Karas: The Prophecy (2005) Review

Synopsis

The equilibrium between the human and spirit worlds has long been protected by Karas, the guardian crow of Tokyo. That balance was upset when a former Karas named Eko has seized control and instituted a reign of terror throughout the city, unleashing demons on the populace. Now, the mysterious girl Yurine has found a new Karas to fight against the evil forces in a valiant attempt to save both the human and spirit worlds.

Review

There is little doubt that Karas is an impressive work of animation. The choreography is fluid and exciting with blazingly fast action and amazing CG effects. However, the storyline is more than a little muddled, and even the mini-comic book provided does little to demystify the plot.

For starters, the lead character says almost nothing and is shown in his human form very little. In fact, he seems to get less screen time than several of the other characters. Also, no real mention is made of the history of Karas either in the prologue or the story itself. We are able to derive that he is some sort of guardian and that the role has been taken by several people over the years since the villain Eko was once Karas. The girl Yurine is also an enigma; there is no explanation as to what she is, why she somehow commands Karas, or why there appears to be two of her.

There really should have been a brief history at the beginning, either written or narrated or incorporated into the sparse dialogue somehow. Despite the fact that this is often boring, it would have done wonders to clarify the roles of the characters and shed some light on the ongoing conflict.

The characters are really not developed at all, unfortunately, and with such an emphasis on action, it’s no surprise. The film was far too short (80 min) to incorporate anything effectively at the pace it was going, including a proper ending. Hopefully, the upcoming sequel will flesh out at least a few of the characters a bit more.

As I said, Otoha, the new Karas, has almost zero dialogue. He is apparently a doctor for the spirits when he is not in Karas form, but this is not explained either.

Nue is an interesting character. He shows up at opportune moments and fights violent demons with a variety of firearms. It is later revealed that he is a mikura, or demon in human form, fighting against his own kind and against his own temptations. He appears to be a much more complex and interesting character than Otoha.

Detectives Sagisaka and Sawada are both parts of a team investigating paranormal events throughout the city lately. Sagisaka is convinced of the reality of demons and spirits, as his daughter was the lone survivor from a previous incident. Sawada, on the other hand, was brought on to be the cynical counterpart and chaperone for Sagisaka.

On the upside, the animation was often breathtaking, with swooping camera angles and perspectives that pulled you into the action. The lighting effects were also impressive, and the CG blended relatively well with the cell shaded animation. Karas has some interesting techniques and gadgets that he uses, such as transforming into a jet fighter or a car. His suit also seems to have a variety of built-in tools, giving him a very Batman-like essence.

Unfortunately, sometimes the action seems to fall victim to chaotic flashes and constantly changing camera angles (which I refer to as the spastic cam). These usually occur when Karas clashes with an enemy. The action is lost in a distracting barrage of sparks and light flashes which serve to totally obscure the combatants.

The animation is also responsible for further obfuscating the storyline. Seemingly random scenes are shown briefly and at odd angles, making it nearly impossible to distinguish what is being shown. It is only later you realize that it was actually something significant.

The music did not astound me, but it was suitable, reminiscent of the soundtracks of several of the Batman movies. The overall sound quality was good, but several times the dialogue sounded a bit muffled.

Conclusion

Despite brilliant animation and an obviously large budget, Karas: The Prophecy is both confusing and unsatisfying. It feels as if it should be the movie counterpart to an ongoing TV series, as the sheer lack of information leaves the viewer utterly frustrated. It is worth watching for some of the groundbreaking effects and explosive action; just don’t expect to feel gratified when it’s over. The ending is a definite cliffhanger, so hopefully, the sequel will be a bit more coherent and informative.

  • Audio: Good, but nothing special
  • Video: Excellent quality with astounding CG
  • Plot: Frustratingly vague and incoherent
  • Style: Good character designs
  • Characters: Almost no personality (or dialogue)
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Language: Moderate
  • Nudity: None
  • Genre: Action
  • Episodes: 1
  • Rating: 3.0 of 5

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