There are mentions of suicide, execution and violent sexuality throughout, so please don’t read if you find any of these themes distressing or triggering.
The fundamental flaw in our species lies not in our arrogance, but in our existential need to take the reins of destiny into our own hands. We’re not content to live in the image of our maker, but mould ourselves into independent, idealised versions of the self. Speed Grapher, an original anime series from studio Gonzo, argues that we all have a latent desire within us, an inner truth essential to our being but always out of reach.
The obsessive pursuit of a dream is a staple trope in anime, with the personality of a protagonist often wrapped up in a single vision. In Speed Grapher this idea is defined by the dark side of the human soul that lingers in the shadows of ‘civilised’ society. It’s a primal self, at odds with but also serving to highlight that which makes us human. By denying our darker impulses, we prove that we are above such base urges. Speed Grapher, however, offers a means of unlocking that latent desire and the truth of the human soul.
The instrument of this achievement already exists inside us, as something cannot be created from nothing. It is instead a residual potential unlocked by divine intervention. In this case, it’s a “goddess” that exists in the unconsciousness of school girl Kagura Tennozu. These inner selves are expressed as inherently nonhuman, perverting the idea of humanity through the altering of flesh and its physical limitations. Early on we meet dancer Katsuya Shirogane as he angrily denounces the crowd that came to cheer and applaud him. This is not, he screams, his true self. Backstage a mother brings her daughter to audition, and through breaking her arm we learn the unhinged Katsuya is a stranger in his own skin. We later meet what he identifies as his “true self”, encased in a latex suit with the ability to contort his form into any configuration – a kind of fetish club Luffy.
Tatsumi Saiga, the protagonist of the series in name if not in nature, is equally as conflicted with his outward persona. He’s introduced in flashback as a plucky war photographer putting his life on the line for the sake of a photograph. But Tatsumi is no paparazzo; his camera lets him see into the conflicting dark and beauty of the human soul and glimpse the face of God. He stands opposite an enemy soldier, gun drawn and ready to fire. Tatsumi focuses his camera, standing his ground as if he held a weapon. A friendly soldier jumps over the wall behind him, firing a swell of bullets into the enemy and Tatsumi captures the moment of death, frame by frame.