Karas

OVA (6 eps x 30 min)
2005 - 2007
3.687 out of 5 from 6,408 votes
Rank #3,314

Unbeknownst to humans, demons from an overlapping dimension walk amongst them in the streets of Tokyo. The balance between the worlds is kept by the crow guardian Karas and Yurine, its master and voice of the living city. However, the time of harmony nears the end as the once-Karas Lord Eko returns. Seeking to purge humanity for its evils, he terrorizes the city with his minions that feast on human blood. The ultimate battle between good and evil awaits; can Yurine and her newly initiated Karas prevail against Lord Eko and protect their city against his monstrous horde?

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Reviews

sothis
9.5

StoryIn the streets of Tokyo, demons walk amongst us, but only they know we exist. The protector of the city is Karas, a man who transforms into a crow-armored persona when evil threatens humanity. Saying much more about the plot of Karas would be borderline spoiling (don’t worry, the AniRec description doesn’t spoil), so that’s really all you need to know. Creatures are draining humans of blood, and a sinister villain wants to take control of Tokyo. Who better to stop the nefarious plans than Karas? Karas is touted as being like Batman Begins, and that’s a damn accurate statement. From the evil fighting superhero to the plethora of villains to the cinematic and haunting soundtrack, Karas definitely has a great deal in common with Batman Begins, and that’s a good thing. The story is definitely darker --as the humans tend to die in very grotesque and brutal ways—but in general the overall tone is the same: good guy fights bad guy, new bad guy appears, repeat. Behind the scenes is a story that surpasses the variety of similar anime out there; we just aren’t fully introduced to it in this half of the Karas story. Reading the mini comic that accompanies the DVD will be a complete spoiler, but will help make sense of the story. For those who don’t have the DVD or don’t want the story to be spoiled, just keep in mind that this is a preliminary look at what’s going on, and will make the most sense if you watch it at least twice. Literally the only reason I docked points in this section is the same reason as points were docked from the characters section: how confusing it was. There are still some things that I didn’t understand about Karas, and I watched the movie twice. Admittedly these things might be explained but for a newcomer, I think the story should be a bit more accessible. In general though, the story and the way the story was laid out was fantastic. It shifts from character to character, scene to scene, in a fluid manner. Rarely do I feel so immersed in an anime world; Tokyo Godfathers was another movie that was designed and executed so well that you felt like you were watching a real movie, not something animated. If you are looking for a violent, badass and dark story, you can’t go wrong with Karas. AnimationLet’s not beat around the bush: the animation in Karas is freaking gorgeous. If I had to choose my top 3 impressive anime, visually, Karas would hands down be one of them. While some studios choose to make fully CGI animated features (such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), Karas flawlessly and seamlessly merges both the 2 and 3D elements. I’m not talking occasionally either; literally the entire length of Karas is a constant mix of 2D and 3D, with incredibly cinematic "camera angles" and scene transitions that will impress you. The only other film I’ve seen comparable to the movie-like quality of the "filming" is Tokyo Godfathers. It, too, made me feel like I was watching a real life movie, the entire time. Honestly, I was sucked in during the first few minutes of the film. First of all, the credits were Japanese characters in trails of fire, while a fight played out simultaneously. Later in the credits, tiny bugs swarm around to form the characters. And it just gets better from then on. It would take too much time to discuss everything impressive about the film, but there are plenty to choose from: the ethereal glow of Yurine, the cinematic panning shots in the city and hospital, the transparency of the demon world, the strange eye pieces that looked like they came right out of City of the Lost Children, the horrific violence of a person getting torn apart, the glowing red eyes of the Mikura, and the stunning glow of Karas’ armor. There literally are dozens of things to be impressed with visually, and they never lets up for a second. Even if the plot of Karas doesn’t sound interesting to you, do yourself a favor and watch this simply for the visuals. You won’t be disappointed. SoundI have to admit, I’m probably a little biased about Karas’ audio, since I watched it on the DVD in Japanese 6.1. This made the listening experience so, so much better than it could have been, though I’m guessing it still would have been wonderful otherwise. As with the animation, everything about the music screamed ""REAL LIFE MOVIE!" The songs are mostly orchestral but in a very cinematic way... not reminiscent of anime at all. I hate to keep bringing up the Batman Begins comparison, but the songs definitely had a super hero-fighting aura to them. The sound effects are superb, from the sounds of Karas’ transformation to the clinks and crashes of armor colliding, and beyond. Quite a few of the effects reminded me of sounds from Zork Nemesis, an old classic adventure game. Voice acting is amazing both for the Japanese AND English actors, which is a rarity in itself. My only issue was with ONE character, Mary, who looks like a 60-year-old prostitute... yet they gave her the voice of a young girl. Not sure if this is the fault of the character designers (probably) or the people who chose the voice actors. In general, Karas is truly wonderful to listen to, especially if you are listening to the 6.1 I honestly can’t think of one thing (except the extremely minor secondary character’s voice) that would make this score go down. CharactersKaras is filled with characters, yet this strength also is a weakness. From the get go we are shown several characters fighting, then more characters are introduced, followed by even more characters. Unfortunately, none of them, for the most part, are explained or developed right off the bat (and honestly, I found a second viewing of the movie to be the only way I was able to really understand who everyone was). It’s sort of like reading the original Dune: nothing makes sense at first because you are in an information overload. I don’t think it helps that we don’t get to see the second half of the story right now either; perhaps in that half, the characters will be explained and developed more. In general though, all of the characters are very interesting and unique. The demon child is one of my favorites, with his childlike voice and fondness for Nue. Yurine’s ethereal character is somewhat of a mystery, so I’m hoping she is developed more in the second half. The Mikura creatures are superbly created and designed, and live up to any expectations I’d have of the "villains" of the story. I even enjoyed the brief encounters with secondary characters, such as the naïve and foolhardy women who were in search of bathroom spirits. If it weren’t for the confusion and sheer quantity of characters, I probably would have rated this section higher. OverallKaras is an absolute treat to watch. I came into it expecting nothing and left highly satisfied. The dark, violent and gorgeous nature of Karas make it a perfect recommendation for fans of Batman Begins, and the uniqueness of the villains and animation will make you want to watch it over and over. Truly, Karas is almost virtually flawless. The only thing that brought down the score, in my mind, was the confusion about the characters. Then again, when you think about the stunning animation, cinematic soundtrack and badass story, the character score matters a little less. All in all this is probably one of my favorites now, and rarely do I score anything this high. I’d recommend Karas to almost everyone... well, except those out there who only like magical girl or ecchi series. Otherwise, for a wonderfully dark and violent masterpiece, check out Karas immediately.

ThatAnimeSnob
5

Karas is a hollow attempt to sell a book based on its cover while the pages inside are nothing but incomprehensive doodles. It is a show that is pure guilty pleasure yet pretends to be sophisticated and mysterious to the most part when in reality it is just monkey writing poetry. The first episode is exceptionally captivating, as the animation sequence during the fight is not only amazing, but it also foreshadows some sort of very mysterious story around beings from another dimension as well as the future of mankind. I was sold on it.Unfortunately, the rest of the episodes are far less interesting and the mystery ends up being something my 5 year old nephew could come up with. The battle choreographies were hardly as interesting, the detail in animation kinda dropped, the characters quickly became boring and unoriginal, and the whole thing with the salvation of mankind meant nothing as there was zero empathy with the cast. It was all a completely dried up story with cardboards blowing shit up.So what is the story anyway? Well, each city has its supernatural protector called the Karas, who fights demons who want to harm it. The current Karas is after a team of mechanical monsters who want to destroy the city as means to terrorize humanity and reminding them of their power, a thing people forgot because they stopped being religious and believing to superstitions. Their ringleader is also the former Karas of the city, who got fed up in protecting uncaring people and now wants to give them a lesson. The main idea is very interesting I must say, as it makes several allusions to how the modern way of life is dehumanizing us and keeps us away from nature and respect for traditions and the past in general. Unfortunately, these notions go by in passing and you are never made to feel sympathy for the poor spirits who are neglected from humanity or empathy for the villain’s goal. It all happens in a completely dried of emotions way and you are given no reason to care about the cast or the setting in general. The lead character for example is not even a real person. He is a tool, a machine that the “will of the city” creates in order to protect it. Thus he has no free will of his own; he is just brainlessly chasing and killing the demons just because he was created for that purpose. Where is the interest in that? The main villain on the other hand is far more interesting for going against his reason for being and trying to improve the severed relations between men and spirits. Yet even his goals are hardly mentioned for most of the show and when he actually puts them into motion you are again given very little reason to care since there is no emotional connection made with the people of the city. You don’t care if they live or die, you don’t even care about the various investigators or that random chick messing with the battle between the Karas. In all the best part of the series are the production values, which are amazing in terms of action and detail in the way the city looks industrialized or how bizarre the spirit world is. The soundtrack is also fitting with how each characters should sound (not hard since they are all simplistic) or how the background music would fit in each case. Yet even these are not enough to keep you interested all the way, since you are given little reason to care about the combatants and their reason for fighting. Also, only the first and the last battles are actually the truly amazing ones in terms of excitement, with the in-between being rather passable. In all, the series made the mistake of not transmitting emotions to the viewer and not fleshing out the setting properly. It all ends up being shallow and forgettable, despite dealing with some really heavy subjects and having interesting artistic concepts. Too bad.And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 10/10 General Artwork 2/2 (artsy) Character Figures 2/2 (cool) Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed) Animation 2/2 (smooth) Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of explosions) SOUND SECTION: 7/10 Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 5/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 0/2 (messy) Complexity 2/2 (rich context) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy) CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10 Presence 1/2 (generic) Personality 1/2 (typical) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 0/2 (none) Catharsis 0/2 (none, they refused to change) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 0/3 (none) Rewatchability 1/3 (maybe just for the action scenes) Memorability 2/4 (cool visuals and ideas but a very mediocre presentation) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10 Art 1/1 (looks great) Sound 0/2 (sounds meh) Story 1/3 (good ideas but dull presentation) Characters 0/4 (they are cardboards) VERDICT: 5/10

quacker
8

Story Karas has a story that I liked okay. Each city has a demon guardian called Karas that has supernatural powers granted by its demon master, a girl called Yurine. Otoha is an ex-mafia member who turns into one such Karas tasked to guard Shinjuku, however Shinjuku has another Karas, Lord Eko, who wants to destroy the city because humans have forgotten that demons exist (but dude, how can you blame them when demons are normally invisible?). My biggest complaint is that Karas feels very sporadic initially. Karas is an anime that prefers to show rather than tell. There is little dialogue, so viewers need to piece the parts together themselves as the series goes on. This is fine, however, the first couple of episodes just throw random-ish scenes and snippets of dialogue at you. It's not until the midway through that things start to make some sense. For instance, the opening scene is a ten minute long battle between two unintroduced armored dudes, and one gets killed. Jump to three years later: we see a dude travelling illegally on a train, then we see a couple of detectives, a random patient being taken to the emergency room, and some girls interviewing people about demons, as well as some other random stuff. It was confusing me more than it was piquing my interest. Thankfully, everything is explained in due time. The series leads to its conclusion quite nicely and with all questions answered. Karas manages to do this without resorting to drawn out, lecturing dialogue. A consistent, serious tone and atmosphere are maintained throughout. I would complain about a bit of deus ex machina that saves key characters from dying early, but this is probably nicest way it could be handled given the time constraints. The focus of Karas is on the action anyway, and I thought the plot complemented the battles on the whole. Characters Karas has a good cast of characters overall. I liked the detective duo formed to investigate demons. Inspired by Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, one inspector believes in demons and the other must be convinced of their existence. A couple of other characters, Otoha and Nue, are strengthened by their brothers as they try to save them. Their motivations are plausible and they are likeable overall. Lord Eto is an okay villain. I don't know if his plan ever made sense, but he's meticulous and is not undone by making stupid, obvious mistakes like many classical villains. The supporting cast was good at extracting personality from the main characters. I felt attached to that little snail demon, and there were some revealing moments in interactions between the detective and that girl who's always changing jobs. The supporting villains could have used some work. Each one is just a different monster-of-the-week kind of enemy. Aside from that they support Eto's plan, we don't get to learn anything more about them. Animation Karas has some impressive animation during fight scenes. Characters look to be modeled in 3D and textured to try to match the surrounding style. This allowed the animators to do complicated camera work including shaking from the impact of explosions and 360 degree pans around two enemies as they fly through the sky. There is still quite a bit of 2D, though. In particular, the scene lighting looks to be done (at least partially) by hand, I think, and it's very good. We see the glows of sparks illuminting faces behind clashing swords, and glowing balls disappearing smoothly into clouds. The overall result is a distinct painted style that is way more refined than what was done with CG in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex opening sequence, for instance. Otherwise, in all non-battle situations the animation is all hand-drawn and is good quality. They do a good job varying character designs, and I continually noticed the superb facial expressions. Scenes are very detailed, often with a number of animated background elements, colorschemes are chosen carefully, and the cinematography is fantastic. If I had any critique, it would be the inconsistency between the CG-assisted fight scenes and the regular animation. It's immediately obvious which things are 3D-rendered and which are not. It's kind of like when you're watching Scooby-doo and notice a hand-drawn thing on the painted background that is so obviously going to move after Shaggy and Scooby walk by. In Karas, 2D faces or other elements look out of place in the CG scenes. The recent Gundam series, Gundam 00 and Gundam Unicorn, do a bit better job unifying 3D and 2D animation. My other big criticism is that Karas likes to put too much on the screen. With camera shakes and high contrast, there is so much visual noise assaulting you that they should probably warn those prone to epiletic seizures. Truly though, the animation is great. You could watch Karas for the animation alone. Sound Karas has a great soundtrack. The fight music is a choral/orchestral piece that somewhat reminded me of Hans Zimmer. I was pleased to hear the ending theme done by Rurutia. I noticed very nice sound effects used for the water in the first episode as well as nice engine sounds in the car chase scenes. Conclusion Karas was refreshing to watch for its aesthetics and consistency. There was fantastic work done sound-wise and the animation. The plot was pretty dull and poorly-paced, though. The cast of protagonists saw some development, but we never learn much about the villains. This leaves Karas without too much substance behind its beautiful presentation, although it still managed to be engaging and I finished the short series quickly.

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