Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Witchblade (2006) 24 episodes

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: emotionally engaging characters, heartwarming family themes, top notch voice acting

The Bad: inconsistent animation and artwork, over-sexualised portrayals of female characters, bland cliche filled story, lack of adherence to source material, seemingly padded story

Current Availability Status: Not available in singapore. Code 1 DVD and blu ray available for order


A co-production between American comic book company "Top Cow" and anime company Gonzo, Witchblade is loosely based on the famous supernatural genre comic series of the same name. In retrospect, "loosely" might be giving this series more credit that it is due . Other than featuring a hand-worn object(an ancient gauntlet in the comics, but a bracelet in the anime) that "binds" to a woman thus granting her supernatural powers while replacing her clothes with an overly skimpy combat outfit, it seems to have little else in common with the comic book it is based on.

Where the comic series featured intriguing supernatural detective stories and down-to-earth characters in a more or less contemporary setting, the anime adaptation replaces magic with machinery as the dark occult themes are ousted in favor of more familiar futuristic elements that are a staple to many science fiction Japanese anime.

The story is set in future Japan. A couple of years ago, a giant disaster ravaged Tokyo leaving one Masane Amaha and a little girl the only survivors at ground zero. Now Masane and the little girl Rihoko, whom she adopted as her daughter, have returned to Tokyo and get involved in A string of strange events that culminates in an encounter with a murderous biomechanical creature. Masane to discover that the little jewel on her wrist is actually "the witchblade", a legendary artifact that somehow became attached to her during the mysterious disaster. Upon activation, the Witchblade encases Masane's body in a skimpy armor while granting her superhuman abilities and a insatiable, almost erotic desire for bloodshed.(fan rant: this last bit was never in the original comic. Oh Japan....) Now Masane has become caught in the middle of a power war between the NSWF organization and the "Douji" group, each with their own bio-engineered super soldiers and each desiring to possess the Witchblade as a weapon for their own ends.

Though the characters are tried and tested stereotypical anime characters, their interactions come across as very genuine. Masane and Rihoko especially play out their mother/daughter roles rather realistically, thanks to an excellent voice cast both in the original Japanese and the English dub tracks. This would make it rather easy for the audience to establish an emotional connection to their plight. The theme of family and the difficulties facing a single mother are touched upon now and then but never seem to take center stage as the show's driving force. The first few episodes are promising in that they showcase the extent that Masane is willing to go through to get her daughter back from a corrupt child services agency, even making a deal with the leader of the Douji group to kill off their competitors. Mother and Daughter's loyalty and love for one another are truly put to the test by the events surrounding them, especially because Masane can never reveal to her Rihoko the immoral things she did and the people she killed while possessed by the Witchblade.

However, the series starts to falter following the first story arc. The subsequent characters introduced to the story tend to be rather one dimensional and set firmly in stereotypical roles of "the tough guy protagonist", "sadistic female assassin", "comedy relief gang" etc. The story and pacing also appears to take a dive as the "family" element is further downplayed in favor of more comedy, melodrama and action. Some might get the impression of an awkward production that changed its focus midway through just to appeal to a wider demographic.

Awkwardness also looks to have been carried over to the animation and art style. Fan-service is at an all time high with scenes of scantly clad blood-lusting females duking it out with blades slicing away at each other in skimpy outfits. Even the "blood lust" is quite literally a sexual lust.

Characters are drawn off-model sometimes with Masane's body proportions seemingly changing size in-between scenes. The animation itself also suffers from the typical money saving short cuts; Still shots and close-ups are rendered in a higher level of detail but may come across as stiff while action shots and many scenes involving movement cause the level of art detail to drop quite a bit.

For all the advertising Funimation and Top Cow did on the Witchblade anime, this series might come across as mildly disappointing. Instead of building on the more original mother/daughter dynamics and character drama, the series decides to play the "sex sells" card and deliver one fan-service laden combat sequence after another, complete with jokes about the main character's over-sized breasts. The series falls back on overused science fiction anime staples; it jumps headlong into "ecchi" territory while lacking the coherence and deeper themes of better anime or the novelty of the original comic books. One target audience that the Witchblade anime may satisfy are those hot blooded young male viewers who love to be teased by anime females in states of semi-nudity. Other than that, it is at least a mediocre anime production that seems to receive a lot more fanfare than it might deserve.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you like you're anime women hot, like your violence titillating and like a story with a nice family theme to it
Avoid it: if MILFs aint your thing, if you liked the original comic book or if you generally prefer less sexualised forms of entertainment.

Entertainment: B-
Story: C-
Characters: A
Animation: C
Art: B-
Voice work( japanese): A-
Voice work (english): A-
Replay Value: C
Brains: C-

Japanese producer: "How else does a parasitic armor bind to a young lady?"
You KNOW this is made in japan when you have one of these scenes.

Japanese producer: "How else can a horny robot attack a scantily clad hottie?"

Its white, its sticky, its being shot at a woman, ITS SUPERGLUE RIGHT?

Japanese producer: "how else do ladies subdue each other?"
Someone stop these dirty minded japanese people...

Japanese producer: "how else is she suppose to react when getting r....."
Someone please STOP THEM!

Big butts, cannot lie.
the animators were meticulous enough to provide full motion animated butts and boobs of all young adult female characters when they were running, jumping or fighting.

They're floating away.
Hilarious result of over emphasis on cleavage movement.

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