Judge Adam Arseneau had mixed feelings about the Devil Hunter, but he no longer blames her for breaking up the Beatles.
Ghosts and demons beware! The original slayer is back!
In 1992, an obscure Texas startup company called ADV took a wild chance and licensed the distribution rights for an anime series from Japan. Founded by members of anime fan clubs, the group figured a market existed for authentic anime in North America; not just the cleaned-up Saturday morning cartoon franchises like Transformers, Astro Boy, and Speed Racer, but an entirely untapped market for teenagers and adults, featuring anime full of blood, guts, and naked women.
The industry-at-large scoffed in disbelief. Who were these fools trying to get authentic anime onto shelves in North America? Anime was strictly for giant geeks at conventions, traded on laserdiscs between ravenous fans, not for mainstream distribution. Shows like Transformers were one thing, edited and reformulated to sell toys to North American children, but ADV was trying to push totally adult material onto the market.
Adult cartoons, no less! In North America? Were these people crazy? After all, if there was one thing the industry knew to be true, it was that adults do not watch cartoons. Period.
Flash forward a decade or so, and lo and behold, the influence of anime can be felt in every corner of popular culture in North America. Anime is huge, huge, huge—and ironically, ADV Films has become the largest anime distributor in America, pushing more licensed product out the door than any other company in the industry.
And the anime that started it all for ADV, the series that opened the eyes of every fanboy and fangirl in North America to the delights of authentic Japanese anime? Devil Hunter Yohko, a series featuring a teenage girl in skimpy outfits fighting demons and monsters, and who had the misfortune to be repeatedly caught naked at inopportune moments. This style of jiggling anime is quite common today, but in 1992, the general population of North America had never seen anything like it. Released on DVD to coincide with the show's fifteenth anniversary, Devil Hunter Yohko: The Complete Collection is a three-disc set that unofficially commemorates the very title that started ADV films on its path to success, forever preserving the hormone-charged bloodbath for generations to come.
Which I guess is a good thing.
Facts of the Case
Turning sixteen in of itself is a challenge, but it gets even harder for Yohko when she finds out a terrible secret about her family. Apparently, she is the 108th generation of a family of professional devil hunters, endowed with special powers to fight the forces of evil and protect the world from…you know, demon stuff. Yohko cannot quite decide whether this constitutes a social disaster or not, and seems much more interested in attracting the attentions of boys at school.
Only one problem: The demon population of Japan got it into their heads that taking out the newest generation of Devil Hunter before she actually learned how to use her superpowers might be a smart idea.
Devil Hunter Yohko: The Complete Collection is a three-disc DVD set comprised of two volumes, marked The Complete Collection, Volume 1 and The Complete Collection, Volume 2, respectively. This strikes me as slightly oxymoronic—how can separate discs be complete collections?—but alas, here we are. Hell, if I made a list of all the things that made no sense about anime transitioning to North American DVD…well, I would be dead, crushed under the weight of my giant list.
To make a long story short, both volumes are available for purchase separately; this DVD set is a packaged deal containing both sets (therefore, the "actual" complete collection). The contents of this box set include:
• Devil Hunter Yohko
If you have never seen Devil Hunter Yohko, imagine Sailor Moon with lots of blood and nudity, and you would be exactly on target, down to the last molecule. Yohko even has a Serena from Sailor Moon thing going on; both characters have similar haircuts, are similar ages, are kind of ditzy, seem far more preoccupied with the opposite sex than fighting evil, and seem to have terrible inner problems causing all kinds of clumsy accidents when not in the heat of battle (and even sometimes then). But Serena, to her credit, was able to keep her sailor skirt on for the entire episode. Yohko has fundamental problems with keeping her clothes from tearing, shredding, falling off, and failing outright, a systemic problem that could only be called "cataclysmic wardrobe malfunctions."
Further to this point, the storylines in Devil Hunter Yohko are entirely superfluous, serving no other function than to put Yohko in constant contact with shower stalls, boys and demons trying to have sex with her, and bloody swordfights with hideous monsters who, rather than try and dismember her head from her body, seem more interested in tearing her costume off. Even Yohko's elaborate kaleidoscopic metamorphosis into full devil-hunting mode has the unfortunate side effect of tearing off all her clothes for a few tantalizing seconds. Drat. This combination of random nudity, gratuitous violence, and ridiculous sight gags actually has a proper name, believe it or not—a bizarre anime phenomenon dubbed "fan service." This name presumably derives from fans of the show servicing themselves while watchi…wait, forget I said that.
And that about covers the show, believe it or not. Lots of swordfights, lots of naked swordfights, lots of bloody naked swordfights, and gratuitous panty shots of naked bloody women having swordfights with each other—in a nutshell, Devil Hunter Yohko. At the time of its North American release, this kind of stuff was simply not available to the masses; nowadays, it is all-too-available, so the impact of the material has decreased slightly to the modern eye. I mean, when a company spends ten years releasing anime titles leaps and bounds above previously released material, each time improving itself to release better and better material, reissues can be problematic. When you go back to visit the very first title pushed out to the streets, oftentimes the material can seem somewhat lacking—kind of crappy, to be perfectly frank. In the case of Devil Hunter Yohko, there is an exceptionally good explanation for one having this reaction. The show was kind of crappy to begin with.
Having not seen the show in a good ten years myself, revisiting it was a traumatic experience, quite literally. Devil Hunter Yohko is so fundamentally ridiculous and stupid that it transcends bad anime into a sub-dimension of cliché and obtuseness. The plotlines (and I use the term loosely) barely link together each instance of bloody fighting and nudity, the characters are transparently thin in terms of development, and…need I go on? The fact that I actually liked this series as a kid shames me in dark, disturbing ways. How did I not notice at the time how bad this show was?
Well, not being 15 years old anymore helps, of course. My eye was far less critical back then, and probably preoccupied with other things. Like all the boobies. Hey, no sense lying about it.
As an anime show, judged for its technical merits, presentation, storylines, and character development, the show is total garbage, merely a vessel for teenage male bloodlust and hormone delivery to the groin area. But it all depends on what you go in looking for. If all you want is…ahem…titillating thrills? Then Devil Hunter Yohko actually has you covered quite well. If you strip away all the normal conventions used to judge an anime series, and view the show based solely on its ass-kicking, Yohko can be a lot of fun. But do not keep the brain cells turned off for extended periods of time, or you risk permanent damage.
But how does the DVD stack up? Right off the bat, there are some problems in terms of presentation. Disc One contains two versions, the original presented only with its original Japanese dialogue, and a so-called "Special Extended Version" (which, according to my DVD player, is a whopping fourteen seconds longer) containing only English dialogue and most bizarre, no subtitles at all.
What gives? First, why would the original version have Japanese dialogue, but the Special Extended Version have only an English dub? Second, how can fourteen seconds of extra footage constitute a "Special Extended Version"? I can apply no definition of the word "special" to explain this particular piece of garbage, unless one uses the phrase incredibly mean-spiritedly and sarcastically, like the "Special People" club in Welcome To The Dollhouse. Third, and perhaps worst of all, the original Japanese version looks absolutely wretched compared to the sleek English-dubbed "special" edition, and has the color tone and clarity of having been transferred through wax paper. The entire presentation is nasty, garish, and an ugly shade of brown. Clearly, the English version received some "special" treatment too cool for the Japanese version.
As a slight saving grace, the Japanese version of Episode One does contain a pretty nifty commentary track, dubbed a "historical commentary" by Matt Greenfield (co-founder of ADV Films), David Williams (producer), and Janice Williams (DVD coordinator), all three of whom worked on the original North American Devil Hunter Yohko release. Less a commentary track about the series and more an oral history of ADV, the track covers a wide variety of subjects and ends up being far more fascinating than the show itself (not hard). The track is a nice touch, I admit, but it barely makes up for the ridiculousness of having two separately advertised versions of an episode with nary a difference between them, a deception bordering on outright false advertising.
Fundamentally lame point #2: the fourth episode of Yohko, in fact, is not an episode at all. Rather, it is a giant music video. A really annoying music video full of clips from previous episodes, as it turns out. Make the pain stop. When you factor in the crappy clip episode and the rip-off of the first episode, you have basically five episodes spread over three discs; hardly a value-packed DVD set. I find this irritating, but perhaps you will not. If this is the case, please let me know how you managed to control your rage.
From a technical standpoint, the quality of Devil Hunter Yohko evolves at a rapid and dramatic pace from episode to episode. As previously stated, the first episode is just plain nasty, with tinny audio, murky detail, and washed-out colors, and shows every single minute of being 15 years old. But with each passing episode, the video and audio quality improves, often times by leaps and bounds; by the sixth and final episode (which sees radically different animation and artists at work), the show is vibrant, detailed, full of color, and quite impressive to the eyes and ears. Trying to narrow down the presentation of the set as a whole is practically impossible. The difference in quality and presentation between the first and sixth episodes is like trying to come to a happy medium between a bonsai tree and a California redwood. More work should have gone into keeping the transfers in line with one another; each episode is like watching an entirely different show. But for the majority, Devil Hunter Yohko looks sharp, especially considering its age.
As a general rule of thumb, the difference between the English and Japanese 2.0 surround tracks are minimal in terms of audio presentation. At times, the English track is louder, fuller and more vibrant, and at times, the opposite is true. Bass response is minimal on both, and the soundtrack—a cheesy speed metal Mega Man-esque score—mixes well into the fast-paced action. Ultimately, both tracks are serviceable, and the choice will come down to your viewing preferences. The English dub is decent enough and full of hip teenage lingo, while the subtitles take a more literal and stiff approach to the language, so pick what you like and stick with it.
For a three-disc set, the extras are a bit thin. As previously mentioned, the first episode contains a neat commentary track, but beyond that, the offerings are pretty ubiquitous. We get trailers, clean opening and closing credits, music videos, and a retrospective of Yohko artwork, which isn't much to go on.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Has this DVD set got anything good going for it? Sure. Err…the packaging is nice.
Okay, all joking aside, Yohko is really not that bad, and the show definitely gets better as the series progresses. I suppose people of a certain disposition may find the antics of Devil Hunter Yohko amusing, for viewers who go for the whole naked teenager fighting evil thing (e.g., all males).
Plus, as landmark anime goes, not only did ADV Films open the door to all sorts of anime distribution in North America with this series, the show itself is arguably a seminal work in the "girl fighting demons and monsters who strategically tear her clothes off in the course of an epic battle" genre (of which, amusingly, there have been many imitators). These elements alone earn the show some grudging respect.
And since we are on the subject? Happy anniversary to ADV Films. Don't feel too bad. Everyone had to start somewhere. You've come a long way, baby.
Definitely one of the stupider anime series ever created, Devil Hunter Yohko, for all its shameless fan service, admittedly has a certain charm, like a T&A version of Sailor Moon crossed with Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Believe it or not, the show is a lot of fun, in a mindless, pubescent sort of way; but overall, this set is something of a mixed bag. The problems with this DVD set are numerous, plentiful, technical, and conceptual, making recommending this ridiculous anime series to the general public even more ridiculous.
Still, the fact that the show is even available on DVD is a definite step up from the fan-traded VHS copies previously available. For true diehard fans of the series (or anime history buffs), ADV has done a decent enough job of preserving Yohko for future generations to scoff at / appreciate. If that be you, then the court concedes that Devil Hunter Yohko: The Complete Collection may not be a bad DVD purchase, especially if you can find it on the cheap.
Still, before you rush out and purchase this DVD, start at "The Evidence" section of this review and work your way back down. You may have inadvertently missed a paragraph or two.
We are talking the guiltiest of guilty pleasures here, but who are we to argue? Apparently people like to see 16-year-old girls in skimpy outfits getting their clothes torn off fighting demons, or something. I mean, who in their right mind would ev --
What? Me? Never! Not me! I swear innocence!
Court dismissed! No more questions! I have to go now.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• ADV Historical Commentary
Review content copyright © 2005 Adam Arseneau; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.