Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ghost in the Case: Holy Knight

"Lilith, down a forgotten path protected by thorns and beyond the flowers lies a stone monument engraved with the legend of your heritage.  You must find it, then you must decide whether to accept your fate or not."

 Ghost here, Thanks for joining me today and I welcome you to another
Anime is a unique entity in the entertainment world.  There are few things that captivate so many people while simultaneously being so vehemently hated by others as that of anime.  I tend to feel that most of the hatred for anime comes from simple misinformation or ignorance.  There are many folks who say "I don't like anime" with only sampling one show or seeing the people who like anime and not wanting to associate with those people.  One thing that anime "haters" don't understand is that anime isn't just one kind of show there are multitudes of shows that are completely different from each other.  Death Note is completely different from Sailor Moon which is completely different from Cowboy Bebop.  That would be like claiming Survivor, The Bachelor, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and The Real World were all the same thing because they were Reality TV.

That being said, for every excellent piece of anime such as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, there are half a dozen anime that are just OK or terrible and are only there for a true anime fan to appreciate. Today's entry is not exactly one of the greatest ones.  I'll come right out and say it rather than make you wait for the conclusion.  I started this portion of my blog to introduce people to excellent material that you should check out but I can fully see many people not enjoying this one because there are a lot of problems which I'll discuss in a later section.  However it's not a horrendous train wreck by any means.  There is a lot of good potential and some gems hidden within this anime that make it deserving of at least one watch to see what they were trying to do.   That and I have other motives for reviewing this one but I'll get to that later.

The Story
As a family of three are walking through the town, bells chime as a warning.  Before too long the town is on fire as the mother leaves to take care of the attackers.  The father hugs his daughter Lilith and instructs her to leave and be safe.  She climbs into a boat and is dragged away by the sea as her father fails to defeat the attacking swordsmen.  Later we see that Lilith has been taken in by a woman named Camilla who explains that there is a sort of prophecy that she can choose to fulfill this destiny or choose her own path; a destiny where she must conceive a child with a vampire hunter's descendant, then kill both father and child to bathe in their blood thus bringing her line of vampires into power.

A few years later in Japan, a young man named Shinta is waking up late for school.  Getting ready in a hurry he meets his friend Chizuru (who has a crush on Shinta) outside but as the pair walk to school together, they run into Lilith who is now attending Shinta's school.  She asks him to meet her in a sort of chapel where asks him to conceive a child with her.  Obviously freaked out by this random request he informs her that he will not as a baby comes from a union of love and they had only just met.  Determined to follow the plan of her destiny, Lilith returns home and talks to her wolf guardian, Plum about what to do.  Plum informs her that perhaps she is coming across too strong and should be gentle around this one.  The next morning she meets Shinta and Chizuru outside of Shinta's place and  kisses him.  She then pulls Shinta down the road but walks straight into bright sunlight and passes out.

Shinta carries her back to his apartment so that she could be safe and offers to fix her food.  As they talk and eat Lilith keeps getting flashbacks of the love of her father manifested in Shinta's kind nature.  She leaves for the day to think.  In the meantime Chizuru has decided to tell Shinta how she feels but is stopped by Plum's human form.  Plum bites Chizuru and she leaves quickly but notices all the bleeding has suddenly stopped.  Lilith later returns to Shinta's place and asks once more for a child.  Noting her fear, Shinta once again refuses although he has started to fall for her.

Meanwhile at Lilith's house, three men who were in the village when she was little break in to finish what they had started those years ago only to be beaten by Plum.  They regroup and formulate a plan to bring her down and "awaken" Shinta.  Shinta's cat Cammot is with them and runs off.  Cammot begins to play with something Shinta's grandfather had given him.  As he pulls it away from the cat he notices a small gem inside.  Upon gazing at the gem his head begins to hurt and Cammot begins to speak to him and transform into a girl who has taken it upon herself to protect Shinta.  

The men who attacked the first time show back up at Lilith's room and use a silver rope to subdue Plum and take Lilith captive.  Cliff, their apparent leader, keeps her hostage in a nearby chapel with the intention of having Shinta kill her, sending the other two men to retrieve the young man.  Shinta arrives at the chapel to see what they had done to Lilith.  As they force him closer to Lilith holding both his hands and sword, Shinta screams that he doesn't want to kill her resulting in his full power awakening at last.  With a small skirmish, the men leave and Shinta hands his coat to Lilith saying he's glad she's safe.

What's Good and Bad About It?

Have you ever encountered something that has several really good things but a lot of really bad things about it and you're not quite sure what to think about the entire thing so you just stand there going...
That's kind of what Holy Knight does.  At this point I usually talk about what's good about it then talk about what's bad about it in separate sections but Holy Knight needs a different approach.  It's like a double edged sword of good and bad.  For every good thing I could say about it I'd have to follow with something bad about the same topic and vice versa.  So rather than try to divide everything and risk repeating myself I'm going to talk about it all at once.

The animation is quite good.  It's on standard with some of the best anime made in my opinion as it can perfectly portray the weird silliness that anime often has but also can show shadows and dark tones.  Even when bad things are happening on the screen the actual animation of those actions is quite beautiful. That being said this is yet another ecchi like High School of the Dead (how do I keep talking about these??)  For the most part the first episode has a few shots of underwear but nothing too bad.  Then they decide "screw it" in episode 2 and give us multiple boob shots of Lilith for little to no reason as is common with fan-service moments in anime.  So just know that if you plan on watching this you're going to end up seeing that as well which can be a little awkward.

Speaking of awkward.  I applaud when art tries to push boundaries sometimes or try to be different or edgy.  It's nice to see something not so cookie cutter and clean.  However there are certain moments that just get incredibly creepy in this anime.  For Example...
When Plum confronts Chizuru outside of Shinta's room he keeps talking about her body and keeps getting in close and the whole thing is very rapey
And then there's human Cammot who looks about 12ish sitting in a playground with her panties showing often while a grown man keeps taking photographs of her.   I know it's meant to be played off for laughs but that's just INCREDIBLY creepy.

The story as a whole is pretty good.  Yes it's another school anime but in all reality the school is just a backdrop to the actual story and has little to do with that.  It's interesting to see Lilith's struggle between following her set destiny or doing what she actually wants to do.  It's interesting to see the dynamic of Shinta falling for her and still caring for her despite who they both are.  The dynamic of the vampire having a werewolf sort of creature as a bodyguard while the vampire hunter has this cutesy cat girl is fun.  There are a lot of little things here and there that could have made for an incredibly interesting watch.... Why do I say could have been?

Well, this is Holy Knight's greatest sin.  Holy Knight is a 2-episode OVA and not a full series by most anime standards.  As such everything is really rushed and disjointed.  It truly needed to have been at minimum a standard 12-13 episode run where they could have given time to the relationship, explained more things about what's going on, given side stories an actual conclusion, allowed fight scenes to actually happen.  Instead we get a 2 episode run trying to cram everything from a 17 book manga into an hour.  It comes out cluttered and a bit of a mess.  Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Cammot decides that she is going to protect Shinta after starting his awakening process...but then we don't see her anymore.  Plum bites Chizuru and she mentions how she is healing at an abnormal rate and is afraid she's becoming something other than human...yeah that goes absolutely nowhere.  There's a semi mysterious girl named Akira Sakamoto who seemed very interesting as a sort of quiet observer but she doesn't really do anything at least not in the anime.   The fight between the men and Plum happens off screen.  There's some old guy we see for half of a scene who doesn't do diddly squat.  We never get a real explanation of Shinta's powers.  The "fight" between Shinta and the men at the end is down to like two punches and they leave. 

And the creators knew how to make a scene stick and have weight.  The scene where Lilith confronts Shinta for the first time in the chapel is really well done in how forward she is and how awkward that situation would be.  The scene where Lilith is trapped at swordpoint in the chapel at the end is really creepy and well paced; it has an excellent atmosphere that sucked me in to the scene that had absolutely nothing to do with Lilith's toplessness.  They had the talent to create something great but they just didn't have enough episodes to tell a cohesive story and it's a real shame cause there is some excellence buried within that could have been exhibited.

Based on those comments you may be asking yourself why I chose to talk about this particular anime.  Especially when the normal selections for Ghost in the Case are movies and television shows which I feel that almost everyone should be able to enjoy.  Well that's because I want to talk about the English dub...and Anime dubs in general.
Yay for ulterior motives.

Let's Talk About Dubs

If you become an avid anime fan then it won't be long before you run into THESE sort of people.

That's right folks.  Anime fans were among one of the first groups of people to contract the Hipster Disease on a wholesale level or at least the first group I encountered on a large scale.  Just like music hipsters have heard of the band before they got popular and only liked their stuff before they were mainstream, Anime Hipsters knew about the anime before it was out of Japan and only like it in Japanese with English Subtitles (Note: I shall continue to refer to people of this mindset as Hipster Anime fans for the rest of the review).  Now I fully realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and it's good to have differing opinions, but this can be incredibly closed minded.

Dubs, I feel, are an essential part of anime as well as any foreign film or television show finding a new or different audience.  Providing audio in the native tongue of another person makes it far more accessible to that individual.  Obviously it is much easier to understand and become engrossed in a film if you are able to understand everything written and spoken on the screen.  Now here is where I and the Hipster Anime fan differ completely.   The Hipster Anime fan will proclaim that crossing the culture and language barrier is as easy as simply placing text along the bottom of the screen to translate what is written or said.  While this certainly does get the job done it is by no means the most efficient method.  Why? Well I'll dumb down my problem with subs into one simple photo.
BAM and there we have it. You can argue semantics of translation and the type of voice the original Japanese had for a character till you're blue in the face with some slight validity but it all goes down to the fact that film is supposed to SHOW you what happens and not tell you what happens.  The action happening on the screen doesn't stop just because people are talking and you have to look at the bottom of the screen to see what's going on; it keeps flowing as it should.  If I wanted to read about a story and have the action stop for me to be able to read what's going on and take in the scenery I'd pick up a copy of the manga and read that as it would be more effective.  The drawn pictures in manga don't continue to move while you stop to read what they said and you can fully absorb everything that's happening as it's happening.

Contrary to English Subtitles, English Dubs are available for many anime and are a way of keeping you invested and able to watch EVERYTHING on the screen while understanding what is being said.  By doing this, the viewer can stay more invested in what is going on instead of having to half-see what's going on while reading what's being said.  Dubs offer you the same experience that productions of that language provide; giving the impression that you are looking through a window at someone else's world.  It's simply more engaging that way.  That's not to say that anime or foreign film which is only presented with English subtitles are bad.   I watched all of High School of the Dead, Demon King Daimo, and Pandora Hearts (which I plan to cover at some point) with the original Japanese Audio because that's all that was presented at the current time and had a perfectly pleasant experience for the most part.  I just have to set aside time to really pay 100% attention to what's going on as opposed to how I usually watch television.  It's like Pan's Labyrinth.  I'm sure that's a wonderful movie and many people have praised it but the fact that it's English subtitle only has caused me to shy away from it because I don't want to miss the stunning visuals to have to look at the bottom of the friggin screen to read what they are saying.

Dubs often time don't get the respect they deserve because I don't think people sit down and realize the amount of work that has to go into them.  First you have to translate what's being said.  Then you have to modify the actual dialog so that the voice fits the animation happening while keeping true to the intention of the original dialog (if they are a good dub company anyway.)  Then you have to choose a voice actor who can portray the kind of voice that character should have or could potentially have.

Now I fully know there are horror stories out there about dubs.  I'll admit that there are some pretty lackluster ones out there.  There are companies that disregard what was actually being said in the original Japanese, making incredibly stupid localization changes, miscasting voice actors for roles they weren't the best in, or simply booking a famous screen actor and hoping their presence will boost the anime based on star power alone even though the actor can't really voice act.  I have no idea if they are doing this deliberately or not but they do exist.  What I would suggest is that you do a little bit of research.  See what people are saying about a dub and whether it's mindless Hipster garbage or if there has been some terrible decisions made about the anime.  If you think the majority of the voice actors aren't doing a good job then take the time to look at the credits and look up the voice actors.  It may be that this is one of their first projects and they are still getting their feet wet in the trade.  Very few people start out as strong as they finish.  Everyone looks back at their old work and realizes the limitations and inefficiencies they had while doing whatever it is they did and they can see how they've grown since then.  Voice Acting is the same.  Try to keep that in mind if you run across an anime that doesn't sound the best.  If there are many new faces to voice acting then take that into consideration.

It's like watching Classic Doctor Who.  If you had only been been watching the modern series since 2005 then you would be used to a certain caliber of acting and effects.  Going back and watching a classic series episode without taking the limitations of the time into account would result in laughter or general dislike.   For Example - The Silurians
Both of these creatures are the same race and species.  The one on the right is from the modern series which most people are used to.  The one on the left is their original form.  If you had just randomly popped in the episode of their original form you would say that it was horrible but that was their starting point and they only got better since then.  If you pop in an anime and you notice a fresh face... sure they may be rough around the edges and not that splendid like the original Silurian above... but with time they could very well become something quite wonderful given the time.  Look for the qualities in the voice acting that stand out.  Find what makes the voice for that character fit or be unique because you could be listening to a stepping stone towards a future favorite character of yours.

That all being said.....to try to put us back on track slightly.  Holy Knight isn't without it's dub problems.  I can see why people haven't been so keen on this particular dub.  It's not awful by any means as Ive seen much much worse.  The voices associated with these characters sound plausible and effective and do a decent job.  Nothing absolutely outstanding but it gets the job done.  Many of the voice actors in this anime are in their "Freshman or Sophomore Year" as far as their VA career and you can kind of tell it.  There's just a hint of a rough quality to some of the lines which will, more than likely, polish out over their careers.  There are a few lines that are delivered very awkwardly making me wonder why they chose that particular take but nothing so bad that it makes me want to single out any particular moment.  It's not a fantastic dub but it's not all that bad either.


If you are an avid fan of anime and don't mind watching an ecchi then you should give this a try out of sheer curiosity.  I highly doubt it will be anyone's favorite anime but there are enough interesting pieces and personality put into the project that it can be a strange but somewhat enjoyable ride.  It's not the greatest but it'll do.

If you are only a casual anime fan or you haven't really watched any anime then I would probably avoid this one.  It moves way too fast without much explanation and wouldn't do anyone any good if it was one of the only anime they had ever seen.

You may be asking yourself why I talked so much about Voice Actors and Dubs in this review.  You may even be wondering why I chose to cover something that I ultimately decided a general audience probably wouldn't enjoy much.  Well the whole reason I went into that and even watched this anime to begin with was a very personal one.

The male lead of the anime is voiced by none other than one of my best friends and an all over awesome guy, Daman Mills.  I first met Daman on a Super Smash Bros forum in 2007 and we have talked at least weekly ever since.  I knew him back when he was just a Dragonball Z fanboy who liked to do fandubs of Cell on YouTube all the while bugging us all to watch them.  They were very impressive but none of us thought that only eight years later he'd be voice acting in various indie video games and his first anime, Holy Knight.

He's got a real talent and I'm not saying this because he's my friend.   I have critiqued his fandubs and demos from a purely amateur standpoint (obviously) for years and he just keeps getting better and better.  I'm looking forward to the projects he is involved with, a few of them you will probably see on this blog.  Consider checking out this anime if for no other reason than to hear him.  If not look up other projects he has worked on and check out just how versatile he really is.

Holy Knight is rated R (for the pointless boob shots mostly) and is currently available on DVD from rightstuff.com and is streaming for free on Crunchyroll for all members which can be found here.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.

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If you want to see what Daman's been up with with is voice acting you can check out his website or his Professional Facebook Page.
If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

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