#1 A generally uninteresting plot
Contemporary stories about military science, mercenaries, terrorism, corruption, and espionage are the bread and butter of many a novelist out there. I find books like Tom Clancy’s bibliography a bit boring, but I have enjoyed some anime that use similar themes, of which Canaan could have been one.
The story follows a gunslinging mercenary girl called Canaan who teams up with a duo of reporters to fight back against a terrorist threat looking to disrupt an international conference in Shanghai. The terrorist force consists, for a large part, of victims of an experimental virus that was released on a remote village, and which granted those who were affected by it bizarre mutations that could be utilized for warfare. In doing this, Canaan straddles the line between being a serious thriller about terrorism and being a wacky action anime about young-adults with superpowers.
The mixture is bizarre and makes it difficult to pinpoint who it appeals to. Fans of colorful action anime will find the subjects the story addresses dull and the source of much boring downtime between action scenes, whereas fans of political thrillers will likely find the show’s sense of humor obnoxious and the supernatural themes too out there and unrealistic.
To me, the story also felt just generally boring, owing to a wealth of minor issues that pile up. Its twists are predictable, it recycles setpiece moments all the time, characters like the American president and his scheming underling are boring stereotypes, the heroes constantly make stupid decisions, the list goes on. Towards the end, the story also just gets very weird and I had to take a few breaks to stop myself from dropping the show altogether.
#2 Failure to endear characters
What bothered me a lot about the story of Canaan is how it almost seems to start in medias res, which made me suspect I had accidentally started watching season 2 of a longer series. Turns out I wasn’t far from the truth.
Canaan is set in the same universe as the live-action visual novel 428: Shibuya Scramble, which was Japan-exclusive up until very recently. Characters like Minoru Minorikawa, a reporter desperate for an exciting scoop, and his young assistant Maria, are hold-overs from this game and Canaan relies on references to it in order to fill out their backstory; it’s a lot of “tell, don’t show”. Later episodes do get around to backtracking through the story and revealing to us who these people actually are, but it doesn’t offer anything in the early episodes to get you emotionally invested in them.
By about the midway point, I noticed I didn’t care for most of the characters and the remainder of them I actually disliked. At best, I would say I found Yunyun to be occasionally fun when the anime broke away from its usual running gags involving her.
#3 Main character too OP pls nerf
I have had Canaan on the To Watch list ever since the Kickstarter project for Under The Dog, a short OVA that sold itself on the basis that it was made by the creators of Canaan among other industry veterans. In particular, I was told to look forward to intense action scenes with some of the best choreography out there.
While I will admit that Canaan has some good fight scenes and episode 1 is particularly impressive, I disliked how overpowered the main characters are. Alphard ended up being an especially boring villainess because of this. When she can just casually walk around in the middle of a firefight, just slowly walking up to people and shooting them in the face without needing to dodge, take cover, or even hurry, that just drops the floor out from underneath all the tension and believability.
Canaan is similarly unstoppable, but at least allowed to be hurt from time to time, whereas the anime makes it very clear that nothing is going to touch Alphard until the final battle where all that plot armor suddenly falls away. Not only that, but this villain that the show has been hyping up for 13 episodes, who effortlessly beat Canaan in every prior encounter, suddenly can’t shoot straight anymore and loses all of her confidence and power for… no good reason.