Supernatural: The Animated Series, Eric Kripke’s collaboration with Masao Marayuma’s Madhouse studio, marks a first in the field of licensed tie-ins – the first time a live action series has been adapted to anime form.
The 22 episodes are a mix of new material and stories taken from Seasons 1 and 2 of the TV series, with the adapted episodes tinkered with and reordered to create a markedly different timeline to the one we’re used to.
While ‘Home’, ‘Nightmare’ and the season finales are among several episodes included in close to original form, others, like fan-favourite ‘Bloody Mary’ receive a more extensive reimagining, establishing a subtly different continuity to that of the TV show.
Although the condensed format and scripting tends to make some of the adapted episodes come across as ‘Supernatural-lite’, there are instances where the punchy, flashy anime style resonates well with a particular episode’s structure, and the art and animation work well in portraying the weird and the violent. The series’ strength, though, lies in its well-written and original stories, expanding (and occasionally reinventing) the canon and introducing some new adversaries (water demons, a poverty god, a giant scrap metal robot) to bring an exotic touch to the established formula.
The largely faithful character design (with a few notable exceptions) and having original series actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles voice the Winchesters (Ackles taking over from Andrew Farrer for the final episodes) remind us that this is still the Supernatural we know, while the beautifully drawn backdrops, flash-framed action sequences and swapping the signature 80s hair-rock with a gentler orchestral sound tell us that this is something new and distinct from what we’ve seen before. It’s a paradox, but it works.
Ultimately, fans of Supernatural will get a kick out of seeing their heroes in a new light, and anime aficionados will be happy to see another strong offering from Madhouse’s stable. Moreover, if being a fan of one leads to exploring the other, then that can only be a good thing.