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Thursday, 27 January 2011 00:00
CanaanSynaesthesia: a condition where the human body perceives one type of sensory input as another, so sounds become colours, smells becomes sounds, and so on. Canaan is a hired killer who puts her syaneasthesia to good use in her work, but her murky past - and the terrorist organisation that played a part in making her what she is - are about to come back and haunt her and her photographer friend Maria Ozawa...

Maria Ozawa, a photographer, and her boss Minorikawa have just arrived in Shanghai. Minorikawa is a reporter, in the loosest possible sense of the word - a rumour-gatherer for what he calls a "third-rate gossip mag", he's making this trip determined that that he'll find the scoop - the real news scoop - that will break him out of the rut that he's found himself in. When they're caught up in a gun-fight, though, it unexpectedly reunites Maria with Canaan, who she hasn't seen in quite some time, and drags them into the murky world of the people whose experiments with the deadly Ua virus made Canaan what she is today. And Canaan's not the only person who has been granted unusual powers by exposure to the Ua virus...

You learn something new every day. When I first started watching Canaan, I was assuming that synaesthesia was a condition they'd made up to fit the requirements of the story - but no, it is a genuine medical condition that works more-or-less as portrayed in the series. Wikipedia has a fairly thorough article on the subject that makes for some very interesting reading, if you're curious. But don't get caught up in that too much, as it's not the main focus of the series.

That honour falls to events in a remote Asian village, wiped out in a day under mysterious circumstances and from where there are very few survivors. Canaan is one of them, and there are others we meet over the course of the series - and the one thing they have in common in finding out what happened to their village that day, and why. Enter Alphard, perhaps Canaan's greatest rival and a woman whose connections with various terrorist groups make her a very dangerous person to know (although not, perhaps, as dangerous as her sidekick and "little sister" Liang Xi, but that's another story). The history between Canaan and Alphard goes back a long way, ultimately to a man named Siam with whom they both were close at different times. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and it seems that Alphard was that woman. She also played a role in what happened to the "ghost village" that is explored as the series goes on.

The series is one-half action flick, with impressive gunfights and high-action fight scenes; and one-half mystery, as a growing band of people gather around Canaan and Maria in their quest to learn the truth of their pasts. Both sides are equally enjoyable to watch, and they're well-balanced against each other, too - sometimes when a series tries to have it both ways like this, you end up wishing that one aspect could be ditched and the other given more prominence, but that was a feeling I never had when watching Canaan, and that's no small achievement.

The characters are also a large part of the appeal - Maria is young and (comparatively) innocent, Canaan outwardly emotionless and restrained; comedy sidekick Yun Yun, another survivor of the ghost village, is genuinely funny while Liang Xi is right up at the top of the fruitloop scale with people like Escaflowne's Dilandau. They're an eclectic mix, many of them also coming with abilities gained through their exposure to the Ua virus, and each has a unique role to play as the story unfolds, with perhaps only one or two being borderline disposable.

Put them all together, and you get a cast of interesting and likeable characters, solving a plausible mystery, and doing it in a way that's sinply great fun to watch. I don't know about you, but for me that sounds like just the sort of thing that I watch anime to see. It's not perfect, and it won't be to everyone's taste - the stoyline's maybe a little too predictable, for a start - but it's still pretty damned good. Worth checking out.

There are region-restrictions in place on Anime Network's streams of this series, although they can be worked around if you're so inclined - in which case, Google is your friend.


Rating - ***