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

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, November 28, 2005
Release Date: Monday, October 24, 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
13 - The Eyes of the Truth
14 - Loaded Guns
15 - Time to Say Goodbye
16 - Heal the Pain

The Review!
Robin's time at STN-J comes to an unexpectedly early end as she discovers that being a Hunter doesn't necessarily protect her from being Hunted...

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. 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 one or two minor subtitle glitches, but nothing serious enough to spoil my enjoyment of the disc.

The disc artwork continues to take the "simple but effective" approach. Robin takes centre stage on the front cover again, this time with a decidedly panicked expression to go with events on this volume. The rear cover has the usual mix of episode summaries, screenshots and technical information, while the reverse of the cover has character profiles for Kosaka and Zaizen.

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.

There are quite a lot of extras including with this volume, including a few unusual items. The regular character profiles & textless opening and ending sequences are included, along with "karaoke" versions of the same songs - these are presenting with timed Romaji subtitles for anyone who wants to sing along. These subtitles are part of the video clip ("hardsubs") and can't be removed. There's also interviews with Bana and Taku Iwasaki (a 9 minute clip where they talk about their work on the soundtrack - the opening and ending themes for the series are sung by Bana while Iwasaki composed BGM), along with an interview with Akeno Watanabe, the Japanese VA for Robin (a 5 minute clip speaking about the character and her experiences playing her). All in all a good selection of extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Making a dramatic break from the "investigation of the week" formula the series has followed so far, this volume of Witch Hunter Robin begins with the arrival in Japan on an Inquisitor, sent by Solomon to look into a Witch, Shiro Masuda, to see is he has the temperament to join STN-J as a Hunter - and the willpower to resist the temptation to use his Craft for his own ends. While Masuda makes it through the Inquisition in one piece, STN-J tracks his movements afterwards, and find that his Craft is far more powerful than they first believed. He's also only too willing to use it when he's away from the Inquisitor's watchful eyes, as Amon quickly finds out.

For all that the Inquisitor is officially investigating Masuda, there are more than a few hints dropped along the way that Robin herself is also under observation, and when the Inquisitor makes it clear as he leaves STN-J that he doesn't expect to see Robin again you just know that events are about to take a turn for the worse for her. Sure enough, on her next mission with Amon, Robin is targeted by an unknown sniper, and over the course of two episodes has to deal with several attacks on her, culminating in an armed raid on STN-J's offices by a military unit. At first, the evidence points to Amon being Robin's assailant - just as the evidence points to him being involved in the death of her predecessor Kate - but as the episodes unfold it becomes clear that other people are pulling the strings while Amon is just trying to make the best of the situation he's been put in. He eventually comes good in the end & lives up to the faith that Robin has had in him, although his fate or whereabouts at the end of the disc are a mystery.

Zaizen seems to be the key to what's going on - while he doesn't appear to be the instigator of the events here he's fully aware of what's going on, and at one stage is seen giving his tacit approval to one of the attacks. The whole series of events that plays out over episodes 14 & 15 didn't exactly come out of the blue - there have been a number of hints dropped over the series that something about STN-J just wasn't right - but I didn't expect this sort of change in tone to happen for a while yet. The usually laid-back feel that this series usually has briefly becomes far more fast-paced before falling back into its normal style for the final episode on the disc.

But not back to normal. For STN-J, life has to go on in as close to normal a way as possible, which isn't an easy task with Robin, Amon and Zaizen all missing. Dojima finds herself doing far more work than she ever used to before, Karasuma tries but fails to fill Amon's role as team leader, and Sakaki remains out of action, recovering from wounds sustained in the raid on the offices. Robin has found lodgings and a job with a man, Nagira, that Amon directed her to. While he doesn't get the chance to feature much on this disc, what little part he does play is enough to show that he knows more about STN-J than most people outside the organisation ever should, and doesn't like what he's uncovered about them. What he's going to do with the information he has remains to be seen, but it's unlikely to be good, possibly putting Robin in the position of working against her friends and former colleagues. It will be interesting to see just how events play out from here.

In Summary:
I really enjoyed this volume. Witch Hunter Robin's pacing has been a little too slow for my liking up until now, but events here have given the series a much-needed shot in the arm and made me sit up and really pay attention. There are still a number of things from these episodes that haven't been fully resolved, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,German 2.0 Language,Italian 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,German Subtitles,Italian Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Character profiles,Interview with Bana & Taku Iwasaki,Interview with Akeno Watanabe (Robin),Textless opening & ending sequences,Karaoke opening & ending sequences

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

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
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