Funimation // 2007 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // February 17th, 2010
All They Have is Each Other.
With a plot that reads like part Fullmetal Alchemist and part Desperado, and a pedigree that includes fan favorite series like Madlax and Noir, one might be forgiven for thinking that El Cazador de la Bruja is definitely a show worth watching. Does this road-tripping adventure south of the border bring home the gold, or is it better left in the dust?
Ellis is an amnesiac with a bounty on her head, and Nadie's trigger finger is the only thing keeping her friend from falling into the wrong hands. They're looking for pieces of Ellis's past, and every mile of open highway brings the girls closer together...but their special bond is bound to be tested.
At the dusty border crossroads where ancient spirits and modern science meet, a storm of conspiracy is brewing low in the desert sky. Someone out there can explain the hazy mysteries of Ellis's past. If she and Nadie just keep moving south, the Hunter and the Witch will get their answers soon enough.
The setup is simple enough: an army of bounty hunters are in pursuit of a less than cognizant target, in this case a young girl named Ellis, who happens to be armed with some crazy magic powers and an unhealthy bout of amnesia. One such bounty hunter, a young red headed cutie-slash-killing machine named Nadine goes rogue and decides to help the poor unwitting target on her way. You would think that the action factor would be high, as wave after wave of bounty hunter attempts to claim the prize. You would be mistaken. El Cazador de la Bruja is a slow moving episodic travelogue where our heroines wander in and out of vaguely Mexican or Central American looking communities while encountering all manner of not-so-interesting clichés. The army of bounty hunters is in fact a small collection of boring personalities and at least one effeminate super weirdo right out of Anime 101.
The script is weak, whether through fault of the English translation or the initial writing, the whole show feels woefully contrived and the pace is glacial. Ellis is a cross between enigmatic protagonist and comic relief, her uncontrollable witchcraft exists as a plot convenience which becomes effective at every key moment, and her backstory is virtually swallowed whole by the halfway point. Nadie fares no better, with little in the way of hooks to keep you even remotely interested in why she's travelling with Ellis instead of putting a bullet in her head. By the time the show passes episode 10, the driving force has sputtered and stalled. The second half of the series is sure to provide some answers, but it doesn't bode too well when the viewer isn't compelled to keep viewing.
Visually speaking, El Cazador De La Bruja again comes up short. The character designs don't standout as anything remotely original or imaginative. They just look like generic anime cutouts, while background art is flat and 2-dimensional.
Bad production aside, Funimation does a great job with the DVD treatment. The image is occasionally soft, but the colors are bright and vibrant with a nice clean picture throughout. The 5.1 English track is lively, and does a decent job of filling the soundstage. Extras are a little light, but the commentary track by the English voice cast on Episode 1 is a nice touch, and I wish I could get a few more of these on future anime releases. Sadly the Japanese stereo sounds pretty flat by comparison, which is a bit of a drag if you like your anime spoken in its native tongue.
I'd love to say that the first half of El Cazador de la Bruja shows some promise, and left me looking forward to the second chunk of this south of the border jaunt. I'd be lying, of course. I'll endeavor to remain optimistic, but I have my doubts that much can be salvaged.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentary
* Textless Open/Close