Friday, August 31, 2012

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: CANAAN


Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video: Hulu, The Anime Network (NOTE: Japanese w/ English Subtitles at both (via Hulu), English Dubbed at TAN (1st two eps. free, the rest for Subscribers only))

For July's Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick, I chose AnoHana, tying it to a review I did for it. I didn't have many positive things to say about the series--chiefly due to the shaky work of screenwriter Mari Okada--despite the show itself being very highly-regarded. For these "Monthly Picks", I try to select titles that are either interesting, notable, have been well-received, or "off-the-beaten-path", but for the most part, I'd rather highlight an anime that was "good", rather than one that wasn't. However, there's the old adage that "another man's junk is another man's treasure". As AnoHana showed, not every show that I dislike is going to be disliked by everyone else, and vice-versa. Of course, that doesn't mean that I would recommend a title that is nearly indefensibly-awful (a la Sword for Truthwell, sort of…), but I don't want to mention just shows that I have found to be good, as you might be able to find something enjoyable in ones that I have not. So I figured, why not recommend another show that I didn't like?

As mentioned in the AnoHana review, Mari Okada was behind the pen for the action-packed assassin tale CANAAN. However, the writing for that series was perhaps a bigger disappointment than the former. It manages to be simultaneously convoluted and underwhelming. At times, you can see it drowning in the increasing pretentiousness of its own plot, and in true Okada fashion, it neglects to shed light on or answer all of its questions. The characters themselves underscore the dueling quality of the show, too: the designs of TYPE-MOON's Takeshi Takeuchi (Fate/Zero, Tsukihime, Kara no Kyoukai) are eye-catching, but strangely bland, and while a few generate some interest, basically everyone is dull and one-dimensional. CANAAN is a less-focused, more unrefined work than AnoHana, and that might not to great a surprise when you have an inconsistent writer in Okada and a director in Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger) who's prone to being style-over-substance.

So why exactly, after everything I just said, am I showcasing CANAAN (aside from the connection with last month's Pick)? There is at least something to be said for being the best technically-animated series of the 2000s, edging out the formidable accomplishments of the best overall TV series in Mushi-shi. Then-fledgling P.A. Works, just a year removed from their first full animation production, true tears (another Okada joint), showed their high-quality chops in infusing CANAAN with theatrical-level animation. And alongside director Ando's strength in delivering such high-level production work and well-choreographed, kinetic action sequences, along with Okada's flair for dramatics and emoting, there exists a certain level of entertainment that can be culled from it. It can genuinely be fun seeing the work put into the body movement and facial expressions (particularly the over-the-top ones by one psychotic character) and the fight scenes can be as breath-taking in action as they are in artistry--all of which are buoyed by strong acting. It may not be as good as its animation suggests (though the trio of director, writer, and studio would make up for it in the non-action-oriented big hit, Hanasaku Iroha), but CANAAN's at least worth a single viewing.

EDIT [09/05/12]: Added a video link for Mushi-Shi, plus credited true tears to Okada (P.A. Works must love her, huh?)

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