Not the forward momentum that I was craving, but maybe this is a pause before a push toward the bigger things that must be coming.
The hyper-focus on the old pervert trope seemed to be the No Guns Life fan-service episode – or perhaps a critique of it – but I think it’s also clear that ‘x-ray eyes’ will be back, once he hooks up with Vincent and spills some secrets.
It was good to see Mary get fired up, but the highlight for me was another clue about Juzo’s past. I’m also pleased that the story is now bringing back a few characters that I’ve been curious about too.
Even if this isn’t my fav moment this season, at least the bloody nose exaggeration was funny. (There was also a refreshing change in the colour palette, as the greys and blues dominated the last few eps.)
Other than that fun moment – which is textbook ‘weekly’ storytelling – it was nice to see some satisfying action but also poor Natsume’s reaction to the big reveal behind the other big reveal.
I liked the slight ‘widening’ up of the world here, and so I remain hopeful that she will get the chance to explore later on.
It’s probably far too early in the series to say this, but I wonder if a few minor characters have been a bit forgotten? For instance, someone like Fennel. Is he relevant or not really? If he is, I’d like for episode 6 to check in with him, otherwise, I guess it’s all good 🙂
Other names tend to grace lists of ‘favourite/best studios’ more often, but maybe it’s easy to forget that Studio DEEN can certainly pull out all the stops too.
And Read or Die has some cracking action sequences indeed.
On that note, everything really did feel fluid and vivid to me, with scenes usually full of exciting near-misses. I was usually glued to the screen, partially due to the direction, but also since ‘The Paper’ is a less typical heroine when it comes to action leads.
Her ability to use paper as both protection and weapon was fascinating, and that’s another aspect I really enjoyed. Her fights were less about brute force and more problem-solving, in a way. And the anime really casts an unreservedly wide net for its historical villains and their powers too – more unconventional stuff that was most welcome, especially if you’ve seen a whole host of classic choices for weapons or powers.
Now, if you haven’t seen Read or Die (as I hadn’t until quite recently) and you’re getting a superhero vibe from that previous paragraph, then that’s not precisely inaccurate, but ‘secret agents with super-powers’ is probably better. Here and there, I was put in the mind of other action shows but rarely enough to pull me out of the storytelling.
I will note that at times, Yomiko sounds like a lost lamb, which you could argue is meant to link to her role as a ‘bookworm’, and it’s an interesting contradiction to her character. She’s pretty cool under pressure but kinda goes to pieces over books – something which is usually played for laughs, but the OVA does feature a certain book as a MacGuffin to kick things off too. So literature is not just a comedic element.
As is my way, I haven’t said much about the premise or plot, but it’s very much classic ‘save the world’ stuff but with fantastic animation and very few ‘stock’ characters or settings. There’s also a fun steampunk aesthetic – something else I loved a lot about Read or Die.
Well, if you want to see Mata Hari, Genjo Sanzo and Ludwig van Beethoven (among others), battling it out with secret agent heroes with inventive powers, in an easy to digest 3-part OVA, then this is worth finding.
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Excited to (finally) get my second OWLS post up and running – we’re looking at ‘Folklore’ and the Supernatural for August – thanks again to the team for the opportunity to jump in 🙂
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin was released right around a ‘heyday’ for live-action Supernatural television. In the late ‘90s, shows like Sabrina,Charmed, Buffy, Angel and the X-Files were reigning kings here (doubtless in the US too) and I think traces of those shows are clear in this series.
On the other hand, in anime, the Supernatural sub-genre has probably been more consistently popular, independent of US trends, but Witch Hunter Robin has plenty of European mythology and ‘US crime show’ mixed into its Japanese setting. You could argue, perhaps that it’s a bit like another Sunrise anime, Cowboy Bebop, in that respect (only).
And there are definitely a few production aspects that lock Witch Hunter Robin into that time-period too, but while one of them is a mark against the show, I’m considering most of them as drawcards, rather than issues 😀
Okay, so here’s a tiny note on the premise: the series follows young witch-hunter Robin of Italy, as she adjusts to the STN-J, a sophisticated and powerful organisation tasked with capturing rogue witches… and innocent people who have yet to manifest their powers.
Now, since I tend to think of myself as maybe slightly favouring Concept over Execution, I really enjoyed the PKD ‘pre-crime’ aspect to Witch Hunter Robin. And while what happens to witches and ‘seeds’ in the series is sadly similar to what authoritarian governments continue to do to minorities, I’d have loved a bit more critique of that system… still, it’s hardly glossed over.*
Visually, the anime makes me think of a slightly grimier noir. It’s an aesthetic that I could maybe argue that Grunge helped popularise, and which extended into the 2000s… or perhaps I’m reading too much into that, and it’s more apt to consider it as something director Murase Shukou likes to use?
In any event, if you enjoyed that and certain other things about his works (like Ergo Proxy, Gangsta and even Genocidal Organ) well, they also appear to varying extents here in Witch Hunter Robin. Especially I think, a fondness for shadow, of dark coats, mysteries and ‘slow’ pacing.
So, I just alluded to the pacing, and in terms of the ‘main’ storyline – you will have to wait a bit for it to really kick-in. There’s a fair establishing phase where ‘monster of the week’ plots provide the action and world-building, and only small hints of the big picture, interspersed with quieter moments for Robin and other characters.
The series does build up to something big, but depending on your general familiarity with science-fiction and supernatural tropes, I think you’d see most of those things coming. But I was hooked on the characters and the tensions between them so that was no problem for me.
Most folks in the team have their secrets and even some of the minor characters too, and so there’s definitely time spent there, which I liked. In fact, my favourite episode or moment was probably the one focusing on ‘Master’, the cafe owner – and if I think about it now, he probably makes a bigger impact than a few of the leads.
So, as I sometimes do – I’m switching to dot points in a hopeless token gesture toward brevity:
Unpacking and dealing with some of the issues and discoveries Robin and her partners faced did seem compressed toward the end, and so I can see that as a flaw, even if it didn’t bother me too much personally.
Robin herself is kinda morose, though she’s not without spark. But her (maybe) obvious depression is sort of echoed elsewhere in the series, and so I definitely consider it a feature rather than a bug.
It’s interesting how little in the way of dialogue Robin has in some episodes, you have to read into a lot from her expressions, which are also repressed.
While this isn’t a typical action anime, I noticed that the animation for those scenes at times didn’t always feel fluid compared to other shows.
CGI. Above any other issue here, I suspect a modern audience might have trouble with this one. It definitely adds to the general grimy and downbeat tone of the series, though most of it has aged quite poorly. Just two years later, things would be looking better in say, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, but neither anime resembles a new series with a high budget. Maybe it’s part of the charm for me, but it’s fascinating to note this would have been cutting edge in 2002. How fast technology moves, right?
The aspects around witchcraft, folklore and lineage was something I would have liked more of, and maybe that could have happened with a second season… but on the other hand, I like where Witch Hunter Robin ended too.
Character design stood out for me, as did costuming – even Robin’s courier moments. Mostly, I suspect I enjoyed all the ‘coats’ – not just your classic dark trench for the STN-J, but Robin’s more complex outfit or Nagira’s white fur, which really catches the eye.
Nagira himself quickly became a fav too, especially when Amon seems to occupy the role of ‘jerk’ for a little too long.
The opening song was pretty ace, very much of the era, and within the series itself I liked the sombre piano to Robin’s theme. While I mostly remember that piece, there’s also Flame which is plenty dramatic.
And finally, it’s recommendation time!
You’ll see that I’ve rated it the series a ‘5’ but that’s me – if you’re not me, which is pretty likely, then you might not enjoy this as much as I did.
Especially if you have trouble with old CGI or pacing that’s more Mystery than Action, or if you are drawn to more upbeat lead characters. However, if you like other works of Murase Shukou, noir-influenced supernatural shows, leads who are not precisely ‘open books’, then this might just appeal.
*[Bit of a spoiler perhaps] Nagira, who appears as the Yakuza lawyer, and who operates essentially as a criminal, is the one advocating for and protecting ‘seeds’ in Witch Hunter Robin.
And in an all too common reflection upon real life – you have a large corporation with government-level surveillance and a militant arm, which is obsessed with order and control, and thus ‘becomes’ the true villain.
And while Robin at first works for them, and maybe believes in their mandate, she eventually comes to rail against it all, with Nagira’s help.
Here’s a few examples of where the CGI reveals its age:
And now a few extra shots because I wanted to add them, basically 😀
Again, I’m doing only a couple of notes for this episode, as I’m juggling a few things at the moment.
First off – I’m pleased to see Juzo has recovered, but it was a fun surprise as to how, and so I feel like there’s a chance our heroes can move forward a bit now. For most of the season so far, the team has been locked into a reactive pattern, as they deal with and learn about important stuff, and stuff I wanted to know too.
But it’s nice to see that other key characters are being drawn back into the picture again, and I wonder how that will play out now that Tetsuro is being (sorta) blackmailed.
Here and there I’m noticing the occasional moment where the CGI jumps out a bit – usually when there’s less shadow to do the work of blending, I guess. And since this is a show I believe I’ll grab on disc one day, I’m curious to compare a few scenes.
Anyway, that’s a bit of an aside – once more, I must ‘suffer’ through an entire week before another episode 😀
Very short post this time around, might do the same with No Guns Life tonight, actually, while I’m swamped with other stuff.
Action aplenty and more intrigue too – things are building swiftly now, and I wonder if the story will expand beyond the confines of the current boundaries, a bit like Gurren Lagann did for example?
I’m not sure but it feels like those flashbacks with Natsume and her dad were also foreshadowing the idea that we’ll get to see the surface sooner rather than later?
The tension between Natsume’s idealism and Kaburagi’s cynicism and fear was great too – but of course, she’s a classic hero and so she’s pushing on against the huge odds that the story has set up with the snow Gadoll.
A long wait ahead to see exactly how she survives, I guess 😀
More answers revealed this time around, and of course, more questions raised. While we didn’t check-in with Tetsuro at all, there was plenty going on with Juzo and Mary.
And seeing them face off against ‘Victor’ was quite satisfying, plus there’s a little comedic moment that I won’t spoil in there too. At this point, after getting that tiny morsel about Juzo’s past, I’m realising that I probably know more about the back-story of everyone else, so I’m ready for extra details in that department from the next few episodes 😀
What I continue to find (and not enjoy so much) is that even though I think I can comment, in the form of prediction/gut reaction, upon big picture things like ‘pacing’, is that it’s very hard. Ideally, before I attempt a series review of No Guns Life, I’d like to watch the whole thing in a few sittings first.
Glad that it seems Victor will take the role of significant villain (and ally, as it turns out) but when we no doubt visit Tetsuro’s storyline with the next episode, I’m hoping things start to surge forward.
It feels like the audience now has plenty of background, context and understanding around what’s happening and who is responsible for what – and once Mary (or someone else?) fixes up Juzo, I’m hoping it’ll be time to start drawing the main protagonists together!
So, how’s everyone finding the second season so far? (For me, each week certainly gets harder to wait for the next episode :D).
I enjoyed plenty about episode three, but probably the combat training and slapstick there with Natsume the most. As before, the clash between worlds/art styles continues to give me pause at first, but I’m sure I’ll eventually acclimatise to the Furby/Regular Show-like aspects to the visuals.
It was great to get another hint that something else is afoot, re: Kaburagi and Pipe (who remains almost ridiculously cute) because I am glad there still seems to be secrets left in the storyline. Nice high-tension ending to the episode too, and I had a chuckle at Natsume and the arms dealer.
At this early point in the story, I’m still not feeling the dystopian aspects that have been hinted at, not quite feeling the full fear for humanity yet, even with the educational video – maybe I need to see what’s left of the surface, and especially see it presented in a non-cutesy way.
Now that the recapping/tiny wrap-up bits from episode 1 are dealt with, it feels like it’s time to move the story along again! (Though right at the beginning, I like that little nod to possible audience impatience with Juzo’s voice-over interruption :D).
A bit more action this time around, and more Juzo – so I’m happy there of course, as he’s still a force no matter his injuries. In fact, I’m hoping he and Mary take a moment for repairs soon.
But since they haven’t, I believe that adds a touch more tension to the upcoming fight between he and Victor. And, like episode one, we’re given a few more answers that lead to more questions. Big questions, especially around Tetsuro, so I’m growing increasingly keen for No Guns Life. In fact, it’s getting harder to wait – part of me wants to ‘save up’ a few episodes so I can watch back-to-back.
One thing I mentioned in the first half of the season, I’m still wanting to get a feel for a ‘main antagonist’. And it’s interesting to speculate upon whether Victor will take that role, since he has a connection to our heroes.
So far, outside of flashback, he’s been shown as ‘unhinged with some cunning’ rather than just being ‘broken + destructive’, so I’m kinda hoping he’ll end up in the ‘main villain’ category or at least in the ‘untrustworthy ally’ basket. I also hope that the plot doesn’t essentially discard him too soon, as there have been a lot of players entering and exiting the stage too quickly… so far.
Further to this, I still don’t quite ‘feel’ Berühren as the villain of the series, even if the corporation clearly must be, based at least on their activities and general stranglehold on the city.
‘Interesting’ is my first thought with episode two.
And not in a sarcastic way, I am interested to see how things continue to develop – but maybe I was at least half right that this show isn’t going to be super-gritty… maybe.
Once the twist landed, I had an instant reaction – it seemed that a whole heap of the dramatic tension was sucked from the world; suddenly very little was at stake, since the characters were avatars.
And I still half feel that way, or maybe that’s the moe facade that fools me a little. Because certainly, there are consequences lurking for Kaburagi and if you’re human there’s plenty of danger.
But as I’d hoped, I got some follow-up from episode one, some answers and more importantly, new engaging questions, so I’m definitely still on board and ready for the next installment in the story.
Especially as it will probably, at the least, check in with the wider cast too. And I’m keen to see a little more of the fortress itself, along with extra details on how precisely the scam is operating.
It’s nice to have the classic Big Evil Corporation in place as something for the characters to (eventually) rail against too.