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When I previously reviewed “Karas: The Prophecy,” I noted that it was a visually spectacular film that suffered from a criminally underdeveloped plot and slap-dash execution. There were so many good parts to what made up the first film: the brilliant conceptualization of near-future Tokyo, the virtually seamless melding of traditional, hand-drawn cell animation with cutting-edge CGI, the stunning detail of the visual compositions and the excellent musical score. That it was all in service of a story that seemed like it was developed by an elementary school child and edited together with a meat cleaver and Scotch Tape made the viewing experience terribly disappointing. However, I did cut the film some slack because it was the first half of a two-part series (or more correctly, parts 1-3 of a 6-part OAV) and thus could not be entirely faulted for its apparent incompleteness. So it was with at least a dull sense of anticipation that I sat down to watch the follow-up film, “Karas: The Revelation,” and it did something I didn’t expect.
With a name like ‘The Revelation,’ one could not be faulted for expecting some, if not all, of the obscurity so wantonly strewn about in the first film to be clarified or resolved. Hahahahaha! You’d like that, wouldn’t you? If anything, the second film is even more confusing than the first because hardly any of the questions raised by the first film are resolved. The ‘why’ is subordinate to the ‘how.’ The first film gave us some fleeting tidbits about demons running loose in near-future Tokyo with a super demon called Karas as the guardian spirit of the City. In this film, renegade Karas Eko (again voiced by Matthew Lillard of “Scooby Doo” fame) is still trying to amass an army of mechanized spirits called Mikura to take over the city. He’s still opposed by renegade Mikura Nue (again voiced by Jay Hernandez, “Hostel II”) and the new Karas Otoha. However, when “The Prophecy” ended, Otoha had been defeated when his Karas form came face to face with his comatose real self. “The Revelation” begins with the real Otoha rescuing Nue from the scene of that battle before veering off into a rather nonsensical flashback.
In “The Prophecy,” Otoha was a doctor who had some sort of accident which left him in a coma. But, according to “The Revelation,” in fact only the astral projection of Otoha was a doctor, while the real thing was a mad dog Yakuza assassin. How does this fit in with his soul’s bond to the spirit of the city? Why is his spirit a do-gooder while his physical being is a murderer? And where did Otoha’s and Nue’s younger brothers come from and what do they have to do with Eko’s plans for domination over Tokyo? Your guess is as good as mine. It becomes evident very quickly that the writers were desperately grasping at straws. After all, why expend any energy on such mundane things like plot consistency and character motivation when you can have more explosions, lightning bolts and flying dead bodies? Another classic sign of desperation is the gore quotient, which is ramped up to an almost ludicrous level. Make no mistake, the first film had oodles of violence, but it was heavily pyrotechnic and at a PG-13 level. For this second go ’round, the screen is virtually caked with splattered blood, dismembered appendages and impaled desiccated bodies. The final third of the film is one big bloodbath of almost unprecedented proportions. Normally, this would be a positive, but it is just so out of synch with the basis established in the first film that it stands out in a bad way.
Just about every aspect of “Karas: The Revelation” disappoints. The story is even more muddled, if that were even possible; there are still one or two characters that make it through to the end of the second film without being named in the dialog; the reasons behind Eko’s actions are mundane and uninspired; the fates of several of the major characters from the first film are negligently perfunctory; the flashback sequences add nothing to the back story of the characters and don’t even jive with the first film; and, worst of all, the animation isn’t even all that great. After the eye-popping visual blitz achieved in the first film, you’d think the production team would build on what they had established and at least maintain the level of quality, if not improve upon it. Alas, the second film looks worse than the first. The hand-drawn animation is still top notch, but the CGI work is sub-par and thus the juxtaposition of the two does not work as well. The whole thing feels like it was put together on a much smaller budget and with much less care. Some of the more elaborate CGI sequences actually stutter badly enough that they look like old Ray Harryhausen stop-motion work.
While I generally disliked “Karas: The Prophecy,” it was at least visually interesting enough to make me want to view it a few more times to drink in all the lush visual splendor. It really is a sight to behold, particularly if you have a large flat-screen TV, to an extent that you won’t mind the lame plot melting your brain while the images are making your eyes bleed. After finishing “Karas: The Revelation” I had no intention of ever watching it again. The whole affair is so lifeless and devoid of thought or creativity. For instance, in one scene where Otoha has a final run-in with his old Yakuza clan, they try to take him out, not with guns or knives, but with a barrage of bazookas.in the middle of a crowded street. Does that make any sense at all? The scene is there for no other reason than to show a fabulously animated explosion. Which is symptomatic of the base deficiency of the entire ‘Karas’ series. So much of it is there simply to show off that the result is boring. The fact that “Karas: The Revelation” is a step backwards from the first film in almost every way just makes it all the more disappointing.
Kei’ichi Sato, Akira Takata (director) / Masaya Honda, Shin Yoshida (screenplay)
CAST: Keith Burgess … Suiko (voice)
Dorothy Elias-Fahn … Additional voices
Melissa Fahn … Chizuru (voice: English version)
Tetsuo Goto … Minoru Sagisaka (voice)
Jay Hernandez … Nue (voice)
Kate Higgins … Homura (voice)
Matthew Lillard … Eko (voice)