Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Speed Grapher

This was a surprise watch for me on Netflix that I had just finished going through.  The 23 episode series tells the story in a familiar but slightly futuristic decadent Japan where materialism and hedonism has become rampant.  In the middle of it all we meet Tatsumi Saigat - a veteran war photographer on the trail of a story about a secret hedonist club where the powerful and the rich secretly meet to play out their unbridled desires.  He has few friends and the bed of a kinky female police lieutenant named Ginza.

We as well meet a young woman named Kagura Tenousu who lives a hellish life at the feet of her mother, Shinzen Tenousu - the matriarch of an international financial empire.  Though surrounded by luxury and servants her materialistic mother has Kagura on a strict and sickly disciplined lifestyle that includes starvation and minimal encounters with the public.  She has no friends but is constantly being chaperoned by the mysterious Choji Suitengu - a crime lord at the beck and booty call of her mother.

Saigat eventually tails a prominent celebrity to the secret club and sneaks his way into a paganistic ceremony where he meets a drugged out Kagura dressed up as an occult princess.  He is found out and upon being brought in front of Kagura, she deeply kisses him and brings about a transformation with in him.  The angry spectators of the ceremony literally cut him down but his transformation brings him back from certain death with in seconds.  Even more strangely so he now for reasons unknown can blow up anything he takes a picture of, thus, literally, having the ability to kill with any camera he uses.

Saigat makes his way out with Kagura as his willing prisoner.  She too wants out of the hellish nightmare of a life she had only till recently been subconsciously aware of.  They run the country side of Japan with Suitengu's and his henchmen and other "blessed" members (like Saigat himself) on Suitengu's payroll on their trail.  The story becomes quite complicated from this point on till the end as we learn through flash backs, plot twists, and preachy monologues how the actions of greedy men and women have set the stage for a final confrontation between Saigat and Suitengu over the life of Kagura.

Speed Grapher is stylish and edgy and I do like how the characters are not clearly black and white.  I definitely would not recommend this anime to just anyone since the content out of context can be viewed as somewhat adult.  The story would also walk the fine line (by some people) with the painfully platonic relationship between 15 year old Kagura and the much older jaded Saigat which suggestively develops into an appropriate relationship 5 years after in the denouement.  The music though mainly instrumental or Japanese is quite catching - of particular note is the second credits theme of the series which is featured during the aftermath of the series finale called "Breaking the Cocoon".  It is a Japanese rock ballad with a late eighties like feel that is suppose to resound with Kagura's transformation during the series.  The singer, Yorico, does such a good job of emoting that I found it transcended my incomprehension of Japanese.

Check the complete series out on Netflix if you are up for an entertaining "adult swim" feature.