It's been over a decade since the Bubble War, when the global economy burst. The rich got richer, and the poor were out of luck. Welcome to Tokyo, the city where all the winners came to jerk each other off. If you’ve got money, you can buy anything your sick mind can dream up. If you don't, you just try not to get crushed beneath the wheels. Only the wicked rule here.
Enter the Club, a secret society pandering to the ultra-rich and fulfilling their deepest desires... legal or otherwise. Sent to infiltrate the underground elite, Saiga, once a renowned war photographer now reduced to tabloid journalism, stumbles upon a depraved ceremony and discovers the ultimate beauty in Tokyo's darkest catacombs. With a tragic young girl named Kagura in tow, Saiga flees from his enemies and his own inner demons. A single kiss has ignited a chain of events that could force the entire ruling class to their knees.
Smile for the camera... or perish in the glare of its lens.
Gonzo has really become quite the popular studio when it comes to busting out anime that is strong in the eye candy field with such instant classics as Last Exile and Gankutsuou. In 2005, Gonzo released Speed Grapher which is an unusual piece of art, at least story wise.
Speed Grapher tells the story of a war photographer named Saiga, who is famous for his eye opening pictures of an unnamed war set in the backdrop of an worldwide economic collapse (sound familiar?). Now however, he is reduced to freelance journalism for cheap tabloid newspapers and magazines. All of this changes when he is asked to investigate the goings on of the Roppongi club, led by the filthy rich Suitengu, a place where the rich and powerful can let out any and all of their deepest desires. There at the threshold of the club's meetings comes Kagura, the girl the Roppongi club calls The Goddess. Her kiss can grant the recipient power showing their deepest desire. Unfortunately, Saiga is the recipient and now he has the power called Euphoria which gives him the ability that whenever he takes a picture of anything, it explodes... Taking Kagura away from her horrible condition, the two are in a race against time to get away from the relentless Suitengu's and to find a cure.
This is a very sexually driven series earning it an M rating, it's definitely not for children. I found it interesting that the creators of Speed Grapher used superpowers as an allegory for sexual desire and a driving force of power. The Freudian meter is going off the charts! The plot was interesting in the sense that it was unique in showing how sick and depraved the humans species can get. Not only in the realm of sexuality and fetishism , but also in the corrupting influence of money and greed. Other anime have explored these topics, but not in the way that Speed Grapher does, bridging the gap between lust and power, and how a person can abuse that power when it is given to them. It's as if all of the characters have sexual reason, consciously or subconsciously for their motives and that was an interesting concept to me.
What truly makes this title deep and involving is how it really correlates with our time, which makes it all the more scary because it resonates so true with what is happening in our lifetime.
The characters of Speed Grapher really are a mixed bag as some characters can be riveting and compelling, while others are just a bore. The saddest part of it is, that the antagonist Suitengu is a more fleshed out character. Painted as calm, collected, suave and at times sympathetic. Suitengu is a great villain who really outweighs the bland and wooden protagonist Saiga. The other Euphoric's only come off as cannon fodder bringing a monster-of-the-week syndrome to the series, which did not bother me but actually made the series enjoyable for some odd reason.
The visual aspects of this anime leave much to be desired. Speed Grapher use bright vibrant colors which bounce off of the screen with an almost traditional cell-animation effect without the use of computer animation. The animation was choppy and static added along with character designs that wavered along the lines of smooth shifting quickly toward sloppy line work and discombobulated drawings. Unlike the other works of Gonzo, Speed Grapher was lackluster in the visuals department.
Sound wise, this anime has a passable dub (although I do have to wonder about it excessive use of profanity in the English version), and as for music it could have done better, it was bland an uninspiring.
But what really makes this anime boxset worth the money is that it is full of goodies and extras. Textless openings and endings, documentaries, character profiles, and recording session are all added and that shows that the creators are either trying to give you your money's worth or compensating for something. Or both. Speed Grapher is an involving and enjoyable series with a solid plot and some truly interesting characters but sadly is mediocre in everything else which will either make or break the series depending on who is viewing it.