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on 29 February 2012
The studio responsible for this unusual series are also the creators of Ergo Proxy, which is the best anime I've ever watched, story and art wise, so I may have been expecting a little too much. Speed Grapher is the story of a photographer who gets involved with investigating a seedy club, when a young girl known as 'The Goddess' kisses him he suddenly develops the ability to make things explode with his camera and sets about freeing the girl and discover what exactly has happened to them.

I watched the first episode online and was rather impressive, the animation was smooth and the story very original and it was interesting to watch as the characters and plot developed. Unfortanutely the animation begins to slip from there on, and that's what stopped me from giving this a fourth star.

The voice acting is in fact very good, each character is portrayed better through their voices than their actual expressions, which is a shame when the first episode was so good. Now, on the fourth disk, the animation feels clumbsy and very amauteur, in fact Oban Star Racers had better flowing scenes and character interaction than Speed Grapher. If they spent less time focusing on the sexual element of the series, then perhaps the animation would be a little better.

But the plot and voice acting does save it, getting across what needs to be said, while the animation tries to keep up. I once read a review that this was like Cowboy Bebop meets Se7en, and it does in fact feel very much like the combination of the two - just not as stylish as Bebop or as clever as Se7en. But it is still an enjoyable anime, though I recommend watching one or two episodes online before making any major decisions to buy this boxset.
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on 16 November 2015
From Gonzo comes a 24 episode anime about a retired war photographer, Saiga, who investigates oddities in government affairs, and comes across a premier 'pleasure club', the Roppongi Club, that caters to every vice of Japan's ruling elite. The main attraction is the young Goddess, in reality the heiress of the powerful Tennozu Group, Kagura, who can bestow a gift that unlocks ultimate desire. When given to Saiga, he acquires the power to destroy with his camera lens, and rescues the girl. Now on the run, they must figure out what their 'power' really is, and foil whatever the true agenda of the Tennozu Group is...

While it may never reach maximum potential, 'Grapher' offers an enjoyable conspiracy thriller with a sci-fi flavour to make for engaging viewing. The animation is decent, as well as adequately dynamic for the action set pieces when Saiga battles others who have 'the gift', but it often feels under-detailed and corner cuts are fairly obvious. The dub voice cast are strong, with Chris Sabat and Monica Rial leading the charge, and the characters, leads for both the heroes and villains, themselves do share a strong camaraderie, while the side villains that populate most of the series are having a ball chewing scenery (including a super stretchy ballet diva, a widow who eats diamonds, a spidery dentist and even a politician-turned-living sound system), which does help carry the show over its weaker points.

From a writing standpoint, 'Grapher' is very much a cut and dry action-thriller anime with a high concept twist, mixing in revenge, politics, science gone awry and the futility of warfare and the rampant consumerism of modern society. Ambitious but the execution, while far from bad, never feels exceptional and is built from extremely familiar elements (including but not limited to a cynical lead with PTSD, a voluptuous police detective girlfriend (complete with oh-so subtle symbolism with her guns), the theatrical gay friend, meek schoolgirls, all power corrupts, villains with a tragic backstory that also tie in with our lead and double crosses up the whazoo from just about everyone) that trap the series in a mostly repetitive monster of the week format, as well as a repetitive arc structure where Kagura is taken, Saiga gets her back, they flee for a time, and then she gets snatched again.

Indeed, the action and monsters almost end up detracting from the social commentary and lower the bar on the whole, not helped by seemingly one note villains who don't start to really develop until the last third of the show. Here is where 'Grapher' does come into its own and crank the emotions and commentary into gear, but it does feel a tad late to the party. It still kept me engaged, however, its fast pacing, characters and desire to stay on point, compared to a lot of really flabby anime, helped overcome its familiarity.
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on 11 September 2015
You wouldn't believe the things some people do, in pursuit of the almighty yen...Here's a story about people with superpowers that reflect their hidden fettishes. Enter Tatsumi Saiga, a photographer who covered wars among other things. It's what he loves doing, so much so that he can't get off without looking into the lens of his camera. After rescuing a young girl named Kagura from a corrupt fettish club attended by the wealthiest politicians and celabrities in Japan, he makes it his mission to protect her with his life. Unfortunately, Kagura's saliva bestows powers on whoever consumes it, and some of these people want her back, including main antagonist Suitengu.

Speed Grapher's story sounds insane, but seeing it in motion is a lot more interesting. It's very much a seinen anime, and it manages to keep a certain level of intrigue from start to finish. We get to see some of the darker sides of humanity when involving wealth and power, and the lengths people are willing to go to achieve it. Saiga isn't your typical role-model protagonist, and yet he already knows that. Despite that, he's very likeable, and puts the safety of Kagura before anything else. The relationship between the two can get a bit uncomfortable at times, but thankfully the show has boundaries it won't cross. The characters in general were really interesting, especially the villains. Suitengu's motives remain mysterious until the very end, and he seems like a very ruthless and vile human being, but there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. easily one of my favourite villains in anime due to how complex he is.

This is another one of Gonzo's better shows in terms of animation. When you compare the quality of the visuals to their other works like Desert Punk or Pumpkin Scissors, you can tell they actually tried here. There aren't any stand-out spectacles I can think of throughout the series, but the animation remains consitantly good throughout. There aren't really any stills or scrolling images, which I'm thankful for.

As with many of Gonzo's other works, this anime's soundtrack can get repetitive, though not to the same extent. I liked the OST for Speed Grapher a lot more, and it really fit the wealthy-city sort of environment the show takes place in.

I had this anime on my list of series to buy, and after finally purchasing and watching it twice, I can safely say it was worth it. It's very fettishy though, so I can understand if it would scare away any potential viewers. It's still nowhere near as bad as the anime of today with their pandering though... Anyway, on the whole, Speed Grapher is very unique among the more adult-oriented anime in how it portrays its characters. I think it's worth checking out.
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on 15 April 2013
Saiga, a war-time photographer of some repute, is investigating a secret club that caters to the elite of society and allows them to indulge in all manner of depravity. Clearly the story explores adult themes including sexual fulfillment, debt and corruption. In terms of exposition there's nothing particularly gratuitous but I am a bit surprised at it's 15 certificate, in my opinion this anime is more suited to a mature audience.

The story does lose a little steam around the half way mark, nevertheless it was strong enough to keep my interest. There are quite a few plot twists that will leave you guessing as to the main antagonist's ulterior motive right until the end. Speaking of which the villains are well written and with a few exceptions, even the heroes are different shades of grey.

In short, it's an intelligent story-driven series with like-able characters and some great dialogue (I watched the English dub); by the end of the second episode I was hooked. It's not perfect by any means, despite that I found it very enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2010
While investigating an exclusive underground club that caters for its members every whim no matter how illegal or perverse, the former war photographer Tatsumi Saiga gets caught up in a strange ritual which grants him a dangerous and powerful power. Saiga then goes on the run with the clubs goddess, the young girl Kagura, the one who granted him his power.

Speed Grapher is an interesting series with some nice animation and a plot which, although it does have a tendency to go over the top here and there, is nonetheless quite interesting. The series setting is wonderfully decadent and although some of sexual and fetish stuff does get a bit close to the mark at the beginning of the series, it soon settles down and even at its worst the series is still a fifteen certificate so it doesn't get overly graphic.

The main problem that I had with the series is that the main characters aren't really all that interesting, with many of the best characters being either minor characters or one episode villains. Other than this though the series was very good and had a decent English dub. While I wouldn't say that this series is one of the best out there it is definitely enjoyable enough and is worth a sold four stars out of five.
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on 20 April 2011
This series had the potential to be excellent, unfortunately some flaws leave it simply being good. It's starts promisingly with a dark grimy atmosphere and at the offset is very compelling. However as the story progresses it get's a lot less compelling with a lot of silly plot twists throughout the mid-section. I found during this part my interest began to wain quite a bit and I could easily have stopped watching it at this point. My wife however was addicted so we continued. The story builds up pace and gets more interesting again in the final third of the series which makes for more enjoyable viewing however tbh i was happy to be finished it.

Aside from the plot problems, the series also suffers from a certain lack of developed characters, with may of the main characters seeming to only exist to serve specific plot devices. By far the most interesting characters here are the bad guys who have more of an interesting back story. The other thing that lets this series down is the poor artwork. While certain sequences look great many others look really badly drawn, badly animated and just plain shoddy. I really think when you're watching an anime thinking "that looks rubbish" it ruins your immersion in the plot.

So what we have here is a good anime with plenty of potential that was not realised. Having checked into this a little more I found that their was no source manga for this. Instead this ended up being the source anime for a subsequent manga. The lesson maybe is not to watch anime with no source manga. If you think this anime is something that you would be interested in I'd recommend giving Darker Than Black a try as this is infinitely better and cheaper too :) Darker Than Black - The Complete Collection [DVD]
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