Movie: Anime stories about super powered youth are plentiful, to be sure. Shows that explore the themes surrounding such youth often approach the subject matter in a variety of ways, depending on what issues the creators want to address. Much of the time, themes involving alienation, sub-cultures, fitting in, and responsibility versus rights are but a few of the aspects addressed in such shows. Most of the time, the deeper meaning being looked at relates to issues of race as well. In a show released by Bandai, Witch Hunter Robin: Inquisition, we get to observe the latest such series looking at the issues involved with super powerfully endowed humans.
The show is set in the near future and centers on a young gal, Robin Sena, who has the ability to start fires and direct the energy from them as a weapon. She belongs to an organization, the STN, which trains such youth to act as "hunters" who use their powers to track and kill similarly gifted individuals that use their powers for personal gain or to harm people. She is sent to a branch office of the group, in Japan, where she replaces a team member that died 6 months prior. Not much is known about the young gal but it's clear she has an agenda and no one is quite sure what to make of her. The unofficial leader of the group is an older male, Amon, who is in his mid 20's. He is less social than average and doesn't like Robin's seemingly dangerous inexperience. Miho Karasuma is another senior team member-one who can sense thoughts or events by touching objects, Michael Lee-a computer hacker, Haruto Sakaki-another rookie to the team, and Yuriko Dojima-a flighty rich gal who doesn't take life seriously. Their immediate supervisor is Chief Kosaka, a grumpy old guy, and the top man at the STNJ branch is a mysterious man named Zaizen who knows more about what's going on then everyone else put together but doesn't share his information.
The team is sent on missions to confront "witches", those who use their powers to break the law. In a sense, the show is a cop show with the added dimension of the paranormal powers involved. STNJ, the Japanese branch of the organization, does things a bit differently in that they don't seek to kill the witches but to capture them using a green liquid (orbo) that nullifies the witch's powers. Generally shot through a gun-like weapon, the orbo is expensive and weakens the hunters' powers too. Each episode seems to focus on a single mission and the variations on the "hunt down those who are just like us" play out a bit each time.
Episode Eleven: The Soul Cages:
This is the first part of a longer story centering on a witch that may well be hundreds of years old, and have a connection to Robin. Robin's having some sort of mental flashes and wants to investigate this one on her own, a particularly dangerous idea given the abilities of the old woman, Methuselah. Further, she holds a lot of secrets, some of which are fundamental to the whole concept of witches in general.
Episode Twelve: Precious Illusions:
The STNJ computers, long thought hack-proof, have been compromised and Robin's teammates attempt to locate her. As Robin learns from the old woman, she is also in eminent danger from the knowledge the woman had stored in her very old brain. The team eventually figures out something and Robin shows she has a hidden agenda, and hidden masters.
Episode Thirteen: The Eyes Of Truth:
An Inquisitor visits the STNJ headquarters, ostensibly to determine the reliability of a new hunter. He was the one who tested Robin years before and seems to know more about her than she herself does. Is his mission somehow related to the recent events taking place between Robin and Methuselah or is this just a coincidence?
Episode Fourteen: Loaded Guns:
A group of mysterious assassins has targeted Robin and will let nothing, and no one, stand in their way as they attempt to eliminate her. Exactly what has set off this series of events is unclear but the threat is very real, even with the team and all its powers trying to protect their coworker. Conspiracies inside and out threaten the stability of the STNJ, and Robin's life.
The series is one of the highlights of anime at this writing. It manages to combine a lot of thought and intelligent writing while not slipping on the technical qualities. Just as in Witch Hunter Robin 2, this one is easily rated as Highly Recommended and has a lot of replay value. With so much going on and the new plot twists taking place, it is apparent that Bandai has a winner with this series.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. It looked very crisp and clear with only a touch of grain and no artifacts that I saw. The show is dark and moody and very good looking is the best way to describe it.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either Dolby Digital 2.0 English or Japanese with optional English subtitles as desired. The stereo channels are usually reserved for the special effects but the vocals and music seemed very solid too. Each channel had it's own merits and I liked them both but the nod went to the original Japanese track this time. .
Extras: The best extra for me was the 8.5 minute interview with the couple responsible for the music of the show. It was in Japanese with bright yellow subtitles and had some depth to it. The next best extra was the latest volume of the "Maelifica Compendium" which was a series of liner notes for the individual episodes. The next best extra was an STNJ Equipment files section, which amounted to a description of the weapons the team uses in the field, this time focusing on the vehicles they use. There were the typical trailers, textless opening and closing, and a double-sided DVD cover too. Oh, and a special bonus this time was one of those clear plastic anime cels included in the DVD case.
Final Thoughts: The series is a cross between X-Files and X-Men, with a bit of intelligent, if dark, creativity thrown in for good measure. I'm very interested in seeing more of this series since it defies the general tenants of anime. If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten track but well done in all aspects, check this one out. Witch Hunter Robin is one of the best anime series to come out of Japan in a long time, I only hope it can keep up the momentum as the series progresses.