ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:06 - 12th July 2013, by David West

Supernatural: The Anime Series

Sam and Dean Winchester travel America hunting the forces of darkness, waging a secret battle against demons and monsters that most ordinary people know nothing about. For the two brothers, their mission is a personal one, driven by the need for justice and vengeance - they lost their mother and Sam's girlfriend to the paranormal, and now their father John, who trained them in the secrets of hunting monsters, is missing in action. As they face vampires, werewolves and all manner of beasties, they have their eyes on one final target - the Yellow-Eyed Demon that is the agent of all their misfortunes.

Supernatural: The Anime Series reworks the US TV show by revisiting events from the first two seasons, and adding in new anime-only adventures. While the anime can be viewed without previous knowledge of Supernatural, the series works best as a companion to the live action show. The episodes are mainly stand-alone stories, with the exception of the two-part plot that wraps up the series. The early instalments hit the ground running, which may leave newcomers to the world of Supernatural struggling to get to keep up. Fortunately each episode is introduced by Jared Padalecki and / or Jensen Ackles, the actors who play Sam and Dean in the original, and they provide a little background to the storylines which should help orientate neophytes to the franchise.

The general format follows a 'Monster of the Week' blueprint, as Sam, Dean and their various allies face off against different creatures. The tone favours the horror aspect of the show and the anime is not afraid to splatter blood about the screen, but there are comedic episodes to add variety, often centred around Dean, who is the joker of the two leads. There is an occasionally uncomfortable amount of violence against women, and female victims definitely outnumber male ones.

Padalecki dubs Sam in the English version and can come across as a little flat, often in the more casual scenes of sibling interplay. Dean is voiced by Andrew Farrar for 20 of the episodes, with Ackles coming onboard for the last two. Farrar, who has a background in voice acting, is right at home. The show was written and produced in Japan, so the English dialogue has to match the visuals, not the other way around. This can lead to some awkward phrasing to match voices to lip movements, and the English script is not always particularly naturalistic, especially in the early episodes. The Japanese voices are provided by Yuya Uchida as Sam and Hiroki Touchi as Dean, both seasoned pros who make the characters their own.

The production values are high and the visual design of the anime is particularly strong, with a striking, high contrast style that fills every frame with dark, menacing shadows. With each episode coming in at around 23 minutes, there is less room to develop ideas than in the live action show's 60 minute adventures, and there are several instances when a storyline would benefit from greater exploration.

In addition to being a fascinating case study in seeing how a Japanese animation studio can tackle an American TV show, Supernatural is a strong horror anime in its own right. While existing fans of the franchise will be at an advantage, the anime delivers enough action, fights and creepy monsters to see you through several buckets of popcorn.
SCORE: 3/5
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