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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.