A high intense action with fun and varied characters which suffers from having to put a complicated plot in 13 episodes, but very nearly succeeds…
What They Say :
Canaan is a war orphan raised by an ex-mercenary whose life is set for revenge. An explosive anime thriller from the makers of Fullmetal Alchemist and Afro Samurai.
The Review :
The DVD release has a 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese audio track, the Dolby Surround in the English dub is very good, though sometimes noticed it was almost fading into a stereo track at times, whilst the Japanese track is also very good with no errors of sound glitching or out-of-synch ratio with the subtitles that I noticed, but the muting I did notice a few times (it’s obvious during the opening song, then you start noticing it far more clearly in the show). Video wise, it’s again very good, with no problems with coalition with subtitles and sound, animation is very good and sets with a real atmospheric if rough style considering the situation of the show. No noticeable visual errors during pausing, syncing and a play through so very solid.
The menu on both discs is the same, albeit with extras on the second disc – it’s set up with animation scrolling down in the middle with a shot of Canaan pointing her gun at the viewer in a menacing way. The menu with the selections of Play All, Episode Select and Set Up is done off a film real and it gives the release a bit of a real classy flair, whilst still being quite simple at the same time. No problems with selection either from the menu or from the show with no issues (freezing, delays, etc) so easy to navigate and nice to look at.
Only a few basic extras on the complete series release; we have the clean opening and ending to the series, and a few anime trailers to other releases – Needless, Welcome To The NHK and The Tower Of Druaga.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Canaan is one of those series that seems to have crept up on me – not a series hugely familiar with, but understanding that whilst not by Bee Train, had a lot of the trademarks series like Noir, Madlax and El Cazador had, but instead done using designs of Type Moon (Fate Stay Night/Tsukihime) which immediately gives it a unique look with a gritty, realistic atmosphere with a little bit of the abnormal. The series in a weird way reminds me a lot of Angel Beats, having a lot of the same strengths and same weaknesses it had, just in a very different environment.
Said environment starts innocently enough – we are introduced to a young woman named Maria, a rookie photographer paired up with a veteran reporter and photographer Minoru, who are assigned to a job in Shanghai to cover the festivals and atmosphere there. Whilst it seems mundane, it suddenly takes an interesting twist when Maria mentions a few times someone named ‘Canaan’ which we then cut to, is a mysterious female gun for hire with the ability of synethesia. And it turns out she actually knows Maria. Once they reunite, the story of Canaan begins to unfold, who she is, her name’s symbolism, her war against the terrorist group SNAKE, in particular the woman who has also been given the Canaan name by Canaan’s mentor – who was killed by said other woman, the head of snake, Alphard.
More mysteries get told as more characters get involved – Alphard is accompanied by Liang Qi, a very creepy woman who is the younger sister of Alphard, with an obsession of pleasing her sister through massive violence. Minoru also becomes more interested at a true story when Canaan has a link to something known as the Ua Virus, as people known as Borners who were infected with this virus but survived displayed unique and inhuman abilities or effects. Some range from insane agility to the ability to kill people with their voice (demonstrated by a woman named Hakko who Minoru falls in love with, but her lover Santana apparently has some history with the village where the Ua Virus was used on experiments)…on the other hand there is the lovable comic relief Yun Yun, who was born with two appendixes, which is…not quite as useful. The story basically tells about Canaan and Alphard’s experiences with their mentor Siam, the creation and usage of the Ua Virus, and Canaan wanting revenge over her mentor’s death. This involves terrorist attacks, using Canaan’s care and love for Maria against her, Liang Qi getting more and more psychotic in her methods, an eventual team of Maria, Canaan, Hakko, Yun Yun, Santana and Minoru searching the village and then ending on a train ride of destiny when Canaan and Alphard face off…
I’ll start with what you can guess is the main problem of the series – it tries to cram too much in too fast. The plot is seemingly everywhere. Because it’s only 13 episodes, they try to get every character in your head that is important, and tell everything else to advance the story to learn about motivation and such usually through flashback, and even then it’s brief. Canaan’s past with Maria and her training with Siam is not showing very much throughout the series so you have to piece up everything whilst you can. Add to that how characters like Santana and Hakko are involved and it could easily lead to a giant mess because with seeing Canaan in action to establish her abilities, the terrorist plot on a conference, as well as establishing the friendships with Canaan, Maria and later Yun Yun, it is potentially hard to figure out. Especially as there was apparently a history with Maria and Alphard, yet we never learn what it is.
However, it does actually make sense when everything is put together. Granted, I would have liked more episodes to flesh it out more, especially about Canaan’s past with both Maria, Siam and Alphard (her relationship with Maria just seems to be ‘hey, we’re friends’). Same with things about Santana and Hakko – the characters are the strongest part of the series because of their mystery and intrigue, but not enough is explored about them. That said, Alphard is an amazing villain and foil for Canaan. She knows she has something on Canaan, both with the name and killing her mentor, but also enjoys the hunt for her because she doesn’t want to kill her. It does seem that she’s evil for the sake of being evil, but she does have ideologies, ideals and sympathies for those who deserve it, it’s just that she is also willing to do anything to deal with said ideologies. She is a good counter to Canaan, who thinks with her heart, but can shut down her emotions long enough to do with any situation. The fact that she listens to Maria and later befriends Yun Yun (who tried to kill her…albeit half-heartedly in a previous episode) and trusts her with Maria shows her compassion and how she is similar yet different to Alphard.
The rest of the cast supplement nicely as well. Maria is the cheerful young rookie who seems to be the damsel for Canaan to save, yet she grows up as she learns Canaan’s life and job, and begins to realize how her actions have consequences, Minoru is the mentor character who falls for Hakko and has comic interactions/rivalries with Santana, whilst Santana and Hakko are a mysterious duo whose powers become a true tragedy. Liang Qi on the villains side is an absolute nutcase and is the perfect antidote to Alphard’s calm stratagem ways, making her both amusing, heartless and somehow tragic at the same time (she has plans, like how she really screws over Hakko but at the same time cannot win her love for her sister, and it drives her to insanity) – she’s incredibly complex and whilst you hate her for the things she does, she does amuse you and you do feel bad as her depths to despair finally cost her at the hands of the one person who did actually love her…lastly is Yunyun, the apparent comic relief actually has a vital role both as a mole for Snake, but also becoming friends with Maria and even Canaan (with one episode trying to kill each other which was actually hilarious), she grows as a person too, becoming braver despite her life slowing ebbing – whilst still trying to make her customers happy. So whilst the plot is mix and match at times, if you do manage to piece it together in the small bits there are, it does make sense by combining the Ua Virus with Canaan/Alphard’s past allowing characters like Hakko, Santana and Yun Yun involved and allowing them to grow with Maria. There are equal parts comedy, tragedy and action all told and shown very well, and if it had been a few more episodes to stretch out the flashbacks, it would have been a top series. As it did, it’s very good – but you need to work hard to see its greatness.
Oh, and off topic, the taxi driver. Best character in the show.
Canaan is a real mix of delivery and disappointment – the disappointment being you needed more to really showcase the plot better, because in these 13 episodes there is a great blend of action sequences, animation, characterization, fun, tragedy and real wonder in this realistic yet shocking world in Shanghai. It does its job well to provide an excellent action series where you can just focus on the badass action moments, but if you take time to study the story, there is an intricate plot there with a story which could have been told so much better. If it had, it would easily be a fantastic series, but as it is, it’s at least worth a rent.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Release Date: January 28th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.