These days it’s common place to see American comic book properties adapted into anime. DC did it with Batman in conjunction with the release of the Dark Knight, and recently Marvel has jumped on the bandwagon, licensing out its characters to Japanese anime producer Madhouse. However looking back, it might strike some as odd that the trend started with the independent publisher Top Cow. Partnering with Gonzo, the two companies sought to give a fresh spin on one of its longest running and fan favorite titles, Witchblade.
Witchblade is not a stranger to the small screen. An ill conceived live action series ran briefly that, given the limitations of television at the time, stripped the franchise of much of its mythology and attempted to reasonably ground the stories. Given its mix of fantasy, action, and fanservice, it was only natural that an anime would provide a more fitting structure to properly convey the franchise to those both familiar and unfamiliar with the character.
Strangely enough, the anime opts to discard the plot of the original comic, jumping forward in the future to add a unique flavor to the franchise. The series opens in a post apocalyptic Japan. The city of Tokyo has been hit hardest as a result of a massive earthquake and lies in ruins. Found unconscious amidst the ruble is Masane Amaha, a busty young woman without any memories to speak of. Even more curious is the fact that she is virtually unscathed and holding a baby which she assumes to be hers. Jumping ahead six years later, Masane and her daughter, Rihoko, return to the city to start a new life.
During an incident in which Masane finds herself attacked by a human/ machine hybrid, she undergoes an extreme transformation that see’s her gain an urge for violence and accompanying superpowers at the cost of her clothes. She dispatches the creature and promptly returns home, having only hazy recollections of what transpired. Before long, Masane and Rihoko become embroiled in a conflict with a mysterious corporation seeking to capture Masane and study the Witchblade. The early portion of the series plays to a monster of the week theme, pitting Masane against a slew of cloned blade wielders. The middle portion is where the series begins divulging answers to the mysteries behind the quake and Masane’s identity while calling into question her relationship with Rihoko.
The animation supplied by Studio Gonzo and fares better than their usual efforts. Considering this was a high profile work, the animation quality falls on the level of what is to be expected. The character designs are as busty as one would expect and are complimentary enough to the source material that diehard fans shouldn’t mind.
Funimation made the smart decision to port over the original extras from the DVD releases here. There are a number of features to sort through that run a combined total of over 3 hours. Though these focus more on the comic book end of things, these are excellent additions and hopefully Marvel is taking notes for when their properties are released.
Overall, Witchblade is a successful adaptation/ reimagining of the franchise. Much like the comic, it couples sex and violence with a surprisingly touching and often times heartbreaking story to make for an engaging series that still stands out among comic book to anime adaptations.