Released in 2007 in Japan, El Cazador de la Bruja is an anime that marches to the beat of a different drummer. This series came under the direction of Kouichi Mashimo, was written by Kenichi Kanemaki, and animated by Bee Train. That's an effective trio for sure, but what makes this 26 episode show truly stand out is the setting and characters. It should also be said that if you were a fan of Noir or Madlax, then you'll find that this one is more or less a spiritual successor of the two.
Taking place in Mexico, El Cazador de la Bruja follows the exploits of a bounty hunter named Nadie. This red-haired, tanned beauty means business. She's not afraid to pull out her guns and doesn't hesitate when it's time to throw down. When the show begins she's looking for someone and it's quite evident that person is Ellie, who a blonde girl with blue eyes that is quite mysterious in her own right. One event leads to another and Nadie winds up fighting to save Ellie's life and eventually finds herself protecting Ellie, rather than turning her in right away.
Together Nadie and Ellie travel to the south to unravel Ellie's enigmatic past. You see, she possesses some strange powers and seems to be quite dangerous to herself and others. The only memory she has of her youth is the death of a person close to her right before her very eyes. She recalls that it was her that killed him and that certainly has taken its toll. It's also worth noting that there are many references to her not even being human, but rather some experiment. Put two and two together and you have a character that stands out and a background for the series to work off of.
With Nadie and Ellie are traveling south to figure out what's going on, once their trip is done, Ellie has promised to be Nadie's bounty so she can collect the reward. Sounds easy, right? Well, consider the duo is being tracked by other bounty hunters, the CIA, weird people, and scientists things aren't quite that simple at all. There's more at play than meets the eye and throughout the course of the first half of the show the mystery begins to unravel.
Nadie is the hunter (el Cazador) and Ellie is the witch (la Bruja), the two make a fine pair of traveling companions. Nadie's brazen attitude and Ellie's naïveté play off each other quite well, though admittedly we've seen this style of pairing before. Still, the mysterious power residing in Ellie and the revelation that she's something known as Project Leviathan are certainly more than enough to make her stand out. Nadie's nonchalant reaction to everything also belies the fact that she knows more than she's letting on. The rest of the cast fulfills their roles adequately as well. The bounty hunter Ricardo and Lirio, the other witch L.A., and even the main antagonist Rosenberg all fill in the ranks quite nicely.
Though most of the show focuses on the relationship between its protagonists, the series is rather episodic. In traditional traveling buddy format, Nadie and Ellie come upon random strangers and new places, and we see how they react to each situation. The show deftly strings you along with the mystery carrot, but thankfully drops enough breadcrumbs to make each episode worth watching. There's also plenty of action here as well and if you appreciate girls with guns then you'll love Nadie instantly.
The first half of El Cazador de la Bruja leaves one with the impression that the show is shaping up to be something special. Sure it's rather straightforward at times, and yeah the characters fill specific archetypes, but there's an energy here that is completely its own. There simply aren't any shows with this setting and because of that the series stands out. If you enjoyed Noir or Madlax then this one is an easy pick. However, if you've never experienced either of those shows then all you need to know is that El Cazador de la Bruja is very entertaining and packs a punch. Strongly recommended!
El Cazador de la Bruja is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has a very nice look with some solid designs, smooth animation, and vibrant colors. The transfer does justice to the series with a strong image that only falters with some higher than normal levels of grain and grit at times. Then again, that may have been intentional considering most of the series takes place in a desert environment. Whatever the case, this is a good looking show despite the grain and fans of Bee Train will certainly appreciate the work they did with the designs.
English 5.1 surround and Japanese 2.0 stereo are almost expected nowadays. In that regard El Cazador de la Bruja does not disappoint. The quality of both dubs is solid and in all honesty I didn't have a preference of one versus the other. I will say that the English 5.1 certainly offered a more dynamic presentation on the soundstage than the Japanese 2.0, but that's to be expected I suppose. The many gunfights offer some great moments for bullets to whiz by your head and ricochet off walls. Unfortunately the Japanese track is mostly flat with no channel separation.
Some clean animations and trailers are here as one would expect, but the first episode of the series also includes an audio commentary. This commentary track was pretty refreshing and energetic with plenty of laughs supplied by the voice cast, but it came up a little short on information about the show.
El Cazador de la Bruja starts off with a bang and keeps the momentum going for the entirety of its first 13 episodes. Nadie and Ellie make an interesting pair and there mystery that surrounds Ellie is more than adequate for carrying viewers through this series. The action is also solid as well and Nadie stands out in many ways herself. But this show is so much more than mystery and action. There's a captivating story at work here and it's something that stands out as being unique in many ways. Consider it strongly recommended, especially if you've enjoyed Noir and Madlax.
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