In the early 90’s an event happened in the comics industry that shook it’s very foundations. No less then seven high profile employees of both Marvel and DC comics all quit their job at the same time. They weren’t happy about the fact that they didn’t have the creative rights to the stories and characters they developed, but that those right were instead owned by their respective companies. It was a bold move, and a very risky one as well, as now they combined their forces to form their own company: Image Comics. And not only that within Image Comics six of these seven people started their own smaller companies in order to publish their own works. It was a risk that payed off though, as it paved the way for more people to follow their examples in what would become known as the so called creator owned comics. Within Image, one of the most succesful companies was known as Top Cow. This was mainly in part because they were responsible for the creation of a new comic book called Witchblade. Drawn by the young and highly talented artist Michael Turner, it told the story of a New York police detective called Sara Pezzini who comes into possession of a very powerful artifact known as the Witchblade. It fuses with her body and becomes a weapon as well as her armour, and throughout the series she would encounter all kinds of enemies who want to possess the power of the object.
It was a totally different kind of comic that people were used to, as it was more grounded in the real world, and for a change didn’t deal with people clad in spandex costumes exhibiting all sorts of strange super powers. The comic became huge overnight, partly because of the terrific storyline, and partly because of the amazing artwork by Turner. Tragedy would hit though, as Michael got cancer and sadly passed away at the very young age of 37. While the comic continued with different artists and still was very succesful, Turner’s artwork was unique and one of a kind. One day I will probably give you a post that dives more into this fantastic comic book series, but that’s not what we are here for today! The succes of the Witchblade comic was a given, and with succes come opportunities. Eventually the Witchblade live action series was made, that ran for two seasons. But things didn’t end there, as in 2006 the Witchblade anime series was brought to life. It doesn’t happen very often that an American license is turned into a Japanese animated series. Because really, usually it’s the other way around, and quite often that ends in disaster. So how did things turn out, now that it was Japan’s turn? Well…..quite good actually.
The Witchblade anime takes places many years after the setting of the comic book. An event called the Great Quake destroyed most of the city of Tokyo, and at ground zero a young woman called Masane Amaha was found alive and well cradling a young infant. That was six years ago. Now Masana has moved on, and has also lost most of her memories of that terrible tragedy. Her daughter Rihoko is the most precious thing in her world right now, and she will do anything to protect her. Having recently returned to Tokyo she intends to live a peaceful life. Things are not that easy though. Almost immediately upon her arrival a representative of the Child Welfare Division makes things difficult for the young mother. Things become so bad that she even gets thrown into jail, separated from her child. However when Masane is attacked there by an advanced weapons system that can disguise itself as a human, her world is turned upside down. A strange bracelet that is on her arm transforms her into a powerful almost unstoppable entity. That bracelet turns out to be the legendary artifact known as the Witchblade. The young mother will soon find herself faced with foes from greedy companies who want the weapon for their own nefarious purposes. Masane’s resolve doesn’t waver though, and her love for her daughter will always drive her forwards. If that’s enough to make her prevail though remains to be seen…..
This series turned out to be something totally different then I expected it to be. Where I thought this would be an action oriented, fanservice driven anime, it was more an emotional character driven tale with it’s focus on a mother/daughter relationship. Now don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of action to be enjoyed, but I was surprised at how well the story itself was crafted, and truly managed to tuck at your heartstrings at times. The buxom Masane Amaha is a character you simply can’t dislike. And that’s not because of her (admittedly ridiculous) breast size. She is a true mother in every sense of the word. At times a bit clumsy, but with her heart in the right place, her care for her daughter is what truly propels this anime, amidst all the carnage. When she transforms into the Witchblade’s form, she becomes a totally different person though. The weapon gives her a lust for fighting, and an almost erotic like pleasure from killing. But even when she is in this form, she never loses sight of the true purpose of what she lives for, her daughter Rihoko. Where in some animes children can be quite obnoxious, that can’t be said here. Rihoko is an absolute delight, wise beyond her years, and at times so cute, that you can’t help but smile whenever she makes an appearance. Pretty much all the scenes where she interacts with her mother are amazing, and that is also a credit to the voice actors that bring these characters to life.
As with most animeseries, the cast of Witchblade is quite big. But surprisingly most characters, both villains and friends, are well fleshed out, with only a few minor exceptions. I especially liked the group of zany characters that eventually take Masane and Rihoko in, and provide most of the comic relief in this anime. Comprised of a shy fortune teller, an old lecherous man with a heart of gold, and a gruff landlady their comedic banter works really well. Special mention must also be made for the man who eventually becomes Mahane’s boss, Reiji Takayama. He was an exceptionally strong character, that had a very calming presence throughout the entire series and became a kind of rock to hold on to during some of Masane’s more difficult moments. While the action sequences as mentioned weren’t as prevailing as I thought they would be, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Stylish, sexy, sleek and brutal all in one package, these moments are really cool, and provide action lovers with exactly what they want. And then of course there is the fanservice. The sexual elements in this series are quite obvious, and I’m not going to pretend they aren’t there. In fact I would have to say that the view of Mahane’s naked behind when she is in her Witchblade form is a bit, well ridiculous. That said, it is luckily not as grating, demeaning and over the top as for instance a show like Highschool of the Dead.
As this is an older show, the animation is not as sleek as some of the current animes. I wasn’t bothered by that in any way, and I quite liked the overall look of this series. Now as I am very familiar with the comic, I can say that this show is simply put completely different. In fact I would go so far as to say that the only similarities it has between them is the fact that the weapon is called The Witchblade and that it can only be worn by women. Other than that, this anime is really it’s own thing. But it has to be said, I really enjoyed this series. Over the course of 24 episodes an action packed tale that has some really cool twists and turns unfolds that for the most part was highly entertaining. One could say that in it’s middle part things slowed down a bit too much, and I could have done without yet another obligatory beach episode. But these are relatively minor issues, and luckily it’s also an anime that wraps things up in a very satisfying way. I have plenty of examples where a high potential series ruined things with a very bland final episode, so it’s always nice when something like that doesn’t happen. Witchblade turned out to be a very nice surprise and I think a very good start of this Anime Month! I hope you enjoyed this review! Have you seen this show? What did you think of it? Let’s talk in the comments!
I give Witchblade a 8 out of 10 score.