Yukari TamuraMitsuki SaigaIkue OhtaniHalko Momoi
The SoulTaker
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2001
Director: Akiyuki Simbo
Writer: Mayori Sekijima
Actor: Mitsuki Saiga, Akiko Hiramatsu, Halko Momoi, Ikue Ohtani, Masashi Ebara, Masaya Onosaka, Michiko Neya, Yukari Tamura
Keywords: Nurse Witch Komugi, anime, SF, incest
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 13 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=288
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 29 November 2017
I watched this as preparation for Nurse Witch Komugi. No idea if the latter is any good or not, but it's a parody of this and so I decided to do some homework. The SoulTaker (13 episodes, 2001) was a serious dramatic show, which for some reason spawned a wacky parody spin-off called Nurse Witch Komugi (8 OVAs in 2002-4 and 12 TV episodes in 2016). Not to be confused with Soul Eater.
Subjective plot summary follows. It's a semi-digested lump of cool stuff thrown at the viewer. The show isn't a big fan of explanations, so it's a bit of an impressionistic experience. It's not that great, to be honest. It's okay.
More detailed plot summary follows. Kyousuke is a boy who was once stabbed to death by his mother, but he's okay now. He's looking for his twin sister, Runa, but instead he keeps finding fragments of her soul, called Flickers, with whom he has a psychic link. His enemies include a hospital and the Kirihara corporation. There's lots of fighting and a big focus on family, including brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and grandfathers. We'll meet all of those. Some of them are a bit messed up. It's all a bit of a mess, really, but there will eventually be an incest angle if you stick with it.
I don't mind the show's storyline, but it seems clear that we're meant to absorb it by osmosis. The first few episodes are just mental. Cool violence happens, with explosions, and you have a choice! Do you: (a) rewind and try to work out what was supposed to be happening, or (b) just go with the flow and assume it'll all make sense eventually? Stuff blows up! Why? You'll wait, you'll wait... aha, apparently a killer satellite had locked on. Where did the mecha come from? Mecha are quite big, so they don't normally pop out of nowhere unannounced. (It's not even a mecha series, so they immediately disappear again.) After being told that someone is a mutant, they turn into a superhuman monster.
The only thing that's completely unambiguous is that Kyousuke wants to save Misaki. I approve. Kyousuke seems nice. Even if little else is clear in this story, at least we always know where we are with the hero's motivation.
Things settle down after a few episodes, though. By that point, we've worked out enough not to be too confused. The show turns into a grand guignol family drama, but with moon bases, aliens, zombie nurses, ultra-violence and the question of whether or not you can resurrect the dead. In addition, though, there's also Komugi. In what's otherwise a brooding, massively stylish exercise in Being Very Serious, we also have a wacky mutant nurse girl with a voice like a squawky anime duck. That's Komugi. She's silly, but she's also fun and it makes sense to me that she's the one who got that parody spin-off.
The art's the most distinctive thing about the show. They create lots of semi-abstract images, often making heavy use of big black shadows. My first thought was to compare this to Mike Mignola, but then a minute later the show's deliberately flat colour palette was making me think of Adrian Salmon. Someone should send him this anime and see what he thinks. It's bold. Sometimes it goes into black-and-white, or just uses one or two colours for the entire screen. You can't always see at a glance what's going on. Personally I liked it, though. You can't say it's not going for its artistic choices.
I wouldn't really recommend this, to be honest. I don't think it ever managed to be good. It's different and sometimes interesting to study, but the story's a jumble of elements that manage to be grittily intense and wacky at the same time. Imagine a normal anime that got killed, chopped up and then broadcast. That's this show. Komugi stops it from being po-faced, though. Sometimes it uses Christian iconography. Occasionally it's sexually charged, although the art style stops it from being sexy. There's a building with Lovecraftian eyes growing up its walls. It has Star Wars lightsabres, complete with lightsabre noises. I don't think there's anything actually wrong with it, though, underneath, and it's perfectly watchable if you're prepared to put the work in.