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.
There was just the slightest hint of shoujo-ai going on here but nothing so blatant as what I've seen recently. Not that I personally care about it one way or the other. The story was pretty good even if it was just a bit unrealistic. I think they tried just a bit too hard at times but it didn't come off too badly. Pretty much just an enjoyable entertainment worth your time at only 13 eps.
The artwork was pretty stellar, something you'd expect from this particular time really and while some things did stick out a bit as a bit above average, the rest was pretty much your typical anime.
The typical gunshots, explotions, lots of noise, but it was rather flawless for the most part. Sounds and music rarely wow me and it didn't here, it also didn't ruin the flow, which can easilly happen for me. The OP and ED were memorable to some degree though.
There were a lot of funny characters, and some psychotic ones as well... I think over all my favorite character was a rather minor one but hilarious none the less, the taxi cab driver. In the end the characters were interesting but somewhat unreal.
There were a few flaws to the show, and while I rated it higher in stars than the 1-10 scale it really doesn't deserve any higher than an 8.5 over all. I couldn't understand the motivations behind some of the characters and the plot seemed to skip every so often. It was still an entertaining show and well worth my time.
"A decent action-flick filled with hit-and-miss moments”, that’s how I’d describe CANAAN in one sentence. It had some honestly good moments, and lots of “somewhat funny jokes” and “somewhat engaging action”. Naturally, seeing this was being praised as being the action-flick of 2009, I was a bit disappointed, seeing there was only one action scene in this whole series that had me thrilled to the level Black Lagoons action thrilled me.
CANAAN has quite an interesting premise that goes beyond your everyday action-flick. The first episode introduces you to Maria, an aspirant photographer and close friend to Canaan, looking to group up with Minoru, a “veteran” in the craft of photography, although one without extraordinary skills or achievements, and a bad temper. Canaan herself also gets introduced in this episode, coming across as a somewhat stoic, mysterious woman, an impression that sadly didn’t change much over the episodes.
The plot revolves around Canaan, Maria and the friends she meets on her way, a criminal organization and most importantly, the Ua Virus, a biological weapon with a 100% certainty to be fatal for those infected. The mystery around this virus unfolds itself bit by bit, keeping plenty of mystery alive, and we slowly get to know more about Canaan’s and the organization’s past.
Now, on to the most important part of the plot: the action. This is for me, personally, where it lacked a little. Even though I hear everyone else say the exact opposite, I found most of the action scenes lacking in tension. There are two kinds of action-scenes in CANAAN, blockbuster-like scenes were Canaan is making “awesome” movements, dodging bullets and overpowering large numbers of enemies, and more thriller-like action where time or decisions played a large role to the thrill. The blockbuster scenes were mostly lacking in intensity for me. In one of the first episodes, you get to see Canaan do some crazy movements high up on a rooftop while she’s avoiding bullets and gunning down baddies. Sadly, this scene is followed with the camera watching from afar, taking pretty much all the tension away from this scene. Poor usage of the camera is, throughout almost the entire series, the sole reason the action didn’t appeal to me like it did to some. Now on to the thriller/action scenes, maybe it is because Maria’s character didn’t felt remotely real, maybe because I just didn’t care that much about Canaan, but during most of these action scenes that were set up to be intense, I wasn’t thrilled by it at all. Fair enough, these scenes are getting better in later episodes, but it was far from what I expected from CANAAN, and far from thrilling or intense. There is one (or two) big exception(s) on this ranting though. The final two episodes gave the exact thing I was hoping for all along. The pre-last episode had some good, thrilling scenes (albeit a bit watered down due to a certain ridiculous character) and the final episode had the exact intense, thrilling, badass action-scene I was hoping for all along.
That said, there is more to CANAAN than just the action. The crime/mystery plot was interesting enough to keep watching this show in one sitting, and (sadly) not the action, but the ridiculously funny characters are what made it memorable to me. I won’t spoil too much yet, but be expecting some fanservice from a masochistic, psychotic, hilarious murderer.
No complaints about the animation used in this show. While it’s not nearly the best you’ll ever see, it is solid high-end 2009 quality. The characters look good and the dynamics are smooth, the backgrounds look fairly detailed and everything is well drawn. Although the style itself had nothing distinct or special about it, because the overall quality is this high it did add a certain sense of realism. The music was mostly just like the animation, solid. The opening theme is the perfect fit for the anime; it builds up some tension in the right way. The ending theme however felt a bit out of place. It’s a calm, emotional song that would’ve worked better with the show if they made us care about the characters. The music used throughout the show was fitting yet forgettable.
Overall, CANAAN is a good Crime/Mystery/Action show with comic relief aplenty due to fact that the few ridiculous characters this show has get a lot of screen time. Don’t take this review as the only truth, seeing most people I’ve spoken with this anime about seemed to love the “intense” action, but it just didn’t do it for me. Nevertheless an enjoyable view, although not something I’m going to remember for its awesome action or brilliantly executed storyline.
Yes, I'm aware my scores would suggest a higher overall score, but to be honost, there wasn't much wrong with the storyline or characters, but it lacked where it mattered most, intensity. Intensity is created by a cast of characters you can feel for, and while the cast was quite solid and had some hilarious characters, they were anything but relatable. Thus, due to the weaker action and nonrelatable characters, the lower overall score for this anime.
I really liked this series. Canaan was great well thought out character. I liked the twist of a second Canaan and a fight to the finish. I hope they come out with a part 2 or second season. This is a series I would love to see continued. And it wasn't just a girls n guns series.
This show was a wonderful watch for me. it took many elements that have been done before, put them all together with a little bit of new stuff added in there and it was actually good. Everything about this show i enjoyed. sure there were a few plot holes here and there but i was willing to forgive them by the amazing cast. Each character brought something unique and special to the story. Right down to a small character like a taxi driver. Good or bad you wanted to root for everyone of them.
I highly recommend this if you like dark interesting stories that don't really show you anything different from what you have seen before but need to fill some time with awesome.