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SUPERNATURAL: THE ANIME SERIES (now on DVD and Blu-ray from
Warner Home Video) represents a unique concept: it’s the first time a popular
live-action TV show has been reimagined in Japanese anime style. Exploring the
journey of Sam and Dean Winchester (original series stars Jared Padalecki and
Jensen Ackles) as they travel across the backroads of America, hunting monsters
while trying to save the world from the devil and searching for their missing
father, this is sibling rivalry at its best, giving horror fans a taste of
something stylistically fresh.
The 22 animated episodes mirror the story arc of the first
two seasons, mixing in prequels and untold tales that fit within the
SUPERNATURAL mythology. The introductory “Alter Ego” sets the tone and
expectations: In the opening sequence, with the unflinching violence often seen
in anime, someone is stabbed in the eye with a knife. The story sees Sam and
Dean investigating a small town plagued by a demonic shapeshifter; during its
transformation, the creature blows up into a hideous blob and splits itself in
half, green worms spewing out of its chest in pure Japanimation style.
Directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka put their own
stamp on the series throughout, steering into different directions in original
tales. “Darkness Calling” provides answers as to what patriarch John Winchester
was doing while he was missing. In “Till Death Do Us Part,” Sam first meets his
girlfriend Jessica during their time at Stanford University. Comic-book fans
get an adaptation of “Rising Son,” based on the SUPERNATURAL graphic novel of
the same name. This prequel follows Sam and Dean as children as their father
teaches them how to be hunters. Even the Impala, Dean’s “girlfriend,” is given
its own car chase in “Ghost Of The Highway.”
Anyone has seen previous works by production entity Madhouse
Inc., such as VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST and PARANOIA AGENT, will instantly
recognize how its animators take the mundane of ordinary life and enhance its
presentation with stunning artistic imagery. Basic elements like snow falling
or even a sunset are given spectacular painterly qualities. The particularly
ambitious “All Hell Breaks Loose” Parts 1 and 2 delve into hypersurrealism as
the Winchester brothers have an epic confrontation with their nemesis, Yellow
As is typical with Japanese animation, SUPERNATURAL was put
together in the opposite order than the process is done in the States: the
animation is done first, before the voice recordings. The performers must
recite their lines within the parameters set by the animators, which leaves
little room for improvisation. Padalecki has a tricky time adjusting at first,
but his performance does improve in each episode. Though Ackles only speaks in
two episodes (Andrew Farrar takes over for the rest), he has a better grasp,
perhaps because he previously spoke for BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD. The
episodes directly based on the live-action show aren’t shot-for-shot remakes (they
run shorter in length), and Padalecki and Ackles don’t repeat the same lines.
Sam is much more serious and darker here due to Jessica’s death, and with no
restrictions on sexuality, while Dean is portrayed as more of a womanizer.
Longtime fans may have a difficult time getting used to hearing Farrar as Dean,
who starts off as the comic relief but interestingly develops into a more stoic
and hardened hunter as he is given more responsibilities, carrying so much
weight on his shoulders.
This series is highly recommended on Blu-ray, with the 16x9
widescreen images presented in full high definition, and die-hard fans should
give a listen to the Japanese soundtrack, with voice actors Yuya Uchida and
Hiroki Touchi as Sam and Dean. The supplemental materials are reason alone to
buy the package: “The Making of SUPERNATURAL: THE ANIME SERIES” takes a full
behind-the-scenes look at the animation process, from production meetings and
script treatments to in-depth discussions with directors Miya and Ishizuka,
while Padalecki and Ackles provide video introductions to each episodes. There
are also interviews that took place between season five and the beginning
stages of season six. In a solo chat, creator Eric Kripke notes that the
live-action series is constrained by its budget and that anime is able to do
things those producers can’t, citing as an example “Roadkill,” in which Sam has
an underwater sequence.
Don’t waste a minute—get your hands on this must-have set!
If you haven’t watched a single episode of SUPERNATURAL, this is a perfect
opportunity for new viewers to jump in, and it will please followers of the
series who are waiting for season seven, in which the Winchester brothers will
take on Castiel and his army of angels. Anime and horror fans will agree that
this is a package well worth checking out.
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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