Speed Grapher

TV (24 eps)
3.625 out of 5 from 7,514 votes
Rank #4,020

Ten years have passed since the demise of the bubble economy, a time that polarized the world into two groups of people: the rich and the poor. In the present day, Saiga Tatsumi (a former war photographer) has been hired to investigate a secret club for the rich named the Roppongi Club, but he soon discovers secrets much darker than he’d ever imagined. With the help of a exploited goddess named Kagura, Saiga now possesses the power to kill by simply taking a photograph; but can he stay alive long enough to save her from her captors?

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Speed Grapher is a very interesting concept that was unfortunately handled by GONZO instead of a more competent studio. Although the characters and the themes of the scenario are amazing, the plot is all over the place and ends up being almost unrelated mini arcs with monsters of the… erm, month? Apart from the studio, the director is not someone to look forward to. Sugishima Kunihisa has in his roster some of the lamest titles, such as the old Tekken movie, the first YuGiOh series, all Bayblade seasons, as well as the totally boring ninja show Nabari No Ou. But all things considered, this is by far his best work to date. The story is about money and fame and how stupid or inhuman people can become in order to get them. There is this secret club of snotty rich and famous folk who acquire superpowers by the kiss of a maiden, and then they use this gift to have fun. And by fun I mean tricking and killing everyday people who are dazed by their fame and power. I guess they got all high on power and turned to murderous sadists. The protagonist is a photographer who having indulged too much into viewing the world through his lens, ends up being unable to enjoy life without it. All his life turned into taking photos of anything worth advertising to the world, to the point he gets a boner only when he views and films violence. After an accident while he tries to take a picture of the secret club, he is kissed by the maiden and escapes with her, while acquiring the power to blow up anything he photographs. After that begins a long chase with the club sending their members to retrieve the maiden and kill the intruder before the deadline for a very important project passes.The premise is very interesting and I must say I found myself captivated several times by the constant murders and decadence of money and authority. The whole series is a big metaphor around the dehumanizing effect these things have on our minds. The battles are not bad either; half the time they have a sort of choreography and strategy in them, while all the superpowers are directly related with the profession and morbid hobby of its owner, as an extension of his dark subconscious. Even without that, the main characters are all fleshed out along the way and you see how the events slowly change them. The story is not always predictable either, as midway there is a twist and the chase is over with the protagonist actually losing and the girl taken back to the club. The ending is also somewhat interesting as it is no longer some rescue mission ala shounen style but a revolution against the evil uproot of money itself. The main key events are all quite interesting.The thing is, these key events are not many and the show is a full season, mostly made up of unrelated villains who kill random nobodies and then chase around and fight the protagonist. It becomes very formulaic and can easily tire the impatient viewer or those who prefer denser plot. This off-sets by the rather high amount of violence and sexuality which keeps your interest higher than usual. There are dozens of brutal fatalities throughout the series and even a few sex scenes, elements that are uncommon to such a degree. So yeah, sex and violence end up being the main attractions as means to cover for the poor pacing and plot; but it worked for me and thus I am somewhat forgiving. This is again hindered by the production values, which are surprisingly mediocre for GONZO standards. Artwork and character figures are rather simplistic and generic, the animation is poor, even the horrible 3D effects are minimal (which is a good thing). The soundtrack is completely passable apart from the opening video. In all, the show is good for its shockers, crazy characters, and aesthetics but definitely lacks in presentation and scriptwriting. Depending on which you focus most, you will end up liking it or not. I was much younger and easier pleased when I originally watched it but it will definitely not be so patient with it today. I say it has some value and chances of rewatchability if your expectasions are not too high. To its basics the series is very good and I recommend it as a med to high anime in terms of vogue.


What started as an interesting blend of action anime and Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut quickly derailed into an unfortunate love story between a rough-around-the-edges war photographer and a teenage girl.  With a weak story and unlikable characters, SPEED GRAPHER fails to live up to the hype created by it's trailers. SPEED GRAPHER's story of political corruption revolves around a social club for the elite that caters to sexual desires of it's overly-wealthy clientel. This tantalizing premise falls by the wayside quickly, becoming a simple mechanism for creating monsters for the protagonist, Saiga, to battle. The plot structure waivers too much between being an "obstable of the moment" style or an extended narrative type of story. The constant back-and-forth of the main characters being on the run or in capture creates less of a feeling of high tension and drama, and more a tedious repetition of "fight bad, run away, get captured again." The twenty-four episode season feels riddled with filler, and a tighter, more concise story would add greatly to any sense of impact. The romantic subplot, however, fails due to completely one-sided characters. With an antagonist blatantly copied from Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth and a "crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside" style protagonist, SPEED GRAPHER prefers to handle it's characteres in black and white. None of the characters are particularly likeable since them seem to only have one personality trait that defines them. Female characters especially lack in development. Kagura, the love interest and secondary protagonist, is feeble and weak and fails to grow over the course of twenty-four episodes. The rest of the good characters and the bad characters are defined by their strongest desire, which might have added to the shows commentary on corruption, had the plot actually chosen to focus on that. SPEED GRAPHER is a disappointment, especially coming out of the normally excellent GONZO studios. 


In a world where every series needs to have a Mech, a Vampire, a Samurai or a Gunslinger, Speed Grapher finds a way to take an overused genre and make it original. Story - 8/10 Speed Grapher had it’s work cut out for it from the start. The school life genre has a huge following, pointless ecchi probably has even a bigger one, but photo journalism? Not a term you’d see on anyone’s list of “likes” or “wants” when it comes to video entertainment plot points. None the less, they took this unused genre and ran with it, and for the most part did a very good job. They almost perfectly found a way to mix a serialized show along with “Monster of Week” additions here and there. The main plot focuses on Tatsumi Saiga, a somewhat famous war photographer who hasn’t been able to reach the level of success he’d hoped for when returning to Japan. He currently works for an old friend in the newspaper business, doing odd photography jobs here and there. When a tip puts him on the trail of a sex club apparently attended to by all the elites of Japan, he thinks he may have his next big story. While trying to uncover the secrets of the club, he witnesses a beautiful young girl descending from the ceiling like an angel. Unable to stop himself from getting a photo, he pulls out his camera and he’s quickly pounced on by the guards. At the same time the young girl mistakes him for the club’s VIP guest, and plants a kiss on his lips. As she does he begins to convulse and bleed from his orifices, but after a few seconds he’s back to normal and has even healed the wounds inflicted on him by the guards. In an attempt to get away he tries to blind the security with his camera’s flash, but it instead shoots a powerful wave out that causes them to explode. Unsure of what’s happening he grabs the girl, who asked him to save her, and makes his escape. Before he can find his way out of the club’s maze like structure, he’s surrounded by more guards, as well as the man who appeared to be running the show. He introduces himself as Choji Suitengu, and informs him that the young girl’s name is Kagura, and that she has the unique ability to bring out someone’s deepest desire with her kiss. Connecting the dots between what Suitengu says, and the nightmares she’s been having, Kagura realizes that they were actually her horrible reality, and she decides to kill herself by jumping off the bridge they were positioned on, instead of ever having to kiss another depraved member of the club. Saiga jumps in after her, and while initially saving her from the waters of Tokyo Bay, she’s soon recaptured by Suitengu, as Saiga is left for dead. Of course what kind of story would that leave us with? After seeing all he did, Saiga decides he’s going to do everything he can to save the girl and expose the club and the powerful people who patronize it. With the help of his editor, and some old fashion journalist investigating, he discovers that the girl is the daughter of Shinsen Tennozu, the most powerful business leader in Japan, and possibly the most influential person in the country. Despite knowing that he still breaks into their house, under the guise of a substitute teacher, and he and Kagura start their run to freedom. The two spend the next few weeks traveling throughout Japan, trying to find the safest place to lay low while Suitengu sends his monsters after them. During this time Saiga decides to visit an old doctor friend of his, as Kagura hasn’t been feeling very well. Through his tests, Dr. Ryougoku discovers that Kagura is suffering from a brain tumor, and probably doesn’t have very long to live. This makes Saiga even more determined to make sure her remaining days are happy, as well as getting revenge for what her mother has done to her. Unbeknownst to Saiga, Mr. Suitengu’s whole plan almost runs parallel to his own. The club, aligning himself with Shinsen Tennozu, and extorting money from the elite were all just steps in his plot to take down those who started the entire process of gene manipulation, as well as those who have used their money to prey on the weak. In the end what separated the two were their methods, not desires, as Saiga had learned to cherish life no matter who it belonged to, while Suitengu believed the evil should be eliminated.  Underneath the show’s surface what we really get is a story about redemption and personal growth.  Saiga was never able to help people he was around during his days as a war photographer, more often than not he was the one needing to be saved, but with Kagura he’s found someone he might be able to actually rescue. In doing so he also grew as an adult, putting off his no strings attached relationship with a woman named Ginza, for one where he truly cares about Kagura. The rest of the story may not be the most original, everything today is somehow centered around a big, evil, corporation trying to take over the world, but Speed Grapher added a fresh take to things with the inclusion of gene manipulation and other rarely used plot points. For once I can say I would have rather the series be condensed down to fewer episodes, as the filler did drag on and on, but for the most part I enjoyed what they created.  Animation - 6/10 It’s ironic that a show, who’s lead is obsessed with photography, has such terrible character design. They try to give characters flashy outfits, or abnormal hair, but underneath it all are badly drawn faces that seldom see expressions, or some which look as if they are just stamped on every other character (Saiga, Ginza and Dr. Genba are a change of hair away from being the same person) Worse than that are the characters that don’t look as if the artist was there when they decided the shows direction. Bob and some of the Euphorics aren’t just badly drawn, but created in a style that doesn’t come close to matching the other characters, as if they were leftover panels from a completely different show. Overall the character drawings ranged from the aforementioned bad, to the at times terrible, where every line on their body was wobbly and their dimensions were completely off. It’s so disappointing that a series with a great plot and overall story, failed so badly at one aspect most Anime is known for, great animation. This does change a bit when some of the characters assume their Euphoric form. Some are a little bland, like Shirogane’s rubber gimmick or Mizunokuchi’s spider dentist form, but others like Lady Koganei, Father Kanda and Siji Ochiai are interesting and unique in the way the animators incorporated their desires into their transformation. The scenery in the show is pretty good, and often can help divert your gaze from the horrid character drawings. Their take on modern Tokyo, with different, futuristic buildings and what actually looks like the Manhattan Bridge, is a nice way to give us something we know, but with a cool twist. They do set a high bar very early, with the look and detail put into the sex club run by Suitengu, but thankfully they try to live up to that throughout the show. With the different mansions, city locations and especially Saiga’s wartime flashback scenes, they create a very vivid and beautiful world for us to view. Another area the artists seemed to do their research was for the cars driven by our different characters. Saiga’s Lancia, Suitengu’s Pagani Zonda and Yurigaoka’s Aston Martin, all match closely to what their real world counterparts look like. Sure I would like to have not been thrown off kilter so many times by the odd character animation, but overall they made up for it with an interesting world and that dark and dirty “noir” feel that comes with shows like this, Texhnolyze, Boogie Pop and so many other entertaining series. Sound - 7/10 The opening theme for the US version of Speed Grapher is the song “Shutter Speed”, an electronic instrumental with some jazzy riffs that matches the feel the creators were trying to give to this new Tokyo. Now some may prefer the Japanese version’s theme of Duran Duran’s classic “Girls on Film”, but really that just seems a bit too on the nose, and besides the aspect of the show being about a photographer, the song’s lyrics really have no connection to the plot. The first ending song, “Hill of Poppies”, was kind of a downer that wouldn’t excite you to move on to the next episode. With it’s screechy vocals and uninspired acoustic guitar, it was just a bad song. After half the series they changed to “Break the Cocoon”, which was much more up beat and in line with the show and it’s background music. It almost resembled an eighties Jeff Beck or nineties Joe Satriani song, but with Japanese vocals. Most of the other music used in the series falls into the same category as the last ending theme, sans vocals. Lots of synthy guitar and key tracks that you could easily see being played at a Genesis concert, or on your Sega Genesis in a game like Streets of Rage. While few stood out as songs to go down in a top one hundred list, they all were very solid and fit the series perfectly. The team over at Funmation did another great job with the English dub of the series. All the voices appear to match what we would assume the characters would sound like. Sure they pulled from their talented stable, so Saiga sounds like, and has the demeanor, of Roy Revant in SoltyRei, and Suitengu is Frieza, but they still come across as their own original characters within the show.   Characters - 6/10 For as good as the story is, the characters come off as a little bland. Sure they allude to amazing backstories for quite a few of them, but the development lasts about half an episode, then we’re given more innuendo than detail. Our hero Tatsumi Saiga obviously has one of the better backgrounds, but thats not really saying much in this series. A war photographer, who now scrapes by with paparazzi like photos for his old boss’ newspaper. After being changed by Kagura’s kiss, he gains the power to use his camera like a gun, blowing up whatever he sets the its focus on. Having seen many horrible things during his time in country, and unable to save anyone, he now finds Kagura’s predicament as a way to finally do some good by helping her. Really though, Saiga’s persona, the tough guy with a heart of gold, is something that has been done to death in the anime world. There was so much more we could have been given in the series, but instead we’re left just bits and pieces, and often those never add up to a completed story. Kagura, goes hand in hand with Saiga as a pretty weak main character. The Cinderella figure, who’s locked in her house by her evil mother, she doesn’t know much of the world outside of her driver’s car window. It’s hard as it is to make a fifteen year old seem interesting, and that’s doubled when they have no personality or endearing traits to latch on to. Where they could have really developed her backstory, specifically the story of her birth and subsequent powers, was thrown at us in a rush, and like Saiga’s story just never adds up in a clear way. Standing opposite Saiga is the debonair Mr. Choji Suitengu, a mysterious man who runs the S&M club where Saiga found Kagura. He work’s for Kagura’s mother, the owner of the most powerful business conglomerate in Japan, and he is also her lover. Through his club he’s been able to pass along a catalyst that resides in Kagura, one which unlocks a latent gene, allowing the recipient to turn into a monster of their greatest desire. He uses these monsters, along with a group of henchmen, to run his own scheme of amassing as much physical yen as possible. We learn that the reason for his act is also tied into reason he, and many who attend his club, have the aforementioned gene. As a young boy his parents were murdered after owing a debt to a powerful man in Japan. In an attempt to recoup that debt, the man took Suitengu and his sister, selling her into sex trafficking and Suitengu into a militia. While fighting the same war Saiga was documenting, Suitengu was severely injured, having been mended by scientist who were in the same area working on the Euphoric experiment. When they were finished with their task he was a hodgepodge of left over pieces from departed experiments. Now his whole meaning for living is to get revenge against that man, who is the current Prime Minister of Japan, as well as the country as a whole and all the powerful C.E.O.s who have taken advantage of people like his father. Shinsen Tennozu is Kagura’s mother, a former model and the head of the biggest corporation in Japan. Having had Kagura at a young age, and believing the father had abandoned them, she resents Kagura and treats her terribly, as she’s a reminder of that pain. She’s in a secret relationship with Suitengu, but doesn’t know he’s just trying to use her for her money and the political connections she’s established. At first she’s receptive to Suitegu’s suggestion of a wedding, but after hints drop about his true motives she changes her mind, which leads to her untimely death. Suitengu’s goons tend to be the characters I wanted to follow the most. While obviously bad people, they also end up being a few of the only characters to have actual redeeming qualities, as two of them stick by Suitengu to their death, as they feel they owe him their lives, and the other spends the rest of his days amassing money so that he can build a set of buildings, taller than all those in Tokyo, which he planned on naming after his three dead friends. Unlike our other characters they also have engrossing personalities and bring a little levity to the show. As with their animation, the character building of the Euphorics tend to go hand and hand with the creativity put into their animation. Shirogane, Mizunokuchi, Yurigaoka and Miharu Shirumaku are extremely dull characters that don’t appear to have much thought put into them, more or less being your typical sadist, pervert or horror movie heroine.  As the Euphorics tend to take the form of that which they desire most, the characters with the most interesting looks, therefor have the most interesting and detailed desires, and backgrounds. Madam Koganei was married to a man who did everything to make her happy, and eventually killed himself in order to pay off his debts. As a tribute to him, she desired to turn herself into a shining monument to his memory,  to do so she devours diamonds, which causes her body to turn into one giant gemstone. Father Kanda is a priest who is embezzling funds from his church and who’s power is the ability to control lightning and electricity, so he looks like a transistor with wires, though we don’t fully understand why he wanted that power. The last of the interesting Euphorics is Seiji Ochiai, a journalist turned politician who tricks Saiga into trusting him, under the guise of taking down the corrupt figures connected to the Tennozu Group. He has a passion for operas and orchestral pieces of music, and when he finally reveals himself as a Euphoric, he takes the appearance of speaker cabinets, which he uses to emit sonic attacks. Rounding out the characters that hold some importance to us are Saiga’s handful of acquaintances. Ginza is a policewoman who has a penchant for shooting criminals and then claiming self defense. Her and Saiga have no strings attached relationship, until Saiga learns otherwise. Ginza shows she’ll do anything to keep Saiga all to herself, including turning Kagura over to those who would do her harm or blowing up half of Japan to keep him safe. Another friend of his is Bob, a gay American neighbor who is there to bring the comic relief to the show with his flamboyant style and always over the top voice. Like Ginza he cares for Saiga and tries to help him and Kagura as much as he can. Finally there’s Saiga’s old buddy Dr. Ryougoku. He and Saiga met during the war and later he helped Saiga when he was over seas in an sorry excuse for a hospital. After he and Saiga reunite, he works on finding a cure for Kagura, as well as looking after her from time to time. Unlike the story, the characters ended up properly doing their job without ever feeling like they were being forced into a situation. I would have liked a little more time to be spent on characters other than Saiga and Kagura, as they run away again and again, but they are the focal points of the story, so you’ve got to accept some pointless meandering about, as all series do. Even with the jumbled backstory for some, and weak personalities for others, the show’s characters are still rather likable, and one of the reasons you’ll keep moving on to the next episode.  Overall - 7/10 While the show started out well, and the originality of the plot kept me interested, I felt very disappointed at the ending. Their attempt to wrap things up nicely with Suitengu, ended up leaving more questions, like how apparently he can be killed by fire despite surviving the exact same thing earlier in the series. Using the last episodes to also make the whole series essentially about greedy, evil, Americans was also one of those add ons we see in Anime that just make them look petty and childish, it’s often a little sad to see a very popular export of a top tier country fall back into having a little brother type complex towards the U.S. But the worst part of all was the predictable ending stolen straight out of a Twilight Zone episode, where Saiga gets to live, but can never again do what he truly loves. It tends to be a problem with Anime where they just give up on the ending, be it because the writers can’t be creative beyond what they find in the manga or because the show was canceled before they could wrap things up. Seeing as the show was released before the Manga, we can’t blame that, and the way the story progressed it looked as if they had it planned to only be twenty four episodes, so I can’t see any excuse for why they dumped the bed on the ending, which severely damaged the show. 

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