A fun story and a neat presentation makes this an enjoyable romp.
What They Say
Colors have scent. Sounds possess images. In this future world, where biochemical weapons have changed the game, an unlucky few have their senses blended. They are gifted with abilities beyond what normal humans feel. They possess synesthesia.
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is available in 5.1. In a nice move, the Japanese track is also offered in 5.1. The audio is really well done, with some good directionality, both left/right and front/back, though the dialogue stays on the center track. There is no dropout or distortion on any of the channels—everything is clear.
The visuals are also a treat on this release. The artwork is gorgeous, and the transfer is impeccable. Colors and lining are solid, and there were no detectable instances of flaws or digital distortions. The animation is as smooth as can be, and there are some really nice effects, especially when good Canaan is sensing colors. This is one of the slickest productions I’ve seen for a TV series.
This set has pretty standard packaging. Both discs come in a standard amaray case, and the cover has a cool image of the two Canaans almost standing back to back with the title vertically separating them. What is interesting is that the good-Canaan is bathed in red light, while the bad-Canaan is in blue, which suggests the opposite alignments, though it is telling of their personalities as the good-Canaan is more hotheaded than the calm, collected bad-Canaan. The back has the typical series summary, screen shots, and technical details. It looks nice, but it is nothing special.
The menu had a good design, but is also nothing special. There is a static image of the two Canaans on the right with the selections aligned to the left. Each episode is given a selection with languages and special features to the bottom. The selections are in white on a black background, with the cursor in red, so it all stands out well and is easy to follow. And really, that’s the most important thing.
There are only a few extras on this release. Clean versions of the opening and closing are available on the second disc, while the first disc has a section narrated by Minoru that is presented as a summary of his investigation but is really just a summary of the first six or so episodes. It’s neat, but also unnecessary. Still, I’d rather it be an extra and not take up an episode like in so many series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on (and a sequel to) a Japanese visual novel for the Nintendo Wii, Canaan is the story of two mercenary women connected by similar pasts and the young woman who comes between them. It uses a storytelling technique that is difficult to pull off and does it well. Combined with a nice amount of action and intrigue, it made for a fun few hours.
Journalist Minoru Minorikawa has been sent to Shanghai, China to cover an anti-terrorism summit being attended by all of the major world powers. Accompanying him on this journey is Maria Osawa, a burgeoning photographer who needs some journalistic seasoning. Both Maria and Minoru were victims of a bioterrorist incident that infected many people with the mysterious Ua Virus in Shibuya two years before, though Maria does not remember anything from it.
Upon arriving in China, Maria is immediately targeted by assassins, though she has no understanding why. When things look their worst, she is rescued by Canaan, an old friend who helped her escape from the Shibuya incident. Canaan’s presence suggests that more is going on than Minoru is aware, and as he pokes around, he discovers more information about the Shibuya incident and knows he has stumbled onto a story much bigger than the anti-terrorism summit.
Also in China is Alphard Alshua, who—for reasons known only to her—is determined to get revenge on Canaan. When Canaan was younger, she was rescued from death by a mercenary named Siam, who then trained her to become a deadly assassin. What Canaan did not know at the time was that before Siam trained her, he trained Alphard in the same skills and also gave her the name Canaan. Though Alphard abandoned the name Canaan long ago, she still holds contempt for the new Canaan for being Siam’s preferred student.
Quickly Canaan and Maria get caught up in Alphard’s plotting, which they can only survive if Canaan is able to let go of her past and unlock her true potential. And in attempting to do so, they will learn more than they thought possible about their pasts, the Shibuya incident, and Ua Virus that has infected them all.
Canaan was a fun series to watch, even if the storyline was not particularly original. Maria was an amusing character to follow, and there was plenty of intrigue about Canaan’s past mixed in with the great action scenes. It paced well, and answered the questions it needed to as it was necessary without dragging out the conflicts. It is tightly scripted and does not suffer from overpadding like similar anime do at times.
But what makes Canaan so intriguing to study is its perspective. While the series stays focused mainly on Maria and Minoru, the story is really about Canaan and (to a lesser extend) Alphard. It is a story telling technique that can be hard to pull off, because it is hard to balance the delivery of information while building and maintaining the necessary sympathy for Canaan’s situation. Like any protagonist, if Canaan knows too much important information too soon, any drama is killed, so she has to learn things no sooner than the point-of-view characters; and without being inside Canaan’s head, then her feelings need to be able to be discerned through her actions and reactions.
This series handles all of that well. While Minoru investigates the Shibuya incident, Canaan is forced to keep going up against Alphard’s organization, Snakes. Between what she learns during those battles and what Minoru pieces together while snooping around, we build enough of a knowledge base to understand what Canaan is up against. And it is her direct relationship with Maria that helps build our sympathy for Canaan, as Maria is a very likeable character, but she is constantly thrown into situations where Canaan is forced to save her, often confronting Alphard directly. Canaan is essentially unable to function if Maria is in any kind of danger (enough that it made me question the nature of their relationship at times).
But one of the most interesting aspects of the series is also one of my biggest disappointments, and that’s the mystery surrounding the Ua Virus. During the bioterrorist incident, most of the people infected with the Ua Virus died within days of infection. The few that did not found that some of their senses have been enhanced in some way, making them almost super human. Maria should have died from exposure, but was saved by a top-secret, non-approved anti-virus developed by her father—unfortunately a side effect of the cure is loss of memory, and she does not remember anything from her past, pre-incident.
Canaan developed to sense the auras of everybody around her, and by reading the color of their auras, she can interpret their thoughts and desires, which makes her an incredibly effective and efficient mercenary. Others in the story have similar powers that make them far more difficult to kill than regular people. Again, it is not a particularly new idea, but it is presented in a really interesting way, especially in the case of Canaan’s abilities.
The disappointment with this is that I would have liked them to have explored this further. Canaan’s abilities are a central aspect in this story, but aside from her losing them briefly at one point, they never really explore them other than to suggest Canaan has yet to fully realize what she can do. We never learn why some people had this effect from the Ua Virus where others die, and we never get a good explanation as to how Canaan learned to use her power or even how she uses it in general. Like, what do certain colors mean? I would have definitely liked more about the nature of the powers.
Though I did not find the overall storyline to be particularly original, Canaan was still a fun series to watch. It a series that does not stop much over the thirteen episodes and crams in as much information as is necessary in that timeframe. Often, with a series like this, they push it out to twenty-six and end up with a moderate amount of dead space as they do not have twenty-six episodes worth of material. Canaan makes great use of the time is has. If you like some intrigue and good action (with a smidgen of girl-girl romantic tension), then Canaan is a good way to pass a few hours. Recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Minoru Report
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080i, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System