Watched via fansubs



PLOT: What can I say about Canaan? Let’s start off with my initial reaction to this series. Based off of the PV’s for this show back when it was first airing in Japan, it looked like a pretty interesting series. Action shows were and still are rather hard to come by, and with the sleek animation, interesting character designs, and show premise, I thought this show might prove to be rather entertaining.

Canaan starts off rather strong with an eye catching pilot episode that explores revenge and terrorism. Sounds like just about every hit American action movie right? Canaan’s strong suit is giving away just enough information to keep viewers watching. In the end this was the show’s downfall. Once things became more clear it was evident the series didn’t have much to stand on.

The series kicks off when titular protagonist Canaan meets up with an old friend, Maria, at an Anti-Terrorism Conference in Shanghai. Maria and her co-worker (both reporters) end up mixed up in terrorism and biochemical warfare when they come across a body stricken with the Ua virus. Throughout the rest of the season we see Canaan time and again come to the rescue of these two as they run away from danger. At the same time Canaan continues her search for her arch nemesis, Alphard, who previously betrayed her. These two come head-to-head over and over, and finally again in what becomes a very anti-climatic resolution. I think the biggest plot downfall was that the story was too character driven. The chief complaints of the characters have to do with revenge and past/present relationships with one another. I would have liked to see more development that focused on world building and how the individuals came to be in their current positions.

PLOT: Canaan’s an action series that tried to widen its appeal by throwing in a lot of character-based drama. At first this seems like it’ll work, as the show begins with one hell of a first episode. There’s a cute girl, Maria, excited about being a photographer for an anti-terrorism conference and wandering around Shanghai like a tourist. She spies a dead body and takes a picture, after which some masked men try to attack her in the chaos of an ongoing festival. Fortunately, Maria’s badass mercenary friend Canaan finds her and saves her in some beautiful, slick action scenes, all while the show drops hints of storylines to come.

Unfortunately, from there Canaan gets too ambitious and muddled as a result. As you might expect from the central presence of an air-headed cutie like Maria, the show has a certain preoccupation with fanservice. It doesn’t feel shoehorned into every shot the way it can in some shows, but the show does go out of its way to include a distracting amount of male-oriented fanservice. In addition to visual fanservice, the show also provides heavy yuri undertones throughout the series, with many females being close to each other, particularly Canaan and Maria. It’s the show’s most fascinating angle, but it bogs down the series at times and also feels kind of random.

Finally, the plot’s convoluted and overly elaborate for a thirteen-episode show. Canaan has to cover Maria’s past with Canaan, Canaan’s connections with her archenemy Alphard, Alphard’s connections to the evil Snake organization, the Snake organization’s relationship to the mysterious Ua virus, and then the show ties that all back to Maria and Canaan. It’s just too much ground to cover thoroughly in such a short span, and it really makes the show fall short. Canaan could’ve been a great action series if it had narrowed its focus down, but instead it’s just a fun diversion.

Personally I’d have liked to see more about the Snake organization and Ua virus, instead we got a bunch of fan service.

SETTING: Most of the character interactions throughout the series focus on various countries of a fictional present day Asia. The beginning of the series takes place at an Anti-Terrorism conference in Shanghai, while there is also mention of the characters having met each other prior to the series in the Middle East. Additionally, both Maria and Minoru are reporters from Japan sent to document the conference. The specific setting isn’t necessarily essential to the plot premise, but the idea of international terrorism syndicate is very interesting. Though highly unlikely, I enjoyed how all of the characters reunited at the conference and how their meeting set the stage for the rest of the plot (however it made the show a bit more confusing than if they’d all never met before).

I think the biggest pitfall of the setting was how the series started off in a large city full of action, and then wondered off into slow action fights in the middle of nowhere. I felt like this was a very cheap move and ended up making the show seem very anti-climatic. Like I said before, the show was oddly character driven with little focus on world building. I would have loved to see the true capacities of these groups as they go head-to-head.

This show took a great opening and really threw it away by wandering off into some strange territory. I agree that it should’ve stuck more with the big-city action instead of the middle-of-nowhere finale.

SETTING: I love the initial setting of Shanghai in this series. After so many series set in Japan, Shanghai feels like a truly exotic city, and the animators make sure to emphasize the amount of people and the resulting chaos. It makes for tense, heady actions scenes that are some of the show’s highlights and are truly a great time. I got confused about how the previous events in the Middle East tied into this narrative, though. I’m sure it helps if you’ve played the prequel game, but that’s no excuse for a series being hard-to-approach for newcomers if it’s not widely known as a sequel.

From the exciting setting of Shanghai, Canaan suddenly swerves away and decides to have the finale at a factory and on a train. These settings are so conventional that they feel boring, especially after the grandeur of Shanghai. You get the feeling that the writers wanted to simultaneously have fewer elements to keep track of and make it cheaper for the animators, so they went out into the middle of nowhere. After such an exciting beginning to the show, this turn just feels lame.

CHARACTERS: I don’t mind a good friendship or two, or even a good case of rivalry, but Canaan was oddly stuck between the past and present. I either wanted to see more of their past played out chronologically, or less of it. The mix that was shown throughout the series was just confusing to unravel.

To start with Canaan is a Middle-Eastern mercenary working in Shanghai. At some point in the past she ran into and aided Maria with a terrorist event (which Maria does not remember the details of). Canaan also has a link to Alphard as they were both taught by the same mentor. It is her connection between these two women which drives the plot forward. Honestly I wish they’d picked just one of these two stories to focus on, not both as they got muddled together.

Maria and Minoru are probably the most interesting characters. It’s easy to see there is more to Minoru than what he initially portrays. Maria is a bit of a Mary Sue, but her relationship with the other characters is enough to make me empathize with her.

As for the Snake organization and Alphard, I just couldn’t understand where they were coming from. Even terrorist groups have to have their reasons, and they just seemed out to get people for the money. Alphard and Canaan’s relationship should have been enough to drive the ending, but when it came to the finale, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to either of them.

A lot of the stuff about the Snake organization seemed to come out of nowhere in a very confusing way. This show isn’t on the level of Code Geass with its what-the-heck-ery, but it still got too hard to follow at the end. Maybe it helps if you’re familiar with the prequel game.

CHARACTERS: Though Canaan’s supposed to be one of the major draws for this series, she just feels too bland to be a main character. She has her intense need to protect Maria, but that feels more like a convenient reason to be saving a cute girl’s life than actual character development. Canaan’s past and her relationship with Alphard also comes up a lot, but that also feels rather contrived and forced. Canaan does have the cool ability of synesthesia, which she uses to see enemies as a different color than civilians during combat, but that also feels like a gimmick that’s intended to make the show cooler and not necessarily add depth to Canaan’s character.

Even though I love me some cute girls, I also couldn’t really get behind Maria as a character. Her connections to everything felt too haphazard and random. She somehow knows Canaan, had the Ua virus in the past, and is covering the very terrorism in which Canaan is embroiled? All while being a cute, defenseless girl? It’s too hard to believe, especially when she has the bonus problem of amnesia about some of her experiences the first time she met Canaan. Maybe their relationship’s better developed in the prequel game, but in this show, Maria also feels like a gimmick who’s supposed to draw in a certain subset of viewers, but she doesn’t get enough development to be truly interesting.

The other characters fall within the range of interesting (Minoru, Maria’s journalist partner), trying (Hakko, Minoru’s love interest), funny but fanservicy (Yunyun, a flat-chested waitress), evil (Alphard) or confusingly fanservicy and evil (Liang Qi, who’s mad in love with Alphard). The characters feel all over the place, and it’s hard to really get behind any of them. Canaan should’ve cut back the cast and focused on a handful of main characters instead of throwing out a bunch of characters to appeal to every straight male viewer imaginable.

It didn’t help that this was such a short series. If the studio had had more time, the story may have been able to go into more detail on everyone. As it was, the full range of cast just couldn’t manage to develop enough to make a meaningful ending.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Canaan had a wonderful budget, at least initially. I’m not really sure how the studio chose to use their money, but I felt that the majority of resources went into making a killer pilot episode. I remember watching it for the first time and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the screen. The action shots were fluid and the camera angles, lighting, and designs all set this series off to be an amazing action adventure. However, a couple of episodes in and the budget seemed to fall to pieces. It never got so bad that the characters were off model or anything, but backgrounds began to be simplified, which in turn dulled down the action possibilities. There’s nothing wrong with a limited budget, but when it begins to interfere with the plot, you know you have a problem.

As far as character designs go, Canaan isn’t too bad. I like the way the series looks like something straight out of the early 2000’s. The characters fit well with the initial action adventure premise and don’t look too “anime-ish”. If it weren’t for the plot taking a huge dive at the end, it might have done pretty well over here on television.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Canaan’s greatest strength was always its animation. It’s gorgeous, and the show knows it, using cool angles and slick action wherever it can. The lighting even screams top-notch action series! As Whitney says, the action did noticeably drop a little as the show wore on, but that doesn’t mean it ever got bad, just less than breathtaking. It’s still a show to measure other action shows by.

The character designs, though, lie in that place that feels like they’re trying just a smidge too hard for me to really like them. All of the girls are too standardly attractive, and their clothing boggles my mind (why would Canaan fight in a red halter top?!). The character designs look kind of generic, but Whitney’s right that the eye-size is at least closer to normal than in most anime.

OVERALL: I like that Canaan tried to reintroduce anime culture to the wonders of action adventure, unfortunately it didn’t do a good job on the follow through. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend Canaan even to the biggest action fan. There just isn’t enough meaningful backstory and world building to hold the story together once you look past the angsty relationships between the three girls.

OVERALL: Canaan feels like an action movie that’s trying really hard to be a blockbuster but falls just short. It’s got the looks and the plot to start out, but then it loses its balance between story and characters and wipes out in the end. Of course, there were always signs that it might try too hard and fail in the end—all of the fanservice, for one thing. I feel like a solid action show should support itself without having to dump so many women into the position of being sex objects, but Canaan went right for that angle. To top that off, all of its attempts at developing characters felt half-baked and random, like the characters had to interact in certain ways that didn’t seem organic. Go ahead and watch Canaan if you want a pretty action show, but don’t expect it to be anything memorable or worthwhile. It’s a beautiful way to spend your time, but ultimately you’ll be left feeling empty by the lack of of meaningful narrative or solid character interactions.


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