Region: 2 - UK
Length: 479 minutes
English 5.1 Surround
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Having lost their mother, Mary, under mysterious paranormal circumstances at an early age, young Sam and Dean Winchester are raised by their father, who, driven by revenge, becomes an obsessive hunter and destroyer of supernatural creatures and entities. Years later, when their father mysteriously disappears and Samís girlfriend is killed in similar circumstances as their mother, the Winchester brothers follow in their fatherís footsteps, travelling the back-roads, highways and byways of America in search of answers and vengeance. It is a journey that brings them face-to-face with unimaginable horrors, from demons and vampires to ghosts and shape-shifters, unites them with loyal allies and reveals their eventual and totally unexpected destinies.
I am not one for prime time TV programmes. Criminal Minds or CSI is the most that I will watch and even those kind of bore me on occasion. So Supernatural, a show about two brothers named Sam and Dean Winchester who hunt monsters, is a popular show and has about seven or so seasons to its name. Thats pretty much all that I knew about the show. So when I heard that Warner Bros. were creating an anime version of the show, I rolled my eyes. Warner Bros. involvement with anime projects ranges from The Animatrix (so-so) to Halo Legends (rubbish) so I didnt have a lot of hope for this one. But Warner Japan were running this show, handing animation and directions to MADHouse and the watchful eye of long running MADHouse producer Masuo Muramaya (Nana, Perfect Blue, Hunter X Hunter). So, I decided to give it a try and it has been a pleasant experience.
Walking into this show a complete novice, I found the blending of humour and horror to be a fantastic mix without needing to know whether every single character on screen. Sam and Dean are two characters who dont need their sibling to define them but they instead complement each other. Sam comes across as the more sensitive of the two and for the first few episodes they seem to be telling us that its because he watched his girlfriend, Jessica, die right in front of him. But as the season plays out they start to show its more to do with his connection of the Yellow eyed Demon whom the boys become aware of. Dean on the other hand comes across as more serious, gruff but lovable nevertheless. The pressure he has been under since childhood to be a hunter as their father, John, trained him to be is heavy. They dont play it like Dean has to measure up to John; he already does or else John wouldnt allow him to roam around on his own. Rather, that Deans main concern is protecting his brother. He constantly worries about him, but not in an audible way. All in all, the boys are solid leads.
The other characters are a bit hit and miss. John for the first half of the series is a voicemail voice on a phone but almost at the end, we get him in full ass kicking mode. He is a flawed, bitter yet epic father for the two Winchester brothers but hes not in it enough to be an equal character. The Yellow Eyed Demon is a great villain, building from a whisper to a full on problem for our dynamic duo by seasons end. His infamy gets larger without becoming "Oh, wont someone please think of the CHILDREN!!?" kinds of evil. Interesting how his basic ethnicity changes to suit the person hes trying to con. He isnt the devil; hes just trying to improve on version 1.0. The most influential character outside of John or the YED is Mary Winchester, the matriarch of the family. Seen in flashbacks until the third episode "Home" and the twentieth episode "What Is And What Should Never Be", the shows creators tell in two episodes how much their mothers presence and loss of presence is on the boys. Even to this day, Sam and Dean miss her and derive a lot of their patience and kindness from her.
The show uses some of the first and second season of the live action version to tell the bulk of their stories but have a couple of their own unique stories. Most of these are nice additions but "The Spirit of Vegas" is not really very good and its the only one that uses Japanese folklore as its basis. Its almost as if MADHouse and WBJ didnt think the show could fly in Japan without touching base with local sensibilities. Its unnecessary and I didnt like it. For the rest of the show, Im told that they follow the original version with alternate angles and directions taken for some of the dialogue and scenes. Without seeing the originals, I would say that the anime version doesnt try itself in knots going for an American take on the show. The creators of the show wisely chose to have Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Jared Padalecki (Sam) introduce each episode and give some background on that episode. This way, us dumb people who havent seen the show are not left out.
Animation wise, the people at MADHouse present a pretty good rendition of America and avoid going for anime tropes of what America looks like. Fair play to them for getting mid-Western America pretty accurate with sprawling deserts, dusty towns and oasis of calm in the build up cities. Also, the monster designs work without being over the top and each monster looks like they belong where they are. Grimy back alleys, dark underground sewers and spooky backwood cabins all get a roll call here and look more American comic than anime in design. Also, the normal voices for Sam and Dean are played in Japanese by their regular dub actors which is a nice touch. Jared Padalecki plays Sam for all of the show while Jensen Ackles could only play Dean in the final two episodes, with Andrew Farrar filling in to the rest.
The DVDs include both the English dub and the Japanese one, its even money which is the better one. For my money I liked the English dub, though because of the English dub you can actually see where the character stops talking in English but the lips keep moving for a few seconds to allow for the syntax of the Japanese language. The DVDs I got also had a nice, if a little fluffy, behind the scenes look at the creation of the show and some interviews with the creators and cast. It was OK, just that the main BTS programme seems to be Japanese produced so its like a Discovery channel documentary on sugar. Take in small doses, I would recommend to all who have never sampled this particular delicacy.
I liked Supernatural: The Animation (or The Anime Series as its sometimes referred as) and would recommend it to people who want to get into anime without having to sell the medium sight unseen. I wish there was more but no word yet as to whether they want to go on with the animated version. For now, this is sufficient.