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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Supernatural: The Animation - Japanese Style

I like the television show Supernatural. I like it a lot. It has remained one of my all time favorite programs, and I bet most of you have no clue as to what I am talking about.

It's the Hardy Boys sleeping with the X-Files and barfing out the Exorcist on crack.

For those of you not with it, the plot revolves around brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, two very good looking buggers who basically inherit the family business of hunting. Not animals, but rather ghosts, demons, ghouls, shape-shifters, reapers, hellhounds, Gods, Djinn, rakshasha, things that go bump in the night from every culture that has one, and of course werewolves and vampires - but the type that are supposed to scare the crap out of you rather than make you horny. Twilight is crap. The horror in Twilight is that it's popular.

If you like horror, with a decent plot, then Supernatural is the show for you. Hell... the only movie that ever creeped me out was Exorcist III. No book has ever done that - and I've read Clive Barker and Stephen King. And yet Supernatural will scare the bejabbers out of nine times out of 10.

So... what's so Japanese about it? Well, Supernatural is popular in Japan. So popular, in fact, that back in 2010, Japan Warner Bros. (I assume it's the same American Warner Brothers - Wakko, Yakko and Dot - except this one covers interests in Japan), announced that famed Japanese anime studio Madhouse would be performing the animation chores and that it would be (and is) the world's first animated project from a Japanese company based on a popular overseas drama series.

Released in 2011 and entitled Supernatural: The Animation (スーパーナチュラル・ザ・アニメーション), the first season consisting of 22 episodes was co-directed by Miya Shigeyuki (surname first) and Isizuka Atsuko (surname first), with the series creator Eric Kripke credited as project creator. Madhouse co-founder Maruyama Masao (surname first) is the executive producer, with Takayama Naoya (surname first) supervising the scripts and Yoshimatsu Takahiro (surname first) designing the characters.

The characters look like Sam and Dean, but pretty much everyone else who might be familiar to regular series watchers was given a fresh Japanmimation look.... minus the typical Asian wide eyes.

Actors Uchida Yuuya and Touchi Hiroki (both surnames first) provide the Japanese voices for Sam and Dean, but US. actor on Supernatural Jared Padalecki reprises his role of Sam in the English dub with Andrew Farrar doing all but the last two episodes as Dean. These last two episodes are done by the original US Supernatural actor, Jensen Ackles. Yay.
Jensen Ackles aka Dean (left)  and Jared Padalecki aka Sam (right).

The 22 episodes are available on DVD and Blue-ray.

Now... what is cool about this series is that it covers the first two years of the actual Supernatural television show while providing new content flushing out the characters a bit - adding to the mythos, if you will, making it a must own for the series Supernatural fan - like me. It also expands on the secondary characters a bit, like their father, Bobby and Yellow Eyes, the Demon who Sam and Dean's mother 20 years earlier.

As well, the series also looks back into their past - before the show began - with Sam's university relationship with Jessica - before she ended up burned like their mother by the same Demon.

If you can read Japanese, here's a list of all the episodes and synopsis, though the titles are thankfully presented in English - HERE.

It's funny... last night while I was watching a few of the 22-minute episodes, I was wondering if there was going to be anything with a Japanese flavor. There was one such instance in the live-action show when Sam and Dean where on a Japanese television program called Nutcracker... it is exactly what it sounds like..... and then... in episode #9 entitled "The Spirit Of Vegas" there was my Japan reference.

This involved a Japanese Bad Luck God.

Having been married in Las Vegas (aka Lost Wages), I know all about luck - both good and bad.

Well, in this episode, Sam and Dean have good luck, bad luck and worse luck.

The plot revolves around the Winchester brothers visiting Las Vegas to win some cash at the casinos. It's Dean's bad luck that after winning a ton of cash that he also ends up with an unlucky Japanese coin - it looked exactly like a 5-yen coin, complete with square hole in the middle. That's when I knew this would be a Japanese-related spoof.

Unlike the other episodes that were dark and creepy, this one was light and fluffy. Nine times out of 10, eh.

Anyhow, attached to the unlucky coin is a Japanese Bad Luck God, who sits on the right shoulder of Dean, invisible to all but him. There's fun and mayhem as he tries to get rid of the coin only to have it come back to him in one bizarre turn of events after another. The Bad Luck God remains with him until the coin is stolen by someone who deserves to die.
The Japanese Bad Luck God sits on the right shoulder of a beat-up Dean Winchester.

That's as far as I got in the series, and am hoping there will be more revelations and cool stories.  All I can say so far is... I recommend this animation collection to fans of the series, and if you haven't given the series a try, you should. I'm also hoping there will be a second series of Supernatural The Animation, as the art is sharp, the stories are decent and kept me guessing (mostly), though I will state that the scripts were originally written in Japanese and translated to English for the American actors to dub over. There is some stilted translation work... and, I am almost 100 per cent positive that a character in one of the episodes  - a Black woman named Risa should probably have been translated to Lisa.  You'd think one of the actors saying the words would have questioned it.

Andrew Joseph

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