Karas: The Prophecy (2005)
By: Michael McQueen on June 1, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5,1, Japanese DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 79 minutes
The Movie
Directora Keiichi Sato, Akira Takata
Starring: Keith Burgess, Melissa Fahn, Jay Hernandez, Kate Higgins, Steve Staley, Matthew Lillard, Piper Perabo
Screenplay: Masaya Honda, Shin Yoshida
Music: Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Country: Japan
Karas: The Prophecy is the 40th Anniversary project by Tatsunoko Productions. The studio, which has been in the business since 1962, is the same one that gave us Mach Go-Go (Speed Racer) (1967) and Samurai Pizza Cats (1990). With credential like that, you wouldn't be out of order expecting something classic from Karas. This makes having your bubble burst all the more disappointing.

The worlds of humans and the supernatural have always coexisted. In Karas, the world of demons continuously overlaps into the human's world and, as such, a balance between the two must be maintained by the Karas, a mechanised demon slayer who dispatches evil spirits running rampant in the human world, and Yuri, the Karas' spiritual overseer. However, humans have become complacent thanks to the Karas' vigilance and he quickly becomes disenchanted with his role as their defender. Taking the name Lord Ekou, the former Karas plan to attack the human world with an army of Mikura, rogue demons who have also mechanised and must now feed off human blood in order to survive [Anime fans will notice the 'uncanny similarity' (ie: rip-off) to Bleach]. From here on the plot follows three main characters; Otoha is chosen as the new Karas and is proving his capabilities to Yuri, but he's still rough around the edges. Nue is a Mikura who has turned his back on Ekou's army and is trying to dispose of as many former comrades as possible – the only problem is he still needs a supply of human blood in order to survive. Finally, there is Kure, a police officer investigating paranormal phenomenon in the human world; he has his work cut out for him attempting to investigate things he can't even see, and for most of the series he wanders around trying to piece together a growing puzzle of vicious murders by demons.

The animation team of Tatsunoko have really pulled out all the stops for Karas; the credit sequence alone is so action packed it could induce epilepsy, and the fight scenes are choreographed around a mixture of 2D/3D animation that really brings the sequences to life thanks to the computer-rendering. It's not the best thing I've seen (that honour goes to Ergo Proxy), but it's still convincing. That said, I was disappointed by the lack of blood and gore: the show's meant to be about demon-vampires, so you'd think that gore was essential!

If all this sounds promising, then your disappointment will be all the more profound. The narrative is a blatant rip-off of Bleach, and the plot is barely discernable thanks to the overly-jumpy editing that is loath to focus on one character for more than two minutes. Characters aren't even introduced properly, and for most of the series you'll struggle to figure out what the hell is going on as yet another jump prevents you from gaining any information whatsoever. Furthermore, some aspects of the show are just plain ridiculous; mechanised demons is one thing, but having them turn into robots, cars and planes is silly – kind of like Transformers meets Technoman. This seems to highlight Karas' overwhelming emphasis of style over substance. Super-slick fight sequences are an important asset to these shows, but they should not be a substitute for an actual narrative: the effect is really like you're watching the cut-scenes from a videogame spliced together.

Maybe my expectations were too high; with so many innovative and intriguing titles released in Australia this year, an average experience like Karas is all the more disappointing when it fails to ignite the same intensity as Hellsing or Ergo Proxy. There are some redeeming features: the fight scenes are marvellously choreographed and the impressive hybrid of 2D/3D animation results in some truly exciting visuals that capture the mood of the series. Furthermore, the Mikura character design is really creative; my personal favourites were the cyborg-spider woman and the freak with blades for a neck. It's such a pity that Karas is so poorly plotted: it looks like it was edited by a hyperactive twelve year-old and the insistent jump-jump-jump narrative means that characters aren't even properly introduced, let alone given any time to develop into people that you care about. The plot barely hangs together and seems to be structured to impart the least amount of information possible by, again, insistently jumping all over the place – by the end I was so confused as to what had actually happened that I looked up episode summaries on the internet. Karas seems to have been produced purely to showcase Tatsunoko's admittedly confident animation prowess at the expense of anything that might contribute to a decent storyline. It's not boring, but it's frustrating and infuriating to watch a wonderfully animated feature and to never have any idea who the characters are, much less what the plot is about. There are so many intelligent and interesting anime titles available at the moment that Karas simply pales in comparison: it is the most average, and therefore, the most disappointing anime that I've seen this year.
Karas is presented in a 16:9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Tatsunoko have been in the business too long to churn out something that looks like crap and admirable effort is made to ensure that everything, from the characters to the backgrounds, is glossy and eye-catching.
Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby. Everything sounds as good as you'd expect, but the English dialogue lacks depth.
Extra Features
These meagre offering feel tacked on (much like the plot); if only more time was spent producing something people could actually enjoy watching, rather than just looking at….

Behind the Scenes: a montage of people working at computers. No commentary, no information, no insight, no interviews, nothing.

Japanese Voice-Actors Interviews: Japanese girls are hot. Otherwise, this is a totally pointless waste of time.

Conceptual Animation: A pretty cool look at how 3D images get formed.

Trailers: Not really entertaining, are they?
The Verdict
Anybody used to epic anime narratives will be pretty disappointed with Karas. The whole venture seems like a hollow attempt to showcase the admittedly impressive production values and digital effects of Tatsunoko; however, the visual grand-standing simply doesn't make up for a total lack of plot and character development. These episodes are poorly-plotted and seem directionless. The next instalment, Karas: The Revelation will hopefully reveal a little more about the characters and their motives. Otherwise, this was a disappointment.
Movie Score
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