Bandai // 1998 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // June 17th, 2004
One light against the darkness!
In the aftermath of the attack on Robin in her apartment, Michael, Dojima, and Karasuma convince her to stay at STNJ headquarters where they can protect her. She still doesn't know who to trust or what Amon's motivations may be. She is still struggling with her identity: Is she really a witch? Will she someday be hunted by the people she works with now, and is that why they came after her in her apartment? On top of this, she is worried about her roommate, Tokou, who was caught in the cross fire and remains in a coma. Later, when HQ is attacked by a well-organized infiltration team that makes short work of the STNJ staff, Robin is forced to flee into hiding. She has no idea what her fate is, who was pursuing her, or what they might really be after.
Witch Hunter Robin is a gorgeously animated, moody series. Robin is a Craft user (a human who can wield magical power) who doesn't consider herself a witch, a classification given to people born with Craft abilities who abuse the power or let it get out of control. The STN organization exists to hunt down and terminate witches who fall into this category, and Robin was taken on at the Japanese branch as part of the team. Chiefly, she provides magical cover when they pursue a suspect. The STNJ differs from other branches by not killing the witches they hunt. Instead, they use "orbo" fluid, which nullifies the power of the witch, who is then held in suspended animation.
Those wishing to see a series based on occult magic may be disappointed. The term "witch" and the magical powers demonstrated by the witches in the series are applied loosely, without direct correlation to Western occult beliefs. Therefore, it's better to think of the terminology in Witch Hunter Robin as being more of a metaphor than anything else.
The regular cast of characters is thrown into chaos during the four episodes on this volume, and even the future of the STNJ is in question. However, this is not a series that rushes through plot and action; a couple of new characters are even introduced to help out Robin. As every old mystery is solved, a new one comes up, which constantly keeps Robin off balance. She is as vulnerable as she is strong, and so her character comes across as very accessible. Here we also see cracks in the armor of seemingly unflappable characters like Karasuma and Dojima, making them more human than ever.
The visual presentation for Witch Hunter Robin is stunning, with a beautiful, bold transfer and a clean print that has virtually no defects. The animation is lithe and has a warm earth tone and black palette that looks very nice on screen. As for character design, you can't lose with the creators of Cowboy Bebop; Robin and gang have many of the same influences on their design. Sound quality is excellent, with a robust soundtrack that isn't especially lively but has a good balance between voice, ambient noise, and music. The English dub track is appropriate to the characters, and I enjoy listening to it as much as the original performances for most of the parts (although one of the informants in a later episode sounded a bit too much like Gilbert Gottfried).
Those who purchased previous volumes of Witch Hunter Robin will be familiar with the extras on this disc, including liner notes about some of the terms used in the series, but there are also a couple of interviews with the Japanese voice actors that are interesting. They mostly discuss the motivation for their performances and their take on the characters that they portray. For anime enthusiasts who want to know more about voice acting, both of the interviews are a real treat. I have a particular fondness for the character of Karasuma, so I was excited to see this interview and gain a little bit of insight on how she is portrayed. However, those who wish to avoid spoilers may want to listen to these after viewing the episodes or even wait until the series is finished, as they also reveal minor spoilers to future events.
The episodes at this point are definitely more action oriented and have a quicker pace, so anyone who was initially turned off by an admittedly slow start may want to give the series another chance. Although nothing moves too fast, it has hit a stride as far as storytelling goes, and things seem set up to get even better later on.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (Signs Only)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Japanese Voice Actor Interview: Akeno Watanabe (Robin)
* Japanese Voice Actor Interview: Kaho Koda (Karasuma)
* Maelifica Compendium (liner notes)
* Reversible Cover
* Official Site