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: Belief, 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 Six: Raindrops:
Robin has been working on controlling her power, helped in large part by her corrective lenses. She stumbles onto a mystery involving the death of someone she just met that appears to be the victim of a witches powers. After being dismissed by the boss as a personal whim, the team joins Robin's efforts, finding that foul play was indeed involved.
Episode Seven: Simple Mind:
Two ruthless criminals to enrich their coffers are using a child witch. His power of telekinesis is formidable and the team wants to protect him from the gangsters but as his self-awareness grows, so to does the danger he possesses to himself and those around him.
Episode Eight: Faith:
A witch that can steal the life force from regular people and give it to others has been keeping busy in the city. The team is on his trail but this case is not as easily handled as the earlier ones, nor are the witch's motives as clear-cut as they appear on the surface.
Episode Nine: Sign Of The Crait:
Is it a witch or a ghost that is killing people in the city? The team is running into a series of dead ends and as the body count mounts increasingly higher, they run down every lead they can.
Episode Ten: Separate Lives:
A particularly powerful witch makes a journey home to see his father. Will the visit entail killing his old man for deserting him as a child or something much more basic to human nature?
I still 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 of the series, this show 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 as this (and the first volume) have been.
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 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 Equipment files section, which amounted to a description of the weapons the team uses in the field. There were the typical trailers, textless opening and closing, and a double-sided dvd cover too.
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.