It's very rare for a series centred around magic to be any good - in recent years, we've had a magic school with particular boring storylines in the form of Happiness!; the abysmal Saint October; the yawnworthy Gift Eternal Rainbow that pretended to be a drama; and the just plain nonsensical Majokko Tsukune-chan. Unfortunately, Strait Jacket can be added to this list, and the reason I say unfortunately, is because this set of OVAs does actually start out with a lot of potential.
The initial premise is that magic exists as a science in the Strait Jacket universe and it seems to be used for medical and military purposes, but also, in industrial environments too. This I can cope with, as it explores magic as a specific entity, following regular scientific rules (which aren't explained but don't really need to be). I can even cope with the heavily armoured soldiers known as Tactical Sorcerists who seem to have spawned from Pumpkin Scissors. Again, the magic weaponry follows a set pattern and doesn't stray into the usual RPG ground of bringing in magical swords and whatnot.
However, after that, everything starts getting a little more tired. The magically deformed creatures that have to be fought every episode are no more than an annoyance, with too much time spent on their rampages (which is fine the first time, but when every episode is the same, it gets repetitive). Their metamorphoses are very reminiscent of scenes from Akira and one particular event in Claymore, except those two series are far superior. And I think that's the crux of what dissatisfies me about Strait Jacket: it is nowhere near as good as the series it draws inspiration from. All the events in the miniseries are replications of better scenes found in other anime series.
Even the political intrigue that arises towards the end is squandered, with an over-the-top vigilante quashing a terrorist organisation with one frenzied killing spree. When you consider how well similar circumstances were portrayed in Pumpkin Scissors, this just seems a complete waste of potential.
There are a few stand-out moments in the animation quality - usually during the fight sequences, when the Sorcerists let off huge waves of magic - but I don't consider these frequent enough, nor stylish enough to save the animation score. The character designs are bland, with only Kapel Theta standing out as being vaguely original, and the art quality is inconsistent to say the least. Monster design is also a negative point, as the designs are usually either too bizarrely complex or just replicas of the monster in Akira. While I'd expect a longer series to experience these type of difficulties, I find it inexcusable that a miniseries as short as this can't overcome these issues.
Mediocre at best, but I quite enjoyed the opening theme. While all action themes seem to be going for edgy, metal guitar-powered songs these days, it's not a trend I'm adverse to. Having said that, the in-episode music was less than inspiring and the voice actors barely provoked any reaction in me - in fact, Rachel's repeated "Onii-chan" in her super whiny voice made me want to stab her, which I don't think is the reaction the creators were going for, somehow...
Cue stereotypes! Okay, that's a little harsh. Rayott, while being your usual moody monosyllabic antihero, is actually a fairly interesting character. We're always reminded that he has a "past" and that in this past, dreadful things happened. So, add that to nearly every anime character ever created, right?
However, at the same time, his relationship with Kapel Theta is an interesting one, and I think if the overall series had been better realised, then this would have become the crux of the series. As it is, I had some vague interest in Kapel Theta's feelings for Rayott and whether these would develop in an interesting and meaningful way, but I think the length of the series was too limiting for such development.
The other characters may as well not be in the series. We're introduced to several minor characters, the most interesting being Isaac who becomes the focal point of the third episode, but even he is crushed by the weight of the drudging plot and his later reactions don't feel realistic when you take his rank within the military into consideration.
Another OVA that wastes its potential and yet another series focussing on magic that seems too interested in using magic as a weapon rather than as a useful social inclusion to a fantasy series. This score would have been several notches higher if it explored all the threads and questions it opens, but sadly it follows the same formula as all series of its kind, and heads straight to a predictable ending made even more stagnant by the fact that we haven't had enough time to truly care about the characters fighting.
Don't get me wrong, there are some nice philosophies on life and death, and in particular, the idea of a death wish (explored better, again, in Code Geass and other series). The action is also somewhat spectacular in parts, but if you're looking for a coherent plotline and a fulfilling ending, then this set of OVAs isn't for you.
This is a great example of a series which has potential, as far as the world is concerned, and what it characters have to do to keep order... yet it feels like when I watch it, the show is insulting my intelligence.
When thinking of the world this story is created in. I can see potential. Humans gaining the ability to use magic with a price. Excessive use of magic without protection can cause you to mutate into a devil bent on killing everyone. Then, Making a group that polices the use of magic so that when things get out of hand they can take the devil/s down. I guess it makes for a decent premise. Sure there is nothing too original about it, but the idea has promice. If done correctly, it could have some great elements to it. Unfortunately the idea behind the story and the world it is set in, is virtually the only real positive thing I can say about this series other than a few of the characters being worthwhile. The story ends up being very generic. They make many parts overly cliche and stupid yet it is obvious they are not trying to be comedic in those scenes. They are actually serious which is kinda sad.
The animation was decent. The devils were crazy weird looking things. They didn't look nor move like humans, so I have no standards on which to gauge how well they were animated. Also, in regards to the magic warriors who took care of the devils, during combat they were wearing bulky suits that don't really allow much freedom of movement and used heavy guns so having tons of animation talent was not really nessesary. Overall, I had no complaints but nothing really stuck out as great eather, in my eyes. I am no expert though.
I did not like the sound very much at all, but that could be more personal preference than anything. Sound affects sounded weird especially with the devils. Though this is semi-expected given the type of creatures they look like. However, that doesn't change the fact that I didn't like it. Also, the people who fought the devils especially the male main character had to scream Exist as he fired his super heavy powerful gun all over the place... it was just annoying. However, as far as sound quality or range of affects. I thought it was okay.
The characters. With the exception of the male main character were unmemorable for the most part. The male main character is what took the characters rating up to a 6 from a 5. Otherwise, everything about the other characters, their motivations, and personality ranged from "ugh" to "blah" (stupid and annoying to whatever and so-so) The main character woman being the most annoying. I know I have a tendency to harp on women, but try this show out you will see that she deserves to be harped on. She is a complete idiot. A stupid character that is a glorified babysitter for devil hunters. Worse yet she shows no real need to be in the show at all except as a copy paste potential love interest. Ditsy and stupid, yet somehow motivates the male main character with her jibberish.
If you are looking for a anime that is just action for the sake of action and you don't really want to think and can ignore stupidity as well as other annoying parts. This show is decent to pass time.
Kapelteta is a half demon so the anime says but how she came to be makes no sense in light of previous descriptions of demons and watching them in action. All they do is kill and destroy so how is it possible for one to have fathered her? Yes we have another example of a setting the creators forgot to pay attention to and as a result we have things that just do not add up. Magic is depicted as essentially using bullets so it never gives you quite the sense the 'sorcerists' (another made up word that doesn't make sense) have to use any of their own power and if they do not then how can they be infected with 'malediction'.
It has a nice fantasy element to it but too many things fail to compute based on not just real world logic but by the very logic created within the anime itself. Steinberg is a complex dramatically and emotionally scarred individual with practically a death wish for what he thinks are past sins even though those very sins saved many lives. I can understand and even applaud Isaac's actions immediately after the incident at Strauss but I do not comprehend his attack on Steinberg. There was foreshadowing I might have expected to have concluded before that point. Isasc's hero was most likely Stein's father. Isaac appears to have integrity but for some inexplicable reason throws it away after dealing with Oddman. It honestly makes no sense nor does it match his character. Even if it did make sense it was done to fast and left no room to resolve the foreshadowing of who Isaac's hero was nor was enough foreshadowing, set up, or reason provided about Isaac to make him react like that in the end. The best thing about this is the sound. The English voice dubs, sound effects, atmosphere, and so on all matched perfectly.
I give props on the way justice was so swiftly delivered to Oddman with out any murky grey, lame excuses, or useless efforts to try to justify Oddman's malicious actions as seen in so many other dark themed, horror, or anime featuring villains that get away with it. This one delivers the goods.
Where this show loses mega points however in it's poor setting, foreshadowing, and randomly nonsensical and illogical contradictions against their own story. It is difficult to take a story seriously that makes such errors. I only seen one or maybe two examples of 'magic' that did not appear to use guns and may not have even used 'bullets' or whatever those cartridges are. It is likewise tough to see the logic behind calling it magic if it is always administered like a gun and yet at the same time the anime tells you in the opening sequences that said magic and sorcerists are used in every industry. Somehow I doubt guns would be a practical application in every industry. I really want to give it a higher score but such significant and basic fails just make it impossible.
Synopsis: Advanced technology gives birth to the mythical power of sorcery. The intermingling of the two causes society to flourish as well as suffer at the hands of terrorists that abuse it. A brigade known as the Sorcery Management Bureau serves as the protectors for the innocent that cannot wield sorcery. The team houses men that wear empowered magical suits of armor, called ‘Strait Jackets,’ that fight people that turn into demons. The overuse of sorcery results in the transformation of a monster, and acts only on the instinct to kill. A rogue unlicensed Tactical Sorcerer, Leiot Steinberg, is called upon by the bureau to help deal with the recent spike in demon activity. With the aid of his young female partner, the two rush into the horrific carnage while trying to find a sense of purpose. The detestable demons that emerge from darkness intertwine with both Leiot’s past and present, forcing him to determine the path he must choose.
Story (5.5) The dark fantasy science fiction movie presents the concept of fantasy becoming reality through the art of sorcery. Strait Jacket centers on the terrible effects of what power and money hungry individuals desire by killing innocent people in order to gain a profit. The movie’s emphasis on Leiot focuses on character development through the use of dramatic irony and foreshadowing. The two narrative techniques are apparent through the flashbacks that Leiot has. The protagonist’s killing of his partner’s parents shows the grim and harsh truth of bringing sorcery to life. His partner’s unusual appearance serves as a marker in showing that sorcery creates violence, bloodshed, and misfortune for those that become victims of its destructive power. Leiot is a Sorcerer that unleashes destructive incantations and energy at every demon he faces, implicating the movie’s dark and brutal themes that surround the plot. The demons slaughter the innocent in grueling ways that reiterates the motifs of sorrow, pain, and conflict.
Animation (7.0) The art and animation highlight the sorcery’s destructive power that Leiot uses and the interesting demon design put into the production. The oversized demons that spout nonsense illustrate the somber mood that the story fleshes out. Usage of the rain and the colors placed into the water droplets and clouds compliment’s the movie as a whole.
Sound (6.5) Various orchestral instruments help add to the themes that movie portrays. However, Strait Jacket’s emphasis on the grotesque overshadows the experience. The English dub is a plus. Top-notch voice actors and actresses fulfill their roles in making the characters have more edge, flare, and dignity. Bang Zoom Entertainment continues to produce dubs that are pleasing and entertaining.
Character (6.5) Strait Jacket’s inclusion of conflict manifests through the power struggles of Leiot and Isaac. The two characters that drive the story, as main focal points, battle with themselves and each other in order to find resolution to their lives. The tragedy that falls on Isaac’s sister, and the conspiracy of instigated demon attacks from those that he works for, trigger his vengeance and desire to end his suffering. The bout between Isaac and Leiot implies the theme of redemption for the sins that plague Leiot and the struggle to overcome guilt. The seventy-six minute feature sports a depressing and gloomy setting that does not focus on the positive of what sorcery does have to offer. Well, for at least five minutes, anyway.
Overall (6.0) Strait Jacket’s centralization on darkness, demons, and gore stimulates the senses in how evil some people can be. The story’s emphasis on Leiot’s inner conflict and trying to find closure gives the narration some interesting elements, but the DVD’s action packed scenes become the forefront of what the movie does offer. The serious overtones of the movie floods the screen with violent imagery, causing anime fans to not see any comical quirks from personality traits of others. But there is some entertainment available for fans of horror. I think movie should have more comical scenes, which would help tone down the depressing atmosphere. For a person in a ‘Strait Jacket’ life can appear insane, but reality can be crazy sometimes too.
Was this supposed to be longer? There seems to be a lot of back story, but it barely touched on it. We get a glimpse of it, but that isn't enough. This OVA was only three episodes long, and it should of had added another episode, so we could at least get to know the characters, and sympathize with them. Instead, I felt like I didn't really care what happened to them. We also see a few characters who pop up a few times, which just seems out of place. I think we were meant to have seen more of them.
It wasn't bad though. It did a pretty good job on the action side, but they could have explained more about it. It seemed like the creator was inspired after watching Karas. That's what I though of first when I started watching it. It was entertaining, so I guess it did its job. It just needed to be longer. Probably then, this could have been an amazing OVA.