Canaan is an action, adventure and drama anime series produced by the animation studio P.A. Works. The director is Masahiro Ando and its writer is Mari Okada. The story is based on a scenario conceptualised by Type-Moon for the visual novel and video game 428: Fūsasareta Shibuya de. P.A. Works has cemented a commendable track record, having worked with Production I.G on Blood+ and Stand Alone Complex (including 2nd GIG) of the Ghost in the Shell series, and with Bones on Darker than Black, Eureka Seven and Xam’d: Lost Memories. Aside from Canaan, they have been solely responsible for the romance and drama True Tears (which I rate particularly highly in its respective genre). As such, mostly everything they’ve been involved with has piqued my interest and left me more than satisfied. Likewise, director Masahiro Ando has previously been responsible for the story-boarding and animation of the standalone movie for Bones’ Cowboy Bebop (alongside studio Sunrise), Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, RahXephon, and lastly Planetes by Sunrise. Its writer, Mari Okada, wrote part of the screenplay for the second season of Darker than Black, Ryuusei no Gemini, and Gonzo’s Red Garden, all of which I’ve throughly enjoyed. After watching the PV/trailer before it aired, I immediately knew that I was going to pick this up weekly, if only for its stellar animation that depicted the hustle and bustle of China’s Shanghai superbly, while offering what seemed to be an engaging and mysterious story-line, with a hint of the supernatural for good measure. Having watched all 13 episodes, following week by week, did Canaan succeed in offering something exceptional? Not quite, but it definitely tried.
To begin with, it’s apparent from the get go that Canaan is visually delightful; easily one of, if not arguably the best animated series of its year. This is all the more evident in the opening episode, which really captured the essence of Shanghai in China, a city I’ve had the opportunity to visit more than once due to its proximity to my native Japan. The parade/festival that was shown was vivid and full of life, creating a sense of realism that many other anime fail to achieve. The character design by Kanami Sekiguchi (of whom I’m not that aware of) was attractive, especially that of the females (even the manic and crazed character of Liang Qi). This is not too surprising considering that Type-Moon is involved, known for catering for the shounen (young male) demographic. The backdrop was also refreshing, in account of the fact that the majority of anime prefer to stay in domestic Japan, whereas in Canaan, the prospect of venturing afield to China gave ample opportunity to offer something different. In this respect, the first episode maintained a level of authenticity and intrigue that’s ever so absent in many other anime series. All of the characters had personality, albeit somewhat contrived and cliched, with many arrogant and “bad-ass” females to keep things interesting. So, after watching the first episode, I left with a positive impression.
Unfortunately, although the plot managed to maintain its momentum until the very end, full of character development and background, everything seemed far too cliched and unoriginal. Or rather, there was something lacking, that extra chutzpah that would propel the series to another level. I never truly connected to any of the characters, nor did many of them seem that real, save for Maria and Minoru, the Japanese journalists that ended up doing a lot more than their job asked them for. I suppose the eccentric and widely unpredictable character of Liang Qui gave a lopsided contrast from some of the more “real” characters in the series. Liang Qui went from arrogant seductress to crazed maniac by the end of the series, but I can’t deny that she certainly left a memorable impression (I ended up feeling sorry for her by the end). From this, Canaan was like a pendulum, diverting from realism to typical action flick on a continued basis. The premise, although somewhat unoriginal, could have been delivered more subtly than it was, especially during the end. However, with this being said, it didn’t really do anything wrong either. In a way, I can’t help but feel like I’m being overly critical due to my high expectations of the series at the beginning. In hindsight, the plot, while not as engaging as I personally would have liked, still offered a very entertaining roller coaster ride, which was complimented by high production values on P.A. Works’ behalf.
I can’t remember the soundtrack by Hikaru Nanase since it’s been a while since I’ve watched the series, finishing late September in 2009, but it must have created the appropriate backdrop, and if I can recollect properly, was orchestral in its presentation. The opening “Mind as Judgment” by Faylan was moderately listenable, but nothing that stood out to me. However, the ending song “My Heaven” by Annabel was soothing to listen to and something I’d quite happily add to my playlist. The accompanying ending sequence complimented the song well too. The seiyuu (voice cast) were solid, no complaints. Miyuki Sawashiro did a good job with the main titular character of Canaan, delivering the stoic and reserved persona to great effect. Maaya Sakamoto, a seiyuu I’ve come to like, gave the main antagonist of Alphard a worthwhile performance, maintaining the unwavering confidence and bitterness of the character throughout. Most notably, however, Rie Tanaka‘s role of Liang Qi was laudable. I can’t believe this is the same voice actress that played the role of the dignified and collected Lacus Clyne of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed (and subsequent sequel Seed Destiny). It’s really a testament to her range as a voice actress.
The finale was wrapped up well, although it could have been less predictable and cliched. By this point, I had stopped hoping for anything deeper or multilayered and regarded Canaan as a competent action series, largely attributed to its production. It’s definitely worth watching and is, for all intents and purposes, a solid and good anime series. The pacing could have been improved, including the tenacity of the plot, but over all, I’d gladly re-watch this series, just not in the foreseeable future.