Review: Supernatural – The Anime Series / Cert: 15 / Director: Atsuko Ishizuka, Shigeyuki Miya / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles / Release Date: May 27th
What with a multitude of novels, comics and, oh yes, eight seasons of the live-action show already done and dusted, you might be forgiven for having had enough of the Winchester boys, Dean and Sam, who hunt demons and assorted bogeymen across the length and breadth of America. But if you're hungry for more, then how about a cartoon version from masters of Japanese anime, Madhouse?
And why not? Supernatural: The Anime Series basically zips through the story arcs of the first two seasons, cutting the fat out of the old material and throwing in enough original episodes, new slants and fresh supporting characters to keep it interesting even for those of you who know every curl of Dean's upper lip off by heart. Been dying for some more background info on the Winchester family? Well, look no further – there's an episode in which John Winchester goes on a solo adventure, and we also get to see Sam meeting his ill-fated girlfriend Jessica at Stanford. Meanwhile, the cases new to this series include one in which Dean becomes haunted by a Japanese poverty god in the shape of a little old man who perches on his shoulder during a trip to Vegas, and another about a ghost Chevy Impala.
Talking of that all-important third star of the show, the animators get their priorities right and ensure that it's beautifully and faithfully rendered in every frame. Elsewhere, the look is angular, thickly shadowed and moody, with the screen frequently blocked in a single dominant colour. It's not the most lovingly detailed of anime styles, but it's effective, and the team pull out the stops for the finale showdown, all pools of moonlight, rotting tombstones and rippling dust coats. And there's grue, plenty of it – spurts of gore, twisted bodies and gooey creature transformations. So altogether this is an edgier Dean and Sam than any we've seen before, even if their modus operandi hasn't changed very much – they still go about purifying everything that moves and running through more fire and salt than an army of barbecue chefs.
To ensure extra authenticity, leads Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have been strong-armed – that's the impression they give – into presenting short intros to each episode (a bit embarrassing, but actually quite helpful in keeping track of which are new and which aren't). In addition, Padalecki voice acts throughout, while Ackles lends his oily vibrato to the two-parter, All Hell Breaks Loose. There's also a decent bunch of special features, among them a chat with Padalecki, where the interviewer makes the mistake of asking him whether there are any particular anime or manga titles he likes: “Uh, I don't necessarily know of any particular titles...” Oh well, never mind. But hey, maybe they should try asking Ackles the same question? “No, I'm not as familiar with it as I'd like to be...” Agh!
Extras: Intros with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles / Interview with directors / Interviews with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles / Interviews with Japanese voice actors / Trailers / The Making of Supernatural, Parts 1 & 2