Writing about Speed Grapher is like writing an art history term paper...without the three page bibliography. The series is a deep, emotionally complex piece that doesn’t quite reach the level of awe and beauty it should because nobody seemed to give two Haruhis about the animation process.
Speed Grapher is the story of photojournalist Tatsumi Saiga that’s set in a world where the rich get richer and the poor are screwed. Obsessed with his work, Saiga has difficulty finding subjects that move him artistically. One night, he infiltrates a secret society and is blessed by the “Goddess” Kagura, granting him his deepest desire: the power to blow things up with a camera.
(Insert obvious Utena reference here)
Saiga decides to free Kagura, and the two go on the run from the Tennouzu group, a high-powered mafia taking over the economic world. Sin is in. Nothing is pure anymore, except for the love between Saiga and Kagura. It’s not a romantic love, but a mature and true caring for another human being.
The story tends to move slowly, but where Speed Grapher really shines is in the character development. Every character, good or bad, has imperfections and a past that helps you relate to them. It’s hard to hate the villains when you feel for them. Their depth is what makes this anime compelling.
Sadly, the animation itself prevents it from reaching the level where this piece should be at. Speed Grapher has a bit of a Cowboy Bebop style to the art. There is plenty of attention paid to the backgrounds and objects, but the character animation is so skimpy that it’s distracting. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this from Gonzo either. More attention was paid to wafting cigarette smoke than the human figure! How can a series about a photographer not be cinematic?!
And what’s up with the dub? Do you really need to add “s***” and “f***” to every other sentence? It’s not necessary. Although the line, “Yes, I’ll be needing you to get me another car immediately. Preferably one that can’t be blown up by a f***ing camera!” is pretty funny. The voice acting is far from stellar. We’ve seen better from these guys, and expected more.
Speed Grapher is for someone who demands depth, but has the patience to tolerate poor artwork. If you’re that kind of person, then this anime is definitely worth it. There’s something deep, powerful, and moving about this series...but without that cinematic beauty, it just doesn’t reach its full potential.
-- Courtney Kraft