Canaan is a modern-day mystery/political thriller with an intriguing premise for
superpowers: survivors of a supposedly incurable bioweapon develop special abilities.
The series is actually a sequel to a Japanese video game entitled, 428: Fūsa Sareta
Shibuya de, which has no English translation. I'm not certain whether playing this
game increases the effectiveness of this 13-episode series, which hits a lull after
the halfway point that it never recovers from.
When photographer, Maria Osawa, and magazine journalist, Minoru Minorikawa, arrive
in Shangai, China to cover an international anti-terrorism conference, they find
themselves entangled with a terrorist organization known as Snake--no relation to
G.I. Joe's Cobra. On their first night there, in the middle of a street celebration,
Maria is the target of an assassination attempt. She's rescued for the first time
of many, by Canaan, a quiet, superpowered, terrorist fighter who seems to share
some sort of past with the photographer.
Outside of being a highly trained fighter and marksman, Canaan sports some nifty
abilities that aid her in battles. She is a synesthete who can smell sounds and
hear colors. She can also see colors surrounding people that indicate whether they
are enemies and also what they are thinking. The source of her powers stem from
the Ua virus, a bioweapon that was used in a terrorist attack in Japan a few years
prior. Supposedly, this virus kills its victims within hours and has no cure. However,
that claim is quickly retracted. Survivors of the Ua virus, called Borners, mutate
and many of them develop superpowers along with a flower-bloom like bruise on their
body. Some mutate with no useful benefit, such as the cute side-character, Yunyun,
who merely grows an extra appendix--a useless organ.
The leader of Snake, Alphard, a highly skilled fighter in her own right, spends
a great deal of the series trying to kill Canaan. Alphard had some previous dealings
with Canaan, which the latter half of the series expands on exhaustively. Alphard's
second-in-command, Liang Chi, is one of the most delightfully weird villains I have
seen. She hero-worships Alphard, who she refers to as her sister, and longs for
her attention. Throughout the series, Liang Chi proves herself to be insane, angry,
and sadistic--a trait magnified by how she treats her advisor, Cummings. He's in
love with Liang Chi, but more often than not, he finds himself the target of her
airsoft gun as she vents her frustrations. He meekly accepts this abuse as the price
for desiring her. Any scene involving Liang Chi is guaranteed to be bizarre, but
Canaan is a tale of two halves. For the first half or so, Canaan sets up a great
mystery and surrounds the plot with some phenomenal action sequences. And by phenomenal,
I mean this series may have been better off just sticking with random, unexplained
action sequences. In the second half, especially in the last few episodes, the entire
series falls apart at the seams when it attempts to explain what's going on.
In every confrontation, the characters wax eloquently about their innermost feelings.
Forget expressing these emotions with actions, body language or facial expressions.
It's as if the writers did not trust leaving anything to viewer interpretation.
Canaan and Alphard's motivations are fully vocalized leading to clumsy characterization
that violates a fundamental rule of storytelling: show, don't tell. And even these
motivations, as they are expressed, fail to be convincing, which still leaves you
wondering why. As the characters babble on endlessly while they duel to the death,
the dialogue is almost unintentionally hilarious. Nobody talks like this, especially
in the midst of a life-or-death struggle. I'm not a lobbyist for ultra-realism in
dialogue, but my suspension of disbelief is obliterated when characters give poetic,
long-winded speeches while fighting on a helicopter ladder.
I failed to connect with any of the main characters. This is likely due the lack
of a clear, strong lead character to build a cast around. The story focuses on Maria
in the beginning, but she is an incredibly weak character. This style of a weak
lead who relies on more powerful characters can work, but Maria's happy-go-lucky
and naïve personality is much better suited for a secondary supporting character.
She's like a slightly smarter and less clumsy version of Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo.
Maria is fine for comedic relief, but she does not have enough substance to warrant
a co-lead in this story.
The main story switches focus between Maria and Canaan, who is stoic, monotone,
and rather boring. Canaan is a much better candidate for the lead character, with
her superpowers and mysterious past, but there is just nothing compelling about
her personality or her goals to make viewers like her. She was much more intriguing
in the beginning of the series as a mysterious side character that saves Maria's
any time her life is in danger. Even though Canaan is a physically strong character
and potentially a much better lead than Maria, the series loses momentum in the
second half when it focuses on Canaan and her past with Alphard.
Simply put, this show is boring. Canaan becomes a chore to watch with its overbearing,
melodramatic, dialogue-heavy scenes. Were I not reviewing this set, this is the
type of series that I would put back on the shelf without ever caring how it ends.
The art is exceptional and the action is intense--I loved the homage paid to The
Matrix in one of the firefights. Canaan may appeal to anime fans that want a visual
treat and just like watching people shoot guns, but beyond that this series is subpar.
Audio: There is an English 5.1 track and a Japanese 5.1 track included in this set.
I listened exclusively to the English dub and have no complaints about the sound
quality. There is a lot of directionality featured in the action sequences. The
dialogue is crisp and played across the front stage to match the onscreen sequences.
The dub is fine for what it is. I get the impression that Shelley Calene-Black,
who plays Canaan, was not given much to work with. The script calls for her to be
monotone and drone out her lines, making for a very dull character.
Video: This series looks amazing, featuring a nearly flawless transfer in 1.78:1
anamorphic widescreen. The colors are vivid but do not overwhelm the image, which
needs to be toned down to match the feel of the mostly serious action/mystery. There
are very minor instances of pixelization that are barely noticeable. Canaan is an
example of how CGI should be mixed in with the animation. CGI is used in many scenes,
but it looks good and matches the art style and blends in without being a jarring distraction.
The female characters in Canaan are the focus, and it shows. They each look unique
and are drawn with loving detail. The two most prominent male characters, Minoru
and Santana, appear to be mere placeholders. You can almost see the blank spot on
the frame that says, "Insert generic male character here." If not for Minoru's facial
hair, I would have had difficulty distinguishing the two characters. Regardless
of the uninspired male characters, this is definitely a DVD that highlights how
awesome anime can look.
Extras: The Extras include trailers and clean openings and closings. Also included
is Minorikawa's Report a12-minute short presented as Minoru's feature
about his experiences in Shangai, China. It is basically a spoiler-filled, clip-show
highlighting the events of the series.
Bottom Line: Canaan begins with promises of glory, featuring a ton of action, a
deepening mystery, and characters that are potentially awesome. I was stoked about
this show and eagerly devoured each episode through the first half of the series.
In the end, however, Canaan fails to deliver on its vast potential. The momentum
of the show hits a lull a little after the halfway point where the story quickly
devolves into introspective, emo nonsense. What began as a fun and intriguing series
becomes a drugless cure for insomnia. Rent It if you just want to see anime babes
shoot guns or if you need a good night's sleep.
Bobby is a programmer by trade and a wannabe writer. Check out his other reviews here. You can also check out his blog about harmless nonsense or follow him on Twitter