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!
Genre: action, sci-fi, psychological
Released date: July 4, 2009 – September 26, 2009
Director: Masahiro Ando
Animated by: P.A. Works