Region: 2 - UK
Length: 80 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
In a world where sorcery and science co-exist, the power of magic comes with a price: Humans who do not take proper precautions are transformed into horrific demons. Those who destroy these demons and run the highest risk of all are tactical sorcerists known as Strait Jackets. But when terrorists unleash a plague of demonic carnage, the Sorcery Management Bureau must enlist unlicensed assassin Leiot Steinberg to stop the slaughter. Even if this rogue killer and a mysterious young girl can end the outbreak, will they be able to face their own dark secrets? Monsters, murder and redemption collide in this explosive anime written by Ichiro Sakaki (SCRAPPED PRINCESS) and based on his popular light novel series.
I love the idea of the OAV. If you think about it, OAV's can get away with stuff that movies and TV series can't. Not restrained by TV budgetary problems or runtime issues common to movies, they have always had a special place in my heart. Titles like 3X3 Eyes, Fight! Iczer 1 and Megazone 23 have entertained me. Now I come to this title: Strait Jacket. Don't let the DVD fool you, this is NOT a movie but a story in three parts. Now normally (that is if you're old enough to remember) an OAV put out by Manga Video re-edited into a movie would make me run a mile. I give you the original Dangaioh as an example. But after looking over the disc, and consulting the Anime News Network article on it, I can say with a good 95% accuracy that its content is intact.
And what content it is. The story is pretty simple enough: in an alternative Earth, magic has been discovered and harnessed like any other industrial material. And like all similar materials magic can be dangerous. Misuse of magic or a break in the seal protecting the user from the magical field can lead to a horrific transformation of the user into a grotesque mangling of flesh commonly known as a "Demon". These creatures, as we're not able to call them human anymore, go insane and spent the reminder of their all-too brief existence babbling incoherencies and killing other people at random. No one is spared in their onslaught and normal police and tactical services cannot stop them.
And so arose the "Tactical Sorcerers". Men and women who are sealed into magic-imbued armour, charged with using similarly powered rifle cannons used to maim, injure and ultimately kill these demons. When our tale begins, junior inspector Nerin Simmons (voiced by Ai Maeda and Bridget Hoffman respectfully) has been called to a local hospital where a doctor using a magic suit to perform surgery has been transformed by an accident in his suit and who then proceeds to go a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style rampage. Unfortunately, because of a shortage in Tactical Sorcerers, no one can go in save the people trapped in the building. That is until Nerin meets a young demon girl, Kapel Theta, who offers the services of a sorcerer to her. After accepting the offer, Kapel leads Nerin to an armoured transport belonging to Leiot (or Reiot according to ANN) Steinberg (note: the ad copy on the back uses the name, Leiot, so I don't which to use). Steinberg is an unlicensed sorcerer and so works for hire. He is despised by his follow sorcerers because of his reputation for destroying things on missions. But despite her misgivings about Leiot, Nerin authorises him to deal with the problem.
Soon after suiting up and going in, the actual tactical team turns up, lead by Issac Hammond (Akira Sasanuma and Crispin Freeman), leaving Steinberg (Steven Blum or Miki Shinichiro) to deal with the creature and endure the people's (who he just saved) wrath over the destruction. Hammond, who supported his younger sister going to university by becoming a sorcerer, dislikes Steinberg immediately and so sets himself to confronting Steinberg.
OK, now that's over and done with I can tell you why I like this. I've only described about ten five to ten minutes of the show but it is good stuff. Steinberg is not what he appears to be: a lazy, uninterested man. He carries around a double set of guilt, one to do with Kapel and the other to do with Hammond. Simmons, I feel, is the protagonist in this series. She starts off thinking the greatest thing a sorcerer can do is serve the people. But her exposure to Steinberg teaches her and us there are some things you can do while in control of a great power that you can never forgive yourself for. The writing by Ichiro Sakaki (Scrapped Princess) is good without being too deep. How much you can derive from this story is entirely up to you.
Character designs are nice by Yoshinori Yumoto. The animation is good with the gun battles marked out for special consideration. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that this was halfway between regular animation and the visuals espoused by Karas by Tatsunoko Productions. Whenever Leiot fires his gun, he doesn't blow things up, he demolishes them. So we watch as the ground gets torn to pieces, walls are ripped apart and generally mayhem ensues.
I think that the story is simple on first inspection but gets better with further viewing. I hope that this sells well enough to see more of this world. As I said before, the Japanese version is in the form of an OAV but Manga have everything on one disc. The video quality is good with only a few resolution issues but that might be my equipment. Audio is nice with the standard Manga effort of 5.1 English audio and 2.0 Japanese. Lovely effort and only one disc.