“Karas: The Prophecy” is, bar none, the most visually spectacular animated feature I have ever seen. It is also the most idiotic, poorly constructed, convoluted, and pointless film I have ever seen. It is a triumph of technical skill, meticulous attention to detail and computing horsepower; and the melding of CGI and hand drawn animation is virtually seamless. It is a quantum leap ahead of what was hinted at in past efforts such as “Blood: The Last Vampire”, and even outshines recent releases in the “Ghost in the Shell” series. The film has visual style and flair in spades, but all is for naught as they are in service of a script that seems to have been put together by a random number generator.
The plot of “Karas” is so jumbled and the narrative so incoherent that I had to watch it a second time just to pick up the names of the characters. Even then, I had to look the film up on Wikipedia to find out what any of it meant. Apparently there is a parallel dimension to Earth that is occupied by demons. They seem to be able to cross into our dimension at will, but humans are only vaguely aware of them, classifying their actions as supernatural phenomena. Amongst these demons are those chosen to become powerful warriors known as Karas. When demons cross over to the human realm and cause havoc, the Karas are summoned to destroy them and restore order.
However, one Karas named Eko (voiced by Matthew Lillard, “Wing Commander”) has gone renegade and started recruiting powerful demons to become part of his mechanized Mikura army, with the intent of destroying the Earth. To oppose Eko, a new Karas has been chosen in the form of a recently comatose doctor named Otoha. Caught in the middle of all this is a seven foot tall demon named Nue (voiced by Jay Hernandez, “Hostel”) who wields twin gold pistols, John Woo-style.
You get all that? Yeah, me neither. These warriors do battle in spectacular and loud pyrotechnic displays that generally involve whipping out successively larger swords that cause successively larger explosions ala the Final Fantasy games. When I see battles like this I always wonder why they don’t just bust out the largest sword first and be done with it. I was also half expecting each character’s damage points to flash above their heads with each attack. There’s more, with a side plot involving a sort of X-Files department of the Tokyo police that investigates the actions of the Mikura, but that particular thread leads nowhere.
For all of its visual inventiveness, “Karas” can’t muster much excitement. The first two or three fight sequences are entertaining for their flash and dazzle, but after three or four more, it becomes repetitive. How many times can one sit through a bullet-time slow-mo montage before the slowing of time puts the viewer to sleep? With no discernable story and no discernable goals for any of the characters, the viewer can’t get situated.
It doesn’t help that this is the type of film where anything and everything just happens virtually at random. A movie where anything can happen is just as bad as a movie where nothing happens. Without a defined set of rules within which the movie operates, the viewer is left without a frame of reference upon which to arrange the action. The viewer subsequently loses interest in short order.
Such is the fate of “Karas: The Prophecy.” There is no form or structure to this movie. It is simply an exercise in visual excess, reminding me, rather unfortunately, of “Casshern”. Some of “Karas'” incompleteness can be chalked up to this being the first part of a two part OVA, but so little information is disseminated that it’s tough to care. “Karas” gives us a lot of noise, flashing lights and pretty pictures, but so do the billboards in Times Square, and those are more compelling.
Kei’ichi Sato, Akira Takata (director) / Masaya Honda, Shin Yoshida (screenplay)
CAST: Keith Burgess …. Suiko (voice)
Melissa Charles …. Chizuru (voice)
Tetsuo Goto …. Minoru Sagisaka (voice)
Jay Hernandez …. Nue (voice)
Kate Higgins …. Homura (voice)
Matthew Lillard …. Eko (voice)
Piper Perabo …. Yurine (voice)
Steve Staley …. Karas/Otoha (voice)