Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 31st 2007
Karas: The Revelation
In the wake of the hospital battle Otoha, now back in his (formerly comatose) body, recalls who he is as he helps Nue to recover. Upon learning the truth about how the Yurines and Karas work, he realizes that he may not be able to become Karas again while his Yurine is Eko's prisoner, but ex-Karas Eko is determined to put his plan in motion to replace the lost and corrupt city he has watched for centuries, so Otoha may have little choice but to act anyway. As the Karas and Yurine from other cities watch, Eko exploits his former underlings to turn Shinjuku into a nightmare where he stands indomitable. Only Otoha, as Karas, has a hope of defeating him, but how will he transform without his own Yurine?
In the spring of 2006 Manga Entertainment combined the first three episodes of 2005's anime OVA series Karas into an 85-minute movie titled Karas: The Prophecy. Though it could blow fans away with its visuals, it also left them hanging at the end of a dramatic battle and confused about what, exactly, was really going on, and with little indication about when more might be available. The release of the last three OVA episodes in Japan in the late summer and fall of 2007 heralded the arrival of the North American release of the series' second half, once again with three episodes combined into a single 85-minute movie. (Notably, the timing of the U.S. release technically resulted in episode 6 debuting in the U.S. a few days before it got released in Japan.) It should answer any lingering questions or concerns that fans of the first part have about the series and “wow” viewers just as much as the first part did.
While most action-oriented anime titles strive to become visual spectacles, Karas stands as one of the rare few which genuinely achieves such status. Tatsunoko, one of the oldest of all of Japan's existing animation companies, is a company more commonly known for venerable classics like Gatchaman, Macross, Speed Racer, and Tekkaman Blade, but here they have produced a modern visual treat which, at worst, rivals Gonzo and Ghibli's best efforts. Exquisite character and background artistry combines smoothly with eye-popping CG renderings to create an incredible richness of visual detail and spectacular displays of action loaded with movement, intensity, speed, and all manner of awesome visual gimmicks, whether it be collapsing buildings, epic explosions, ghostly characters, or lots and lots of bloodletting. Top-of-the-line animation makes it all work, including feature scenes obviously inspired by The Matrix which slow down events to a crawl so that viewers can truly appreciate the details of the situation as the events unfold at great speed. The designs may be sharpest in the various armored forms of The Karas and the odd, distinctive designs of the Yurine, and are at their weakest in the too-mechanical look of one of the demons who appears in the later stages, but they never rely on generic design templates and don't shy from making characters actually look ugly or plain. Put it all together and you have one of the best-looking anime titles in recent memory.
All of that visual splendor requires a powerhouse musical score to keep events moving along, and that Karas has courtesy of composer Yoshihiro Ike (best-known for the scores of Blood: The Last Vampire and Ergo Proxy, among others) and a wonderful performance by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It may occasionally get a little too heavy, but normally its mix of voluminous symphonic pieces, synthesized numbers, and mood-setting tones contribute greatly to the overall intensity of the production. Kudos also go to exceptional sound effect and sound engineering efforts.
Compared to its sound and visuals, the writing is a bit of a let-down, but not so much so that it will hamper enjoyment of the content. It gets off to a strong start by explaining, within the first few minutes, the answers to many of the niggling questions lingering from the first part: what Yurine is (the embodiment of the city's spirit and will), why there are multiples of her (each city has one, apparently), what the nature of The Karas is and why there seem to be multiples of them (it's more a title than a name and belongs to the bonded defender of the city, who is charged with watching over it as time passes), who Eko is (a disillusioned and possibly insane former Karas who wishes to excise what he sees as the human corruption of the city), what Nue is and what his goals are (former servant of Eko now seeking to wrest his brother from Eko's grasp), and who Otoha really is (a bit more complicated – just watched the show). Once you get past all the explanations and some background scenes about Otoha, though, only the mildly surprising revelations of the true natures of some established characters provides any deviation from very standard “madman destroys the city, and the hero must find a way to achieve the power to stop him” plotting. The writing works well enough to carry along the action and events in a logical, cohesive manner, but it offers little originality and can get heavy-handed in its emphasis on corruption and loss of respect for the traditional soul of the land, themes not uncommon in anime titles of this nature. This volume also lacks the dramatic activation countdown used extensively by Yurine in the first volume.
The Bang Zoom! Entertainment-produced English dub is most notable for the minor-name Hollywood stars cast in the key roles, including Matthew “Shaggy” Lillard as Eko, Jay “Hostel” Hernandez as Nue, and Cree “A Different World” Summer as Yurine (replacing Piper Perabo, who voiced the role in volume 1). Whether or not their presence elevates the quality of the dub is debatable, as none of them notably outperform the well-established anime regulars populating the rest of the cast, but they do at least provide a spark of name recognition to help with efforts to market the title beyond just anime fans. Performances generally fill the roles satisfactorily, with the only significant difference being the lack of use of more anachronistic speech patterns by Eko in English. The English script, meanwhile, stays fairly tight.
Standard extras on the regular version of the DVD include a trailer for the series and a gallery of screen shots. Less standard is the Rough Cut Excerpt, which shows several minutes of unfinished footage from the later stages of the series. The very unprofessional-looking 22-minute In The Voice-Over Booth extra shows brief clips of Mr. Lillard and Mr. Hernandez doing their thing before focusing on Cree Summer for the rest, including an interview. The case comes with an embossed, foil-highlighted slip cover. A Special Edition which also includes the first part is also available.
The story and writing may be nothing special, but with visuals like these, who cares? Watch it and enjoy it for the rich eye candy that it is.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : A+
Art : A+
Music : A-
+ Outstanding visuals, intense action scenes.
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