"One...two...three...four...five...six...seven...eight...nine...and it is ten. Sway, to and fro, sway..."
Karas is a series of six OVAs by Tatsunoko Production, later released as a two-DVD set entitled Karas: The Prophecy and Karas: The Revelation. It was originally produced to commemorate Tatsunoko's fortieth anniversary. It is very awesome.The plot is centered around Otoha, the new Karas of Shinjuku, Tokyo. Each city has a single Karas, humans empowered by a contract with the "Will of the City" to protect it. Oh, and each can transform into a sword-wielding knight, a jetplane, or a car-tank.What makes Shinjuku more interesting is that its previous Karas, Eko, has decided that the city has been corrupted by humans, and intends to "cleanse" them from the land. To that end, he has created mikura, demons bonded to machines. Most of the first half of the series involves Otoha tracking down and destroying these mikura, leading up to the final battle against Eko for the future of the city.Supporting characters include Nue, a dual-pistol wieldingnue who has his own beef with the mikura, Kure Narumi and Minoru Sagisaka, two human police officers in the newly-created demon hunting division, and Hinaru, a ditzy job seeker who survived of a water-goblin (mikura) attack.Backed up by the near-constant presence of a soundtrack performed mainly by the Prague Symphony orchestra, infused at points with techno beats, the OVA series works to deliver emotionally as well as visually. According to the Other Wiki, reception was somewhat mixed based on the main characters being "underdeveloped". The first two episodes focused mainly on presentation and action, which is a long time to wait for the actual plot in a six episode series. Beautiful and spectacular as the presentation may be.
Aborted Arc: Remember how it looked like the humans had some sort of connection to the story at the start?
Action Prologue: The series opens with what may well be the best action sequence of the entire OVA, in which Eko dispatches yet another of the younger Karas that the Will of the City has sent against him, leading to Otoha's recruitment to fill his predecessor's blood-stained shoes.
Animal Motifs: Most of the characters have one. Otoha's is a crow, which fits with his job title (Karas is the japanese word for crow).
The Atoner: That would be Nue. And Otoha, to some extent. They've made some mistakes.
It's hard to qualify Otoha as an Atoner so much as an Iron Woobie. Product of Parental Incest, rare male-version Emotionless Girl, Friendless Background, and used as a weapon by his father/brother. When he finally gets a friend, he's not even the one who brings up running away. His friend does, and Otoha just replies "I'll go wherever you go." The only thing he ever expresses regret for is being born a human in the first place.
Bittersweet Ending: So the entire city was destroyed, and what is the result? On one hand, the bad guy is dead, the city is being rebuilt, and most of the human cast has survived. On the other hand, the Masquerade apparently wasn't broken beyond apparently a few rumors of "ghosts" so nobody outside the main cast learned anything, a few important characters were killed, and, oh yes: THE ENTIRE CITY WAS DESTROYED!
Break the Cutie: Sagisaka's daughter Yoshiko is a post-break example, having become a near-catatonic mute after witnessing a mikura slaughter her entire class. She gets better, with the help of Kure.
Bullet Time: Used liberally, but it actually seems to be an in-universe power of Karas and the Mikura. Often the surrounding Puny Humans will come out of slow-mo and be shocked by scenes of destruction that have suddenly appeared around them.
Butt Monkey: Kure and Sagisaka, per their occupation as demon investigators in a city that refuses to believe demons exist.
This is especially apparent for Kure, who gets his ticket jacked by a youkai before he even enters Shinjuku, and later, has to hide from a demon attack in a murky toilet stall.
Otoha:You're the only one who calls me a monster... Father!
Car Fu: More like plane- and tank-fu, but the idea is the same. Nue manages a particularly fancy example, using a hail of gunfire to distract Tsuchigumo before ramming her with his motorbike... out of a window halfway up a skyscraper. Unfortunately for him, spiders are very good at climbing.
Cat Girl: This is how the "Will of the City" is manifested.
Comic Book Adaptation: A rare instance where the first American DVD came packed with a small comic book tie-in published by Dark Horse that explained the story's main conflict, as opposed to a tie-in manga.
Surprisingly, the comic was originally published (full-sized) years before the DVD, so is more of a Tie-In Novel than an adaptation.
Gods Need Prayer Badly: The source of the show's central conflict. Youkai require human belief to exist, and so as humanity drifts away from them, the youkai world slowly withers and dies. The two Karas of Shinjuku have different ideas on how to deal with this.
Gorn: The fifth episode dives right into this when robot tentacles burst out of the ground all over Shinjuku and start impaling people and draining them of all their blood. And that's not even getting into the police chief turning into a robot bull and eating people alive in graphic detail.
Grappling-Hook Pistol: Yet another weapon in the typical Karas's arsenal. It can apparently be fired from any part of the body, as well.
Guns Are Worthless: Conventional firearms can, in fact, inflict some damage on Mikura... in much the same way as beestings can inflict damage on an elephant. They're quite useful for temporary distractions, though, which is why Nue bothers to carry his considerable collection of them around.
Nue's are specially designed and fire special bullets. They're still not very effective though.
Heroic Resolve: Otoha's first act on waking up from his coma? Bisect a Mikura.
Hope Spot: Otoha is taking on what amounts to a tank-sized mech covered in spikes. In his Bad Ass Normal form. With just a sword. Tank-Mikura uses a Wave Motion Gun and Otoha tries to block it. Initiate Karas Battle Aura. And then the sword breaks, shards of metal spraying in Otoha's eyes. And he loses an arm. And coughs up blood. But he's still alive. Barely, and not for long.
Humans Are Bastards: The Big Bad wants to wipe the city clean of human life, and for the most part, looks like a jerk because of it. That is, until the end when the city police attempt to fire upon the weakened and non-aggressive youkai, just because they're scared of them. Luckily, there's a Karas around to set them to rights.
We're talking about a guy who's been guarding his city for hundreds of years. And watched the Industrial Revolution rape the tradition, history, and mythology of Japan. The loss of honor and the rise of handguns. Invasion by foreign nations. He doesn't take it well. Eko's way into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, the show just doesn't take the time to expand on it. Sadly.
Kudzu Plot: The primary complaint about the series. It takes more than one viewing to get a really good idea of what's happening.
First episode especially. Despite being really awesome.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: One side-effect of turning someone into a Karas is that they lose their memories of their past life, presumably to eliminate any distractions from their duty. Turns out that if they lose their job, the memories come back.
Light Is Not Good: The main villain is themed around white, shininess, and light. He also has no traces of any morality except in his backstory.
Magic Skirt: Near the end of episode 3, Yurine jumps out of a window of a tall building. We see her falling for a few seconds and, while her skirt flutters a bit, it stays down pretty well. Probably done mostly for the artistic element more than modesty, seeing as she wears full-length pantyhose.
Negated Moment of Awesome: Sagisaka, an aged human, almost doing in the Police Chief turned bull demon with supernatural trinkets and wards, until being chomped to death.
Not So Different: A very subtle, but genius example. The main character and the main villain are exact opposites. The main villain started out as a hero, but became a monster. The main character was a mafia hitman before becoming a hero.
Oedipus Complex: Eko, who sees the city as a father-figure and Yurine as a mother-figure.
One-Winged Angel: Basically everyone who fights. The mikura have their mechanical forms, and even the Karas have their alternate forms—although that's more of a Super Mode than anything else.
Our Vampires Are Different: The Mikura are predators in human guise who feed on the blood of mortals, which is pretty standard for vampires. They're also technosorcerous Transforming Mecha inhabited by spirits from Japanese mythology, which is... less so.
Rule of Cool: The series uses this all the time, especially when it comes to the monsters and transformations.
Scenery Gorn: The lovingly-detailed destruction of Shinjuku is all about this.
Soul Jar: A Karas's Transformation Trinket doubles as this. It's quite a user-friendly design, too - if the amulet is damaged or otherwise disrupted, the soul inside is returned to its original body rather than being destroyed. Not only, that, but the Will of the City can make you a new one if your current one breaks.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The music that plays while Otoha cuts down a gang of guys trying to gun him down is a slow blues. Saxophone and all.
A remix of the main Karas theme, in fact.
Spin to Deflect Stuff: An ability shared by the various Karas (mostly using their remote-controlled weapons), and by the Mikura Kamaitachi (mostly using the various whirling blades fitted across his body).
The Stoic: Yurine, in comparison to her Karas Otoha.
The advent of Homura reveals that most, if not all the Yurines act this way.
Super Speed: Otoha and other Karas can move so fast they can slash demons (who can move so fast that time appears frozen to them) over a dozen times before said demons can react.
This Is Gonna Suck: Tsuchigumo's impressively understated reaction once she realises that the hospital patient she just ate wasn't the Karas's real body.
The Unintelligible: Kamaitachi, who seems to speak like a tape playing backwards. Fortunately, his speech is subbed. In the dubbed version though, he's subbed in Japanese. That's an unfortunate trend with dubbing.
Presumably that's from the original footage. In the dub, he speaks pretty normal, with some heavy editing. Auto tuner maybe?
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Karas can use magic to transform into armored knights, planes, tanks, or back to human. Mikura can use this to become mechanical monsters. Or, more accurately, they can use it to hide as humans.