Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, April 23, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What They Say
After the attack on Robin, Michael and the others convince her to stay at headquarters. While they believe she would safe there, the group slowly begins to wonder if the attacks were orchestrated from inside the STN-J. But the mystery thickens as the headquarter is brutally attacked with Robin barely escaping with her life.

When investigations into Robin assailants dig too deep, Robin is again put the test and must use her powers to protect the people around her. But is she truly in control of her powers?

The Review!
After the chaos of the past few episodes, the series moves forward into deeper into similar territory and continues to change everything.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a solid stereo mix that provides some good directionality in a few key sequences. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no technical issues with either language track during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2002, Robin has one of the most gorgeous full frame transfers I've seen lately. Watching this in the dark and taking in the visuals from simple things like the backgrounds outdoors and indoors brings out so much detail and attention to the small things. The coloring is done lushly when we get outside of the dark offices and buildings that the characters usually inhabit. The series is also almost completely free of cross coloration and had only a few moments of noticeable aliasing during some digital panning. This transfer was a real treat to watch.

Tapping into the Japanese covers again, this one has a good shot of Robin falling backwards down the well with her face partially covered by her outfit. There's a great sense of fear and panic in her eyes in this shot. The back cover provides a collage of images along the right from various episodes while the left goes into a few paragraphs worth of summary. Episode numbers and titles are listed here along with the discs extras and features. There's no volume numbering here at all, leaving the episode numbers to tell you what volume you're on. The insert has a nice look and feel of an old book to it and opens to the text piece that's played at each ending sequence as well as some character design shots. The back of the insert provides the full production credits as well as bilingual main voice actor credits. The cover is also reversible this one using the cover of Dojima and Zaizen set against the city lights at night.

The menu layout is solid with a circular half of the screen being animation from the show playing but separated by a line of fire. The right side has the animated logo and selections for the disc, which is all wiped away when you make a selection and get the flames running across for a transitional animation. That animation manages to go by quickly and the load times are fast so it's not terribly bad or annoying if you go through the menus a couple of times.

The extras are fairly similar to past volumes with some of the liner notes in the Compendium providing some background information for the more detailed episodes here. The other continuing extras are the two Japanese interview segments with the voice actresses for Robin and Karasuma. We started in on these but they provide spoilers for episodes on this volume and potentially the remainder of the series so we avoided finishing them out..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The last volume of Witch Hunter Robin had Robin's life turned upside down, never mind what happened to poor Touko after the attack on their apartment. With as much as went on during that part of the volume, this one takes it even further. There's basically nothing in this review that doesn't spoil things, so consider yourself forewarned.

With Touko now in the hospital, Robin is spending the time after the attack on her and the apartment by holing up inside the office itself, where everyone else is trying to figure out what's going on while she tries to recover. To make matters worse for the group, Zaizen and Amon are both missing and haven't been heard from in some time now. Divisions start showing up within the office group over this as those whose lives are essentially bound to the hunt and those who are only doing a job begin to clash. The level of tension is interesting to see, particularly since there are those in the group that are bound for their entire lives to this endeavor.

This does go on for a bit, but a bigger event ends up taking precedence when, through a brief series of scenes with Zaizen, we learn that Solomon is about to make a full on attack on the STN-J, ostensibly to take Robin down. For his own reasons he ends up allowing and ensures his own safety. The actual attack on the building is quick and swift as we watch the armored soldiers maneuvering through the building and taking down everyone left and right. Robin's in a daze throughout most of this but she ends up being rescued at the last minute by Amon. His entrance is amusing in a way since it turns the normally drab and dark offices into a bright blaze.

Amon's gone against orders to rescue her, but partially because he believes that Robin isn't the real target. He races throughout the building with her as they're chased by the soldiers down the various locked stairwells. Amon's known of a secret exit out of the building and sends Robin down the well, telling her to head off to a contact of his. The way the two part is pretty dramatic as the well closes up over her and she can only hear parts of the firefight between the two. But Robin does what she has to do and eventually returns to her senses and heads off into the city to meet with the man Amon told her to.

This rather quickly brings the series to an interesting place that looks like it's how things will be for several episodes at least. Robin finds herself working as a courier for a law agency that's also putting her up with a small room, all as a favor to Amon. What Robin discovers after spending well over a month working there is that Nagira, the owner, is working something similar to an Underground Railroad for Witches and others with latent supernatural abilities. He's not entirely in it just for the good of things or out of his heart, but there's still much to discover about him and his business. For Robin, she's unsure of how to deal with what he's doing and his relationship to Amon as well as the STNJ in general.

The rest of the time, minus the still missing Amon and the continuously absent Zaizen, end up spending time in the office and start bonding in a strange way once the weirdness of the entire attack episode gets broken. They all start to pull together in different ways and deal with their situation. Dojima finds herself being overworked and going out on hunts by herself since Sakaki is still recovering from his wounds while Karusama tries to take on the role left empty by Amon only to find that she's not really suited for it, but she ends up trying her best to deal with and winds up overcompensating for it. The team that's left is overly stretched out and without someone like Amon or Robin they're finding themselves unable to really handle the problems that are being thrown at them.

For most of the series so far, we've had small standalone tales that have given us glimpses of the world these characters inhabit and how their operations run. The stability of the world they live in was given plenty of time only to have it ripped out from under them just after halfway through and now they all have to deal with new elements of danger, including those who otherwise felt the safest the entire time like Kosaka and his assistant. The things they've been doing for so long are now revealed to be just one side of a multifaceted piece and the way things are done elsewhere are coming to light. It's interesting material and it's good to see Robin out of her normal routine and attempting to be on her own in a strange way.

In Summary:
The first half of the series has been a lot of fun and full of intrigue but the second half looks to be even more exciting now that there's all sorts of new elements brought in and a direction that wasn't completely obvious before. The bigger forces behind the scenes have set things into motion here that are likely to come back and bite them in the end. Everyone is thrown into different directions and objectives now and are realizing their purpose. These episodes play out with a great sense of pace and mystery once the opening action episode is past, continuing the perfect sense of mood and atmosphere set in the earlier episodes. Great stuff.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Voice Actor Interview, STNJ Files,Liner Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Witch Hunter Robin