"This is nice. And certainly better than getting canned!"
More than one dominatrix, magic-wielders, a 12-foot-tall matriarch, a hero named Carrot, the end of the world. C'mon, this is great anime!
Sorcerer Hunters isn't for everyone – too cheesy for some, too serious for others – but it is for you, dear action anime fans. This 1995 offering ranges from sexy and light to vicious and morose. It's got decent animation, an above average story, and a sweet cast of characters. It's got a great villain, the heavily cloaked, methodical Zaha, and a wonderful hero in Carrot, the lanky, oversexed, always hungry young man who everyone else in the show revolves around. And don't forget the dominatrixes.
This is a world of magic, where the ruling class of sorcerers has gotten too powerful, too willing to inflict pain on the muggels … er, wrong show. Non magic-users. A powerful priestess, a very tall and divine woman named Big Momma, leads a team of adventurers against the ruling sorcerers, and the baddest sorcerer around, Zaha. The team consists of an effeminate mage (Maron), a body-building hunk (Gateau), two cute girls who transform into busty sex idols (Tira and Chocolate), and our boy Carrot. But while this all seems pretty straight-forward – road trip adventure with random spurts of battle and breasts – there's more to Sorcerer Hunters than meets the eye.
Big Momma may not be as saintly as we're led to believe, and Zaha has a strange connection with our heroes. He wants to bring an end to the world, and he may have a legitimate reason. He'll need Carrot to finish the job, because our young lad – yes, still hungry, still sex-obsessed – has an innate power than can kill us all. What fun!
Carrot is the sun, and everyone else is a satellite in this 26-episode series, with the actions of most every character leading back to our grungy guy (he's always wearing the same brown tank top). Big Momma knows most everything about Zaha's plot (he used to be one of her followers, after all), Zaha patiently plots his course to our demise, keeping tabs on Carrot with every step, and Tira and Chocolate think about (and discuss with each other) their love for their "darling." While drawn to Carrot, the only two who don't base every action on him are Maron and Gateau, who just might be in love with each other. See, what fun!
Seriously, though, the main cast of wandering Hunters are the key to this show, with their dynamics taking center stage. Occasional glimpses of the behind-the-scenes actions of Big Momma and Zaha are thrown in, but for most of this show we watch our guys fumble about, with humor, longing and surprising wisdom. While our main characters are all enjoyable, the different sorcerers our team runs into are great in their own right. Take the bald, squat, health-obsessed sorcerer Lord Sukoya, aka Mr. Sweaty, worshiped by beefcakes everywhere. "I'll get you all in a HEALTHY way!" he spouts to his opponents. Margo is another favorite "bad" sorcerer. She rules her kingdom with an iron fist … for fashion. Really, her only crime is being cute. While Sukoya works his peasants to death, Margo passes laws about what you're allowed to eat and wear on the streets.
The first of these two DVDs is much like everything before it, Carrot and the gang travel here and there, defeating sorcerers (at the direction of Big Mamma), learning life lessons, Carrot falling in love with every piece of tail out there, except the two babes he's with. But the second DVD has the final episodes of the series that everyone either hates or loves. Things get serious (well, to a point) when the gang throws down with Zaha, and he finally tries to bring out the God of Destruction in Carrot. If you dismiss the weird little dwarf-God residing inside Carrot, the close of this story is fantastic, as the hunters face their past, their future, and their worst fears. Also, the action up to this point had been pretty tame, but things close out with a serious, bloody bang. And … dominatrixes!
The very end may be laughable, OK, but that's what was great about this show to begin with: it told a serious story without being too serious.
There's a bit of grain present in the fullscreen presentation, and the image shimmers a bit at points, but for 1995 this show looks fine. A spot check of one of the standard DVD releases from 2001 showed little improvement on the video or audio, though neither were awful to begin with. Good, consistent flesh tones, average depth to the shadows, minimal spots and scratches.
Both the Japanese and English 2.0 options are decent, though there's nothing too memorable about these audio tracks. Mostly it's a good combination of dialogue, background music and sound effects. The English dub is very solid, with great performances all around, though the dialogue on the English track is much louder than the background music. The balance is better on the Japanese track, though that's just my opinion, and not a defect by any means. Just different mixes.
On the English dub, Randy Sparks stands out as bad guy Zaha. Instead of sounding constantly, monotone evil, which would have been easy, he delivers the right pitch (caring, humoring) for different situations … and still comes out sounding like a bad-ass.
This show has excellent music. The opening and closing animation are some of my favorites this side of Neon Genesis: Evangelion, and even the interlude track is nice.
The first DVD has a commentary track for episode 19 with voice actors Kelly Manison (Big Momma in the OVA) and Kira Vincent Davis (Dotta). The cover art says there's a second commentary track with Lew Temple (Millefuelle) and Sparks (Zaha) but it's not on either DVD.
Ever cringe at the sometimes high-pitched, almost maniacal female voiceovers you hear in anime? Well, it's not an act, apparently. Davis and Manison are practically giddy while reliving the good old days of Sorcerer Hunters, one of their earlier English dubs. They offer up hardly anything interesting about the show itself … you might think you're listening to two slightly wasted sorority sisters talk about an upcoming rush. They're funny, but not all that serious about the show. They even plug their other jobs, as a comedy act. "Big Momma, join the dark side. Hahahahahahaha." "Everybody moved to New York or L.A. Pity them. Hahahahahaha." Thanks for the insights, ladies. Davis is an awesome voice actor, and she does fine work in this bit part as the cute, winged Dotta, and Manison has been solid in a lot of recent releases (Maburaho, Madlax). But it sounds like ADV sat these two down in front of the mic and let them have at it, with no direction for the commentary.
Both DVDs have DVD credits, and the second DVD features six previews, clean opening and closing animation, and a lot of detailed profiles of characters from the show. The menus are upgraded from the 2001 releases.
Everyone has a show that's stuck with them. Sorcerer Hunters stuck with me since I first saw it several years back. It's hard to pin down why, because it's by no means a seminal work. It's a pretty silly all-around show in the greater world of anime. It's light, enjoyable entertainment with an above average story and great characters. Simple is good.
If you don't already have it, the Essential Anime offering of this anime is easily Recommended. Eight episodes, two DVDs, and it doesn't cost much.
The show was eventually spun off into Sorcerer on the Rocks. We won't talk about that, unless we have to.