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Why You Should Watch Witchblade
Before I get into this article I want to differentiate this show (an anime cartoon) from the live action television show of the same name. I’ve never seen the live action version so I don’t know if it’s any good, but for this article I’m only talking about the anime series.
Now, I’m not really a fan of anime. I’ve really only watched two anime cartoons prior to Witchblade. One was Ghost in the Shell, which I liked but was very confused by and Avatar: the Last Airbender, which I would argue is very Americanized.
I hold two pre-conceived stereotypes about this style of animation. The first is that it is too confusing to follow unless you’re a hardcore fan, which could be true of some anime, and the second is that anime is creepy (because the men frequently look like women and the women frequently look like children). Now, some anime super-geeks out their might make the argument that this show, Witchblade, is not a true anime. I don’t know why they would make that argument, I just assume it’s going to happen every time I approach a genre I’m not familiar with. Having said all that, Witchblade broke through both of my preconceptions about anime. The story was very well crafted and easy to follow and the men, women and children were easy to tell apart. I don’t know if this will be a gateway show for me into other anime television and movies, but I would like to tell you why I liked this show and, in turn, why I think you should watch it.
1: Cartoons aren’t just for children anymore
I’ve spent a lot of time telling people that video games aren’t just for children anymore. I get really frustrated when I hear that a parent bought their ten year old son a copy of Grand Theft Auto. The ratings are there for a reason; just because it’s a video game, doesn’t mean it’s for children. Despite having this clarity about video games, I didn’t start to realize, until recently, that the same is true of cartoons. At some point in time they may have been designed for children, but those children grew up and still loved them, so we now have a generation ready to tell great stories with animation and we should certainly let them do it. The thing that I like about cartoons is that they can tell a story uninhibited by budget (assuming they aren’t using too much computer animation). So, for example, one could see a totally original superman story as a cartoon that would never get greenlit for a big budget movie. (Big budget hero movies rarely get out of the origin stage). I knew very little about the Witchblade comic before watching the show (I’m pretty sure it’s an entirely different story anyway) but I know that the logistics of such a hero are difficult to pull off in a real world setting. The outfit alone would be a makeup nightmare. So by making it a cartoon, I feel like Witchblade, and other shows, are able to tell the story as it is meant to be told as opposed to having to work around a budget or reduce an iconic comic book weapon (the witchblade) into a glove (sorry live action witchblade, it wasn’t the same).
So, I don’t know if you’re one of those people that avoids cartoons or not, but I wanted to make this argument first to remind people of the advantages of the medium and how far it has come.
Here is a link to the DVD copy of Witchblade on Amazon.
Let me see if I can give a basic description of this story without giving away any spoilers. The starting premise is that we’re in a future version of Tokyo Japan after a giant earthquake has devastated nearly everything. The residents are trying to rebuild and re-establish their lives while multiple corporations are working furiously on new weapons technologies. For the most part we follow Masane Amaha and her daughter Rihoko. They’re off to start a new life for themselves in Tokyo. However, when child protective services finds them, they deem Masane unfit to raise her daughter since she doesn’t have financial support and because she can’t remember anything before the great quake. In their attempts to take her daughter away, Masane makes a number of mistakes that land her temporarily in jail. It is here where a mysterious weapon goes berserk, slaughtering the guards and anyone else that gets in its way. When it sets its sights on Masane, something inside her is awakened as she is overtaken by a force known as the Witchblade. She turns into a powerful weapon with an ancient past of death and destruction. As she battles the first of what will be many dangerous weapons, she had no idea the multitude of forces that will soon begin to vie for the Witchblade’s power.
The show has some great artwork and a lot of fast-paced fight sequences, but the thing that I like most about it is the growth of Masane’s character throughout the series. At first she seems childish and horribly misguided, yet we see her grow and change over time. In the grand scheme of things, with all the corporations fighting over the Witchblade, the rogue weapons and the Witchblade itself, Masane feels like an insignificant and unlucky pawn thrown into a hurricane, yet her role is pivotal and the longer she is immersed in the battle, the more she comes into her own and begins to shape events rather than just react to them.
I admit, I’m a sucker for a hero’s story with a strong female lead, and if you can overlook Masane’s gargantuan breasts and the skimpy Witchblade costume, she really is a fascinating character and one to be admired when the final credits roll.
When I discovered that there was only one season of the show I was both disappointed and relieved. I’m pretty sure they don’t do shows like us in Japan. I think their shows are all designed like mini-series and if they do well, they get sequels. But in either case, I’m glad this show was structured in such a way because it allowed for a better executed story arc. We don’t have to worry about cliffhangers or dangling plotlines because the show knows how much time it has to tell its story and it does a very good job of breaking up major plot points evenly so we don’t feel like we’re constantly being led by a carrot on a string. (Some shows really abuse the carrot on a string.)
In the end, I’m not sure if Witchblade will serve as a gateway show to more anime for me or not. I’m interested to see if other shows like it exist, but I found this one as a fluke on Netflix. I believe I was looking up the Blair Witch Project so my wife could see it and this show popped up. I was then stuck home for a number of days because of an illness and I decided to give the show a try. I’m glad I did and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction or comic books. I may have discovered the show by accident, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
For more great movies and television you may have missed, visit my feature: Why You Should Watch.