Summer means blockbusters at the box office, with dumbed-down and juiced-up movies providing wonderful escapist entertainment for all who indulge. Adhering to this tried-and-true cinematic formula of tart-it-out, blow-it-up, and gun-it-down, PA Works' 2009 anime, Canaan, offers the kind of cheap thrills and impressive visuals that go particularly well with popcorn. While this show has its roots in a Type Moon game, it lands much closer to a live-action spy thriller than the typical visual novel-inspired anime. Differentiating itself from the psychological and magic-drenched mystery, Kaya no Kyoukai and the otaku-friendly cheesecake factory of Fate/Stay Night, this series sports a real-world scenario and a straightforward plot that does its best not to interfere with the show's big action set-pieces.
The first major arc of Canaan outlines a standard, but exciting political thriller in the tradition of Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. A rousing speech by the US President, realistic armaments, and a toned-down approach to the show's science fiction elements paint a portrait of a world not so far removed from our own. Overall, the mundane setting works well with the story, since socio-political environment and geography reduce the amount of exposition necessary to keep the whole thing afloat. In this context, the main character's freakish nature and the fact that her abilities elude the grasp of modern science become worthy linchpins that bind the terrorists' machinations to the anime's theme of "you must take hold of your own life". Of course, the unoriginal evil-organization-versus-secret-government-agency conflict that flows from this setup offers ample opportunities for gunslinging eye candy which are, in the end, the best parts of what the series has to offer.
Unfortunately, this otherwise acceptable narrative stumbles when it decides the conflict that dominates the first ten installments of the series can't possibly hold the viewers' interest for the entire run. Instead, the main story comes to a sort of awkward climax around episode eleven, and then turns toward remedying the emotional turmoil of its namesake character. The "plot is just an extension of the lead" angle works for shows like Burst Angel, movies in the Bourne sequence, and to a lesser extent, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, but this anime--unlike the works mentioned before--doesn't tie its heroine's past to the events taking place in the present. Consequently, the resulting personal revelations toward the show's end ring a little hollow, and the final incident feels tacked-on in spite of any groundwork the writers lay earlier on.
Dear animation studios, if your name is not SHAFT, sit up and pay attention, because of the shows airing in the same season, only Bakemonogatari looks better. PA Works executed this thirteen episode series in a near-perfect manner: not a single cell of poor quality, no changes in proportion, and no clumsy movement. Detailed background artwork brings each of the show's locations to life whether it be bustling Hong Kong, a remote village of great importance to the plot, or unidentified jungle. But the incredible, Jason Bourne-like action sequences form the centerpiece of the anime's impressive visuals. Because the camera remains steady and works with the director's well-considered shot composition viewers can follow every scene, no matter how exciting or messy the fracas becomes. In particular,Canaan's acrobatic combat makes for some of the best set pieces this side of Princess Mononoke, and the second episode features a frenetic car chase through the streets of Hong Kong that viewers must to see to believe. When the plot quits navel-gazing and goes balls out, few TV series can match the fluid motion or the impressive choreography on display.
While the character designs lack the flair of other series with the same level of polish, this work does also shine between the explosions and volleys of small-arms fire. Expressive character animations light up the slower moments of each episode and help improve the sometimes limited characterization. Maria's facial contortions could fill a photobucket account, and Hakko, who is mute, comes brilliant to life through the incredible effort of her animators.
Due to its conventional setting and "realistic" characters, Canaan's voice cast receives precious few opportunities to make memories. Canaan and Alphard sound much like the viewer would expect, as does the innocent and optimistic Maria. No one overacts, and none of the performances grate on the ears, but only Yun Yun's voice actress, Haruka Tomatsu, manages to steal any scenes.
On the flip side, the music serves as an ideal compliment the series' action-packed content. The OP, "mind as Judgement" sets the mood for each episode, and is a catchy tune in its own right. It's English-language countdown and driving rock feel place it near the top my anime playlist. Though different in tone, the synth-heavy and otherworldly ED, "My Heaven" proves a good fit with the show's introspective overtones. In addition, Canaan's cast features an idol who's music weaves in and out of the main plot. As her concerts appear during real events occurring within the narrative, her music sounds tinny and hollow in most cases, which jibes with her outdoor performances on screen. The directors subvert this trope when they use her music as the soundtrack for episode two's car chase. The wonderful juxtaposition between her upbeat melody and the frantic driving heightens an already impressive scene to sublime. For its part, the remaining ambient music consists of generic orchestral numbers, heavy in horns and drums that build excitement and drama in all the right places without detracting from the events on screen.
While the plot may leave some viewers in the cold, the characters more than take up the slack. Complementing the dour and awkward Canaan, Maria bubbles with life and her constant whirlwind of expressions go a long way toward mitigating her whiny lack of self-confidence. Meanwhile, her partner, Minoru, acts beautifully as a story catalyst; his role as reporter allows the writers to insert exposition directly into the narrative without stopping its flow--a common failing of many TV series. While on the prowl for a scoop, his eyes-open approach to the events of the series makes him both sympathetic and admirable. Rounding out the group, the odd-jobbing Yun Yun adds a much needed breath of fresh air to the sometimes too-serious goings on. The brash Chinese girl's tireless salesmanship, considerable grit, and welcoming friendship quickly endear her to the audience. Without question, some of the most enjoyable scenes in each episode feature her smiling face. While these main leads start out interesting, their development is almost nonexistent in light of the catastrophic events of the story. The show relegates Maria's growth from a misty-eyed optimist into a realistic adult to the final installments, which denies her the chance to show her true mettle or determination until the last second. This post-narrative character development echoes Burst Angel's treatment of Meg, and in both cases, falls flat by leaving too much unsaid. Mirroring Kara no Kyoukai's stoic bombshell, Shiki Ryogi, Canaan's evolving personality and outlook have little effect on her icy facade until the season's closing credit sequence.
Across from the leads, the show places three believable but one-dimensional villains. Liang Qi and Cummings broadcast their motivations so forcefully that a viewer can understand them sans sound or subtitles. Conversely, the show obscures Alphard's past and raison d'etre in order to give her depth that frankly doesn't exist. As foils for the protagonists, this trio suffices, but they elicit little sympathy from the viewer. To more positive effect, the series also showcases an entertaining rogues gallery of secondary characters who help to humanize the excessive violence that cuts through the show like a knife. From Canaan's G-man handler to the minor villains who consume the opening episodes, each of these walk-ons fills his or her role perfectly. Of this supporting cast, the super-genki US President and Hong Kong's fastest taxi driver deserve special mention. Their over-the-top antics fuel some of the best segments in the show's first half.
In the end, Canaan adds up to just about the sum of its parts. Intense action, nifty plot twists, and a colorful cast carry the first three-quarters of this anime along at a good clip; and the last two episodes, while a little far from the original plot, feature enough combat and suspense to make the audience forget that the narrative comes a little unglued. True, the show lacks the powerful atmosphere and imagination present in Kara no Kyoukai or the blatant fan-service ofFate/Stay Night, but viewers looking for a serious, straightforward narrative should find this series' real-world setting and contemporary themes more appealing. Type Moon fans should check this one out for its tie-in to the visual novel and because it represents Nasu Kinoko's first writing for serial television. For us casual anime watchers, Canaan's cocktail of fluid visuals, accessible plot, and interesting characters provides an excellent summer distraction from ridiculous shounen combat and overblown school drama.
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 2/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 0/2
Yet another chicks with guns anime. That means a lot of chicks, a lot of guns and not a lot of story in between of those two. This is the case here as well, seeing how the story is the most overlooked part of all sections. If you haven’t played the game you will most likely be confused with what is going on in the adaptation. The actual story is also nothing original; just the usual fuss around a deadly virus and shadow governments using it for the creation of supermen, world domination, and having a super gunner chick stomping their plans. The ending is also not solid as you clearly see there is room for more plot. The only good part in all this mess is the pacing, which is just 13 episodes of fast action and lots of silly moments, making it hard to be tiresome while watching.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
The characters definitely are not original. They are easily defined stereotypes found in most such works and thus not memorable in the long run. Plus, in many cases they are shown naked or cosplaying in an attempt to make them attractive to the viewer. They are used as otaku culture material, which depending on your tastes may be good or may be bad (bad for me). Most of the times they are all comical, making it very hard to find the whole world threat of the virus threatening or something serious in general. The good part is that all major characters are seen as pairs, one working with another to fill each others’ disadvantages. That makes their interaction interesting, albeit never serious or original. The whole deal is Canaan the lead girl seeking revenge from rival, who is part of a conspiracy to spread a virus, which creates supermen, which is investigated by Maria a female reporter, who is a friend with the lead girl. Plus there is YunYun, a comic relief Chinese girl popping all the time in random places just for the heck of it. And mentioning anything else is a waste of virtual ink as that is all there is to it. The interactions amongst them are as I said very interesting but the whole thing is taken way too light to mean anything before ending openly to a sequel.
ART SECTION: 8/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
The amount of details and colors are great; the Chinese festival of the early episodes in particular is a scene worth remembering for a lifetime. Animation done by P.A. Works, a studio which is mostly trying to pamper the fans with moe fan service (True Tears, Angel Beats, Hanasaku Iroha) and completely neglects the storyboard; and this is no exception. The action scenes lack overall realism as they usually do in such types of shows but to the most parts they are extremely entertaining. The baddies are not complete dumb arses all the time and some require special handling as they use superpowers that make conventional means ineffective. Still, despite there are basic strategies and field tactics used, you still feel it’s like “one kills a thousand in open field with a water pistol” in overall, making the action cool but not serious. I mean, as much cool as the shooting battle was in the first episodes, you still find it ridiculous how no bystanders are ever hit or how they keep cheering or standing still when people are dropping next to them covered in blood. And those scenes with women being naked or dressed as cats in improbable places; that can hit you as either fascinating or ridiculous. But in all have no worries about the animation besides the realism part.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
The overall soundtrack is also ok, good dynamic songs to fit in the frenzy action and humorous characters. Still, no memorable songs amongst the BGM, and as I said the characters talk mostly comical in a setting that is not really a comedy. Kinda hit or miss to mix with one another.
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 1/4
The battle scenes are definitely worth watching again if you fancy such type of action. Other than that, the story or the dialogues or the in-betweens are nothing much to care giving a second chance.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
In the end, the only thing I really liked was the artwork and the battles. All the rest have been done much better elsewhere, making this anime not worth recommending if you have seen the titles bellow.
Live action movies: Nikita, Leon
Anime series with assassins: Gunslinger Girls, Gungrave, Darker Than Black.
Anime series with chicks and guns: Madlax, Noir, El Cazador de la Bruja, Black Lagoon.
secret Santa review:
Story - with only 13 episodes to work with, the plot developes still developes nicely. there is a fair amount of deception in the plot to keep viewers on their toes. be sure to pay attention. if you miss a detail you may lose interest.
animation - the "colours" our characters see in the story make for interesting visuals. fluid fight scenes without repeating sequences. the activity of the citizens running about in the background do not come off as faceless.
sound - the music inbetween the opening and ending all seemed unoticeable. the sound effect of a certain deadly voice takes most of the credit in this department.
characters - the development of these characters really do push the plot along through their ties with each other. most of whom are interesting creatures and some who are a little over the top with their silly comedy. still, the humour is needed.
overall - the series was short, simple, and to the point. no plot holes completely stood out. all loose ends seemed to be sorted out in the end in some way. keep watching after the credits. now, go get your gunplay on!
The girls-with-guns movement is spotlighted again during my time and this show has come to mind to have some elements of shows like that in the past and wondering that will this be a déjà vu comparison to those other shows? Well, first, the name “CANAAN” is a reference to the Old Testament, describing a land with milk and honey. Also, the anime is based on the scenario of a visual novel game 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de made for the Nintendo Wii and onto a sequel to the game, it centers around three women and their connection to an anti-terrorism summit two years ago, Shibuya was ravaged by a biological terrorist attack using the deadly Ua virus. Maria Osawa was saved when her father inoculated her against the virus, but is left with partial amnesia from the shock. She works as a cameraman when she reunites with a girl named Canaan in Shanghai, China. A gifted assassin with synesthesia, she is under orders from an unknown organization for a yet unspecified mission.
You know what? I already sensed the déjà vu situation describing the plot details of this anime…….mainly because it all reminds of the Bee Train trilogy of Noir, Madlax, & El Cazador de la Bruja, three shows whose plots are not really that different from each other and the fact the latter two are spiritual successors to the original. Personally, I do like the Bee Train trilogy more or less (Madlax being the less, El Cazador being the more) but I have developed a sense of what to come across to these types of show, for example:
1.The show is set in an exotic place other than Japan. 2.Sometimes the theme is war (either inner or outer) and an organization unknown to the world is somehow involved. 3.Main female character is an assassin or bounty hunter; the other one has amnesia and can’t remember shit. 4.Sometimes one is stoic (or both in Noir’s case); the other can be the picture of innocence and naiveté. 5.The tone of the relationship between the two female characters has more or an equal amount of Yuri tones. (i.e., I sense a lot of fan fiction about these girls wink wink).
So that’s basically what I sense when I watch these types of anime………
Now as for characters, Canaan herself is the basically stoic female assassin we seen and she can get pretty dull to know about (she became an assassin due to death of her parents and her mentor Siam and wants revenge against the person that offed him) but she was interesting for a while. Maria Osawa is the archetype character of being the eyes of an innocent naiveté young woman and she was a likable character from start to finish (and cute, too. I’m just saying). There is also her boss Minorikawa or Mino-san, who feels more like he’s just in for the ride, like a role reversal considering Maria would fit into that role. Then there’s Yun Yun, the eccentric and energetic young girl and the comic relief (which is kind of new in my book of these types of shows) and one of the surviving test subjects of the Ua virus experiment. The prominent antagonist of the show is Alphard Al Sheya, the leader of the terrorist organization Snake and Canaan’s archrival and there is Alphard’s top lieutenant Liang Qi and I got to say that she has got to be one of the craziest, obsessed, and deranged secondary characters I’ve seen……..it scares me a bit but, hell, I love that about her. Her almost OTT appearance makes it seem believable that she is that fucking insane about what she does. I actually cared more about her than the main villain or the main character.
I would say that Bee Train is somehow involved in the production and they are, but they don’t do the main animation, it’s the work of P.A. Works, the same animation team behind Angel Beats and Another and it looks absolutely beautiful. There was no noticeable mistake and hiccup in any of the fight scenes and I applaud them for that. The character designs were a bit basic for anime design of character although I keep thinking of Yun Yun as a little girl rather than an older female. The opening song of the show comes out a bit obnoxious especially with the electric keyboard in the beginning. The rest of the BGM and ending song were quiet, melodic, and sometimes stealth for a while.
The dub by Sentai Filmworks was alright, however I should have talked about this guy already the last time I reviewed something from Sentai (that wasn’t a re-release from Geneon) and yes, for those who know what I’m about to say is about the ADR director/writer Steven Foster, who is responsible for the dubs of High School of the Dead, Ghost Stories, and the majority of most Sentai Filmworks dubs today and he can be either decent or awful and fortunately for him, it’s on the line of listenable for me. I will give praise to the voice actors/actresses including Shirley Calene-Black, Hilary Haag, Andrew Love, Serena Varghese and especially Jessica Boone for her role as Liang Qi. Yeah, you can tell I really loved that performance.
FINAL VERDICT: I can easily say that I really did enjoy the series all throughout the run, even if most of the plot either seems already done in an anime but some of the time the dialogue is a bit awkward and jarring to hear because of the adapted writing, but I’ll say that if you like any of the girls-with-guns anime trilogy, you’ll like this. If you don’t (and I know some who don’t), then you might want to skip this.
So for me, Canaan gets the well-deserved rating of: 7.5/10 PLANET TYRO RATING: Low SOLID B.
Action film-esque, no thinking needed. One to put on, sit back and be entertained. Very good to look at but not much else.
Excellent. Truly excellent. If you only watch anime that look good this should be on your list.
The vocal performance is only average. There are some good performances, but only some. The music used is ideal. It sets the tone perfectly, imagine a Hollywood action film and you get the picture.
I am not quite sure if it was done on purpose but the characters on the fringes are lots better than the ones who take centre stage. The main lead seems very detached and her sidekick-friend character is very one-dimensional, clingy and thats it. Don't worry too much the fringe characters provide some much needed life if characters are your thing.
A very solid watch. It is very good to look at, not a lot else really going for it though.