Japanese Title: KARAS
Watched in: Japanese & English
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action
Length: 6 episodes
- Dazzling visuals full of energy.
- Intense action with great cinematography.
- Too many plot lines that keep shoving each other out of the way.
- Very little character development across the board.
- Obvious CG on occasion.
- Core of the narrative doesn’t become clear until the fourth episode.
- BLOOM! Ah, my eyes!
Every once in a while, I come across an anime that on the surface looks fantastic, has an interesting premise, and oozes style, but is kicked in the crotch by the most baffling and obvious errors. Karas is one such anime.
Immediately, Karas (Japanese for ‘crow’) dazzles with its intense action as two power-armoured samurai duel among the clouds, gunfire flashing out once they transform into fighter jets before they crash into the city below. The visuals are brilliant and intense, sometimes too intense with excessive use of bloom. It burns the eyes. Karas boasts actual cinematography, often lacking in television anime. Scenes are shot from creative angles, well composited to draw you into the action. The camera shudders against shockwaves, increasing immersion. This anime is beautiful to behold.
However, once the opening action subsides, Karas loses the audience. The premise revolves around a world of demons existing out of sight in a human city. The humans were once aware of the demons’ existence, but have since forgotten and relegated the use of demons to myths and ridicule. (How did they forget?) The Karas tech-fighters exist to keep the balance between the two worlds. Eko, a former Karas, grows tired of human ignorance and raises an army of demons enhanced by his tech-magic to destroy the humans. In response, Yurine uses her own tech-magic to give Otoha the power of the Karas to fight against Eko.
None of this is clear until the halfway mark. The first three episodes largely follow Nue – a rogue demon on humanity’s side – and not the supposed protagonist Otoha. Then episode four hits, and at last, we see the narrative’s core. Nue is all but dropped for Otoha to take his place. This is the obvious problem. Karas has too many plot threads that it can’t manage. I got the impression that the story compositor thought he was plucking a guitar with how fast the scenes jump between threads. Just as a scene is about to reveal its purpose, it cuts away to anoth- no, back again- wait, a third challenger approaches! It’s irritating, particularly in the first two episodes. Two police officers investigating the murders caused by kappa (water demons) also have a meaningless plot thread. Only in the final two episodes, once several plot threads get the Falcon Punch they deserve, can we enjoy the narrative.
None of this is to say that Karas is bad. Rather, it is crippled by baffling choices. It feels as though the first half of the series was in the draft stage, structure wise. Still, Karas is a gorgeous spectacle of action.
Art – High
Karas is a dazzling display of action that blends CG with anime. The CG is noticeable (though not bad) in a few scenes without environmental filters. Wear sunglasses against the bloom.
Sound – Medium
Decent English and Japanese voice tracks with good sound effects.
Story – Medium
Karas has a good narrative to tell between demons and humans, but is unfortunately elbowed across the face by unnecessary side plots.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Watch Karas if you want spectacular sights and action. Make sure to read the full review or a synopsis beforehand so you aren’t lost in the early narrative.
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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)
3 thoughts on “Karas – Review”
I think people are relying way too much on “character development” as the benchmark everything must strive to be.
Nowadays it isn’t enough to tell the story of the princess being rescued from the evil witch by the gallant knight, we have to have long, and often tiresome, arcs devoted entirely to justifying the positions of these characters, otherwise we cry foul.
This is a needlessly rigid, recalcitrant and downright ignorant approach at judging a story; the art of storytelling is rich and complex in both form and history, and not everything has to go through the same motions to be dazzling.
Open your mind to different forms of storytelling, stop trying to make everything be character-driven.
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Thank you for your comment. I have a lot to respond to, so bear with me.
Regarding the Karas review itself, I barely focused on character development – a mere footnote in the bullet points. With so much wrong in the narrative structure, the character development wasn’t worth extrapolating on at that point. The narrative couldn’t decide what it wanted to do for the characters to have a chance to live in the story. (Though, I assume you may be referring to several reviews.)
However, even if I did focus on character development, there would nothing wrong with that. Character development is a part of every great story. Yes, you can have a great story with mediocre development, and if that is ever the case, I make sure to mention it. Development happens automatically when characters live in a story, regardless of the importance of the development. The characters don’t have to be the focus to develop. Take the recent film Gravity. The film’s focus is on a single woman’s survival in space for the majority of the time. The story doesn’t break away to long flashbacks down on Earth, detailing her life story, her motivations, her reason for being – it could have done all this, but it would be unnecessary. Instead, she develops even without these common ‘character development’ type scenes. These scenes aren’t a requirement for development – remember that. We see her develop through the choices she has to make, through the action. When Luke chooses to throw his Lightsaber away against Vader, that is development – no long explanation necessary.
A character doesn’t need to sit down and meditate to grow; growth can stem from a simple decision to turn left instead of right for once. It isn’t the means by which the growth is delivered, but by its impact. For instance, if a soldier kills an enemy, the first kill, and it doesn’t affect them whatsoever, it is bad development because it should affect him. That’s not to say he should be broken about it – maybe he loses some of his humanity, maybe he gains a thirst for war. We don’t need long, tiresome arcs to see this growth. A single action will show us: does he eagerly kill the next enemy or does he drop his gun a flee?
You bring up a fairy tale as an example of a story without character development, but I would argue the opposite is true. Does Cinderella not develop when she stands up to her evil stepmother? Do Hansel and Gretel not grow and become wiser to deception after their encounter with the witch? Hansel and Gretel is not character driven either, mind you. Beauty and the Beast is very much a character piece, whereas Robin Hood is at a more macro level, and yet, both have good stories. In any good story, characters develop automatically through the action, character driven or not.
Often, when a character does not develop, it is the writer restricting the organic growth. Maybe the writer is stubborn and refuses to let the protagonist fail, forces the protagonist to win in situations where it isn’t possible simply to keep the character “clean.” Again, it doesn’t have to be character driven for this to occur or to have a negative effect on the story.
A plethora of techniques and styles await a writer to convey story and character. It doesn’t have to be about long, tiresome arcs.