Karas: A Brief Review
Karas, or Karasu, literally “the crow,” is a fast-paced anime series of six installments that mixes Japanese folklore wonderfully with the face of present dayJapan.
The anime opens with a fighting scene that demands the attribute epic: there are katanas, but also something that looks decidedly more mecha, and the combination of the two strikes me as a full success. The fusing of 2D and 3D animation techniques that was used in the making of Karas creates a world that feels real, tangible, but that is only part of why I would readily call Karas the best anime series I have seen in a long time.
Firstly, there is an atmosphere that is both dense and ominous but also bright and beautiful. I do not want to spoil the story here, but this is Fae Awareness Month, so we do expect this world and another one to overlap at times; in Karas, this color contrast between super bright and shades of gray is one of the ways this is done for the viewer, and the effects are quite impressive.
Secondly, the plot easily won me over. Admittedly, the references to Eastern traditions are strong and may make it harder for the Western viewer to get every nuance of the story, but the basic idea–a fight good against evil–is one we can all relate to. In Karas, this fight is taken to the Between, if you will, the world of the Fae, or youkai in Japanese, but it inevitably escalates, drawing in humans as well, in the end all inhabitants of the fictional version of Tokyo the story is set in. The “karas” in the show is the term for the one caught between worlds and here that person is seen from two extremes, for Otoha is that kind of selfless hero, willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good, and Eko, poisoned by the temptation of power of the Otherworld, is just a perfect portrayal of any antagonist.
And so the story unfolds, not unlike a good Greek drama (and there even are some references to Greek mythology). A side story that is mainly set in the here-and-now world, or the human world as it were, ads a few comic elements as well as a quirky allusion to The X-Files.
To conclude, Karas has something to offer all viewers, no matter what their background is. The fighting scenes alone make the six episodes good entertainment, the backstories and plot developments answer all calls for drama and catharsis, and folkloristic and mythical elements show a successful modern interpretation of a cultural tapestry that is much less faded than we might think. Throughout, a strong sense for pace makes sure the viewer is never bored with either too much action and fighting scenes or the lack thereof. Karas, I believe, invites you to explore the flip side of human desires, and in doing so the show does not pull any punches and must thus be highly recommended.
Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.
Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.