Yes it’s violent. Yes it’s gory. No, Strait Jacket is not groundbreaking anime, but if you require having your mind blown every time and being revolutionary is the standard by which you measure things, then you will find most anime (and things in general) very disappointing. I may be the lone voice of praise in an ocean of aspersion, but I really liked Strait Jacket. Maybe there wasn’t enough comedy relief or cliche sweatdrops for some people’s satisfaction. It’s not the most original thing you’ll ever see, but the things Strait Jacket does, it does well.
There’s action, violence (graphic), a blend of magic and science, fighting and explosions. It’s not Hollywood level action, so the explosions/fighting are more limited and there are no car chase scenes, but still fairly entertaining. The voice acting was flawless, with an all-star cast, Freeman and many more, how could one complain. Like others, I went into it with very low expectations. To my surprise, I found the setting intriguing and the premise fascinating, so much so that I went from “kind of paying attention” to giving it my full attention. It was very action driven and the pacing was perfect. It still spared enough time to flesh out or develop the characters just enough to make them interesting. I suspect that perhaps it’s not as character driven as some people would like, but I liked Strait Jacket for what it was. No different than someone who enjoys a good action flick. The plot was “incomplete,” but unless you are too busy looking down your nose from your high horse, you should get the sense that it was meant to be that way. Like an appetizer before a full course meal, it gives you an idea of how rich the story could be if they could make it into a series.
This story takes place in an alternate 1899, it’s about freelance tactical exorcist named Rayoette who wears a special type of garment to prevent himself turning into a monster from using too much magic, the result of which can themselves to become possessed. There’s an understaffed official bureau that deals with these monsters, so they have to hire outside help to deal with an outbreak of possessions. The other storyline involves the bureau officer Isaac and his rivalry with Rayoette causes him to go the distance in using sorcery, plus some fair political intrigue. The world this inhabits has a stylish gothic blend of magic and Victorian technology. Worth checking out on DVD if you haven’t already seen it on cable.
We’re introduced to several minor characters, the most interesting being Isaac who becomes the focal point of the third episode, but even he is crushed by the weight of the drudging plot and his later reactions don’t feel realistic when you take his rank within the military into consideration. So in the end my one lasting gripe may be that this OVA “movie” concludes a bit too abruptly—or maybe that’s just my whining because by the time I really connected with Strait Jacket and started to enjoy it immensely, it was already on its way out the door. This score would have been several notches higher if it explored all the threads and questions it opens, but sadly it follows the same formula as all series of its kind, and heads straight to a predictable ending made even more stagnant by the fact that we haven’t had enough time to truly care about the characters fighting. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice philosophies on life and death, and in particular, the idea of a death wish, but if you’re looking for a coherent plotline and a fulfilling ending, then this anime isn’t for you.