published in Empire No.64, Sydney
A bizarre and titillating tale of former war photographer Tatsumi attracted to death zones in the world's hot spots. Getting a hard-on while taking his morbid photos, he is only moderately unsettled by his strange fixation. Now he works as a highly-paid investigative photographer. This leads him to spy on a decadent futuristic cult involving sacrifices, underground lairs, wealthy patrons and the worshipping of the teen goddess Kagura whose bodily fluids contain a mysterious genetic elixir. Their chance connection unleashes a psychic energy within his eye as he becomes capable of aiming explosions with his camera. Stylishly crafted and full of sumptuous destructive spectacles, Speed Grapher's successive volumes are bound to increase in ocular intensity.
published in Empire No.80, Sydney
The release of the complete Speed Grapher series in a stylish box-set affords viewers a chance to immerse themselves in the world of polysexual paranormal schisms which make the series an intriguing and involving experience. War photographer Saiga Tatsumi – richly introduced in the first volume reviewed here a year ago – develops as the series’ core figure. Dashing, daring and now deadly due to his contraction of a bizarre genetic mutation which empowers his vision to transform the mere taking of a photo into an act of detonation, Saiga’s bond with the mysterious waif Kagura grows into a deeply felt debt which guides him throughout Speed Grapher’s labyrinthine twists.
Kagura retains her quant idol-like demeanour, as well as a deep love for Saiga in acknowledgement of his stoic grasp of moral responsibility and idealistic vision. Threaded between their episodic entwining are dark veins of Kagura’s heritage, all of which remain invisible to her until a cascade of revealing climaxes toward the end of the series. As befits the best of anime series, fate has written large plot arcs which are simultaneously contrived yet wholly appropriate in terms of how the world depicted attains an unexpected cosmic balance. In fact chance, coincidence and plausibility rarely dictate how anime series storylines develop, and Speed Grapher dovetails in all sorts of directions to ultimately resolve with grace and grandeur.
Typically, it is the malevolent character who provides most sustained interest, here represented by Saiga’s nemesis, the chilling yet alluring Suitengu. In a slow-simmering build-up toward volcanic intensity, his own mutant powers are demonstrated through spectacles where he controls his own blood to solidify and become deadly shrapnel and searing spikes that can decimate all he chooses to destroy. Here Speed Grapher is at its most inventive and exhilarating, making the wait for these dynamic moments gratifying.