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Karas: The Prophecy (2005)

Cast: Jay Hernandez, Matthew Lillard, Piper Perabo, more...
Director: Mamoru Oshii, Keiichi Sato, Keiichi Sato
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Manga Video
Genre: Anime, Science Fiction Anime, Mecha
Running Time: 80 min.
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Gotham City has Batman and New York has Spiderman, but what dark hero protects the gritty, future Tokyo? The answer is the Karas, the main characters of this feature-film-length anime of the same name. Blending 2D cell-shaded animation and 3D computer graphics, Karas: The Prophecy finds the delicate balance between the humans of Tokyo and the ghostly beings that inhabit the city in a parallel universe suddenly disrupted. For thousands of years, the peace has been kept by noble beings called the Karas, who strive to make both the dark and light sides live in harmony. Power breeds corruption however, and now Eko, the current Karas -- who once swore to protect the city and maintain the balance there -- has since grown bitter and vengeful. He has granted some malicious poltergeists physical bodies so that he can personally rule the humanity he once served. The incarnate of the city, Yurine, must come to the people's aid and so she creates a new Karas to battle the old one. Two Karas have never existed in the same city before, and as a battle for the fate of humanity ensues, it is certain that only one will remain. ~ Cammila Albertson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Visual Feast, Low on Substance by wesjfrank March 15, 2009 - 12:51 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
The two-part Karas mini-series represents the latest in anime technology and is wonderfully vivid, particularly in the fight scenes. Some of the lesser spirit-creatures here remind me of Miyazaki's best, giving that sense of an eerie hidden spirit world that exists just outside of human vision.

That said, the plot of Karas is Batman done as as a demonic guardian spirit and hopelessly unoriginal. They even have the scene near the the end where someone says "the city is safe as long as HE is here." After all the complexity and confusion of the fast-paced, vivid opening scenes, that isn't much of a pay-off.

This animation is hyper-kinetic and exhilirating. I regretted, for the first time in my life, not having a big-screen TV so I could follow it all. Karas and his demon-machine opponents soar, fly, and even speed along on wheels when the mood strikes them. The costumes of the secondary characters are richly detailed and original. I would have loved to see a story just about the city's female spirit-guardian and her minions. They look like interesting people to hang out with and their enchanted garden refuges are a welcome contrast to the wretched, blood-stained urban landscape of the rest of the movies.

The moral of the story, repeated over and over again by both heroes and villains in the later scenes, is that we humans have forgotten about the "demons," meaning the spirit world, and have been destroying the city with our "arrogance." Now, what does Lord Echo, the chief bad guy, mean by "arrogance?" A high crime rate? Overpopulation? Excessive Christmas shopping, punishable by having the shoppers slaughtered by blood-sucking plant tentacles? Not enough kowtowing to decadent, brutal demonic entities?

As for the bit about swarming millions of humans ruining the city, did not the humans build the city for their use, and are not many of them working long hours every day to keep it running? Was Tokyo a better city before all those swarms of people labored to provide it with an abundance of clean water, a sewage system, police, fire fighters, and housing for all so the laborers could sleep warm at night just like the aristocracy?

Like a lot of stories bemoaning the human failure to notice the existence of spirits who go to great lengths to avoid us seeing them, this one does not hold up well to close analysis.

That said, the battles in Karas are spectacular, the magic and spirits so vivid you ache for a reason to believe in them. There is some welcome comic-relief from a visiting warrior-chick who eventually draws sword to join the battle when Karas and Lord Echo destroy a skyscraper and spill her soft drink and french fries.

Her, I would like to meet. I am sure she is supposed to be the guardian spirit of a Japanese city, but it would have been fun if she announced that she was the divine guardian warrior spirit of Portland, Oregon. She seems to be doing a pretty good job. No mass-murdering demon-machines in Portland, or in Dayton, Ohio, or Winnipeg, Manitoba. I suppose the Karases of those cities lead really dull lives and won't get their own movies. Too bad.

Not just for the visuals (though they are striking)! by Battie July 12, 2006 - 4:40 AM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The story seems incredibly confusing at first, mostly because the anime uses a familiar (it's really popular in suspense movies), slow revelation of the plot. Rather than having it all laid bare in the beginning, you only understand the story once it's over. So, here's a run-down of the plot (via blonde translation):

Karas opens with an aerial battle between the meccha warriors. One is Karas (a supernatural warrior, though the first DVD doesn't reveal anything about him), one is Lord Eko (English voice by Matthew Lillard). Once it is over, you see a man on a gurney; he's bleeding extensively while he's being wheeled into the hospital. This is only revelant at the end.

Fast-forward three years. You meet Nue (EV by Jay Hernandez) as he's entering Shinjuku. Nue can see and speak with the spirits/demons of the eldritch world, which exists alongside the human one. Eventually you see Otoha becoming Karas and meet two detectives who specifically work with unusual and supernatural cases (mostly, if not all, murder), which began three years earlier. Otoha, as the new Karas, is naturally the enemy of Lord Eko and of the Mikura, who attack humans. And Nue has his own axe to grind. Needless to say, paths eventually cross.

Yurine, who seems to be Karas's handler of sorts, also has a role to play. (And, of course, there are plenty of things I left out that you'll have to discover on your own.)

--Note: Karas means "crow" in Japanese, as far as I can tell from recent animes. Hence, the feathers and a character's later remark to Ocha, naming him, "Crow."--

As the first DVD, comprised of the first three (of six OVAs--the last three have not been released in Japan, much less America, as of yet), Karas: The Prophecy is pretty good, but it does end on a cliffhanger. And if, like me, you don't pay close attention to what's going on in the story, you'll find yourself very confused. The plot may not sound like much, but it's certainly interesting enough, and the creators kept a good sense of mystery and suspense going by using a Momento-esque style of revealing the plot.

But it's the visuals that grab you. Not only is the CGI very well integrated with the traditional animation, at times, it also looks amazingly real (like-action for you otaku people). The designs of various spirits and Mikura are incredibly creative. Whoever thinks Japanese people aren't imaginative should take a look at Karas. There's plenty of action, pretty designs (including gorgeous backgrounds) and pretty good voice acting.

My expectations of English voice acting is very low, simply because most animes have horrid EV actors. Karas has very good voice acting in comparison. While not all of the VA's are on par with the Japanese cast, they are, by far, above average. Matthew Lillard and Jay Hernandez, both Hollywood actors with some success under their belts, do surprisingly well. Or perhaps not so surprisingly. While Hernandez had a few moments where his voice acting wasn't superb, for the most part, it was very, very good (and certainly much better than the anime standard). A welcome relief from VA's in other anime. But it's Lillard who shines as Eko. You can tell he's had some voice training (even if he'll never be Hugo Weaving). Lillard can hold his own when compared to the Japanese cast. It's just too bad he got the role with the fewest lines (of Nue, Eko and Otoha).

Basically, while Karas may be a great rental, it'll be an even better addition to the otaku library. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the second half of Karas to be released (and let's hope Lillard and Hernadez are signed up for that, too!).

Fragment of a complete story by DaveS425 June 15, 2006 - 11:00 AM PDT
1 out of 4 members found this review helpful
This movie starts and stops in the middle part of some larger story, so don't expect to understand the larger context and don't expect any real ending.

Some mildly interesting computer-generated mecha visuals, even if demon-airships firing bullets and rockets at each other that do no damage is a bit nonsensical. I'd recommend Appleseed, RahXephon, and many others over this movie.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.91)
45 Votes
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