Thursday, 08 October 2009 19:42

Canaan (TV, 2009)

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Go for Action Synethesia is a classification for a neural phenomenon in which two or more senses are linked. For instance, somebody seeing a tree might hear a particular note or tone in their head at the same time, or when they see a written number they might involuntarily see it as a given color. There's a number of different medically recognized forms of synethesia. So, what does this have to do with Canaan, the series that I'll be taking a look at to day? Well, the titular character, Canaan, is a synesthete. Her particular form of the condition grants her ability to see intent and emotion as an aura of color. And what's any good little girl with the capability to read people like a book just by looking at them to do but become a full-fledged mercenary?

Fields USA Info Japanese Info Image
Title Canaan The cast of Canaan
Alternative 428: The Animation
Dates 2009.07.04
Company Bee Train Digital, Studio Mark, Yuhodu, union CHO, P.A. Works, Beijing Golden Pinasters Animation Company, Green, Chunsoft, Sega
Creator Kinoko Nasu
Director Masahiro Ando
Genre Sci Fi, Action, Drama
Related 428: Fusa Sareta Shibuya de (PC)


Meat buns!  No, really... Minoru Minorikawa is a reporter that's been dispatched from Japan to Shanghai, to cover the International Anti-Terrorism Conference that's being held there. The young, exceedingly energetic photographer Maria Osawa is sent with him as a partner to help cover the events. While they're covering a festival on the streets of Shanghai during the buildup to, Maria stumbles across a corpse that nobody else seems to notice in the face of the celebration – a corpse that she recognizes as having had the 'Ua' virus. While she's studying the body in surprise, a group of masked gunmen surround her, but just before our young heroine gets religious, another young woman shows up and in a spectacular athletic and acrobatic fashion takes them out. As it turns out, Maria's met her before – she's Canaan, a mercenary that saved life her a few years before the events of the series. (For those interested, the anime takes place two years after the events of 428: Fusa Sareta Shibuya de).

Stop: Bullet Time! Ok, so enough with the first episode summary. The concept of Canaan is simple. Maria is young, naive, and seems to have a talent for getting herself into trouble. She also has an incredible capacity for accepting people as they are and befriending others. Her background isn't very well covered in the series; she's the daughter of a very wealthy pharmaceutical company CEO and was kidnapped a few years before and infected by the Ua virus, then rescued by Canaan, who she befriended. Canaan, on the other side of the coin, is subdued, emotionally stunted, and qualifies as a hard-core killer exceedingly well trained in the art of making the other guy get dead fast. Except where it comes to Maria and being around her, when she almost, ALMOST turns out to be a normal teenaged girl. At a young age, she was taken under the tutelage of the mercenary Siam, who taught her how to fight, how to kill, and how to take advantage of her synethesia linked senses to keep from getting killed.

There are worse things than being stuck on a plane next to a cute girl. On the larger cast, there's Minoru, who is a pretty typical 'sixth sense for a scoop' reporter that more or less gets dragged along by the events surrounding Maria and Canaan once the series gets moving. In some ways, he reminds me a bit of Kolchak, minus the supernatural… actually, given the capabilities of the Borners, not minus the supernatural. The chief antagonist of the series is the leader of Snake, a terrorist organization that developed the Ua virus, a woman named Alphard Alshua. Like Maria, she and Canaan have a history – specifically, that she was ALSO trained by Siam and given the name Canaan by him, and that she killed Siam in front of Canaan. She has a sister named Liang Qi who acts as a top lieutenants and defines the term in-fucking-sane. To say that she's devoted to Aphard is sort of like saying that a Hoover vacuum sucks… and she'd decidedly enjoy being Alphard's carpet cleaner.

Running, running, but not a jiggle to be seen... Lessie, storyline. I have to admit that you're going to find yourself fairly lost on the first couple episodes if you haven't played the game that Canaan is based on, 428: Fusa Sarenta Shibuya de. The writers seem to have depended heavily on 428 for story and character setup, and while you do get the overview eventually, it makes for a somewhat confusing beginning. Especially uncertain is the 'Ua virus', a particularly nasty bug developed by Snake that kills its victims twelve hours after infection by way of massive bleedout. Think motaba virus from Outbreak, only faster. Once the plot gets moving, though, it builds a pretty good head of steam and goes for a good mix of action and character development. The characters each get some spotlight time, the standard web of backstabbing and counter intrigue needed by this type of storyline.

She still needs some work on her Eastwood Squint Animation is good, but nothing particularly special. It's nice and fluid, lending itself well to the juggernaut style of oncoming death represented by both Canaan and Alphard. The scenes in Shanghai really do feel like walking the streets of that city, instead of a Japanese version of it, so kudos to the art designers there. Character design is solid, but again nothing special – though I'll give them credit in the variety they managed to pack into the (comic relief) character Yunyun's many and varied outfits. It's also worth mentioning that the Op animation is a cut above average. It's a shame that the whole series wasn't that level of quality, but give 'em credit where it's due, the op is pretty damn good.

Y'know... her hands say ok, but her expression says... I rather liked the voice work of Canaan. While I didn't feel that any of the VA's crossed that magical line where there characters took on a life of their own, they did a damn good job overall of voicing their parts. For those that don't know what I'm talking about when I talk about a character taking on its own life, go watch Mark Hamill – yes, THAT Mark Hamill – becoming the Joker from the DCAU. Moving to the soundtrack, it's an average job, nothing great, but certainly nothing bad. The op theme, mind as Judgment by Faylan, is a solid little bookend that unfortunately isn't matched by the ed theme of the series. Like I said, nothing great, but certainly nothing bad here, and a decent job overall.


See?  I told you, meat buns. Ok, first things first, I'll get this out of the way. Canaan is a decent series. It's not spectacular, it's not groundbreaking, it's not even exceptional, but it is a decent series. The story is pretty well told once you get enough information to get along if you didn't play the game, though none of the gaps are ever fully filled in. The animation is good, and effective for this style of action and storytelling. The voice work doesn't quite make the level of great, but again, it's good and solid work. Now, with that said, here's my biggest problem with the series: there's a line of realism vs. suspension of disbelief that it never manages to cross.

Insert joke about a mound and a cherry here... Canaan tried very, very hard to be a sci-fi suspense thriller, something in the vein of Tom Clancy's world of spy thrillers or Call of Duty 4's high-strung, the world's gonna get fucked if we screw up military drama, and it just doesn't quite make it. Maybe things would have been different if I'd have played the game, but I'd never even heard of it until I started watching the series. I can't tell you if it was how blatantly overplayed Maria and Canaan's mutual 'I want you, but I don't want to corrupt you' variety of yuri-bait was, or Liang Qi's more blatant 'I want to crawl into your womb, Alphard' level of insanity, or if it was just that I couldn't help but feel as though, despite the pretty well told story, a lot of the series seemed like it was just going through the motions. At least 2/3rds of the cast qualify as severely damaged goods, but for some reason that never quite came into proper focus. Whatever it is, there's something broken about Canaan the series that's preventing me from giving it the recommendation it should rightly deserve for being overall better than average.

Additional Info

  • Format: Television
  • Animation: Groovy (+5)
  • Writing: Groovy (+5)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Groovy (+5)
  • Soundtrack: Groovy (+5)

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