11/30/03

Witches are running rampant in Japan and it is up to the members of STN-J to combat their crimes and keep them in check.

Robin Sena is a craft user who has just arrived in Japan to join up with the other members of STN-J: the leader, the dark and brooding Amon, the sixteen year old Sakaki, full of energy but not experience, Karasuma, a more senior member who can divine events by touching objects, Doujima, who doesn't seem to do anything, and last but definitely not least, Michael, who works as a sort of systems operator and hacker for the group. Together they serve as the main opposition to witches operating in the area.

The series is very dark and stylish, perhaps it could be called gothic as well. The character designs are realistic, with no one having oddly colored or gravity-defying hair, aiding in creating the drama and seriousness that is inherent in this show. The animation itself is of a very high quality, as many newer shows tend to have, and a lot of detail is given to settings and backgrounds. A number of the characters in this series are quiet and brooding, including both Robin and Amon (as mentioned above), so it is necessary for the scenes to be well drawn and staged to help convey the tone and ideas effectively, and I cannot deny it was carried out very well here. Every aspect just oozes coolness.

Initially, the series progresses as a "witch of the week" show, with the group having to defeat a new witch in each outing, and this goes on for about ten episodes while the audience is becoming associated with the various team members. While in other shows such a method may invoke an aura of triteness, I do not think that Witch Hunter Robin falls into such a trap. Most of the witches they encounter have different abilities, though the most obvious one, telekinesis, does get reused. As the show unfolds though, we also see Robin dealing with how to control her power, and trying to get accepted into the group. Robin also has to adjust to living in Japan again, having been raised in a monastery in Italy. And after we get familiar with the characters, and Robin becomes more or less adjusted to her situation, that is when everything gets turned upside down, of course. STN-J itself is a subsidiary of Solomon Corporation, whose motives are somewhat hidden beyond controlling witches, much like STN-J. At the heart of this conflict is the strange substance called Orbo. The members of STN-J use it as protection against witches, because it absorbs any craft used against them. But what is the nature of Orbo, and how is it being used? This ends up being the crux of the main plot of the series. Also involved is the quest for a strange craft artifact said to bestow great powers upon the bearer. Robin must deal with each of these with the other members of STN-J, while at the same time questioning their and even her own loyalties.

The voice performances in Witch Hunter Robin were good, though not perfect. Robin (Akeno Watanabe) is a very quiet character for the most part and I imagine it would be difficult for anyone to have done it well, but in my opinion it was well executed. Amon could have ended up flat as well, but I think his VA (Takuma Takewaka) succeeded with the role, too. Most of the rest are decent if not outstanding. The show itself is, again, very dark, and the voices seem to take on a supporting role to the action and plot itself, trying not to stand out too much and distract. I did have a bit of a problem with Michael and his "okay"s.

The music is excellent. I am very glad that Bandai packaged the first soundtrack with the volume 1 + box collection that they released, it saved me the trouble of paying for the import, which I was seriously considering doing until I saw the contents of the collectors edition. The background music is slow and somber at times, though at others very violent and raucous, in each case perfectly accentuating the action presented. In each case, though, there is an underlying darkness, perhaps a foreboding, contained within each piece. The opening, "Shell", is good, but my favorite is the ending, "Half Pain". Without even knowing what is being sung, the music and vocals seem to convey a sort of melancholy longing which really complements the show itself.

Overall, this ended up being a very satisfying series. It was a little difficult to get into early on, but as the series continued it drew me into it more and more until finally I ended up watching the last dozen episodes in a single marathon session. I have seen it described elsewhere as being a sort of mix of X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I would agree with more or less. The pacing of the show is very deliberate early on, so if anyone is discouraged by that fact I would urge you to bear with it. Once the series reaches the main storyline, which really begins to swing in around episode ten or so, the action really picks up and there is much intrigue as well as the characters' situations change abruptly. And even though the series reaches a somewhat open ended conclusion, I still find it very satisfying and well worth my time.

-Larinon

Composite grade A+ (3.80)
Visuals A
Story A
Performances B
Music A
Overall A