Marc Silvestri’sWitchblade has carved out a nice niche for itself in the comic industry, making its introduction in 1995 and still running today. Though its typical for a Japanese comic, or manga to be given the animated treatment after proving its popularity, until recently it was less so for an American property to find itself transformed into an anime. However, given the series propensity for sex and violence, it was only a matter of time before it made the transition from print to screen. Though recent efforts such as Batman: Gotham Knight have yielded mixed results, and the as of yet unreleased Iron Man and Wolverine projects have yet to be judged, Witchblade was ahead of the pack, giving fans a captivating story that was as heart wrenching as it was action packed, kicking off a strong start to Superheroes in anime.
In a departure from the original comic, Witchblade focuses on a different cast of characters in a time period that may or may not be recognized as cannon to the series. In a dystopian future, a massive earthquake has leveled Tokyo leaving the young woman Masane Amaha, without any recollection of her past life including how she came to be holding a baby in her arms. Adopting the child as her own, she travels from city to city, attempting to create a new life them.
The two display a unique relationship, with Masane being closer to an immature child than her daughter Rihoko, who acts in motherly fashion, cooking and cleaning and carrying out the daily duties that are normally associated with a parent.
Through various events, Masane finds herself imprisoned and Rihoko taken from her, she is attacked by a monstrous being known as an X-Con. Faced with the possibility of death, an inner personality takes hold of her, eliciting a transformation into a battle hungry warrior. After losing consciousness, she awakens with little memory of the previous events. Adding to her confusion, she finds herself being pursued by the Douji Corporation, a mysterious company with ties to the original event that devastated Tokyo. Among their many experiments, included are the X-Cons as well as imperfect clones of the Witchblade.
Over the course of the series, Masane is confronted by the various clones, overtime witnessing that every bearer of the Witchblade is destined to die once they have exhausted its power. Having accepted her fate, Masane uses the Witchblade to forge a proper future for her daughter.
Studio Gonzo is responsible for the handling the production of the show, doing so with rather surprising results. The studio has had its fair share of misses over the years, shifting the focus from story to fanservice, with Dragonaut and Strike Witches being the most recent examples. While Witchblade features an abundance of scantily clad women battling against each other, they do so in the confines of an enthralling story. There are quite a bit of twists and turns that will keep the audience focused on more than just the cleavage decorating the screen.
That is not to say the show is perfect package by any stretch of the imagination. At times, the fanservice is taken to obnoxious levels, at times threatening to overshadow the story. There is also the animation which varies in quality from episode to episode. For the most part it is consistent, but this being an action based show, the fight sequences could have used better choreography, with most of them being too brief to leave an impact on the viewer.
Extra features are beefier than most would expect from an anime release, with a few featurettes focusing on the creation the character and the history of the comic studio as the audience is taken on a tour of the studio with Marc Silvestri. Also included are outtakes from the tours, Japanese cast interviews, as well as the usual textless openings and closings. When taken as a whole, the bonus of features clock in at over three hours in length.
When take on a whole, Witchblade is a massively entertaining series. True, it contains a few of Gonzo’s familiar fallings that have plagued the studio recently; the positives far outweigh the negatives. While it won’t ever be considered high art, the series delivers an entertaining mix of character drama, action, and sex appeal that is reminiscent of the original work.