Friday, December 6, 2002

Soul Taker, The

Genre: Cyber Punk, Surreal Action
Parental Guidance Recommended
2001 Tatsunoko Productions / WOWOW / Akiyuki Shinbou

The Soul Taker DVD and Items
Cover Description:
Sometime in the not too distant future ... a powerful corporation, The Kirihara Group, has gained control over most of the world. A young boy finds his is becoming something else. Something evil. Something dangerous.

Kyosuke's normal life shatters with the knife's sharp entry into his heart. Why did mom do it? As Kyosuke recovers, his body reveals a dangerous secret... a secret proving his past is a lie... Kyosuke searches for Runa, the sister he never knew, and the truth about his ability to transform into the powerful Soul Taker!! But, Kirihara Heavy Industries and mutants from the mysterious hospital will prevent Kyosuke from learning anything with as much violence as possible!

(13 episodes)

Heavy sauces are for bland food... >>> by skysenshi

Picture this: You're in desperate need of a nice long weekend because you've been slaving away in front of JavaScripts, source codes, data flow diagrams, process flow charts and all other things that require that you have an extremely intimate relationship with your PC. You take hold of the first anime on top of your pile and proceed to plop it into the DVD player with much anticipation. Ah! My mind could take a good rest, you say to yourself. And then you see.

You blink. Twice. You rub your eyes over and over again to make sure that you haven't taken something illegal like Mary Jane or X. You think to yourself, "Have I been overworked to the point of hallucination or is this anime really intended to make me feel like a total moron?"

This is basically how Soul Taker struck me. And if I'm not mistaken, judging from the outflow of cuss words coming from my brother's suddenly foul mouth, this is how Soul Taker struck my brother too. Admittedly, no sooner had the opening theme began playing, I had found myself drowning with excitement over how everything looked. The artwork was fantastic! The animation was fluid. There was nothing that could have stopped me from drooling over Soul Taker's production values. The opening song reeks of innovation and creativity, while the ending song, an English ballad with wonderfully soothing accompaniment, comes in total contrast with the overall dark atmosphere of the series.

Despite the quality of the production values, I had found it difficult to finish Soul Taker within the two-week deadline allotted me. It was that my awe at the beautiful visuals had gone cold in a matter of minutes, when I realized that I wouldn't see much of the art anyway. The exquisite artwork was doomed to be overshadowed by excessive abstraction that would last till the 13th episode. If you thought Serial Experiments Lain overdid it with the nauseatingly redundant visual effects, then you haven't seen Soul Taker. This is Evangelion plus Lain, pieced together by a hopelessly wasted video editor. A deadly combination that almost threw me into permanent lethargy.

The story is okay. It starts off with Kyosuke being pulled into an endless abyss of puzzles teeming with angst and identity crisis issues. First he is stabbed by his mother and then he finds out that he has a long lost sister that he has never even met. In the middle of the series, he finds out that he has more long lost relatives that are kooky enough to make him wonder if lunacy does indeed run in his veins. Yes, the story of Soul Taker revolves around this one big happily psychotic family whose members run around trying to kill each other. Oh, of course, Kyosuke has his share of sidekicks who are more than willing to help him analyze his situation. There's the funny comic relief Komugi Nakahara, and the mysterious Shiro Mibu, who unfortunately has his own family problems as well.

The plot can be confusing, if you aren't in the right frame of mind. Artists, poets, surrealists and deep thinkers would perhaps love dissecting this work to pieces. They would probably not find anything wrong with Kyosuke suddenly being able to transform into mecha; or how those extra characters just appear out of the blue, wasting precious airtime over irrelevant matters that only serve to make the story seem more confusing than it already is. Then again, overanalysis may possibly expose Soul Taker for what it really is: a ludicrous attempt at profundity hidden in layers and layers of unidentifiable dressing. Surprisingly, though, the plot was able to auspiciously pull itself together in the last three episodes — when Kyosuke successfully uncovers the secret behind his family's psychotic behavior — turning the pretense of depth and substance into reality. But still...13 episodes? I wouldn't have minded so much if it were only a 3-episode OAV or a movie.

In fairness, there are a lot of people that titles like these cater to. I notice that many of the reviewers that gave this a positive rating are Westerners. The few reviewers whom I know did not appreciate Soul Taker are all from the East, or at least from the Asia Pacific region — yours truly included. Perhaps there's something that the Westerners that we Easterners are not seeing? I'd probably have to leave that for the alternate reviewer to judge — that is, if anyone in Okashi cares enough to write an alternate opinion in defense of Soul Taker.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 6; Characters 5; Sounds 8

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