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[R1 DVD box art.]
AKA: ウィッチブレイド (Japanese)
Genre: Action, horror, drama, superhero, ecchi
Length: Television series, 24 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from FUNimation.
Content Rating: 15+ (Violence, language, sexual situations.)
Related Series: Top Cow's ongoing comic by the same name, a US television show that lasted two seasons, a manga, and a potential movie due to release in 2009.
Also Recommended: Blade, Murder Princess
Notes: This is loosely based on the American comic series of the same name, but the characters and setting are entirely different, with only the basic framework being intact; it can thus not be considered an "adaptation".
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Witchblade

Synopsis

Six years ago, an earthquake of catastrophic proportions leveled the metropolitan area of Tokyo and flooded its streets. Masane Amaha and her daughter Rihoko are refugees of this disaster who are returning to Tokyo in search of a permanent home. Hot on Masane's heels are Child Welfare agents who want to confiscate Rihoko from Masane under recent laws enacted by a shady government organization. Masane is desperate: desperate to keep her child, desperate to find a home, desperate to keep her recurring nightmares a secret. She will do anything to stay together with her child, so when a secretive organization finds out that she is the new wielder of the Witchblade, they make an offer to her she cannot refuse....


Review

Over the last five years, a growing number of anime is being made with influence from the American market. While The Big O wasn't a hit in Japan, its popularity in the United States justified a second series co-produced with Cartoon Network. Warner Bros. partnered with Studio 4 Degrees Celcius to make The Animatrix, and an American director from the same studio has released a critically lauded anime movie. Looking into future, we have Disney and Madhouse making an animated series based on Disney's Stitch franchise, Afro Samurai getting the television series treatment, and due to Evangelion's popularity here and abroad, we will be treated to a four part high budget remake of Anno's magnum opus, with the first installment due out this year.

There was a discussion on the forums, speculating on where the anime industry and fandom will be five years from now. I'd like to add another prediction to my post: that we will see a growing hybridization between American and Japanese culture in the anime we watch and buy. There will be more anime based on American properties, and more American movies based on Japan's anime. It will be a trend that defines the next wave of anime, much like mecha did the seventies and eighties, shounen and majhou shojou epics the nineties, and moe today.

Every trend has its high points that are remembered fondly, and watched and rewatched years after its initial airing. These trends also have a lot more low points; for every Kanon and Clannad, it seems we get five Solas and Da Capos. Consider Witchblade a glimpse of the wave of crud that is to come- an anime that positions itself to succeed by filling out checkboxes of what it knows its audience wants, then falls flat because it does not entertain.

Witchblade is based on the American hit comic of the same name, but the anime tells a new story set in the far future of Japan instead of present-day New York. Our heroine is a spunky, well-endowed single mother who is the new wielder of the Witchblade after an "earthquake" devastated Japan. Well, sort of an earthquake. How many earthquakes have you been in that had an epicenter with a pillar of light? Surely anyone with the intelligence of a squirrel would think, "Hmm, I wonder if that pillar of light had anything to with this devastating earthquake." Anyway, our hero Masane is conveniently amnesic and doesn't remember anything that happened after the quake. All she knows is she awoke in the middle of post-apocalyptic Tokyo with a baby in one arm and a strange bracelet on the other.

Flash forward six years, and Masane is on the run from Child Services. She's been on the run for awhile, taking her child Riko with her; living in the streets, never staying anywhere for too long. This is the sort of situation that creates miserable families with dysfunctional children. But surprise oh surprise, the Amaha family functions very well together. And Riko is such a well adjusted six year old that she takes care of her mom, not the other way around. She cooks food for her mom, she cleans up her mom's messes, she keeps her mom from drinking too much, she gives her Tylonol for hangovers, and she does the shopping.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of my suspension of disbelief crashing and burning.

The Amaha's family structure is intended to be a cute gimmick but it isn't. It irked me. A lot. Another thing it was supposed to do was flesh out Masane's character so that she's more than just a big boobed action figure; she's also a caring and loving mother. I don't buy it, and I worry about anyone who does take this gimmick seriously. Most of the drama in the anime is about the Amaha family trying to stick together, but since I already don't care, it drew a blank. That's most of the excitement of the anime, vanished, because I am cursed with common sense. Dammit. Maybe watching hawt nekkid women duking it out will entertain me.

But as it turns out, no, that's not the case. The action is short and not very exciting, with a lot of conventional things like, "slice a blade through the opponent then walk off. The opponent says, 'Ha, you missed,' then falls into clean halves and blows up." It's unexciting.

There are various other things that irked me about the anime. Our comic relief comes in the form of a perverted old man, which is a tired gimmick that has spent what comedic value it had already, and is just old and boring. I usually was able the figure out plot twists long in advance of their revelation. There's also a joke inserted in the dub where Masane is called "Melanie" instead of Masane-chan. And why is she called Melanie? "Because her breasts are like melons!" says Riko. How offensive that nickname sounds is irrelevant, because the people who would be offended by it wouldn't be watching this show. My problem with it is it's a dumb joke. The dub was pretty good, but I watched the anime subbed once I realized "Melon-y" was going to be a running gag.

Really, Witchblade as a whole doesn't do much to excite. It gives itself a tough assignment- be both sleazy, sexploitative entertainment and human drama. It doesn't pull it off, and my rating reflects that.

Witchblade is a series with its heart in the right place, but it simply doesn't deliver.Bradley Meek

Recommended Audience: Violence, language and erotic content makes this appropriate only for college students and up.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Partial (16/24)
Witchblade © 2006 GONZO, SKY Perfect Well Think Co., Ltd.
 
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