Bandai // 2003 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // March 20th, 2004
The flame erupts!
Poor Robin -- she just can't catch a break. Just when she's feeling like part of the team and happy in her new life, someone wants her out of the picture, and her beloved Amon is helping to cover up any evidence of attack. Robin is forced to confront herself, her attackers, and even her coworkers when she has to rely on them to help her solve the mystery of who is out to get her.
Here's where things start getting interesting. After establishing the world of Witch Hunter Robin and positioning the title character with the Japanese branch of STN, an organization dedicated to wiping out the threat to humanity of witches who abuse their powers, Robin is put in near-constant peril and conflict. The ball gets rolling after she meets a mysterious old woman during an otherwise routine investigation. Mysterious because the woman seems to be able to activate witch powers in other people, and old because she was around during the Salem Witch Trials. She tells Robin that her chosen profession, hunting witches, is a betrayal of her own nature as a witch. Despite her ability to control fire, Robin doesn't see herself as a witch, and labels herself as merely a user of the craft. The fact that she thinks witches are evil and a blight on humanity does not help her accept what the old woman is saying.
On the heels of this revelation comes a visit from the Inquisitor who originally screened Robin before she was sent to the STNJ. Ostensibly, he is there to screen a new hunter, but circumstances are manipulated in such a way that further power is awakened in Robin when she is forced to immolate the candidate after he becomes dangerously psychotic. From that point on, her life is marked, and she has reason to suspect Amon. She must turn to her coworkers within STNJ for answers and help.
Witch Hunter Robin suffers from formula: a shy girl on her own who wants to make good, a brooding father-figure love interest, and officious responsibility to protect humanity from larger-than-life threat given to a girl at a very young age. The difference is WHR does this with style. The animation is lush and gorgeous, with a muted palette of browns, blacks, and reds chosen specifically to bring emotion and character to the foreground. There is a complexity about WHR -- information whizzes by without explanation, but never too fast to confuse -- and the quality of both picture and sound is good enough for theatre release. The music is emotional without being sappy or obvious, and the score builds atmosphere without overwhelming the action. These elements are so expertly balanced that it's easy to forgive any debits in the story or character design columns.
Volume Three contains four episodes (11-14) and offers extras that anyone who purchased previous volumes of the series would recognize: reversible cover, laminate card inserts featuring a member of STNJ, clean opening and ending credit sequences, subtitles in sign-only mode, STNJ vehicle files, and liner notes about the various magical devices, symbols, and events mentioned in the episodes. This last item is helpful for the curious or for fans of the occult who want to know more about things that are presented without a lot of exposition in the series. Particularly welcome in this DVD release is an interview with the music composer and the singer of the opening and ending theme songs. I found it interesting to get a glimpse into the thoughts and motivation behind some of the engaging music found in the series. With just four episodes to the disc, there are no compression artifacts to get in the way of a flawless transfer, so visuals are clear and crisp. The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track is lush and sharp, and both English and Japanese audio tracks are clear and well acted. Subtitles are available as English voice and signs or just the signs track.
Witch Hunter Robin is for fans of character drama, not people wanting to see fantastic tales of the paranormal. If you are the former type of fan, you will find bliss in this release, but if you were hoping to see the wiccan version of X-Files, WHR will likely disappoint. Fans should definitely check out this release, as the storyline starts to pick up speed, and secondary characters are given more to do and say.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Liner/Episode Notes
* STNJ Vehicle Files
* Reversible Cover
* Cell Print Insert
* Bandai Trailers
* Official Site
* Witch Hunter Robin Synopsis