Karas: The Prophecy is the first of two installments of this Tatsunoko Productions movie series (Gatchaman, Speed Racer), honoring their 40th anniversary. The Karas movies were created and directed by Keiichi Sato, who also contributed to several other anime works including Big O and Wolf's Rain. Overseas licensing was given to Manga Entertainment for distributing and voice-over dubbing. The English audio track features the vocal talents of Jay Hernandez (Hostel, World Trade Center), Matthew Lillard (Scream) and Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly).
Karas: The Prophecy went on to be one of the top-selling anime DVDs in the US last year.
PRODUCTION and ANIMATION
Spectacular is the word for Karas's animation. The quality is up there with Hollywood grade animations, with its smooth movement and beautifully crafted character designs. But most notable was the 2-D/3-D fusion. Karas is one of the first anime productions in which I have seen two-dimensional animation really blend nicely with 3-D CGI graphics. Initially, the original announcement trailer (available on DVD) featured some sample blends that were typical compared to other anime and simply looked terrible in comparison to the final product. The magnificent detailing really add a lot to Karas final animation. The visuals alone make this film worth watching.
The rendering of the 2-D artwork also appears to be top-notch quality as well. The rendering and tone of the 2-D animation seemed very un-anime like and is almost reminiscent of the last theatrical American 2-D animated films we saw (such as Dreamworks Sinbad & Road to El Dorado or Disney's Treasure Planet). It is still anime but with a Western touch to it.
SOUND and MUSIC
Here is yet another area where Karas really shines. Again, very theatrical. All the sound effect were crisp, clear, and realistic. Volume of voices was all balanced well to create depth and a lifelike dialogue experience.
One of Karas's biggest benefactors is its musical score performed by the international-renowned Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The music is professionally played and executed with emotion and dynamic qualities. Simply a thrill to listen to. However, there is one downside: there is a pretty limited track list most likely to the budget being spent on the Prague Orchestra performing what song tracks they have and/or animation. But once you've gotten used to the epic orchestral tunes, it's not a problem. Bottom line: Limited music selection but at least it's performed extremely well.
The DVD includes two versions of audio: regular 2.0 stereo and a special Dolby Surround EX 6.1 mix which just adds to the intensity of this series. (hopefully next)
Here in the story department is where Karas takes a hit. So far through the first movie its story line just isn't anything really good: just average. Aside from that, the storyline is almost completely implied, if not too implied. There are so many major subtle aspects of the story the viewer probably won't pick up on all of them. After viewing the film for a second time, there were many moments where I thought, 'Oh I see...' as I noticed small details that added to the story.
Characters are a unique bunch but individually nothing incredibly special as of yet. We have the stoic, 'man of few words' hero, his equally emotionless and mysterious partner/master Yurine, a ditzy reporter girl, a slick pistol-wielding anti-hero, a young confused investigator and his troubled strong-headed elderly partner. By far it is this elderly character, Mr. Sagisaka who has any story depth to him and an actual background. Oh and of course we have our villains who are all your typical villains. And we still hack yet to see the master villain, Ekou, in any action besides the movie intro...
Although is minimal character development and low story progression, I anticipate, from the ending of Prophecy, that the next installment Revelation will indeed be one and hopefully provide at least a satisfactory finish.
The Karas series is has very strong production values and a great studio working behind it. The visuals and orchestral music score is enough to make this one of the must-see anime of this decade.
Karas: The Prophecy slips in with a FOUR out of FIVE.
+ = Scintillating, fluid animation, practically seamless 2D/3D hybrid technique, high-quality musical score performed by Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, on English dub - solid cast featuring professional American actors.
- = Extremely subtle story, static characters, limited song track, annoying cliffhanger.