I have always been a long-time fan of the TV series “Supernatural” and I was quite overjoyed when CW (without original series creator Eric Kripke) decided to go for another season this year. I was more ecstatic when I heard my favorite TV series was going to be adapted into an anime series for Japanese viewers. Ok, maybe I was a bit hesitant but it seems like the Japanese had made the right approach and strokes to pay homage to the series as well as giving it some added surprises and depth to its characters. “Supernatural” is the first American TV series that have spawned a Japanese anime series and this is history in the making.
I won’t bother you with any summary since much of the original American live-action series’ themes and style remain intact. The anime series follows the adventures of Dean and Sam Winchester as they travel around the U.S., hunting down supernatural beings and trying to make a difference in people’s lives. They also run into several other folks who has been touched by the yellow-eyed demon. If you are wondering where the anime’s first season fits into the “Supernatural“ mythos, I would have to say that it fits along side seasons one and two of Kripke’s beloved series. It’s a blending of different interpretations of 5 episodes from season one, 7 episodes from season two, a comic book adaptation, and even nine anime originals. Fans of the series will not feel that they are watching more of the same with the adaptations, since each adaptation adds a different flavor, feel and twist to the original episodes. The anime has been guided by directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka with supervision by Kripke. The episodes have been reworked to fit this alternate anime universe under Madhouse studios.
The anime series has no pilot episode and begins with Dean and Sam already hunting. The adaptations have very different twists, as “Alter Ego” had been reworked from “Skin” but the final form of the shifter is different. “Roadkill” also presents a different surprise to the series. There is also a Djinn introduced in “What is and What should never be”. I also liked the different flavor added in “Moonlight”. I mean, I have to admit, the original series by Kripke is much more compelling, but once you consider that the anime episodes have a mere 22-24 minute runtime, the pacing and the way the story is developed is pretty sleek and smooth.
The anime originals are actually extensions of some of the original’s episodes. Much of the adaptations also give more depth to existing characters. Jessica and Sam’s relationship is given more background, and Dean and his Dad are shown hunting in the same neighborhood as Sam was studying in Stanford in “Till Death Do Us Part”. The anime series also develops the character “Jake” from season two in “Loser“, as we get to know more about his background and it introduces a John Winchester solo adventure in “Darkness Calling“ and a character who can kill with a touch. “Rising Son” (adapted from a comic) reveals a secret as to why Dean is so protective of Sam and introduces a new character in their lives. I loved the way the anime episodes appeared to complement and expand, it never contradicted and fit into the continuity. However, being as this is an anime series meant for the Japanese, there are episodes that are totally new with “the Spirit of Vegas” where dean gets mixed up with a Japanese God. “What Lives in the Lake” is also a rendition of how spirits is seen in the Japanese folklore.
Each anime episode has an introduction by either Jared Padalecki or Jensen Ackles or sometimes both, so both series fanatics and non-fans can have a brief introduction so they could easily catch up. Sam is voiced by Padalecki in all the episodes, while Ackles only voices Dean for the last two episodes which were also the season finale. Andrew Farrar does a good job as Dean with the English dub, but remember this is an anime series so the animation dub is meant for the Japanese language (Yuuya Uchida and Hiroki Touchi does the Japanese dub), so there are some synchronizing dialogue issues with the English dubbing (it wasn't bothersome but it was noticeable).
With the minor issue with the mouth animation to the English language aside, the anime does sport some excellent anime designs. Sam and Dean do look like their live-action counterparts, but they appear to be more slender with eyes that have anime style. There are also changes to the appearances of Bobby Singer and the yellow-eyed demon to fit the anime medium (oh, the yellow-eyed demon is also a hottie on certain episodes. The anime also loses the original‘s 70’s rock soundtrack save for “Carry On My Wayward Son“ but thankfully, the classic "Impala" car makes it to the anime. The animation and action in the anime is also pretty violent and very bloody (much more than the original), and without the limits of a TV series budget, dragons are dragons, demons are demons and some effects can easily be applied into animated form. Oh, the women are also much more sexier as with anime features, I mean “Moonlight”, “Rising Son”, “Darkness Calling” and “Crossroad” have some of the best looking female cartoons I’ve seen in a awhile.
I suppose if I had a complaint about the anime series is that there are times that I felt that the stakes weren’t that high as with the original series; but then I remember that season three is actually the original series really picked up. I guess this is the price of trimming down a 55 minute episode to a mere 22 minute one; don’t take this as a negative comment, but rather just an observation. It is just that certain original episodes just outshone the anime adaptations and this is more obvious in “What is and What Should Never Be” as it never made that much emotional impact when compared to the original episode. Then, “Alter Ego” was then much more surprising than “Skin”, but then the original episode “Heart“ was much more engaging than its anime adaptation “Moonlight“ (it had more of a Japanese anime theme to it). This observation, however, made me feel that only true fans of “Supernatural” would really appreciate the work done in this anime series.
It is really hard for me to dislike this anime series since it is adapted from one of my favorite TV series; so, consider me biased. This anime series is good, and had set its goals on the right direction. True, I guess the original series (having watched every episode since its inception) is just embedded in my DNA (much like “TheWalking Dead”) it really would be difficult to impress me with any adaptation or re-interpretation. I would advise to see this anime series in the original Japanese language, I know it is weird, but I feel that it worked much better. This anime series is a good companion piece to the “Supernatural” mythos, and thus, it gets a recommendation from me. Oh, the original is on its 7th season and I am still glued.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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