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: Arrival, 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 1: Replacement:
Robin, a 15-year-old girl, is sent by headquarters to replace a team member that died in the line of duty. She's revealed as a "craft user" which is someone with a special background. She intuitively assists the team deals with a powerful witch.
Episode 2: Addicted To Power:
A witch that has what amounts to a secret power is the target this time. This witch has a lot of wealth and power so the team has to be careful or they'll bow their cover. The team gets used to Robin and more of the day-to-day activities are disclosed.
Episode 3: Dancing In Darkness:
The latest witch is a vampire type who uses bugs to kill his prey. We learn more about Michael and his indentured servitude in this episode as well.
Episode 4: Stubborn Aesthetics:
A witch with an affinity for birds and a power not previously catalogued shows the team that the witch gene must be more prevalent than previously thought. Robin is trapped by her and has no way out.
Episode 5: Smells Like The Wandering Spirit:
Appearances can be deceiving as the team finds out when a non-witch dies at their hands. In the course of the investigation, Amon's background is shown as even more secretive than thought.
I liked a lot of aspects of the show. From the anime style employed to tell the stories to the characters with their slowly disclosing backgrounds to the potential the first 5 episodes set forth, this seems like a winner. I just hope the show doesn't rely too heavily on the "fight a witch per episode" formula since that would be very limited. Otherwise, there was enough mystery going on that I think I'll be happy as the series progresses. Robin's true origin seems more than has been told and the ties between the characters are bound to grow with time. I'm rating this one as Highly Recommended based on what I've seen so far and I just hope the future volumes are as good.
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. 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 option 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 equally.
Extras: With 5 full episodes here, any extras are just gravy from my perspective. The best for me was the "Maelifica Compendium" which was a series of liner notes for the individual episodes. The next best extra was an STNJ Personnel files section which amounted to a biography for the main characters, filling in some blanks you might not pick up while watching the shows. There were the typical trailers, textless opening and closing, and a double-sided dvd cover too.
Final Thoughts: A story about a 15 year nun with the ability to send flames from her eyes as she hunts down people just like herself in a team setting. Okay, I know it sounds fairly weird but the truth is that there was a lot to like for anime fans. If you like supernatural, science fiction, or shows with an "us vs. them" mentality, you may find this one as interesting as I did.