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The camera never dies
A UK region 2 DVD review of SPEED GRAPHER, VOL. 2 by Slarek
 

It goes without saying that there's little point in watching Volume 2 of Kunihisa Sugishima's 2005 anime series Speed Grapher unless you've seen Volume 1. I'd go further and suggest you probably shouldn't even read this review unless you've seen Volume 1 as there are inevitably going to be some spoilers, as well as some plot and terminology confusion for newcomers. If you don't care or have the sort of short term memory that will wipe all that follows before you get to the DVD then you'd still do well to read the review of Volume 1 first, as it lays out the main characters and plot, as well as the main themes and style of the series that I'm not going to repeat here. You can read the review of Speed Grapher, Volume 1 by clicking here.

Volume 2 consists of episodes 5 to 8 and picks up where the first disc left off, with Saiga on the run with Kagura, whom he freed from her skyscraper home/prison despite the best efforts of Suitengu, Kagura's mother's personal security operative and lover. The pleasingly perverse edge that characterised the first four episodes is re-established early on when Suitengu interrupts his employer in the middle of a swim to confess his failings, places his gun at his feet and suggests that she punish him as she sees fit. She shoots him in both knees, orders him to retrieve Kagura and dispose of Saiga, then pulls him into the pool and tells him he can sort his wounds out after he's finished pleasuring her. As you should have realised by now, this is not a series for children.

Kagura, meanwhile, is on a personal voyage of discovery, eating food she's never even heard of (pot noodles), working out how to get through train station barriers and giggling when something touches her bottom on a crowded train, unaware that she's just been molested. Did I mention this was an adult anime series? Oh yes, I did. Typical of the series' narrative inventiveness, this is much more than a throwaway character gag laced with social commentary (such incidents have proved quite a problem on Japanese commuter trains, hence the inclusion of women-only carriages on many of them). On their trail is Tsujido, whose astonishing sense of smell enables her to sniff out her prey through even momentary contact with others, something she does here when she catches a whiff of Kagura on a passing youth who turns out to be the train molester – a couple of swift kicks in the nuts and she has the location of the incident and a locale to narrow her search to.

Also in pursuit is Koganei-sama, another Euphoria (if the word makes no sense in this context then go back to that first review) whose debt to the underground club run by Suitengu has been called in to utilise her unique, goddess-given talents in the hunt for Saiga and Kagura. Koganei has a thing for diamonds and we're not talking a few rings and a broach here but an almost vampiric urge to consume them. After swallowing the most expensive stone in a prestigious store and biting the fingers off a pedestrian to ingest her ring, she orders her goons to rob a jewellery shop, providing her with a feast that kicks off her mutation into a diamond in human form.

And we're still only halfway through the first episode on the disc.

With the mystery of just what is going on clarified in the first four episodes, the second volume of Speed Grapher is more straightforward in its storytelling, and a formula is established that keeps Saiga and Kagura on the move and pursued by Tsujido and her troops, while individual Euphoria are called up one by one to use against the wily Saiga. If this makes Volume 2 seem slightly less innovative than Volume 1, it does still provides a framework for some inventive detail – a telephoto lens turns Saiga's deadly camera into a bazooka, but the camera doesn't work at all on the transparent Diamond Woman and cannot focus effectively in smoke-filled interiors, while another villain renders the weapon useless by simply holding up a mirror. This volume also includes one of the most genuinely horrible scenes I have seen in a recent anime series, one involving a Euphoria-infected dentist and... well put it this way, if the very thought of dental torture gives you the shivers then there's an early scene in episode 7 that I'd give the widest of berths.

Despite a degree of settling down, the standard set by volume 1 is largely maintained in the episodes here, not least in the ingenuity of Saiga's battle techniques, his emerging back story, and the introduction of new characters. Nonetheless, I found myself quietly cheering at episode 7's re-introduction of wise-arse supercop Ginza, who is clearly going to play a bigger role in Volume 3. It's a no-brainer really – if you liked Volume 1 then Volume 2 is an essential purchase. Now let's see if Volume 3 can develop the established formula and take the series in a new and unexpected direction.

The episodes included here are, according to official listings, Whore of Diamonds, Out of Focus, The Big Picture and Dentophobia. If you're watching the Japanese version with English subtitles then the same episode titles are translated as Diamond Woman, Farewell, Diamond Woman, Grostesque Drills and Kagura's Lamp.

sound and vision

What goes for Volume 1 is pretty much the case here too – NTSC to PAL transfer and an anamorphic 16:9 picture that looks fine for much of the time but is deliberately hazy in places, the use of soft edges and that popular overexposed look particularly evident in flashback scenes. The animation style is not super-smooth, which tends to emphasise motion judder in fast pans, but otherwise there are no problems.

The original Japanese Dolby 2.0 stereo track is sonically outclassed by the 5.1 English dub, particularly in the quality and mix of sound effects in the action scenes. Voice work on the dub is pretty good, the American war photographer actually more convincing than the one on the Japanese track, but as a purist I still go with the Japanese.

The subtitles are as clear as ever, but once again "shit" gets translated to "damn you!" and the line in which that word appears is completely missing from the English dub. You can also activate English subtitles for signs only. If you choose the English language track, the credits are in English rather than Japanese, but this has to be done on the main menu.

extra features

Character and cast auditions (8:02)
Christopher Bevins, voice director and line producer for the American dub, once again takes us through the process from audition to final character, this time focussing on the characters of Suitengo and Tsujido, voiced here by Chris and Greg Ayres respectively. As before, this is a worthwhile listen.

The MVM favourite of a Textless Opening (1:33) and Textless Closing (1:33) is included, plus trailers for Ah My Goddess (1:32) and Saiyuki Reload (1:44).

summary

An enjoyable second set of episodes for a smartly devised and inventive adult targeted anime series. It's found a formula now, which works fine for these four episodes, but it will be nice to see it developed in Volume 3.

Speed Grapher, Vol. 2

Japan 2005
93 mins
director
Kunihisa Sugishima

DVD details
region 2 UK
video
16:9 anamorphic
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
Dolby surround 5.1
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
extras
Character cast auditions
Textless opening and closing

Trailers

distributor
MVM
release date
18 June 2007
review posted
18 June 2007

Related Reviews
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 1
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 3
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 4
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 5
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 6

See all of Slarek's reviews