Oh, girls with guns shows. It’s kind of interesting how a fairly specific premise like that became its own genre. If someone says “girls with guns show”, you can probably think of at least five titles that fit that description. They tend to be fairly similar in plot, too. Typically at least one girl is raised to be a killing machine. She usually has a rival, who is usually also a girl. From there, there’s a bunch of awesome fight scenes and usually some angst about what a killing machine the girl[s] have become.
That is basically Canaan’s plot.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean the series isn’t good.
It’s not revolutionary, obviously, being a girls with guns standard, but it’s a good girls with guns standard, and that’s what counts. Not everything can be groundbreaking, after all. In fact, this is an attitude among some circles of anime fans that I find maddening; the dismissal of shows that aren’t masterpiece tier works as trivial and unnecessary. But that is another rant for another time.
When you have an archetypical plot like this, the two most important things are that the characters are compelling and that the storyline is tight, so its typicality doesn’t stand out as badly. Canaan pulls both of these off quite well. The story follows two reporters, Mr. Mino and his apprentice, Maria Osawa. Maria dreams of becoming a great photographer, and as such she’s very excited to receive the opportunity to go with Mr. Mino to Shanghai for an assignment. However, things get a lot messier than either of them expected. They arrive during a festival, which is enjoyable enough…until a shootout happens, anyway. From there, a mysterious woman named Canaan appears, and Maria seems to know her. From there, the reporters find themselves getting entangled in the affairs of a terrorist organization known as Snake, which is led by a woman who is out for Canaan with a personal vendetta, and their work with the mysterious and deadly Ua virus.
Luckily, both of our leading ladies are enjoyable characters, as is Mr. Mino. Maria is kind of the cute but not very smart character type, yes, but she’s still lovable as a character and not just a cut-out archetype, though she is one of the blander characters, I have to admit. Even without a bombastic personality or a mysterious past or whatever else, though, she is compelling. Maria Osawa is just an ordinary girl finding her place in the world who happens to be surrounded by eccentric and often dangerous people, and that’s exactly how she comes off. If anything, it’s a bit surprising how tough she can be. There are times when she’s fully prepared to die.
Mr. Mino pretty rapidly takes a back seat in importance, but he provides much needed tension breaks with his occasional outbursts of energy and skirt-chasing behavior. However, that’s not to say he’s purely a comic relief character. Mr. Mino is involved with this mess as well, and his life is on the line on more than one occasion. Being Maria’s mentor of sorts, he does have a more mature side to him that is capable of giving advice, which is usually quite sound.
Canaan is very cold and methodical, like the badass gun-wielding girls in these shows usually are, but there are other layers to her. Canaan does have emotions. There are people that she cares about, like Maria for instance. In fact, Maria is probably the most important person to Canaan. Any time Maria is in trouble, protecting her becomes Canaan’s only priority, even when she knows she’s running straight into a trap from the enemy. Although she has been conditioned to be an Army of One, she still retains her humanity.
The rest of the cast, from equally cold and methodical but far less human Alphard to sadistic and crazy Liang-Chi and masochistic Cummings to repentant Santana and silent Hakko to the eccentric cab driver who doesn’t even have a name, is filled with intriguing characters whose plights are rather hard to not care about.
One thing I’ve found rather odd is how little recognition this show seems to get among the yuri fan community. It’s pretty hard to not see hints of a romantic relationship between Canaan and Maria. Canaan makes it very clear that Maria is the most important person in the world to her. She will do anything to protect her, because Maria is her light. Maria, meanwhile, so desperately wants to become stronger so she can stand by Canaan’s side as her equal, as someone worthy of being with her. The dialogue does leave itself vague enough to allow for it to be interpreted as simple friendship, of course, but honestly it’s pretty blatant that Maria and Canaan are in love without them actually saying so or kissing on screen or anything. There’s also Liang-Chi’s psychopathic love for her sister Alphard. Though it’s unrequited, they don’t even pull any punches with Liang-Chi’s feelings. Why is this series not a yuri classic? I just don’t get it.
This show does have its drawbacks, however. Certain aspects of the plot feel rather hazy, particularly that of the Ua virus and its importance. Instead of feeling like an actual concern, it seems more like an excuse for conflict that is simply shuffled off into the basement, never to be heard from again. Or something.
Also, a fairly major plot point is that Canaan has synthesesia, a condition where the senses get mixed up. Some people with it can smell or taste colors. In Canaan’s case, it means she can see a different colored aura around people, and what color it is helps her determine things about the person. It’s actually a rather nifty character quirk, but my issue with it is this; apparently Canaan relies on it to fight. Not it helps her out a little. Not it’s a convenient boost to her abilities. She absolutely requires it to fight. The question is why is it so useful? It doesn’t really do anything except reveal her opponent’s intent to her when she fights. Perhaps that’s all the edge she needs from it, but it would be nice if there was more explanation as to why it’s such a big deal that she gets her ass handed to her if her synthesesia isn’t working for whatever reason. Which is a thing that actually does happen. Then she gets it back. And neither of these happenings make much sense either. Apparently either overusing it and/or the impact of being in a building that gets hit by a missile kills it, and getting the crap kicked out of her by Alphard gives it back. Does this mean she could potentially lose or regain her synthesesia from a bout of particularly rough sex? Ladies and gentlemen, the questions that plague my brain.
In short, my feelings on Canaan are generally positive. If you like standard girls with guns shows, you’ll like Canaan. If you’re willing to give the concept of a girls with guns show a chance, you’ll like Canaan. If you hate girls with guns shows, hate lesbians, or expect masterpieces out of everything you watch, you will probably hate Canaan.