Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, August 08, 2005
Release Date: Monday, July 04, 2005

What They Say
In our society, there are creatures with paranormal power known as Witches. For years, a secret organisation known as "Solomon" has been hunting them down. This organisation, based in Italy and run by priests, has a branch in Japan - the STN-J. Robin, a 15-year-old girl, joins this organisation where her talents for manipulating fire prove to be very useful... But the STN-J has very precise plans for the captured Witches, and they do not hesitate to conceal information from Solomon...

Episodes Comprise
5 - Smells Like the Wandering Spirit
6 - Raindrops
7 - Simple-mind
8 - Faith

The Review!
Witch Hunter Robin sticks to the formula it established in the first volume, with four more standalone investigations.

While Witch Hunter Robin provides a plethora of language choices, all in 2.0 stereo, I stuck primarily to the Japanese track. Audio is clear and clean, with dialogue easy to pick out. The show makes use of some very nice pieces of background music to provide atmosphere, while the left and right channels are put to good use to provide some sense of depth and direction to proceedings. A quick check of the English track during several scenes shows it to be equally good. There were no obvious encoding problems.

Presented in its original full-frame 1.33:1 format, the video quality on this release continues to be excellent, with very good use made of backgrounds and detail to bring atmosphere to the story. Even during darker scenes it's very easy to pick out the details in the animation. Subtitles are clear and easy to read, although a slightly larger font would have been nice. There are a few lines of dialogue in episode 5 that are not subtitled - other than that, there were no apparent formatting or grammar errors.

Doujima and Karasuma take the front cover for this volume, with Doujima looking typically bored while Karasuma looks on. While it's not the most expressive of images, it does capture the personality of the characters quite well. The rear cover has episode summaries and screenshots along with the disc's technical information panel, while the reverse of the cover (visible through the clear keepcase) has reprints of the on-disc 'Personnel Files' for Karasuma and Michael.

The menus on this release are essentially the same as those on volume 1, and are again available in four languages. The various disc options are arranged around a circular montage of clips from the show with the series logo flashing in & out in a similar way to the text used in the opening credits. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays in the background. Extras and trailers are available through the Data menu. Other than the background video clips, there are no menu animations or transitions, so it's all very quick and easy to use.

Extras on this release are the same as on volume 1 - the STN-J Personnel Files, which give brief background information on the show's main characters, along with textless versions of the opening and closing sequences and a few trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Four more investigations, four more witches to deal with. First is the case of a missing man who is suspected of being a witch, and STN-J begin combing through the city's homeless in search of him. While they're unable to track down their target, some suspicious incidents lead Amon to pursue another avenue of investigation that points to another witch being present around the scene of their last search. This new witch appears to have a particularly powerful ability, but tracking him down seems to be too difficult a task for the witch hunters.

Later, a strict office lady, Eiko, dies in suspicious circumstances soon after giving Robin a lift home after her Vespa ran out of petrol. Feeling in some way responsible, Robin takes it on herself to look into what happened to her, despite the disapproval of her STN-J bosses, but her persistence pays off when she persuades Michael to run a search on Chie, a young woman with connections to Eiko. Hospital records that Michael digs up indicate that Chie may be a witch, and she's already making plans to protect her secret.

The next investigation sees STN-J looking into a large robbery that had taken place several months earlier. Out of the gang involved, only Tazawa, the driver of the getaway car survived the subsequent police chase, and the circumstances of his survival were strange enough to make STN-J suspicious. After tailing Tazawa and questioning his neighbours, suspicion quickly turns to Mamoru, the young boy Tazawa's been looking after and who is now in hospital after Tazawa attempted to kill him. STN-J decide to bring him in to the Factory, but by the time they get to the hospital to pick him up, Mamoru has disappeared.

The final investigation of this volume puts STN-J on the trail of a witch suspected of causing the deaths of other witches as well as several members of the Japanese Mafia. He's apparently being helped by a pathologist who forged autopsy reports and who is now working in the hospital in which Robin has just been treated. While he's been using his powers for good - draining the life from criminal elements to save the lives of ill children - it's still not something STN-J can allow to continue. A tail operation helps Amon and the others track the witch down before he can kill anyone else, but as usual the capture doesn't go as easily as planned.

After a first volume that was a good mix of story and character development, this release sticks firmly to the investigation side of the story - there's a disappointing lack of focus on the main characters other than Robin and next to nothing new revealed about how they tick. I enjoy seeing depth added to characters, so the lack of development they get here did detract from my enjoyment of the disc.

The investigations themselves also seem to get stuck in something of a rut, for the first three episodes at least. In each story, STN-J start by investigating one person only to realise through some almost random clue that the witch they're after is really someone other than their original target, to the point where as soon as an episode started I was already looking around for some sort of pointers as to who the real witch was going to be. Thanks to the way the clues are handed out, though, you've no real chance of spotting the culprit before they're revealed in the story.

One thing that's new here comes from the appearance of the men from the Factory in episode 7. Once Mamoru's been captured, he naturally assumes that because he's just a kid he'll get off with just a slap on the wrists - but a single shot of the Factory men surrounding him before driving off quickly lets the viewer know that that's not going to happen. That one scene gives the Factory a real sense of foreboding, and you just know from there that STN-J has a darker side to it.

The final episode on the disc is also the best. Whereas the other three episodes are all fairly clear-cut "STN-J versus the bad guys", this one has some real shades of grey in the story as the witch here doesn't really know what he is and is using his abilities for good, rather than his own personal gain. Right down to the end of the episode when his capture seems certain, he acts more for the benefit of others than himself, and I did find myself cheering him on a bit. While the ending of his story wasn't a happy one, it was a lot more satisfying to watch than the other episodes here.

In Summary:
While STN-J's investigations do make interesting viewing, these episodes get slightly stuck in an 'investigation-of-the-week' pattern. That will be enough to keep some people happy, but there's more to the STN-J story than this and the lack of character development here is a bit of a disappointment. One thing that's been present from episode one is a vague feeling that STN-J just isn't "right" - some events in these episodes just reinforce that feeling, and hopefully that will be explored more in coming episodes. In the meantime, while this volume doesn't quite reach the standards of volume 1, it's still well worth checking out.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language
,German 2.0 Language,Italian 2.0 Language
,English Subtitles,German Subtitles
,Italian Subtitles
,Dutch Subtitles
,Textless Opening and Closing Sequences
,STN-J Personnel Files,Japanese TV Spots

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Witch Hunter Robin