It’s some time in the future, not too far out, but just far enough for subtle differences to exist; the world has suffered a huge trauma. It would appear that some form of new warfare or some hideous “act of god” has destroyed a large part of Japan. As a result there are a large number of people who are now refugees and naturally there are some new law enforcement agencies around to try and ensure that everyone is “safe”. Of course, these agencies don’t really know what they are doing and in the opening episode of Witchblade, this new agency tries to separate a loving mother from her doting daughter.
Yes, that’s right, the daughter has to dote on the mother as she has no memory of anything prior to the incident that shook the world and wiped her of her memory. She just appeared as a lone survivor in the rubble with a baby in her arms. It doesn’t take long to find out why she was the lone survivor in a disaster that killed all else – she’s more than just a human. Masane Amaha is a Witchblade, which is a form of weapon that changes the very character and power of a human being and transforms them into the perfect weapon. With her daughter, Ryoko, she runs from the law in the first few episodes before she is discovered by Reiji Takayama of Douji Group Industries where she is employed to fight malfunctioned Witchblades.
During all of this a relationship starts to blossom between Masane and a photographer who helps save Ryoko in the earlier episodes of the seires. There’s a lot of death from the word go and some of the deaths in the middle episodes are very poignant as the characters are somewhat believable and it’s easy to connect with them. Then there’s the huge twist mid-way through which reveals something that is only hinted to a few times early on in the series. This clears the path for an emotional rollercoaster for the lead characters and creates just a small bit of tension.
None of this plotline is earth shattering, in fact, in many respects its little more than standard anime fare. With the end of the world just happened, or in this case, an end of a very localised world, law enforcement agencies that are either evil or just corrupt and a lone protagonist who has to save the world. Yes, Witchblade ticks all of the boxes that makes it nothing special. Then there’s the plentiful fanservice. Although tame in comparison to Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, where the lead characters wear next to nothing and then in battle wear even less, there’s still enough of it to keep any young male salivating. Fortunately Witchblade does not take itself too seriously and makes fun out of the lead characters impossibly large breasts when she’s in her “human” form. When she’s battling as the Witchblade, well, there’s jiggling a-plenty as the “enemy” Witchblades also have impossibly large boobs and tiny wastes.
Yet, what makes Witchblade stand out from the crowd are the characters. Yes, aside from the somewhat clichéd plot at times and the amount of fanservice that shouldn’t interest anyone over the age of 16, the characters are what really make this show worthwhile. There’s a fair amount of character development from the entire cast, not just the main three or four but the supporting cast members seem to evolve by the end of the series. The relationship between Mother and Daughter, between man and woman become apparent and watching relationships blossom and die, amongst copious amounts of death, destruction and sci-fi action puts Witchblade above a mere average anime.
The animation is very good on Witchblade, with characters moving at the same time, clear and distinct colours and with the odd nod to some cyberpunk and Bubblegum Crisis references here and there. The backgrounds are all distinct and at no point does the show feel like it’s recycling different backdrops to save money. The characters themselves are all very distinct and clear, even though a lot of the characters wear few clothes and have huge breasts; it’s easy to distinguish one from the other. The supporting cast for the most part look good and individual as well. The dubbing is a little off, with the Ryoko’s voice feeling off compared to the Japanese cast, but that’s by-the-by as the acting from each cast member is of a good quality and there’s only a few lines of dialogue that sound awkward.
Witchblade is a solid show that’s clearly had a lot of love and affection thrown at it; however, it’s let down by the need to over fanservice the characters and by a somewhat clichéd plot. A touch more originality here and there and a sprinkling of maturity rather than aiming at the teenage boy market would really set this show apart from other’s in it’s genre.