Speed Grapher Volume 1

Hawkeye

Saiga earned his reputation as a top-class photographer during wars in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. His pictures portrayed a haunting beautiful sadness and how desperate the times of tragedy were. However, all the wars are over, and all he has to shoot now is the boring subject of political figures in modern day Tokyo. In the action-packed first disc of Speed Grapher, Saiga gets back his passion in most unexpected ways. In an attempt to photograph one of the city’s most elusive politicians, he discovers an underground cult for the richest of the rich and the most powerful of the powerful.

imageIt’s obvious that this cult is pretty much a sex club, allowing the rich to explore their deepest fantasies. However, there’s a twist. When you become a VIP member, a ritual is preformed in which a goddess floats down from above and kisses you, making your deepest desire come true. Saiga stumbles upon one of these rituals and takes a photo of the goddess, drawing unwanted attention to himself. Before the guards can kill him, the “goddess” spots him and bestows him a kiss.

All is not what it seems and the goddess is merely a high school girl with an amazing talent. Her name is Kagura, and she is the daughter to the President, and most powerful woman, of Tokyo. Her mother hates Kagura, starves her and is cruel and heartless. Her right hand man, Sutangu, is the brains behind the cult, which the president only knows false details about. Sutangu is Speed Grapher’s equivalent to the Yakuza. If the members to the cult can’t pay their membership dues, he’s the man that will have your assets changed to his name and then string you up, making it appear to be a suicide. All, of course, while smoking his cigarettes made of money. Sutango is also the one who has brainwashed the poor girl Kagura and is using her for the cults benefit.

imageKagura kissed Saiga as she emerged some from her brainwashed daze, hoping that maybe he could save her from her nightmare of a life, but in doing so, she awakened his potential. In the last moments before he was going to die, Saiga reached for the camera he had dropped. But his body began to heal itself at an accelerated rate, and even more amazing, he could blow things up by shooting pictures with his camera. He made his great escape, grabbing the unconscious Kagura as a hostage, however, he learns that she is the unwilling pawn of Sutango. Kagura makes a desperate plea to Saiga, asking him to help her escape and be free. Of course, Saiga can’t help but accept–she’s a pretty girl after all–and she just may be the key to answering why he has these new powers.

The music was strangely fitting and an important part of setting the mood. They often took classical music and played it during violent scenes, such as the music box playing when a member of the cult came up short paying Sutango and was hung from his own stairs. Other times, the series used an upbeat jazz tempo to fight scenes, and it was almost like the characters were fighting to the beat. In other words, it was very well done and had its own unique style that fit the anime.

imageThe art and animation were spectacular, and are also why it reminded me of Cowboy Bebop. The fight scenes were fluid, fast, and amazing. The characters were original without being over the top, in fact they even had a touch more realism then you normally see in anime. I particularly liked how the background and cityscapes were done. They weren’t just there to be there, instead were part of the story and beautiful. The “camera” angles were also interesting but tastefully done, even making scenes with minimal action intriguing.

I have to say that I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I plugged this DVD in. I had heard it was violent from a friend of mine. What I wasn’t prepared for were the almost hentai like moments in the series, after all one of the major plot points is a sex cult. However, these scenes are far and few in between, they don’t last longer then a few moments. The sex scenes combined with actual blood and gore violence, as well as a mature plot, makes this anime not good for the kiddies.

Speed Grapher’s plot actually managed to keep me riveted to my seat. It was clever and witty, and had the same kind of gritty feel as good noir films of the 40’s. It made me think, it surprised me, but it wasn’t so over the top that the plot twists were unbelievable. It reminded me of the same feel that Cowboy Bebop had: jazzy, hip, and smart.

Entertainment: 9
Damn good plot, interesting characters, and very well done. However, I could have lived without the sex scenes being so explicit.

Technical: 10
The voice acting was fitting, the music excellent, and animation superb. Even the extras were entertaining.

Overall: 9

DVD Features: Episode 1 Depravity City, Episode 2 Goddess of Greed, Episode 3 Film Like A Bullet, Episode 4 Lethal Headshot

DVD Extras: Art Gallery, Character Cast Auditions, Textless Songs, Character Profiles, and Trailers

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