Canaan: anime review – dazzling fireworks and crazy women

Review: I don’t usually start my anime review with discussion about technical details but Canaan truly deserves thunderous applause for its consistently excellent animation. The character, the movements and the backgrounds are amazing to behold especially the festival scene in the first episode that nearly took my breath away. Alas, like pretty fireworks, the wondrous images cannot last very long. After I came back to my senses, several flaws started to surface and the anime overall is far from perfect.

Most of Canaan’s story takes place in Shanghai, China. The anime opens with Maria and Mino arriving in Shanghai on a news report assignment. Maria subsequently reunites with Canaan, a mercenary with synesthesia ability who operates in the city. The three are dragged into dangerous situation when the terrorist group ‘The Snakes’ lead by Alphard breaks havoc in the city using the Ua virus. With the appearance of Alphard, Canaan and Maria along with several other people are forced into the path that leads to the origin of the deadly virus and the secret experiment on human.

The first episode provides breath taking, giant action scenes and briefly introduces nearly every character in the series but its shortage of coherent direction is obvious despite all the dazzling fireworks. The lack of plot direction continues to plague the show all through its first half. Although the main plot concerning the Ua Virus, the bioterrorism and the infected people called Borner is clearly related to the show’s lead character but Canaan suffers from thin and unconvincing contexts and motivations. One does not need much thinking and reasoning to question what, exactly, Canaan (the character) is planning to do during the entire show. She is the lead character but she lacks involvement with the tide of events. In the first half of the series, she shows up and shoots at insignificant villains, she helps Maria from troubles and goes shopping with her then she goes after Alphard and in the second half of the show, she tags along Hakko’s group traveling to the mysterious village (the journey isn’t even her idea). Canaan seems to be floating along the waves of events like a jellyfish. I mean, she is always on the screen but she has no clear mission and she makes no decision. As a result, despite her eye-popping combat moves, her characters weight less than a shadow and the series dynamic is mostly driven by supporting characters like Maria, Alphard and Hakko.

I also find that Canaan’s emotional struggle and relationship with other key characters especially Alphard and Maria to be less than effective partly due to inadequate characters’ backgrounds. Very early in the series, the viewers see how Maria’s words influence Canaan’s action but at that time, all we know is that the two are friends. The little information is not enough to back up Canaan’s reaction to Maria. Though their pasts are explored more extensively later, it’s already very late into the series.

I don’t know why I keep noticing flaws as I watch this series. Maybe it’s because Canaan’s genre and style as an action anime with light sci-fi background are similar to many other anime out there. I have seen many anime which revealed their secrets with such intelligence and subtlety. That’s why I am disturbed by how simply and tactlessly Canaan deals with its secret. The past regarding the Ua virus experiment is revealed by Santana who has been with everyone the whole time. The anime just makes him talk little by little, slowly feeding the viewers with pieces of information when, logically, he should have spilled them out from the beginning. There’s no hinting, no investigation, no mystery, just plain simple talk and everything is clear.

Despite the spoiled secret and pale lead character, the anime still manages a rather impressive ending thanks to the character-driven drama and unpredictable supporting characters like Hakko, Yuri and Liang Qi. Personally, I think Hakko literally saves the show because her scene in episode 10 is exceptionally tragic and romantic. It’s worth getting though 9 episodes of mediocre anime to see this scene. Liang Qi is downright crazy and her character adds lots of flavor into the show.

A few subtle yet interesting thoughts are sporadically offered during the show which I think are essential to be mentioned. First, Canaan’s having enhanced perceptive senses leads to an interesting implication. There is one scene in which Canaan says she can no longer see colors and that she is now walking blind folded, and then she runs into a man walking near by, not seeing him coming. This scene reflects the human’s failure to communicate or to understand each other which is actually the origin of all conflicts including war. Second, the connection between The Snakes and the US government is a direct commentary to The United States’ policy against terrorism. I always admire anime with bold political minds.

Conclusion: Canaan may be flawed and generally conventional but watch it solely for the dazzling actions and emotionally powerful finale. Those crazy ladies are just irresistible!
Rating: C+

Facts
Title: Canaan
Genre: action, sci-fi, psychological
Released date: July 4, 2009 – September 26, 2009
Episode: 13
Director: Masahiro Ando
Animated by: P.A. Works
note: I’d like to thank Yi for reminding me that I still hasn’t finished reviewing Canaan last week. Thanks!

23 responses to “Canaan: anime review – dazzling fireworks and crazy women

  1. Yeah, the first episode was definitely full of eye candy. Too bad that faded a bit in the later episodes, but the action was very good overall. The other plus is the yuri-subtext lol.

    On the flip side, the plot didn’t quite pull together. I don’t like how the issues between Alphard and Canaan never came to definite conclusion or well-explained. Maria was a also piece of baggage who had to be dragged around by various characters.

    • Umm, just like you said. Canaan is one of those anime that might have been better if the number of episode expanded a little more. And yes, the yuri elements is really appealing in the series. ^_^

  2. Such a low rating…
    I’ll read the review and write a more in depth comment after I finish the series. So far though, I’m a bit surprised by a C+.

    • Though I was dissappointed by the anime, C+ is not a bad rating but rather fair to average. Canaan has many of its own merits. I’ll wait for your take on the anime but don’t take my opinion too seriously. I don’t want to spoil your fun :)

  3. I’m also surprised at the C+. I’d like to say that ‘floating about the plot points’, mediating between different happenings at the same time is a plot device and is often soundly effective; as is character relationships that aren’t at first apparent to viewers; but I haven’t actually even gone through most of Canaan yet, so I’m not allowed to say. I’m just a Kinoko Nasu fanboi and automatically thought up ways to defend him… Not good. Unhealthy.

    • Canaan is fun enough and I totally understand about how being a fanboi can affect one’s view towards certain anime. There are reasons to like and dislike Canaan and it depends on each individual whether which side weight more ^_^

      • Surprised +1… :)

        I’m surprised at the C+ too. Although, I do understand what you mean when you mention that the background’s weren’t explored enough. The anime was trying to get us feeling the attachment between Maria and Canaan when they haven’t even develop the base for it. Same goes with Hakko. It just showed cut-scenes of the past. It did explain what was going on alright, in like 5 minutes!

        Although, at the end of the day, the action was more than enough reason for me to overlook the flaws. Xp

        Some might shun me for this statement but I still find this the closest thing to Black Lagoon and that pretty much rocks my boat. Lol!

      • @ Blur – I do that all the time; enjoy the ride and overlooking the flaws for the adrenaline rush. I did enjoy Canaan while it lasted but I feel obligated to discuss about its flaws in my review, too. I’m not sure if this is a double standard but I believe if Canaan were able to create a few more distinguished features aside from great action, I might give it much higher rating and be more willing to overlook other flaws. (seriously contemplating)

  4. Sugoiii sugoiiii~ (Yeah, watching the compilation video of that kinda turned me off to the series).

    Anyways, the points you made pretty much echo the thoughts that people have told me and confirms that this is one show that, despite the pretty animation, is something I’ll skip out on since I’ve been short on time as of late.

    • So I’m not really alone on this. Lately I hear more and more positive remark for Canaan but I suppose the fact that anime fans have split opinions on it means that it is indeed flawed.

  5. I thought it was a lot of fun for what it was, but I agree that it was often lacking in substance and that the key mystery wasn’t handled as well as it could have been. I wonder if perhaps that has something to do with the Wii game the series is based on? Maybe if you’ve played that it works a bit better.

    I quite liked Canaan as a character – especially her relationship with Maria -and I generally disliked Liang Qi, so we’ll have to agree to disagree there. As you’ve said in some of the comments above, everyone will find different things to like or dislike about a series like this. While it doesn’t really live up to its own potential, I did enjoy the flashy action and (sometimes) intriguing characters.

    • I never play Wii game that this anime is based on (actually I’ve never played any Wii game, hehe). I think it might alter my perception somewhat because I’d have known more about the series before watching the anime. Nevertheless, I must admit that I did have fun in many of the flashy action scenes :)

  6. I’m reading a lot of stuffs on Canaan lately.
    It sounds great and i love this kind of psychological sci-fi actions :)
    It’s a great review by the wayn thanks !

  7. Agreed. Lots of wasted potential in there. I really liked these drama scenes though, same with action. Alphard is surely the most interesting character in the serie. I counted on much more sparkling action scenes.. It got quite boring in the middle. Oh well, still was a fine show.

  8. The show bored me at first. Then Alphard came along around episode 4 and started kicking ass. After that she jumped through the screen and proposed to me, and we lived happily ever after.

  9. I ordered the figures with the intent on watching this series very soon ;)

    • About half the people I know love the series, the other…not so much. I’d say you have a 50/50 chance of loving it. Though Canaan would make a really cool figure, nevertheless :)

  10. CANAAN NEEDS A SECOND SEASON!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MAKERS OF THE SHOW?!?!!?!? YOU CAN’T END A SHOW LIKE THAT AND NOT HAVE A SECOND SEASON!!! OMG!!! i’m gonna go cry now

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