Saturday, January 28, 2012


Recently I had a sad realization.  I haven't seen a new anime series that I really really loved in years.  The last anime I can truly touched my heart like a woman's embrace was probably Eureka Seven".  This might explain why I haven't reviewed an anime series in like six months.  Looking back in my archives, I apparently liked something called "Angel Beats", but for the life of my I cannot remember what that was*.

Anyway, "CANAAN" is an anime I watched, to completion unlike a lot of other shows I've seen (like "Bleach").  This is probably because it was only thirteen episodes long, which meant that I was able to watch the entire thing on a lazy Saturday morning.  So that afternoon I was able to write up a post about it.  "CANAAN" is an all-caps show like "Noir" or "Madlax" in that it mainly involves lithe anime girls jumping around and shooting at other lithe anime girls.  And much like those shows there's plenty of implied lesbianism and bullets for everybody to enjoy, only this one is half as long.

"CANAAN" is a pretty good show, but its definitely not the anime savior I was looking for.  I liked the cast, I liked the art style, I liked a lot of things, but ultimately the story never really ever came together.  And now, if you're happy with just that assessment, you can stop reading, or you read (or skim through) the full post below.

The setting is Shanghai, China.  The girl is Canaan.  Her picture is above.  She's a badass gunslinger with a very specific power:  synesthesia.  Synesthesia is the psychological condition where you "mix" your senses, causes letters or numbers to appear to have a "color" or may appear to actively have personalities.  You imagine years as a sphere, its just a very interesting way to view the world.  Canaan, however, has super synesthesia!!  She's basically a telepath allowing her to see the emotions of all people based upon their colors.  Blue means you're about to kill, gold means love, light brown means death, etc.  Thanks to this power, Canaan is able to see through walls, immediately judger her opponent's intentions, and is an expert killer.  Also, her synesthesia is so good that she can somehow hack into computers and take control of guided missiles.  Those are some awesome colors.

To create a plot-convenient complication, a sinister organization called SNAKE has appeared out to cause vague evil terrorism for an undefined reason.  Their leader is a hot dark-skinned chick named Alphard, but she also likes to go by the name "Canaan".  Despite having no powers, Alphard is at least as good of a gunswinger and has deep personal issues with the good Canaan.

Along for the ride is Mino, a normal reporter guy here in Shanghai to investigate the various conspiracies.  With him is Maria, a ditzy rich girl that likes to take pictures.  These two are pretty much the only normal humans in the entire show, so they're your audience avatars.  Maria is also desperately in love with Canaan, even if they never kiss.  Because of their burning lesbian attraction, Maria gets kidnapped a lot by the psychopaths under SNAKE's hire, so Canaan has to save her.  Ultimately its Mino and Maria who end up trying to make sense of everything that's happened in the story.  They might not be the heroes, but they are the ones that have to pick up the pieces in the end, so I'd say they're the real protagonists.

So since this is a TV show, let me do a character breakdown:

Canaan is the title character and the main focus of the story.  She and Alphard hate each other because they both were trained by the same old gunslinger guy and wound up becoming rivals for the title "Canaan".  Why they both want to be named after the Jewish promised land is a mystery to me, but they really have issues.  Canaan is kind of a guarded character, she underplays herself, and is somewhat difficult to actually understand.  I think her problem is that she's one of the flattest characters in her own show, which is amazing.  At least she's pleasant to look at.

Maria is, as I mentioned before, the real protagonist of the show.  She starts off as just a typical silly Japanese girl, but winds up getting real depth as the show progresses.  She's constantly trying to figure Canaan out, and after being kidnapped a few times she stops being so bubbly and stupid.  In fact, I think she gets a little too serious towards the end, the fun seems to ooze out of her character.  That's when she starts making long internal monologues about the nature of Canaan and her purpose in Canaan's life... I have no idea what she's talking about.  Honestly, considering how often Maria is in danger, she's just a giant load for everybody.  Not to knock her character, but logically they should have left her at home far away from COBRA.

Mino is the protagonist to the series that I really liked.  He's really just the most regular person here, acting like a normal person would when surrounded by hot chicks shooting at each other.  Eventually Mino falls in love with a mystery mute woman... that doesn't go well.  Unfortunately, Mino keeps getting kicked out of the main plotline and misses most of the action.

Yunyun is the loud bubbly comic relief, so usually I would hate her out of principle.  But actually Yunyun had surprising depth for a comic relief, and is actually pretty helpful unlike idiot "funny" characters usually are.  She's a flat-chested minor villain that likes to hide huge fruit in her shirt to pretend to have boobs.  Yunyun has her moments, she's good.

Hakko is the mute woman that Mino falls for.  Unfortunately, Hakko seems to be already taken with some other dude (whose character design is really really similar to Mino's).  Despite being the hottest character in this show and working at a strip clue, Hakko has a tragic disability which means that she can never talk... or moan while having sex.  She does get laid eventually, but her partner is was a little... cold in bed, let's say.

Yuri is Canaan's boss and is apparently working every side against each other.  She's obviously evil, and has a pathological hatred for Canaan for no apparent reason.  Yuri is really cryptic and smug, but never does anything, so she's annoying.

Liang Qi is the second-in-command of SNAKE.  At the start of the series, she poses as the secretary of her lieutenant, and walks out naked in the middle of a meeting.  Liang Qi is also Alphard's sister, but its really a one-way love, Alphard couldn't care less about her subordinate.  Because Alphard never does anything in the first half of the series, Liang is the one who puts together all the evil schemes and pathologically chances Canaan to kill her.  When she's annoyed, she shoots BB pellets in her lieutenant's face.  Slowly but surely, Liang starts going crazy.  And then she gets even more crazy.  And then crazier.  She's a sadist, she's insanely jealous of Canaan for stealing her sister's attention, she gets turned-on by the prospect of her own death, on and on it goes.  She has like seven different kinds of insanity, every episode she's insane about a different thing.  So Liang is a lot of fun because she's just so nuts.  It wavers from bad to good to bad again to awesome depending on the scene.  She also enjoys being naked, so there's points there to be had.

Alphard is the main villain, and easily the most poorly defined character of the bunch.  For some reason she constantly refuses Liang's plans of trapping Canaan by kidnapping Maria.  Then what is Alphard's final plan?  Guess?  EXACTLY THAT.  You chicks could have done this thing weeks ago!  Liang is evil, so I guess I'm not supposed to feel bad for her, but Alphard treats her sister like shit, and there's no clear reason why.  Alphard's motivations also aren't very clear either, because at first it looks like she's trying to start WWIII, then she gives that plan up just to torture Canaan some more.  Why?  Why do you care?  Nothing about this character is ever made clear.

The President of the United States is not a major character in this series, he isn't very important.  However, he does have a world mandate to give:  LOVE AND PEACE!  LOVE AND PEACE!  Yes, the President of the United States is actually a huge "Trigun" fan and has based his foreign policy on Vash the Stampede.  That makes him the best President we've ever had.  Sadly he's replaced by Dick Cheney halfway through the show, and then neither show up ever again.

But the best character, by far is:

The Taxi Driver is apparently the only Taxi driver in all of Shanghai.  He's also incredibly awesome because for no reason he joins the heroes on a chase.  He's just like "action car chase?  AWESOME, I'm in!"  Taxi Driver is balding, he loves J-Pop, and he has no interest in his own safety or survival.  But he does have no problem with parking his cab on the top of a skyscraper.  This man is the man.

So now that I've listed all the characters and given away most of the storyline, I guess I can talk about other things.  "CANAAN" is far from a perfect show, as you can clearly see.  It gets bogged down pretty badly in the last few episodes because I really cannot figure out what the villains are after, and that's not a good thing.  The action is great, the animation is great, and the gunplay was great.  But why is there gunplay?  What is the point of all of this?  The long-running mysteries of the show are explained eventually, but not to full satisfaction.  Also, I'm pretty sure a lot is left open in the hope of making some kind of sequel.

Ignoring that, this is a show with some great sick moments.  A woman has sex with the corpse of her dead boyfriend.  One character has super voice powers that cause your brains to explode.  One guy pukes up blood when he's infected with a kill virus.  And there's all the crazy shit Liang does.  It was a pretty mature, dark ride, even if there is no nudity and not much blood.

I also really like the animation.  The character models are what I try to draw whenever I make a character design, its almost exactly this.  Sadly my hands are clearly inferior to the raw talent that was animation "CANAAN", so the results are not as good.  But that's my problem, not this show's.

So yeah, "CANAAN" is pretty decent.  I was never charmed into loving it like say, "Madlax", but that's probably because it didn't have Yuki Kaijura doing the music.  It was a fun ride, even if I'll probably forget all about it in the coming months.

* Maybe an evil alternate universe Blue Highwind wrote that review.  I know they exist... and they are watching.


  1. I've only seen half of Noir. I liked the art style, but it felt a bit slow to me.

    Also, why are you taking back your verdict on Angel Beats?

    1. You should finish it. I thought it was good.

    2. Yeah, maybe. I've heard that it gets better later on, but the first couple of episodes where they're just doing those odd-jobs just seemed to drag for me. Maybe I dropped it too early.

    3. I always liked Madlax better, but that's just me.

      Still haven't seen The Hunter of the Witch.

      (Also I'm not taking back my verdict on Angel Beats, I'm just pointing out that before I started looking through my old posts, I completely forgot that show existed.)

  2. Regarding your Current Thought: No. Just... no.

  3. Blue, I was wondering if you ever tried Durarara!!? It's pretty new, and rather popular.

  4. I saw this recently. The main issue I had was this show got so unbelievably convoluted all the while I could never figure out why Alphard was really against Canaan, what she meant when she was referring to Canaan as a common entity, and what she was really trying to unleash. And to top it all off, it ended with no closure. Here's to hoping Under the Dog is an improvement.