is Karas, a present day tale of demons and demon hunters with some decent 3D and 2D animation.  Unfortunately the story itself isn't very engaging and the plot is something that we've all seen before.

Tokyo has a problem.  There is a killer on the loose who has a very bizarre MO; he kills people in bathrooms by draining them of all bodily fluids.  This happens to groups of people, in seconds, and one witness is always left alive.  The police don't know what to do about this so they set up a task force, consisting of only two people, to solve the mystery.  The head of the force thinks he knows what's going on: demons are responsible.

Turns out he's right.  There are a group of demons who have escaped from their dimension into ours.  They look like humans, but to keep human form they have to drink human blood.  These renegade monsters have to keep on their guard however, because they are being hunted by one of there own, Karas, humanity's only hope.   A powerful demon starts hunting Karas however, and the fate of the human race hangs in the balance.

There's been a fair amount of buzz about this title, and I was honestly hoping for something a bit better than this.  Karas seems to be a case of style over substance.  A lot of time went into the graphics, but at the expense of the story.  The tale that's presented is purposefully obtuse, telling only part of the story so that it seems more complex than it really is.  When it's boiled down to its essence, there's nothing here that's new or even very interesting.

I really wish they had spent more time on characterization too.  As it is, none of the people in the show are developed and its really hard to care for any of them.  What's with the guy who is assigned to the task force?  Why was he stationed there?  Is he a good policeman or a screw-up?  Is this a punishment?  If he's a cop, why did he hide in the toilet at the beginning?  (While we're at it, why in the world did a pair of female TV personalities try to summon a demon, on camera, in a men's bathroom?  I mean, have you heard anything more idiotic in your life?)

Okay, the plot is simple yet hard to follow and there's no characterization.  The show looks great though, right?  Well, sort-of.  There are some pretty impressive looking mechanical demons and some cool fight scenes.  They did an excellent job rendering the 3D images and managed to seamlessly merge them with the 2D animation.   The thing is that you don't get to see much of this clearly.  All of the fights take place at night, usually when it's raining or snowing, which obscures the image.  (This is an old trick that was often used in low budget monster movies of the 50's.  If the monster suit looks really bad, only show it at night and for short durations.  This was also used in the US Godzilla movie.  By having the monster only appear at night when it's raining, it looked more impressive than it would in broad daylight, and was cheaper to film.)  The fight scenes are illuminated by sparks flying off of swords, and the camera jerks and moves all over, never staying on a single image for more than a few frames.  Every instance of a clear shot of the action would be followed by a long distance silhouette too, which I'm sure saved money.  What you can see looks good, but since it's obscured so much, it's hard to say that they did a good job.  I will admit that the rare static 3D scenes look nice.
 

For every clear shot in battle, there's one like this that doesn't show anything.

Overall, I wasn't too impressed.  It's not a bad show, despite all of the criticism that I've given it, it's just doesn't live up to all the hype.

The DVD:


This disc presents the first half of the story, on a single DVD.  The first pressings of the disc come with a mini-comic and a cardboard sleeve over the DVD case.

Audio:

This movie comes with both the original Japanese soundtrack and an English dub, both in stereo or DD 6.1.  I was really disappointed that this disc didn't come with a DTS soundtrack like the two-disc R2 disc that is going to be released in the UK is reported to have.  In any case I viewed this with the Japanese 6.1 track playing and spot checked the English dub.  Both sounded very good.  The audio was clear and free of defects, and there were some impressive audio effects during the fight scenes.  Full use was made of the sound stage with rain and other incidental sounds being thrown to the rear speakers so that the viewer is fully immersed in the sound.

Video:

The anamorphic 1.78:1 image looked very good too.  The colors were strong and the blacks were solid.  Lines were sharp and there was a very good level of detail.  The main problem I had was that the picture was very dark, but this is the way the creators intended it to be.

Extras:

This disc also has a good amount of bonus features, though they are all very short.  There is a 3½-minute behind the scenes montage showing both the Japanese voice actors and the artists creating the show, and a 2-minute reel of interviews with the Japanese voice actors.

Seeing the CGI at different stages was interesting, and the 3-minute comparison reel shows several shots at various points in the animation process.  They show the bone outline, wire frame mock up, the rendered character without effects and then the final version of the shot.  There is no narration, but it's not really needed.

There is also a reel of Japanese trailers and TV spots.

An Easter egg is also hidden on this disc.  From the extras menu move the cursor to the montage selection and press right on the remote.  An invisible icon will be highlighted.  Select this and you'll be treated to a short reel of bloopers from the English dub.

Final Thoughts:

This wasn't a bad show, it just wasn't that impressive.  I wouldn't call up any of my friends who watch anime and say "You've GOT to get this."  If they asked I'd say "It's alright."  There were some cool scenes, but the plot is nothing new and there animation, though parts were impressive, was too jerky and obscured to really impress me.  Definitely a case of style over substance, this still gets a light recommendation.

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