Critic’s Log - Earthdate: March 29, 2014. Review #82: Witchblade.
If you have been checking my reviews and wonder why it has been taking long for me to get a new review going. I have been busy lately. It is that time of year again.
As current events are concerned, On the Easter Weekend. I attend my local anime convention which is a big one in Seattle called Sakura-con. I personally find it to be a blast to go to and I really enjoy going to that convention. At the time I am posting this review. It is the weekend of Emerald City Comicon 2014 and I think it is only fitting that I am doing a review of this certain anime just in time. I also had to do some research with this one because of its somewhat “history”. Like it would mean a damn because this is Witchblade I’m talking about.
In 22nd-Century Japan, There was a catastrophic earthquake that took a number of lives. Masane Amaha happened to survive the disaster that destroyed Tokyo and she becomes the latest in an ancient line of women-only warriors to wield the mysterious sentient weapon known only throughout history as "the Witchblade". Hellbent on protecting her daughter, she will face her worst fear.
To be technical, this is a Studio GONZO production and...drumroll please. *drumroll*. it’s not that bad compared to what GONZO had made before. Out of all the studios in the anime industry. I have always had special criticism towards Studio GONZO. I have seen a number of GONZO’s titles and some of them never gave me much of an impression. I may have said this before in an earlier review but the things that irritate me with Studio GONZO is that they are inconsistent whether it be on direction, storytelling, and even animation. But the major thing that turns me off in an anime that they sometimes do is throw in their infamous 3D animation mixed in with the modern traditional animation style seen in anime today . Much to my surprise, the Witchblade anime does not have GONZO’s awkward 3D animation. The only use of the GONZO’s infamous trademark animation is during the first closing theme and that is only shown briefly. In comparison to what came before it, this is a relief. In all due respect, the animation is actually not that bad despite that Studio GONZO is behind this. However, it isn’t perfect. There are some dully animated moments and I take it that the budget was limited in this show. It still looks good but the direction of animation is a bit questionable. If you saw pictures or even covers of this show, the designs make it blatantly clear that there will be some fanservice in it. Speaking of which, I am completely excusing any fanservice that Witchblade contains because it actually fits in this anime. Even though it’s not explained, It may appear obvious that the Witchblade and Cloneblade wielders appear like Succubi, and the fanservice is fitting because of this. If you don’t know what a Succubus is, then google it. But here’s the problem. The animation is sometimes rather dull in its presentation. The use of color had great potential because of its obvious expected fanservice. but the way the fanservice is used in the show is also not presented well either.. Another huge disappointment are the fighting scenes which the animation is sometimes not too great at presenting and the fight scenes are a little boring to look at sometimes. I will say that this was an honest effort by Studio GONZO since this is one of the few shows they made that doesn’t use cheap looking 3D animation. In comparison to what GONZO made before the Witchblade anime. The animation in this one exceeded my low expectations. “Benefit of a doubt”, I guess.
The music by Masanori Takumi doesn’t really stand out so much despite it fits the show just fine. There are certain themes you’ll be hearing A LOT in this show and it gets old pretty fast. The soundtrack did not leave much of an impression on me because it is rather limited and there are not that many themes that encompass the 24 episodes in this anime. It does fit the series, but I personally found it forgettable. In all honesty, I don’t have much to say about Takumi-san’s composition in the soundtrack. The first opening “XTC” is alright and a decent opening at that, but that’s all I can pretty much say about it. The first closing “Ashita no Te” is okay I guess. But the Witchblade anime contains one of the most useless and abominable anime openings I have ever heard and seen. I am referring to the second opening theme “Dear Bob”. I assume that the genre used is Reggae, that’s fine and dandy. here’s the problem. This opening is used in the second half of the show where the song does not fit whatsoever for the tone that this opening is used around. To add insult to disappointment, the visuals for the opening is completely fucking lazy. Not only does the song not fit, but the visuals are snippets of the first 12 episodes. The first opening has its own visuals to foreshadow the series. This second opening is boring. I cannot believe an opening like this exists and in my opinion, It is one of the worst anime openings I have ever witnessed. The second closing theme “Kutsu Himo” doesn’t leave much of an impression on me but it fits. I find the music area of the Witchblade anime to be severely lacking. but it gets WORSE.
But before I get there, I must point out the voice acting first. Mamiko Noto is alright as Masane, and I could say the same for Akemi Kanda as Rihoko, but that’s pretty much it for the Japanese casting despite it has a memorable name like Rikiya Koyama being in it. The Japanese cast is not bad, it does sound boring at times. This is where the English Dub does have some slight advantages. Jamie Marchi’s take on Masane is a little sketchy for some and I thought she was okay for the most part. She isn’t perfect on the role but she is somehow listenable. Carrie Savage is not too bad as Rihoko despite that she is a 6 year old character. She does well for the role. Mark Stoddard is not too bad as Takayama. Both Subbed and Dubbed Versions do not have an all-star cast and for an anime like this, but I am content with that. The Japanese cast isn’t terrible and neither is the English Dub. I could say you can’t go wrong with either one but the Dub cast does have some fun with the roles given to them and they actually put more effort in the performance to not make it too boring. The ADR direction does have some adaptive changes for the English script since there is an obvious translation difference that is much different than the original Japanese script. Some purists may be pissed over the fact that in the Japanese version, Masane was nicknamed “Masamune” which apparently means “undefeatable breasts”, don’t quote me on that. Whereas in the dub, she is nicknamed “Melony” because Tozawa refers Masane’s breasts to melons. This doesn’t bother me too much and I can see some anime purists getting a little worked up over this, but since I am not an anime purist since I do watch both Subs and Dubs of anime, this is something I am not going to stress too much about. Honestly, if the dub did have the “Masamune” nickname, people wouldn’t get the reference. As far as adaptive scripts go for the English language, I don’t have a problem with the “Melony” nickname. Both casts play their parts pretty well and that’s all I can say about the casting on both sides.
Unfortunately, even with the casting choices on both sides. The characters lose all distances of disbelief and I can’t believe this anime got away with the stupidity that some of you probably could not stand. Masane is by far the most questionable character in the Witchblade anime. Let’s see. She is chosen to wield the Witchblade whether she likes it or not. Her Witchblade form may be cool, but her personality and quirks really threw me off because Rihoko is the most mature 6 year old when it comes to characters and it doesn’t make any damn sense. She cooks for her mother, does the laundry, she even does her own shopping and makes housing arrangements by making a few phone calls. I do find it important as a viewer to distance my disbelief in regards to something that really shouldn’t be taken seriously. But what Rihoko does in the entire show makes this impossible to not take it seriously. These two leads are completely mixed up. Masane is immature, while Rihoko acts like a mature adult. What about the others characters? Don’t they stand out? No, not really. Maybe except Takayama. He at least is decent in the show. The characters are mostly forgettable in this show and they don’t even leave an impression. In fact, there are even some useless characters in this show. Naomi may be shy but she doesn’t do much to contribute to the plot despite she actually plays some part in the show. Michael is another character that doesn’t do much in the series. There are two characters I actually thought were okay, which was Reina and the person that the Neogenes call “Father”. Because of spoiler reasons. This show made me quickly hate a specific character introduced much later in the series. With the way the characters are played out, I could not believe the writing was this bad.
That is why the Witchblade anime really falls low. I know I may sound a bit picky during this review but I can’t help but stress how ridiculous the Witchblade anime is to me. I already commend GONZO for the honest effort in its animation as well as avoiding the usage of their craptastic 3D animation. The soundtrack may have not fared out so well, but its ridiculousness lies in its characters and the entire story. Here is one of my major problems with the anime as a whole. The Witchblade anime is inconsistent. The soundtrack doesn’t involve this and the animation isn’t affected too much. The first half of the show is where most of the flaws lie. The first half sort of has a monster of the week formula tied in with some twists and turns that really aren’t that impressive to begin with. The halfway point is where things actually start getting somewhere but that card is played late in the game. The second half is somewhat tolerable but because of spoiler reasons, the tolerable parts lead into a conclusion that without a doubt felt forced and that is another major problem with the Witchblade anime. It felt extremely forced and the direction is terrible at this and Yoshimitsu Ohashi doesn’t really direct much in anime..At first, I had low expectations and I didn’t mind if this show wasn’t meant to be taken seriously from the get-go. But guess what? The somewhat emotional moments in the Witchblade anime are supposed to make the viewer take it seriously. The Mother/Daughter relationship may have been touching at some parts but the direction made it difficult for me to see it as the anime’s saving grace. I will say that Witchblade does have some history. This anime is a loose adaptation of the comic book series of the same name which was published by Image Comics and currently published by Top Cow Productions. I have read a bit of the source material and I can see why some people like it for the artwork, which I believe is obvious. I’ve read a number of issues/chapters and found the Witchblade comic nice to look at but the story isn’t all that noteworthy and even the characters aren’t noteworthy either, what the comic got right was that Sara Pezzini is not immature for a main lead. Another interesting piece of Witchblade history is that the anime was not the only TV show based on the comic. There was a live-action TV series back in 2001 that somehow was critically acclaimed and popular with audiences but it was short-lived due to its cancellation. But the big question of the Witchblade anime is this. Is it an abomination compared to its source material? I’ll let you be the judge of that yourself, but personally… I will say “No”. The attempt of making the mother/daughter relationship touching does come from an honest place despite bad writing but the characters and story aren’t really noteworthy and the source material is more tolerable but it’s not Grade A material in terms of characters and story. The Witchblade comics are stylized with average substance. The Witchblade anime may not fare well with everybody but whether you like it, hate it, or are neutral towards the Witchblade anime. I can say that it would not hurt to watch it. The ridiculousness of this anime baffles me and it always made me wonder how the hell anyone thought the guys behind this adaptation thought the ideas were good for this anime. It is flawed for sure and I am content that this isn’t a masterpiece. I have seen adaptations FAR WORSE, Dragonball: Evolution anyone? M.Night Shyamalan’s Last Airbender movie anyone? Even though I am not in favor of this anime. I would not take it against you if you enjoyed this one. This is an anime that can be seen as a guilty pleasure under certain circumstances. But if you need to know anything from me before viewing this one. Don’t hold your expectations high on this one. I can say that Studio GONZO has made worse, their adaptation of Witchblade is not the absolute worst.
The Witchblade Anime is available from Funimation. A manga adaptation known as Witchblade Takeru written by Yasuko Kobayashi and illustrated by Kazuasa Sumita and it was going to be released by Bandai Entertainment but that plan was scrapped because Bandai Entertainment went under. It is currently unavailable in the U.S. A Japanese novel called Witchblade Ao no Shojo was never released in the U.S. The Television Show adaptation that originally aired on TNT is available from Warner Home Video. The original source material being the Witchblade Comic Book Series is available from both Image Comics and Top Cow Productions.
With all that said, The Witchblade anime offers something for a change by Studio GONZO in regards to animation. The soundtrack fits, but it is forgettable in the long run. The Witchblade anime suffers with poorly written characters with a badly written plot. The animation is a decent effort by Studio GONZO but if you like comics books so much while viewing this with low expectations, I could recommend this. If this doesn’t work for you, go for the source material instead. If the source material doesn’t do it for you, then look for something else to keep your mind occupied.
I give the Witchblade anime a 3.4 out of 10, it is WEAK!
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