The traditional theme of Monsters vs. Japan gets re-done in this surprisingly entertaining show.
Momiji Fujimiya is the Kushinada, a teenage girl born into a family whose bloodline has a supernatural power. When she and her twin sister were born the power split, and the age old monsters, known as the aragami, woke from their sleep to attack Japan. With her sister gone Momiji must take the reigns as the Kushinada, and were she to die the aragami would be sent back to sleep. However, despite the apparent benefits, that isnít in anyoneís best interest, and Momiji has to rely on the TAC, an anti-aragami combat unit, to keep her and Japan safe. Along with them is an aragami agent, Kusanagi, who has been tasked by his master to protect the Kushinada. His motives however are not as clear cut as they might be, and his human roots soon come to the fore. They battle against the aragami as they appear, and they gradually learn of the sentient aragamiís plans, what they want with the Kushinada, and how is all relates to the old tales and traditions of Japan.
I say this is a surprisingly entertaining show because, at first look, it doesnít seem like anything particularly special. The visuals are a combination of traditional designs and more modern ideas, and it seems like quite a cliched idea to begin with. However, once you get going, even from the first episode, you realise that this is very watchable, and the interpretation of this classic idea is both interesting and engaging. It shifts from classic feeling monster movie to romantic comedy and sometimes gets very serious indeed. Despite the fluctuating atmosphere it all seems to fit together well as part of the whole story. The cast is something of a generic setup, but they play their parts well. The ending is somewhat tacky, but it does fit.
This one is for teens and up really. As a whole there isnít much that could be seen as objectionable, but you notice it when it does appear. Some of the aragami do serious and bloody damage to their victims. In the first episode a killing appears off screen, but you seen the blood splatter the window, and the blood covered room afterwards, along with a gored hand. These kind of things arenít common, which makes them all the more meaningful when the do occur. Also Kusanagi gets cut about quite a bit, and dismembered at one point, but being part plant he can heal and grow back, so it isnít so bad. Aside from the violence Kusanagi has this pre-occupation with Momijiís underwear, which actually becomes a major plot point in itself as well!
The art, as mentioned before, is a nice mix of slightly older looking designs and the clarity you get with more modern anime. Thereís something about it that, while not instantly eye catching, is nice to look at once you get going. The animation isnít always very fluid, but it often makes up for it with more animation actually happening on screen.
As an added bonus, if you manage to get hold of the DVDs you get the omake extras as well. These are little extra animations featuring the cast, ranging from parody to flat out slapstick comedy, and there are a few nice serious ones too. And one that will make you want to wash you mind out with soap and wire wool to remove the images, but you can find that for yourself. *shudder*
The dub for this is definitely above average. I especially found it enjoyable because it uses the same cast as Neon Genesis Evangelion, and that much of that cast reprises very similar roles here, so it was cool hearing them again with slightly new quirks. Amanda Winn, who played Rei in Evangelion, plays Momiji and Kaede here, and hearing the variation in her performance for the three quite different roles was entertaining in itself. They rarely meet the Japanese actors for their performance or portrayal, but they do very admirable jobs, and the fact they manage it at all is a rare thing in anime dubs. While they do the comedy well itís the serious scenes that they really shine in, and that gives a credibility to it that many dubs lack.
Itís a shame I put off getting this series for as long as I did because itís one that Iím always glad to come back to. It never really becomes truly outstanding, but it is consistently good from beginning to end and thatís more than reason enough to see it.