Speed Grapher: Vol. 3
Tatsumi Saiga was an acclaimed war photographer back in the Economic Bubble War. It was a war that further deepened the divide between the haves and have nots, the rich got richer, and the poor became doormats. Tokyo is the city where the rich walk over the poor with impunity, and it's Tokyo where Saiga now practices his trade, no longer able to leave the country. But he's suited to this decadent capital, a man who can only be aroused when he has his camera in hand. He works as a freelance photographer, when he isn't being the plaything of Detective Ginza, a woman who needs a gun in her hand to get sexual pleasure. You'd think that they would be perfectly suited to each other, but Saiga wants more, and his pursuit of a killer story leads him into the depraved underworld, a secret club under Roppongi. It's here where he encounters a teenaged goddess named Kagura; it's here where he obtains an amazing new power. Now when he looks through the lens of his camera and clicks the shutter, whatever he snaps explodes.
Four more corrupt episodes are here on this MVM disc.
9. Into The Bath
Dr Ryogoku reckons it will be a week before the DNA analysis is complete, which means that Saiga and Kagura have to stay on the run for at least that long. They need somewhere to run to, which is when Kagura comes up with a clue, a photograph she has of her mother with a mystery man. It's a man who could very well be her father, so they decide to go to where the photograph was sent from, Nagano. It's a trail that leads them to an abandoned military genetic research facility. Meanwhile back in Tokyo, Ginza is on the trail of Saiga, surprised at the strength of her feelings for him. She's even willing to trade a petty criminal for information from the Tennozu group. It's just a shame that he's worthless.
10. Suitengu Cometh
Ginza gets her break by keeping an eye on Suitengu. For every attempt to recapture Kagura has failed, and when Tsujido calls again, claiming to have located the two fugitives, Suitengu decides to take matters into his own hands and retrieve Kagura personally. It turns out that Suitengu does have abilities of his own, only no one has seen them and lived. But where Suitengu leads, Ginza follows, and she makes a deal with Shinsen Tennozu that she will give back Kagura if she can have Saiga. She isn't too pleased at the idea of Saiga running around with a teenaged girl. Saiga and Kagura arrive at the genetic research lab, hoping to find some clue as to what is happening to them both, but Suitengu and Ginza aren't too far behind.
11. Mother Critical
It was fun while it lasted, but now Kagura's back with her mother, and Saiga is receiving the tender ministrations of Ginza. It isn't long before Kagura is on the receiving end of her mother's ire, and it's only Suitengu who comes to her rescue. Of course he wants her out of the way, being re-educated in the offshore facility, while he lays some romance on Shinsen, speeding up his timetable to take control of the Tennozu group. Suitengu's clientele are getting impatient as well, waiting for the club to reopen. They have to make do with second-rate orgies while they wait. But Suitengu's plans are coming to fruition.
12. Left Hand Lullaby
Kagura's not all that eager to lose that independent streak, and she takes advantage of a perverted scientist and blackmails him into releasing her. The problem is that she has only one place to go, back home to mother. Tennozu has just lost its major backer, and that's one reason for Shinsen to move her wedding forward. Suitengu's about to hit the jackpot, but then Kagura shows up. At the same time, Suitengu has his goons start tying up loose ends, which means erasing Saiga from the equation. A spider mutant shows up at Ginza's flat, only to find that Saiga isn't there, just an irate woman with a couple of big guns.
Speed Grapher gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it's par for the course for anime on DVD. You have your NTSC-PAL conversion issues, although not too many of them, the image is clear and sharp throughout, and the animation is smooth and detailed. It's a Gonzo product, so expect smart looking characters, a blending of traditional 2D and 3D CGI, and plenty of bang for your buck. In fact the characters in Speed Grapher are a little edgier than usual for Gonzo, certainly suiting the decadent nature of the story, and it seems the animators went to dominatrix school for some of the get ups.
Audio-wise, you have the option of DD 5.1 English, and DD 2.0 Japanese, along with translated subtitles and a signs only track. I sampled the English, and it's pretty much like every other Funimation dub, and yes, Monica Rial is in it. You can expect a little added profanity if you want to partake of that surround sound option, but as usual I opted for the Japanese audio, and had no complaints, apart from a couple of dubious English accents, and the clichéd effeminate guy. The biggest annoyance is the absence of the original Duran Duran theme tune.
We have the usual anime presentation, animated menus, jacket picture, and multi-angle credit sequences. It does mean that each episode has two titles, one granted by Funimation and the title translated from the original Japanese. I've used the English episode titles to avoid confusion.
On the disc, you'll find the textless credits, trailers for Ergo Proxy and Elemental Gelade, and a 60-second slideshow art gallery.
The big extra is 8 minutes of Character Cast Auditions, presented by ADR director Christopher Bevins.
Speed Grapher had something of an early wobble in my opinion in volume 2, when it threatened to become a freak of the week show. Fortunately volume 3 puts that premature fear to rest, as it takes the story in a completely different direction, and starts painting in the back-story, as well as the bigger picture. We now understand more about how this world works, and just how high up the food chain the jostling for position goes. This third volume also concentrates more on Shinsen Tennozu, the scheming matriarch at the heart of the story, and relates to us just why she is the way she is, and how she got to be at the top of the social pecking order in Tokyo. Surprisingly, the episodes in this volume also go some way in giving her a sympathetic side, and while you may, indeed ought to despise her for the way she treats Kagura, I found myself feeling sorry for her at certain points, as it transpired that she is no less a victim of circumstance than her daughter.
It turns out that Shinsen was a wannabe idol, who was plucked from obscurity by a woman named Gotokuji, and thrust into the limelight of public adulation. However, the raw material needed a little finessing, which is where Kazuki Odawara came in, a genetic engineer who would tweak her genes to make her more alluring. As fate would have it, Shinsen fell for Kazuki, which sowed the seeds of betrayal between her and her mentor, yet when it came to her dreams of a future, it turned out that she was betrayed in turn, leaving her the bitter woman that she is. It's no wonder that she took out her frustrations on the daughter that resulted from that relationship. The tragic thing as Kagura and Saiga discover, was that there was no betrayal at all. Instead it turns out that Kazuki was involved in the secret genetic research that resulted in the Euphorians and Kagura's blessings, and indeed he apparently didn't survive because of it.
Around this time in the series, it also becomes clear just how determined Suitengu is to gain power at any cost, as we see the moves that he makes to curry favour among the rich and powerful, as well as the secret research that he is involved in. More prominent is the effort he is putting into Shinsen, needing the Tennozu group as a power-base, he's intent on marrying her, and he'll stop at nothing to make that happen. It's here that Shinsen's hatred for her offspring comes back to haunt her, as Kagura tries desperately to warn her of Suitengu's perfidy, but Shinsen simply refuses to heed her daughter's warning.
You're probably wondering where Saiga is during all this mayhem. The poor guy is tied up, quite literally, as Ginza decides that they have a lot of catching up to do. What's surprising is the revelation in Ginza's character, that she needs Saiga so badly. It seemed at first that the two were simply using each other to scratch an itch, with Ginza taking pleasure in being the dominant one in their sex games, but as soon as Saiga vanished, we learn that Ginza really needs him, and acts quite irrationally in her pursuit of him. She even develops quite a jealousy of Kagura, taking pleasure in tricking her and betraying her confidence, when Kagura claims that she has a connection with Saiga.
The depravity continues in Speed Grapher, with sex and violence, orgies, decadence all over, and once again, even the antiheroes in this show aren't immune, with Saiga visibly having to resist temptation around Kagura. It has the conspiracies and machinations down pat, and in that respect is developing like a typical Gonzo story. However, this volume has added emphasis on characterisation, and that makes this show interesting indeed. Onwards to volume 4!