0 Items | £0.00


Supernatural versus Supernatural

Monday 27th May 2013

Jayne Nelson compares the live-action show to its anime cousin

SupernaturalThree years ago, during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Eric Kripke was asked why an animated version of his television series Supernatural was being made. His reply was a simple one: “I just wanted tentacles in it. It’s something we can’t do in live action on the show.” Well, you can’t argue with that. The result, Supernatural: The Anime Series – released in Japan in January 2011, and hitting DVD here on 27 May – does indeed feature a few tentacles, although perhaps not quite as many as Kripke might have liked.

That’s not to say the original series suffers from its crushing lack of rubbery sucker pads, mind you. Supernatural follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they travel the backroads of the USA hunting monsters, and thus there are many other creepy limbs on display: belonging to vampires, werewolves, demons, spirits and a whole host of other creatures from around the globe (Indian rakshasas; Albanian shtriga; Japanese kitsune). The show lives up to its name, trawling the world’s urban legends, myths and folklore to bring us a horror film every week in the form of a 42-minute television show.

SupernaturalSupernatural knew what it wanted to do from the moment it launched on The WB (now The CW) network in 2005 – bring big-screen scares to the small screen, but without The X-Files’ po-facedness, and with a knowing nod and a wink to the horror genre that would please gore-hounds. Season one saw many episodes riffing off famous frighteners such as Candyman or Ring, but after a while the series found its own formula and ran with that. This formula consists of killing people in the goriest ways possible on American network television. Over the years we’ve seen men cut in half by falling lifts, vampires strangled with wire until their heads pop off, ballet dancers dancing themselves to death on bloody stumps, young lovers tearing strips off each other (literally) while snogging... So much fake blood has been washed from the floors of the Vancouver-based sets that the drains in Canada must be permanently dyed red.

Supernatural also wanted to draw in those who might not find this horror palatable, and so Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles were cast as its monster-hunting leads. It seems shallow to call them “eye candy”, but the show’s viewing demographic is now significantly skewed in favour of women, so that plan certainly didn’t backfire. The show is often funny, too, with its humour existing mainly in the form of the wisecracks that spill from Dean Winchester’s lips (“Dude, you fugly,” he tells a killer scarecrow), although one of the show’s best lines came when another character called Lucifer himself “a great big bag of dicks”.

Most Supernatural episodes are “monster of the week” hunts, but the series also has  a lot of fun playing with its format. One episode features the Winchesters stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop in which Dean dies over and over in hilarious ways; in another, they discover that people are writing fan fiction about them; yet another episode has them playing their actor alter-egos on the set of a TV show named Supernatural... you get the drift. This is a show that isn’t scared to do anything.

SupernaturalThis fearlessness is what makes an animated version such a perfect fit. Each of the Japanese serial’s 22 episodes brings something new to the mix already perfected in the live-action version, whether it’s a different take on an old monster (werewolves are way better in animated form!) or a uniquely Japanese creature (such as a kappa). While there are original stories, the anime takes care not to stray too far from the format we know; indeed, many episodes are illustrated remakes of season one and two episodes. The arc plot of those first two years, with the Winchesters hunting the yellow-eyed demon who killed their mother, is largely identical as well. But on the original show, the climax of season one, “Devil’s Trap”, took place in an abandoned shack, while here it happens on the top of a skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan with a helicopter buzzing around. Budget concerns? What budget concerns?

The anime does suffer in a few ways compared to its parent series, namely in that the cast we know and love isn’t quite there in the same way. Padalecki gives it some welly as he voices Sam, but Ackles wasn’t free until the final two episodes to bring Dean to life. (Incidentally, the biggest difference between Ackles and Andrew Farrar, who voices Dean in his absence, is that Ackles says “dee-monic” and Farrar says “demonic”. It’s the little things that matter.) Bobby, a much-loved recurring character played by Deadwood’s Jim Beaver in the original show, pops up in the anime like some kind of cackling pixie; he’s not the Bobby we know and love in any way. One good thing is that psychic Missouri Moseley, who appears in original episode “Home” and then never comes back, gets to star all the way through the anime. We’re not sure why she’s turned Jamaican, but hey, at least she’s there. It’s also nice to see more of the Winchesters’ father, John, albeit voiced by a different guy; he vanished from the live-action show after season one because actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan found himself in too much demand.

While filming Supernatural, Morgan had a guest-star run on Grey’s Anatomy which was hugely successful, effectively launching his movie career – he went on to play the Comedian in Watchmen. His character died on Grey’s and later haunted the hospital as a ghost. A few years later, in an episode of Supernatural named “Changing Channels”, the Winchesters find themselves stuck in an episode of a Grey’s-a-like TV show, and comment on the fact that one of the characters is dead and haunting the hospital. You want meta? Supernatural can do meta in its sleep.

One major thing that makes the anime as much fun as the live-action show is its gleeful love of grue. Supernatural makes liberal use of a squeezy bottle filled with blood to spray up walls when characters die; the anime does this too, recklessly flinging blood around without a care in the world. Nobody has to mop up the mess afterwards on this set! Little touches of continuity are on display as well, such as the amulet Dean wears around his neck, or his car’s license plate. Even Sam Winchester’s hair is a joy in animated form: it’s just long enough to have a life of its own, arguably acting the rest of the character off screen in every scene.

It’s a shame that Supernatural: The Anime Series didn’t progress beyond one season, because Supernatural itself is now heading into its ninth, and material would have been there for many more complementary adventures. The anime also missed out on a huge chunk of mythology that would have been amazing to see portrayed in a Japanese style: namely, the arrival of angels in season four to battle the show’s many demons. Thankfully, the 22 episodes we are lucky enough to have are a fascinating way of rediscovering a much-loved show through a different set of eyes. Gore, action and demons doing nasty things: what more do you really want from any series?

Supernatural: The Anime Series is out on DVD on 27th May in the UK.

Buy it now


One Piece (uncut) Collection 14 (episodes 325-348)

was £34.99
Nami, despite her desperate dash, arrives at the station too late to stop the Sea Train, but she's relieved to learn that Sanji has stowed away on board the vessel and will stop at nothing to rescue Robin! With the storm of all storms bearing down upon them, Nami and Chopper risk their lives to save Luffy and Zoro from the rapidly rising waters. Back aboard the train, Sanji is aided in his battle against the CP9 goons by the arrival of the mysterious Soge King, a wandering warrior from the Island of Snipers!

As the scattered Straw Hats fight to reunite, fate draws them ever nearer the foreboding fortress of Enies Lobby. Will our heroes live to face the hour of reckoning?!



One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Sword Art Online Music: Eir Aoi

Tom Smith on a singer’s internet fame
INNOCENCE, at the time of writing, has been Eir Aoi’s biggest selling, awarding her a peak position of six in the weekly Oricon chart.

One Piece Film Z

Send in the Marines!
One Piece Film Z, out Monday on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

K the Animation

Andrew Osmond keeps calm and carries on
The start of an action anime series is often a bewildering experience, dropping the viewer into a whirlwind of unfamiliar folk having very big fights. K’s like that, but luckily the main character starts the show as baffled as us. Yashiro Isana is a bit different from the standard schoolboy hero

Comicon Pics

Just some of the Comicon cosplays, photographed by Paul Jacques
As promised, here are just a few of the pictures taken by our photographer Paul Jacques at the MCM Comicon this May. Some pretty amazing stuff on offer behind the LINK.
Best girl, a subject even more hotly debated than the age-old sub vs dub argument. Everyone has their own particular favourite, but who is truly the best girl?
The official website for the upcoming Death Note film has been updated and now contains photographs of the three main characters.

Unspinning Fairy Tail

Hugh David argues that the treasure is in the detail
The biggest influence on this anime is not tabletop RPGs or even the long-standing fantasy fiction genre itself. No, the stamp of numerous Japanese role-playing videogames is all over Fairy Tail, from the Atelier series to the Final Fantasy franchise, in particular Final Fantasy XII
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Supernatural versus Supernatural from the UK's best Anime Blog.