Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, September 23, 2005
Release Date: Monday, August 22, 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...
9 - Sign of the Craft
10 - Separate Lives
11 - The Soul Cages
12 - Precious Illusions
While still very much in "investigation of the week" mode, this volume of Witch Hunter Robin throws in a few more pointers to an ongoing story that's lurking in there somewhere. Sometimes I wish they'd just get on with it.
All four audio tracks are presented in 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and it continues to be of the high standard set by previous volumes, with no obvious problems. The atmospheric soundtrack and good use of direction make this a joy to listen to. I spot-checked the English track at several points and found it to be equally good.
Presented in its original full-frame 1.33:1 format, the video quality on this release is again excellent, with very good use made of backgrounds and detail to bring atmosphere to the story - for example, in the two episodes set largely in the "Walled City", the detail put into the buildings helps to convey the feeling of the area being something of a slum and a real warren of passageways. 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.
Beez go for another very simple piece of artwork for this volume's cover, with an image of Robin in what could almost be a nun's robes looking off into the distance with flames in the background. 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 Sakaki and Dojima.
The menus stick with the same style that's been used on previous volumes. 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. As before, the menus are available in four languages.
Not a lot of extras included - along with the textless opening and ending sequences and STN-J Personnel Files that have also featured on previous volumes, this disc features two short TV promo clips, one voiced by Robin and one by Amon.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Another day, another STN-J investigation of a suspected witch - one Aki Yoshiaka, who has been connected with the death of a company president's son, but when Amon and the others arrive at her home, all they find is a body and a small pile of sand. When Michael has a dig around Aki's home computer, he finds her confession to the killing of three men. While it seems certain that Aki's now dead, another death under the same circumstances gives Robin an idea - could someone be using scrying to tap into Aki's power?
This episode is a story of child abuse and revenge by people who would normally be beyond any sort of justice, with an interesting twist in terms of who the witch turns out to be. There's also another sign that the STN-J higher-ups don't quite trust Robin, when it's mentioned they're looking into connections between the witch and a nameless 'her', on the basis of them having the same power - something that appears to be quite rare in witch circles. Since the power in question is the power to create fire, it's fairly clear who they're talking about.
The next episode fills in some background on the owner of Harry's, the restaurant that the STN-J staff use during their off-duty time. The owner's son fled to the US after his father accused him of being accused of being a witch, but has now returned. Worried Kobari may be out for revenge, Robin and Dojima take the role of waitresses in Harry's to keep an eye on things, but when Kobari eventually turns up it's for a different reason entirely. For all that he's just a bit-part, from the start of the series Harry's owner has been something of an enigma (even after this episode his name still isn't revealed), and this story gives the smallest of glimpses into his life.
The final two episodes on the disc link into each other. Episode 11 features another STN-J investigation, when young man being chased by two killers gains the power to control electricity after encounter an old woman in an alleyway, and promptly uses his new power to dispatch his would-be killers. STN-J are called in to investigate as the circumstances surrounding the killings are quite unusual - they also have records of a similar killing 22 years earlier - but pinning down the culprit when the locals aren't particularly helpful proves difficult. Amon figures out a way of tracing their target, but behind the scenes an old woman has been keeping an eye on events. In episode 12, Robin returns to the Walled City after the old woman raises her suspicions. She finds that the woman appears to be over 400 years old, and she has some words for Robin about the real motives behind STN-J's hunt and her own origins that leave her deeply disturbed. Meanwhile, someone's been hacking into STN-J's computer system, leaving only the symbol that was used to mark witches during the Salem witch trials. Michael's investigations raise the possibility that the Methuselah Witch - an Immortal - may be involved. Could this be the old woman Robin has been speaking to?
Robin's meeting with the old woman has the feel of a turning point - the old woman tries to point out to her that a witch can never really be at home in STN-J - it's their job to hunt witches, after all - and the visions she gives Robin really do unnerve her. With the way this series has been only very slowly teasing out the possibility of an underlying conspiracy, though, I'm not expecting too much to be made of this straight away. That leaves me a little bit torn, though - while the show's slow pacing helps the atmosphere and general "feel" of the show most of the time, knowing that there's something going on underneath the surface but not being able to get to the substance of it can be hugely frustrating.
This volume serves up a few more routine investigations for Robin & co, along with some more hints that all is not right behind the scenes, but there's certainly no rush to fill in the gaps about what's going on. The individual stories are well up to the high standards of the previous releases, and while some people may well find the relaxed pacing frustrating this is a series that's still well worth watching.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,German 2.0 Language,Italian 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,German Subtitles,Italian Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,STN-J Personnel Files,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences,TV Spots
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Witch Hunter Robin