Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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WITCH Hunter Robin is a current anime TV show that is starting to make its way to the US via digital fansubbers and is showing up on IRC. I've watched the first few episodes.

Executive summary: tons of style and atmosphere, needs to work on plot and character.
As you might expect, this is a show about a group of people in modern Japan who hunt witches. Robin, age 15, joins them in the first episode. She was born in Japan, but has been living elsewhere (US?), in a 'monastery'. Episodes through No. 5 have largely been about hunting the guest witch of the week.

WHR is brimming over with atmosphere and style. The color palette is muted and desaturated, running to grey, chocolate and umber tones in interior shots, rather like Boogiepop Phantom, but without the heavy vignetting. The set and costume design is gothic/steampunk: lots of Art Nouveau wrought iron, stonework and heavy velvet drapes. The male characters wear greatcoats, and Robin runs around in a layered black skirt that drags along the floor, a black long sleeved jacket, and a high lace-trimmed collar. She'd look like your great-great-grandma in Civil War era photograph, except for the punky leather bindings in her hair, which make her appear (intentionally, I'm sure) as if she has horns. Mmmm, girls with horns... Maybe we can read this as a deconstruction of the catgirl/bunnygirl cliché.

The show is from Sunrise, and character design is reminiscent of that of Cowboy Bebop and Gasaraki, but even more than that, it reminds me of American animation, for example, in the way it uses drawn cheekbones rather than shadow to limn out facial structure, and lips are pretty fully articulated. There's not much kawaii factor, either. Robin in particular, while her looks are striking, isn't all that pretty, especially in profile, and definitely not kawaii. Playing Touga to her Utena is Amon, an arrogant dark bishie.

There is a heavy use of CG for the backgrounds, which sometimes works, but often clashes a little with the cel-drawn characters. The music is very good. The setting of the show, despite the steampunk sets and clothing, seems to be modern Tokyo. The opening credits sequence has a very Lain-ish flavor, with a wailing OP in a minor key, and lots of use of television monitors. Damn, but it's classy.

The general texture of the show is elegiac and sinister. Robin seems badly alienated, and is having a hard time fitting in with the rest of the witch hunters. So far the show has been very episodic, and we haven't seen any larger story arc development, or much insight into the characters, their past, who or what the witches are, and why everyone is doing what they're doing. There are hints that witch hunting outfit, STN-J, may not entirely be on the side of the angels, and may have a rotten core like NERV. There have been intimations that the witch-hunters, who use witchcraft themselves, cannot claim any moral superiority to the witches they hunt. Wonder where they're going with this.

This show has heaps of style, and wonderful dark, moody atmosphere. If it's going to succeed, it's got to get working on plot and character, and if we're lucky, theme, none of which we've seen much of by episode 5. I hope it will, because I want to keep on liking it.

I am smiling.


Getting up close and personal with the picture tube. Robin's either doing her hair or having an orgasm, I can't tell which.


Lighting candles the hard way.


Wearing the battle glasses.


Amon and a bullet-time shot. Screen-cap didn't come out well, looks more impressive on video.

omote, arawa(su)
meaning: show, surface, list, front side
時刻表  == jikokuhyou == timetable
図表 == zuhyou == chart, diagram, graph
Henshall suggests remember this kanji by association with long (長), and as a mnemonic:  'Shown long-looking list.'


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