Saiga was once a renowned war photographer who spent years on the front line. These days he spends his time doing photography for a newspaper in Tokyo. His latest case could be a big scoop. It appears that some of the elite of Japan are part of a secret club where nearly anything is possible. Saiga finds his way in and indeed the elite are partaking in a lavish fetish sex club. He encounters an unusual ceremony where a girl known as "the goddess" is the centerpiece, and there is more to this club than people hiding their moral depravity. The girl (Kagura) bestows upon him the power to destroy anything he can take a picture of. Saiga takes the girl away and many powerful people are not happy.
It turns out Kagura is the heiress to the largest conglomerate in Japan, and spends her days a prisoner in her own life. The two are now on the run but Saiga finds out that he's not the only one who's been given special powers. Others have also been given abilities which reflect their deepest subconscious desires and obsessions, and they're now bent on taking Kagura back. It also seems like they want her for some bigger plan.
I had this feeling I wouldn't much like Speed Grapher, but by the end I liked it way more than expected. I like the mysterious secret society partaking in debauchery, the weird mysteries behind the goddess, the goals of the mega corporation the Tenozu group, and the character stories. The environment has a lot going for it. But at the beginning, Speed Grapher seems like it's heading for bland villain of the week with a lame plot development at the end. However if you're patient the story, Speed Grapher really does deliver.
The characters vary in their levels of success. The bland ones are bland, but the good ones are VERY good. Unfortunately the two main characters also happen to be among the bland ones. In the beginning, each villain of the week has their story, which at least isn't boring. The long white haired guy named Suitengu is where this show really shines. It takes a while for him to enter the spotlight, but his back story and plan for the world makes him into an outstanding character. I'd say one of the better antagonists in anime.
The animation is the biggest detractor for this one, especially when a car is involved. The designs are decent so still scenes fair okay, but the action scenes are downright pathetic. This is the only way this title cuts corners. It does fairly well in all other areas, like music and so forth.
The dub inserts a fair amount of profanity, which enhances the edginess of Speed Grapher perfectly. Enough so, that I'd recommend the dub over the subtitled version. There is a lot of sex (I wasn't kidding about debauchery) and violence in this anime. Although neither is particularly graphic, it may push the envelope in what you might consider acceptable if you're looking to avoid such content.
I like Speed Grapher a lot but can't rate it above average. Mainly because the animation really is that terrible, and the first half feels like a comic book story (not my thing). If you're patient with the late blooming plot this show gets really good. I've heard "it gets better" more than I'd like to remember too, but this one is worth hanging in there for. If you're the sort that wants to see corrupt politicians and society's elite get their due, you'll enjoy where this one goes
Saiga: Maybe he's trying to rescue some damsel in distress
Joe: Cool, that would make him even more heroic.
Saiga: You think so?
Joe: Well if she's hot...
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