Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004



What They Say
Now that Robin has demonstrated her true power in front of Nagira, she decides to tell him everything. While this leads to a deeper understanding between the two, it also raises more questions than it answers. At the STNJ, things are slowly returning to normal as Sakaki recovers from his injuries. But to make matters worse, Solomon has decided that Robin must be eliminated!

One by one, they dispatch their top hunters to deal with her and while she finally comes to terms with the pain of being hunted and of being a Witch - In her darkest hour, Amon will reappear, but is he a savior... or executioner?

The Review!
The mysteries continue to deepen as the real motives of several characters start to come to light and past actions take on new meanings.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Tapping into the Japanese covers again, this volume has a pair of characters on it that won't make much recognition for viewers until the really get into the episodes, but the overall imagery works well here with the detailed character designs and the photorealistic backdrop used for it. 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 with this one using a really good image of Robin in her skintight bicycle outfit with the helmet and sunglasses on set against a blue sky.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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 two more Japanese interview segments, this time for Sakaki and Dojima's voice actors. As the last set of interviews provided spoilers almost right from the start, we skipped these interviews but did not that each runs just under six minutes each..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the series gets further and further in, the more things change. This volume takes a couple of the characters that we've known since the first episode in one form or another and introduces a new layer to them, one where each of them has their real agenda brought forth and allows for some of the past actions to be explained while setting the stage for the final episodes. This happens almost right from the start of the volume, so spoilers beware.

Ever since the attack on Touko and Robin's apartment, the series has really shifted who the lead characters are. While Robin continues to be the real main lead, the other members that had some status, such as Amon, have almost been shrugged off entirely as his storyline is done virtually off-screen while the other members of the team have gone up a bit more in his absence. One of the characters that came out of nowhere, Nagira, has seemingly almost as much screen time as Robin as he continues to help her move about the city and keep from being discovered. And the more we get to know of him the more we learn about the seedier side of the Witching business.

Nagira's ability to seemingly know someone who may know something about anything that they need to find out about comes in handy once more as both he and Robin are unsure of how to proceed with the Splinter of Knowledge that she ended up acquiring. While she saved his life using it previously, both of them don't like that much power in the control of just one person so they opt to put it in a safe until they can figure out more about it. Nagira knows a couple that's supposed to be pretty knowledgeable about the business of the Witch world so he brings them in to check it out. While they don't seem to know anything about this particular item, the wife has a strange fascination with Robin that leads to some problem as it progresses.

For Robin, her time being cautious gets even more perilous when she learns that Solomon has sent a new Hunter into Japan, a nasty named Sarte, and he's come to take her down. He's gone around killing off all sorts of rogue Witches that are part of t he STNJ's normal hunting list and leaving notes with each of them with Robin's name on it, letting her know that she's being pursued. As the bodies pile up, Nagira gets more involved and Robin actual reveals her true motives in coming to Japan and being part of the STNJ. While in a number of series this may feel like a late motivation put in just to change the plot as necessary, the fact that we never really got a handle on what Robin's real assignment in coming to Japan from the first episode on helps smooth this transition as she's now more of an actual operative on a mission.

The other character that's changed much in these last set of episodes is Zaizen. Since the initial attack on the STNJ, he's basically been moving around in his car and not getting directly involved with the group. He's had his interactions with Amon but otherwise has just been going to and fro, dealing with Touko and otherwise working on his own mysterious plans. These come to light in this segment though as we find the other project that he's apparently headed in secret in dealing with the Orbo and trying to bring about a change that will help remove Witches from having to hunt their own. This group, mostly faceless outside of a few people working on the project itself, brings a new element of danger into the mix and sets two groups that want the elimination or control of Witches. The changes in Zaizen since the beginning aren't quite as pronounced as Robin's changes, but going back to the earlier episodes it shows his motivations a bit more clearly.

In Summary:
Everything's getting revealed and coming to a head here as we get closer to the last set of episodes, so this volume does a lot of the exposition work and laying out the details that will allow the final set to go forward without being too heavy in such things. There are some really intriguing revelations here and another shuffle of what characters take the center stage, all of which continues to make this a really engaging series to watch. The animation quality hasn't dropped a notch with these episode and the smaller side stories that are brought continue to really flesh out this world that's just to the side of reality. This is great stuff and continues to be one of our more eagerly awaited releases.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Voice Actress Interviews,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