Tokyo suffered a terrible earthquake that changed many people's lives. One of these people were Masane Amaha, who was discovered suffering from amnesia with her infant daughter. 6 years later, Masane returns to Tokyo with her daughter Rihoko, plus with a bracelet on her wrist. Later on she learns that the bracelet contains some type of power that transforms her into a female warrior. This leads to two powerful companies seeking her out, and she ends up working for one by the name of Douji Industries. -summary
Released in 2006 as a 24 episode series and directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi. Witchblade was among that new wave of anime to flood the industry that almost appears when in production, the writing team were sitting at their round table, and just going down a checklist on the many different sub genres they want, not need, to add into their show in hopes of telling a story. The ghosts of Elfen Lied had been haunting the hell out of the anime industry around this time, and like that anime, Witchblade attempts to be a jack of all trades, but clearly excels in none. This anime was a total disappointment for me that resulted in being a massive waste of time; but there's a mass of very easy to please otaku's out there who will swear to you otherwise. They claim this anime is truly excellent and it rewards the viewer. I'm not exactly sure how, one thing is for sure though, it gave me more virtual rocks to sling at these lousy works masquerading as brilliance.
The plot follows Masane as she finds herself fighting against the Douji Industries experimental weapons that have gone astray. They're called X-Cons, and they appear to be humans that morph into deadly machinery. She also goes up against other females of her kind, that are actually cloned from the Witchblade science, and these women are called Neogenes. While she battles them, child welfare is on her ass about Rihoko. The series promises a lot; it starts out great, there are subplots, story and plot elements involving the origin of the Witchblade along with corporate intrigue. Unfortunately, some things are delved into while others are simply discarded. To be crystal clear, they focus on the completely irrelevant shit that either serves no purpose in pushing the story, or consistently beating home the same themes, and these are my main reasons for disliking this anime so much.
It's true that Witchblade is a character driven anime that doesn't focus a whole lot on action, but it fails in properly delivering the former. There are way too many characters receiving some type of development, and in this case, it happens to be Masane's neighbors. I get what the writers were shooting for; they wanted to establish family values amongst strangers which is fine. The problems are that it relies on way too many gimmicks, such as the lecherous old man which was long played out since the 80's, and the mousy female who just never breaks her mold. There's even one character who goes the entire anime never saying a word; and we're suppose to fall for these people? They're some how suppose to be more interesting than the Witchblade's origin? At least to me they weren't.
The show's biggest bulls-eye for failure in regards to its characters falls on 6 year old Rihoko. This character is completely unbelievable, as she's self aware of her surroundings to the point where she does all of the food shopping by herself, cooks the meals, polices up her drunk mother, and even argues with her mother on which man is good enough for her. Yet for some strange reason, this precocious toddler needed to be explained the concepts of heaven and death. One would think that she was already well-versed in this a long time ago. I mean after all, she is obviously smarter than her own mother. This didn't work for Hell Girl, and it sure as hell ain't working for Witchblade either. I also get it was meant to somehow be cute, but if you're attempting to bring your cast to life, they must be believable first.
The dull and misguided characterization overshadows the more interesting elements going on here. It's mentioned at some point in the anime, that the Douji Industry does have information on past Witchblade holders; this could have been some pretty interesting storytelling as it would have shed some light on seriously nagging questions, and after all, IT IS among the most important plot elements of the series. You get nothing though, instead, you get this group of characters going to the beach. The Neogenes also were pretty interesting, you get very little on them as well, because we have to watch these characters have dinner together, again. The lack of information and untied loose ends makes the rushed ending even more inexcusable, because you knew there was time to cover all of these things, yet they chose to substitute substance with lots of filler. No joke, you could eliminate up to 50% of the cast, drop a bunch of episodes, and the story would flow much better. The show is also very predictable, you will know what the characters are going to do before they do it.
The claims that this anime is jam-packed with awesome action scenes just isn't true. There are plenty of shortcuts taken with the animation. There aren't too many good exchanges between Masane and the other Neogenes. Some of the encounters are decent at the very best, but there are way too many one slash victories and unseen action. To make up for this, the girls are very scantily-clad. I mean they fight with their ass-cheeks out of the suit and there is a lot of focus on this. Now I'm not gay, but I cannot find myself getting all horny for animated chicks. The gore is pretty low as many deaths are barely even shown. The character designs are definitely products of Gonzo Studio, as you will see a heavy likeness to other projects such as Burst Angel and Full Metal Panic; the females are drawn with major sex appeal, with Masane sporting a huge rack and everything else. Her design reminds me of Myleen Hoffman from 009-1. Now the designs for the X-Cons have no type of imagination whatsoever. They are far from interesting even in the things that they do. I never saw myself looking forward to the next encounter. As for the soundtrack, I found myself skipping the opening and ending J-Rock themes, and even though some of the BGM helped with the action scenes; they felt wasted on this for the most part. I can't complain about the dub, since the usual suspects being Robert McCollum, Carrie Savage (Rihoko), and Jamie Marchi (Masane) were more than tolerable. In fact, I think they had really good chemistry.
Overall, Witchblade to me is just another of Studio Gonzo's failures. The only thing really done well was the relationship between Masane and Rihoko; if felt as if they were more than mother and daughter, they felt like best friends. It's such a shame though that the anime failed to deliver on its many promises. Major story elements were dropped, there was too much focus on disposable characters, rushed ending, and the plot spun its wheels so much. I would never recommend this anime to someone I like. If you're hunting for a solid action anime that delivers in that category at the very least, then Baki the Grappler will be a good pick. If it's action and character development you want, go with Fighting Spirit then. This blade is best left in its scabbard.
-Some good moments between main characters at times
-Fails to truly excel in every category it ventures in
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