Humans, youkai, godlike existences, white cats, organisms contained in liquids within tanks, armours, CGI, exceptional fighting scenes, katana, Yakuza, motorbikes, guns, chains, Tokyo, love, cute snail-like beings, and so much more – this is the world of Karas.
The show is a six-episode OVA which was released between 25th March 2005 and 26th October 2007. Learn more about Karas (and why I think you should definitely give it a chance if you like any of the above) below.
This is a show by director Keiichi Satou. Although some of his other works are a lot more popular (such as Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary and Tiger & Bunny), Karas is still a perfect example of his exceptional graphic manoeuvres. If you have watched Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, with the uncommon lighting, visual specifics and the combination of CGI and standard animation, and you have liked it, then you will definitely like Karas.
There is nothing more satisfying than starting to watch an anime because of the amazing animation in the first episode, the shockingly detailed fantasy battle and the unique successful CGI manipulation of the environment. Well, there is actually – when this continues for the entire length of the series. Six episodes may not be even a full-cour, but they sure brought enough visual delicacy that Karas turned out to be.
You could hardly find any anime that looks like an indi animation more than Karas. I mean this in the good way. This production leaves an unmistakable impression of a project created with attention and care for the details that is a common characteristic for the indie scene.
In this brief anime series, we follow several stories. First, however, let me introduce you to the main character types:
Yurine: A youkai spirit to guard a town and its youkai inhabitants, and keep their human neighbours in the dark about the existence of the alternate world. All Yukine have the same physical aspect, with slight hair colour differences. Their clothing is by choice.
Karas: A human who has encountered a serious near-death experience, in one way or another. They use a special item to transform into different mechanical-like forms.
Mikura: A type of youkai. Their true form is a mechanical-like existence with supernatural power. They can transform into humanoid form. They need human blood to survive.
Nue: Youkai existences, a type of Mikura. They are always born in twos.
The Yukine and Karas of Tokyo are the ones we focus our attention on.
Yes, all of these groups of creature shave their own story in the show. Yes, all of this information is grasped easily from watching this original anime. In fact, we also come to know of Eko – a former Karas who has gone evil for the sake of a Greater Good. His plans to bring apocalypse for the sake of renewal are worthy of applause. This standardised antagonist, however, is enforced by a mystical image, an assistant – a very strong Black Widow youkai, and his former Yukine in a container… for a bit.
Where Did It Go Wrong?
There are some negatives about Karas. Most of them, however, seem to be due to the brevity of the anime. While the production does manage to suffice in most fields, we end-up watching some things we never get to understand. The handheld device used by the Tokyo Karas is one of them. Yousuke uses it to transform or to call the force of his Karas powers, but everything is so unexplained, that even to this moment, I am not certain what it is exactly this item does.
Some viewers discuss a big plot issue when it comes to having not one but two people with existing Karas powers, meaning there are two existing Yurine spirits. If the Yurine has just one Karas, and if the town has just one Yurine, this is not supposed to happen. The very story of Tokyo, and the anime alike, focus on this paradox. But the studio left a thread which can explain even this – leftover powers, inexplicable post-relationship abilities and so on. In fact, they do prove that the former Karas and Yurine are no longer in the same state as they were when they were appointed to the positions.
Another problem for you might be putting the pilot episode’s events into the story line. I won’t make things easy for you. I won’t tell you anything about this, but be ready for a monstrous timeline pondering.
The staff had only six OVA episodes to handle the whole life of Tokyo, and some other cities. We get to meet about ten separate existences with their own background stories, relationships, and character developments. We come to know about humans, nue, youkai, mikura, yukine and be introduced to what they could do once they set their eyes upon the goal.
A few shows manage to achieve Karas’s character development in a full-cours series. Combine this with a mesmerising 2D x 3D animation technique, suitable music, and a plot you won’t catch in many anime nowadays. Now you get a show worthy of your time.
Karas official website
Karas in The List
Images © 2005 タツノコプロ／鴉 -KARAS- 製作委員会