Congratulations Baltimore! Your boys of black and purple are Super Bowl champs. As if you thought they’d lose. As Ray Lewis’ in game football career winds to a close, we want to tell one of the best men in the league something. Thank you, for all the times you got back up and continued to fight on through the pain. Thank you for all the wins and loses. Thank you for just being the best Raven you could be. And you will be missed. Alright, I’m sure Mr. Lewis heard all that and more at the homecoming party we through right here in downtown Baltimore. So let’s get to our business. The Super Bowl is over, but it’s not too late to grab a bowl of popcorn for this week’s anime, Speed Grapher.
Speed Grapher takes things back a bit as Tokyo is shown to be the world of corruption, death, debauchery, and if you’re rich enough, as much pleasure as your money can buy. And while money is a root, it’s not the true root in this city, only a means to an end. The world is built around the corrupt and this one man stuck in Tokyo isn’t afraid to expose it while being armed with only a camera. After a series of uneventful jobs, photographer, Tatsumi Saiga takes on a job to expose a very elusive man, Choji Suitengu. Suitengu runs a very exclusive club for the elite of the city, and if you can afford it, you may have the chance to become a VIP and have your deepest desire come true, or so the rumors go. Only armed with a camera and his wits, Saiga infiltrates the club. There he discovers the club’s true nature. It is also there he comes to meet Kagura Tennozu, or as she’s known at the club, the Goddess. Taken by the immediate urge to capture her as his model, he instinctively snaps a shot, much to his undoing. Captured himself, it is on chance that he is “gifted” with the Goddess’ “blessing”. Immediately after feeling the initial shock of her blessing, he is killed and slumps over into a bloody mess. But you know the old montage about keeping a good man down.
This manga has an interesting way of presenting this new world to you. Instead of introducing you to this weird and peculiar underworld from the jump, the story builds from the normal everyday world. Tokyo is recovering after some kind of devastating war. And while some people are profiting big, one woman sits on top with so much power, she barely knows what to do with it. The first two episodes of the series can have you in a bit of a daze. The first episode’s ending with the death of Saiga, then the second episode starting up with the girl, Kagura waking up from a dream. While it’s annoying at first because it makes you think that the whole first episode is kind of pointless, it is a necessary evil. You come to find out why as episode three begins. The director wants you to know these people and the tragedy that is their day to day lives. So it’s a form of introduction both in to the underworld and at the same time, the origins of the Euphoria.
The plot takes off into a huge and long game of cat and mouse. They even have a man in the series that acts like a bloodhound, so maybe cat, mouse, and dog. And while it’s interesting to watch, the first DVD is you really watching all the different kinds of Euphorias and their powers fail time and time again to catch a man and a teenage girl. There’s almost a romantic sense in there that is being tried at hard to play down; after all, she’s fifteen years old and he’s much older. Getting back to the juicy parts, you have the Euphorias, which are like the variety monster picks of Power Rangers. And while it is cool to watch their different powers and all the ways they can’t die, the director gives you a glimpse on how their inner pain is a reflection of their outer powers. Some of them you even start to feel for. But then, they’re used as fodder for Saiga’s camera. Meanwhile, the entire time, you have the riches girl in all of Tokyo running about with this older guy and not one wanted poster or anything.
As the characters themselves go, Saiga is somewhat of an interesting character. For all intent and purposes, he’s like a dead man walking. He’s a photographed so much death, his eyes are nearly dead themselves. He only starts to “wake up” after he meets the Goddess and gets this strange power. Speaking of Kagura, one can only describe her as rather annoying for a main character; at least as far as the first volume goes. There is the damsel in distress character, then there’s the completely useless type of character. Understanding she’s the tormented, tortured, and sheltered girl, she can do nothing for herself, even after gaining some freedom. We find she’s not utterly clueless when she investigates her rescuer. But following that, she really does nothing else but cling, cry, and cower behind Saiga. The “knight in shining armor” and “meek helpless girl” archetypes played too heavily into. As for the other characters, Suitengu in the first volume seems like nothing more than a mafia boss’ right hand man that is secretly vying for control. Though at some point, it does make you hope he shoots Kagura’s mother. But he has agendas that are played into rather well. However, as for the character himself, he seems rather dry and played out as a villain. Hibari Ginza is another interesting prospect, though she has some strange fetishes. Introduced as Saiga’s girlfriend (or pimp), she seems like a character to get stuff done and damn the consequences. That said, she doesn’t have much show time outside of rounding up thugs in “self-defense” and shooting them just because. Whether she’ll make any notable impact on anything is unknown. Though she does do an alright jump of keeping tabs on people that know Saiga.
All in all, Speed Grapher is a fun anime to watch, as far as volume one goes. It’s not too heavy and probably wasn’t as popular as Trigun back in the day, but definitely a good one to see at least once. One thing to note is its sexual theme. You don't actually see much of anything, but it is definitely applied. So the label "not for kids" is a definite. Other than than, just ignore the some of the horrible dub in the English version and it should be fine. The anime gives a decent look at how anime used to look like back in the day and how far it’s come to in present day. Plus, it’s worth a few laughs. But hey, don’t just take this review as fact. Watch it for yourself and be your own judge. Until next time guys.