One chilly autumn morning I was googling around looking for an anime that would delight me the same way Black Lagoon did and getting all the usual suspects in suggestions. And it's not like I have watched all the usual suspects, but with so many of them I'm reading the plot summary and looking at the pictures and it's just...nah. Not doing it for me. Not to mention that I've developed this habit of checking for hetero romantic lines first on wiki or some other resource. 'Cause let me tell you, if I want to watch women kicking ass, I do not want some anime-typical romance drama on the side. Not the hetero flavor of it, anyway. They can be good sometimes (I do ship Rock and Revy in the aforementioned Black Lagoon, but they're disfunctional disasters who don't 'cause any cliche drama for the sole virtue of technically not even being canon), but...a lot of times I'm just not in the mood for that risk, you know? And since it's "anime typical", well, that rules A LOT of those lists out.
And then I see this anime from, what was it, 2009? Official arts speak to me, the summary doesn't raise any red flags, I go on YouTube to check out AMVs (yes that's part of my research process) and lo and behold, a good chunk of them solely consist of two women beating the everloving shit out of each other.
My first thought, tragically, is that I kinda ship that. My second thought is that Catradora flavor of enemies to lovers completely ruined some chemistry in my brain. But hey, it's not my fault that the women in those AMVs are getting REALLY close in each others' faces and are pinning each other to walls! Let a dyke live!
Like, I'm sorry, are you telling me there's nothing homoerotic about this?!
So, naturally, I'm downloading the damn anime. And as I start watching it, I quickly run into two problems:
1. Continuing the shipping theme 'cause while I may sneer at most het romance lines I'm a weak bitch for sapphics: I quickly realize that Canaan's dynamic with her best friend Maria (who's nominally the protagonist of the series, but...not really) is the other kind of my favorite dynamic: "A cheerful optimistic pacifistic sunshine and a cold-blooded killer who melts around said sunshine".
But let's not forget that I said "two problems":
2. CONTEXT WHO? I hardly know her!
Generally the lack of context doesn't prevent you from enjoying the anime for what it is, but you have to let a lot of questions go. Alphard, the antagonist of the series, gets angry when Maria doesn't recognize her? Eh, guess something happened between them earlier? Never explained, moving on. There was some accident with Maria and the virus that plays a big role in the plot, but she got amnesia from blocking the traumatic event so it's briefly described and never brought up from her point of view again? Sure. Some brief flashbacks of what happened between Canaan and Alphard? Eh, it's somewhat clear what the general beef is so guess I don't really need to know the story behind some of the frames. And so on and so forth.
So I'm finishing watching this anime, scream into my pillow and my best friend's poor ears for an evening, and boom, I'm briefly hyperfixated and I'm going to dig up all the info I can on the subject online.
And what do I dig up?
A WHOLE ASS VIDEOGAME.
And it's not, like,a videogame inspired by the anime, as it usually goes. No no no, Canaan the anime is the SEQUEL to the events described in the game 428: Shibuya Scramble.
It's not even an anime game. It's a visual novel where all the frames and cinematics are played by live-action actors. It's a detective story with multiple endings.
And it was not localized in English till 2018.
The anime, I must remind you, came out in 2009, as well as its localization to multiple languages. And stayed absolutely without context for 9 years.
So all the weird mentions and callbacks in the anime are actually linked back to 428. And the backstory of Canaan, Alphard and their teacher Siam is explored in a secret bonus story which is only accessible after wholy beating the game and other bonus stories.
When I tell you this shit has layers. Damn.
I've also quickly learned that Alphard and Maria were both heavily featured in 428 and consequently had live action actors. Maria looks nothing like herself in the anime (I mean yes, it's anime, but she's an average asian girl in the game and...a bright redhead in the anime? Sure, people dye their hair sometimes, but I suspect that's not what was at play there.
And there's Alphard, who's my favorite character in the anime, by the way (yes, the terrorist and the antagonist who remains 100% unredeemed, sue me).
Anime artists be anime artists. At least she still has her dark features intact.
And at least now I can understand what anime characters meant by calling her a 'young girl'.
I love both versions, by the way, but I've heard somewhere that the live action actress was a minor at the time of filming, so I'm respectfully restricting my (asexually aesthetical) thirsting to the anime version, who, by all timelines, should be in her twenties.
Don't let me fool you, by the way, Canaan herself is the driving force of this anime and is infinitely badass. Perhaps even a little bit overpowered at times, but honestly, that only makes her more fun to watch. Sometimes watching a character having zero trouble dealing with a whole room of armed soldiers is good. It's even better when said character has to struggle without their power at some point. Delish.
Badass woman for a protagonist: Oh YES. Protagonist AND the antagonist.
Badasness: Over the top.
Fanservice: Limited to two side characters. Main characters remain pleasantly unsexualized in their deadliness.
A child: Adopted despite the fact that she would've shot me in the face without looking.
Recommend: Oh yeah, it's highly underrated in my opinion. It's just that, you know. Be ready for considerable gaps in context. Unless you're me and willing to sit through hours of letsplays for the sake of getting it.