The anime was licensed by Bandai Entertainment. Starting in 2003, Bandai released the show in North America as six individual Region 1 volumes, followed by a complete six-disc box set in November 2004. Later, the series premiered on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block on May 28, 2005, after select episodes had been aired on Adult Swim's Video On Demand service for nearly a year. On September 27, 2005, Bandai re-released s-CRY-ed under the Anime Legends banner, in three two-disc volumes, followed by the Anime Legends Complete Collection on October 24, 2006. Following the 2012 closure of Bandai Entertainment, Sunrise announced at Otakon 2013, that Sentai Filmworks has rescued S-CRY-ed, along with a handful of other former BEI titles. On April 8, 2011 Sunrise announced on the official s-CRY-ed Japanese website the series would be re-released and remastered in a two movie release comprising the entire series and promised new footage, titled "s-CRY-ed Alteration" as part of the s-CRY-ed 10th anniversary Project.
Set several years after "The Great Uprising", a future geological phenomenon in the Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, people have developed a power granting them the ability to deconstruct, reshape, and crystallize matter at a molecular level using only thought and willpower. These people have come to be known as "Alter" users. With only 1% of the newborn generations receiving such special power, though this number rises steadily as the series progresses, some feel a superiority over normal humans.
There are two opposing forces of alters: the Native Alters, a group of Alter users who live outside the central city and avoid any relationships with the government; and HOLY, an organization of Alter users that are a subgroup of an organization called HOLD. HOLD functions as the Mainland government's super police force of the Lost Ground, while HOLY, composed exclusively of Alter users, serves as the "special operations" group, aiding HOLD in performing dangerous missions that might require the help of an Alter user.
Kazuma (dubbed "The Treasoner" in the manga and "The Shell Bullet" in the anime) and Ryuhou are the two s-CRY-ed characters bearing a rivalry used to drive and focus the plot. They spend much of the series trying to defeat each other, even when they are forced to work together. Neither can forget their bitter rivalry.
There is also a narrator, Kanami. Kanami is a close friend of Kazuma, who protects her and treats her like a little sister. She narrates the series with her dreams, unknowingly using her alter power to "scry" the emotions of the people she feels strongly about. Her ability to peer into the emotions of the main characters is used frequently throughout the series to bring insight to the characters, and to tease viewers during previews for the next episode.
The series progresses through the initial introduction of the Alter power to a wider understanding of the politics and reason for "The Great Uprising". Each episode showcases a new Alter user, and his/her Alter, or a growth of the Alter of a previously introduced character. "The Great Uprising" is later revealed to be caused by a similar event in a parallel universe where all creatures are independent thinking Alters. During one of Ryuhou and Kazuma's battles, they open a gateway to the parallel universe, causing another uprising and attracting the attention of the Mainland government. The Mainland sends its agent, Kyouji Mujo, to the Lost Ground in an attempt to exploit the power of the parallel universe for economic gain. Mujo develops delusions of grandeur after becoming the defacto head of the Lost Ground government and absorbing the crystal entity from "the other side" to add to his already formidable Alter power. Both he and the crystal entity are defeated by the separate efforts of Kazuma and Ryuhou, respectively. The Mainland once again attempts to exert control over the Lost Ground by sending in a fleet of refined Alter users under their control, but they are defeated by Kazuma and Ryuhou.
After defeating the Mainland forces, Kazuma and Ryuhou engage in one final battle to settle their rivalry. After exhausting themselves to the point that they are too weak to maintain their Alters (and indeed, barely able to stand), they fight on with their bare hands until neither can move. In the next scene, a silhouetted hand is raised by the victor, the hand makes the symbol of the Zetsuei and then curls into a fist the same way Kazuma does when summoning his Alter. With careful observation one can see the same alter markings that appear on Kazuma's arm throughout the series. An epilogue, taking place years later, Kazuma and Ryuhou remain the protectors of the Lost Ground, defending it from Mainland invaders. An older Kanami, who now has full control over her alter, awaits their return.
Kazuma is the main character that the story follows. At first, Kazuma is portrayed as a reckless Alter user who will do anything for money. Those around him don't know he is an Alter user, and believe that he's simply avoiding his work when he runs off for Kimishima's "jobs". Kazuma has a temper, but he also cares about his friends, putting his life on the line when they are in danger. Originally considered a low-level Alter user by HOLY, Kazuma gradually makes himself an increasing priority with his continual defeat of HOLY's Alter users.
Kazuma's Alter is called Shell Bullet, an alloy-type Alter which transforms his right arm into a weapon. At its first level, Shell Bullet covers Kazuma's right arm with protective metal armor and creates three curved fins of metal jutting out from his right shoulder blade, each progressively larger as they near his shoulder (only the middle one is the largest one). The fins break apart to propel Kazuma forward at great speed, increasing the power of his strikes, which Kazuma labels as "Bullets". In his second form, Kazuma's arm is completely replaced by a stronger armored arm, four fins of metal jut out of his face near his right eye (actually, they just appear over the skin of his eye, not protruding from it), and a propeller replaces the three fins on his back. This propeller grants Kazuma flight, as well as eliminating the firing limit imposed by his first form. On his fist is a small aperture which can absorb additional Alter power, further strengthening his attacks. In his final form, called "Proud Fist", Kazuma's Alter covers his entire body, causing him to appear as a humanoid cross between a samurai and a lion. His Alter-absorbing fists grow even larger, and his propeller becomes a whip which serves much the same purpose as the fins from the first form or the propeller in the second form.
In contrast, Kazuma only has two forms of his Alter in the manga. The final form in the manga is called "Death Bullet". In addition, he is known as Kazuma the Treasoner (Torisuna no Kazuma). This is because of how he rebels against the weak thoughts in his brain, a technique called "mental treason." In the anime, he's known as Kazuma the Shell Bullet.
Kanami is a young girl who lives with Kazuma. Kanami initially knows nothing about Kazuma's Alter ability or his missions. All she knows is that Kazuma is getting paid for whatever he is doing, though sometimes the pay isn't enough to support the two of them. To supplement their income, she often works at a local farm. She calls Kazuma "Kazu-kun", a name Kazuma doesn't like very much but puts up with anyway. Her personality is kind and determined but at the same time, when Kazuma messes up, she gives him one of those "I am very disappointed" speeches, without raising her voice, to make Kazuma feel like an idiot. Kanami has an unnamed Alter power that gives her empathic and telepathic abilities, allowing her to read other's thoughts and emotions (known as scrying). This first manifests as "dreams" about Kazuma, whom Kanami only knows as a strange man.
At eighteen years old, Ryuhou Tairen (romanized as Ryuhou in the English manga and Ryuho in the English anime) is widely regarded as the strongest HOLY member. Ryuhou develops a strong rivalry with Kazuma, the only native Alter on Lost Ground to escape HOLY, continuously foiling HOLY's plans afterwards, and fight Ryuhou one-on-one without being defeated instantly. Ryuhou is extremely strict, refuses to talk about his mother, and does his job without any distractions. Ryuhou's personality changed after the death of his mother at the hands of an Alter user, and he is driven by his desire to bring that Alter user to justice.
Ryuhou's Alter ability is "Zetsuei", a short humanoid Alter that uses flexible ribbons to attack and defend. Zetsuei always has one half of its face covered and its arms bound together. By releasing these impediments, Ryuhou can upgrade Zetsuei into its true form, a larger humanoid with a snake-like lower body. In this form, Zetsuei can move faster than the eye can see, and can also fly. It retains the ribbons from its first form, and gains two additional arms which can be fired like rockets. The end of Zetsuei's tail can also open into a buzzsaw. Zetsuei's final form, called Zetsuei Touryudan in the manga, is a harmonizing Alter like Kazuma's, contrary to its first two forms. In this form, Ryuhou is covered in sleek armor resembling that of Zetsuei, albeit lacking the many special attacks. Ryuhou gains access to Zetsuei's speed and flight capabilities. The sleek edges of the armor allow Ryuhou to cut through objects with ease. The two pieces of armor on his shoulders can also be removed and used as weapons, both separately or combined into a single blade.
At seventeen years old, Kimishima is Kazuma's friend and supporter. Kimishima is a business man, often using his connections to get valuable information. He met Kazuma by those connections. Although he has no Alter powers, he usually carries a pair of pistols hidden just under his sleeves and is an excellent marksman. He is often willing to put himself in dangerous situations, such as defending the Lost Ground from a HOLY crackdown. A running joke of the series is that every vehicle he gets his hands on is destroyed in one way or another, often by Kazuma's actions. In the anime, he is severely injured during a conflict with HOLY, living only long enough to help Kazuma with one last battle. This drives Kazuma virtually insane with anger and grief, but later Kimishima comes back in spirit and helps Kazuma regain his will to live on in the battle against Ayase Terada. In the manga, he lives to marry Ayase Terada.
Mimori Kiryu is the daughter of Tadanori Kiryu, the Mainland's top adviser for the Lost Ground. Her family funds HOLD and HOLY, and as such she is treated like a princess. She was born in the Lost Ground and moved away, but comes back seven years later at the start of the anime to be with Ryuhou. She met him during a childhood party and discovered his odd powers; she thought of them as a blessing while he considered them a curse. She works at HOLY as a scientist. An old friend of Ryuhou's, she hopes to reunite with him. She's also extremely idealistic and gentle, helping virtually all of the other cast members at some point or another.
At fifteen years old, Scheris Adjani is a former native Alter who was rescued from gang members by Ryuhou in a HOLY raid as a child. She joined HOLY shortly after. When first introduced it is obvious that she is a light-hearted and friendly girl. She has a strong crush on Ryuhou, and will follow him to no end. When Mimori Kiryu makes her presence known, Scheris begins to express a certain amount of jealousy when she suspects that Mimori and Ryuhou are more than friends. After a period of this, she loses hope and allows Mimori to make her stand. However, in the manga, Scheris is the one who ends up with Ryuhou in the end, after Mimori gave up hope. Scheris is very energetic in most situations.
Scheris' Alter ability is "Eternal Devote", which allows her to heal others and bolster their abilities, or inflict severe pain through physical contact. The drawback is that either task is extremely taxing on her, and so can only be used sparingly. Though normally her Alter is internal, Scheris can manifest her Alter in physical form, which appears as a massive, angel-like entity. Scheris herself gains a pair of wings when this happens. In this state, Scheris can sacrifice herself to resurrect a fallen comrade. Near the end of the series she uses this power on Ryuhou, in the episode bearing her name. After she disappears, Ryuhou cries out for her after Kazuma lectures him on her death and convinces him to cry for her (sort of like a funeral), giving her the acknowledgment she had been striving for. In the manga, she uses her Alter to combine with Ryuhou temporarily, allowing him to use Zetsuei Toryudan. Scheris survives in the manga and uses her love for Ryuhou to help support him and spur him into victory.
Martin Zigmarl (マーティン・ジグマール,Mātin Jigumāru?, Martin Zigmar)
Martin Zigmarl (a computer terminal in episode 21 has it written as "Martin Sigmar") is the Commander of HOLY. He is an American immigrant to Japan, and one of the first and oldest known Alter users, as well as the first to be refined. In the anime, he's somewhat of a stern figure and a father figure to Ryuhou. However, in the manga, his personality is similar to Kyouji Mujo.
His Alter power, which he only uses once late in the series, is called "Alter Alias". His Alter combines traits of both independent and harmonizing Alters: Zigmarl's upper-body is covered in armor, and the stand-alone mecha Alias is created to assist him. Both Zigmarl body armor and Alias can create nearly unstoppable shock waves of compressed air. The fusion of both forms of Alter power also allows Zigmarl and his Alter to truly fight as a team, coordinating their attacks to capitalize on their advantage. However, despite the advantages his Alter offers, the refinement process has caused it to rapidly age his body, and as such he dies shortly after a pitched battle with Ryuhou. In the manga, his face is only a front; his real face is of a young man.
At twenty-one years old, Straight Cougar is a laid back member of HOLY. His philosophy on life is that the faster you do one thing, the more time you have for the next thing. He is usually found carrying around a book he never seems to have time to finish. This is because he has seen the Alter dimension, and his experience with it apparently shortened his lifespan considerably. He has problems remembering names, especially Mimori Kiryu's and Kazuma's (tending to call Kazuma "Kazuya" and Mimori "Minori"). In the anime, Cougar holds romantic feelings for Mimori. He also knew Kazuma as a child and was the originator of the Bullet moves (Shocking First Bullet and so on), that Kazuma originally used. He and Kazuma had a brotherly relationship. Although they often refer to each other as brothers, there is no concrete information to show that they are actually related. Cougar even says that he didn't abandon Kazuma because he and Kazuma were just people who met each other and decided to hang out together. He seems to die near the end of the series, but the fact is that he lived, even saving Mimori before escaping(he goes limp after his thinking slows down gradually). In the manga, he is known as Cougar Straight, and was Kazuma's mentor, which is why they both have near-identical attacks. Unlike the anime, his death is not ambiguous: he is executed by Urizane for treason.
Straight Cougar's Alter is "Radical Good Speed". It has the power to transform any vehicle into a high-performance racing machine. Cougar can also use this power on himself, called "Radical Good Speed Wheels Unlimited", encasing his legs below the knee in armor which allows him to move at supersonic speeds. He can upgrade this armor to cover his entire body, making him even faster. The down side to his power, however, is that his speed tends to destroy whatever he passes (within a certain unknown distance) and it destroys the surface from which he started. Because of this, he is normally seen using his speed far away from his allies.
Asuka Tachibana is a member of HOLY. Tachibana has a sweet demeanor when he's not fighting, but when conflict arises he becomes stern and professional. Early in the series, a bitter but unrequited rivalry with Kazuma rises after he is embarrassed by Kazuma during his escape from HOLD headquarters and a subsequent battle in which he is almost effortlessly defeated. When the two are later trapped in an underground cave, he is given new insight into the ideals of the native Alters from Kazuma. After settling their rivalry with one last battle, in which Kazuma again emerges victorious, he decides to make a living as a broker, helping to merge the poor and metropolis. He had a fiancé named Cammy in the anime, but left her behind when he disappeared from HOLY. She appears before him again in episode 25 and they start to live together.
Asuka's Alter is "Eternity Eight" or the "Eight Treasure Balls", eight small emerald orbs that act as an extension of his will. One of the most versatile Alters in the series, his Eternity Eight can arrange themselves in different patterns and form various energy constructs: a sword, a shield, a platform to ride on, and so forth. They can also be used in singular form for precise actions. Asuka can control the minds of living beings using his Eternity Eight by attaching the orbs to his targets, although Kazuma can resist this effect by force of will. In addition to the orbs, Asuka can manifest a bow to fire his Eternity Eight as an arrow, called the "Eternity Extra Shot".
Elian is the cloned son of Martin Zigmarl. Elian's Alter is "Absolute Perception", which allows him to create and control electronic devices that allow him to observe large areas anywhere or spy on anyone. Mujo uses two younger clones of Elian to control the mass areas of the HOLY HQ after it is reformed. Elian formed a watermelon farm with Urizane. They use their Alter abilities to broadcast the final battle between Kazuma and Ryuhuo all over the Lost Ground at the end of the series. Elian doesn't appear in the manga.
Urizane is a laid back HOLY member who is never seen without a watermelon in hand. Outwardly appearing as a fat, balding teenager with a short temper and a quick trigger finger, Urizane is later shown to be dedicated to his friends. Urizane's Alter ability allows him to use watermelons for a variety of purposes, such as bombs, shields, platforms, and even teleportation devices. Urizane and Elian form a watermelon farm near the end of the series and then soon after use their Alter abilities to broadcast the final battle between Kazuma and Ryuhuo all over the Lost Ground. In the manga, he's a maniac and commits suicide after executing Cougar.
Kigetsuki is a self-absorbed HOLY member. Apparently never very successful with women, Kigetsuki has spent his life refining his Alter to create his three beautiful Alter "puppets", the Tokonatsu Sisters (Banka, Chuka and Shoka). In this state, the three have limited control over flame, either to put people to sleep or burn small objects. They can also extend their fingernails into sharp claws and fly. If necessary, the three can fuse together to Burning Summer, a mix between a spider and a dragon with a tri-pronged mouth and three eyes matching the colors of the three sisters. Burning Summer has power over heat and fire. Kigetsuki joins Kyouji Mujo in the belief that Mujo will attain a greater level of standing than that of Commander Zigmarl, only to be killed by Mujo after failing to capture Ryuhou.
Unkei is a HOLY member that specializes in mind control. Through his Alter power, "Mad Script", Unkei can read the inner depths of emotions in one's mind and spirit, then force them to act according to the scripts he writes. A strong enough will can overcome this power, and it has no effect on those with similar abilities, as demonstrated by Kanami. Unkei dies during his battle with Ryuhou, though Ryuhou does not actually injure him; Ryuhou knocks him off a cliff, and rather than fall to his death, Unkei uses his Alter power to make himself one with his own story.
Kyouji Mujo is the primary villain of the series. Driven by an unending sense of hunger and self-superiority, his goal is to gain the power of the Alter dimension for himself. Mujo's Alter ability is "Absorption", which allows him to absorb the powers of other Alter users to make himself stronger. He can also create shields out of pure Alter power. After he gains the power of the Crystal Alter, he is able to create an entire structure out of Alter and use the powers of the Crystal Alter as his own. When he is sent into the Alter dimension by Kazuma, he emerges as a grotesque monster with the ability to fire beams of dark energy. Kazuma destroys Mujo once and for all in his final Alter form. He is an exclusive character to the anime, although strangely he appears in the manga as part of a large group shot near the very end.
The Crystal is a living Alter from the Alter dimension, drawn to the Lost Ground during the Great Uprising. It does not speak, instead merely moaning like a whale. Because it is made of Alter, it needs to absorb more Alter power to exist, and killed Ryuhou's mother during its first search. When Kazuma enters the Alter forest, he meets and does battle with the Crystal, eventually tearing out its backbone. Though this does nothing to the Crystal, the shard of its body evolves Kazuma's Alter to its second level. After being absorbed by Kyouji Mujo, it is used by him to fight Ryuhou, and it is destroyed by Ryuhou's final Alter form. The Crystal has a white left arm and a black right arm, dubbed "White Trick" and "Black Joker" by Mujo. The arms can transform into drills to attack. It has the power to control lighting, either condensing it into compact orbs which can be fired as projectiles or using it to restrain its victims. The villain in the manga, Galan Du, is more or less the same entity, though Galan can talk and is Martin Zigmarl's Alter in the manga.
Alter — A power that organisms can achieve and use to manipulate molecular reality in some way. The ability to use Alter power can be present from birth or attained after one has seen "the other side". The form Alter power takes differs between different organisms and can be upgraded through training and experience to the highest form of shining light and armor. An Alter can come in the form of an independent body such as Ryuhou's Zetsuei, an element such as water or blizzard, harmonious armor such as Kazuma's right arm, an intangible power such as telepathy, or a weapon such as Tachibana's Eternity Eight. However, matter must be processed in order to use the energy or resources to crystallize or create the Alter. Often, Alter users will take small chunks out of the surrounding environment to use as matter to form their Alter. The Alter user can control what matter will be used to attain the Alter.
The Light — Reference to the other world of Alters, a place bathed in psychedelic light consisting of mountainous terrain and very little oxygen. One can achieve the light when encountering "the Crystal."
Refinement — Some Alters have been sent to the mainland to have their Alter powers processed, allowing them to display differences in their powers. What actually happens in the refinement process is never mentioned, but it is known to be rather random, as successfully-refined Alter users age more rapidly than normal humans. Failed refinements turn the patients into what are called Darths.
Inners - referring to the native people who lived outside the city walls on the lost grounds
s-CRY-ed — Although not mentioned in the anime, in the manga, it's the "word of evolution." Its ability is just that: to evolve a person's Alter. In the manga, there are five instances of its use, the first by the Alter hermit that taught this to Kazuma, and then Kazuma himself. Next was Ryuhou, while joined with Scheris. Finally, Akira Mijyou uses it twice. In the last case, the evolution simply changed the shape of her Alter, while in Kazuma and Ryuhou's cases, it fused them with their Alters.