Knight Hunters Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, March 03, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002
Weiβ Kreuz is a group of four famous male voice actors in Japan who share a high degree of popularity, releasing music and drama CDs. Although individual members had worked together in the past, Knight Hunters (released as Weiβ Kreuz in Japan) brings them all together for the first time.
The audio for Knight Hunters is full and clear. I couldn't really tell where stereo effects were used outside of the opening and closing songs, but it was a very satisfying mix on both the English and Japanese tracks.
Knight Hunters is a cheaply animated show, and as such, there isn't a lot of motion and the colors aren't very vibrant. Other than that, it looks pretty good. There are a handful of scenes that suffer from focus problems or wobble, but overall, the video is on par with Media Blaster's other current releases.
The front cover of Knight Hunters is quite striking with all four pretty boys striking poses surrounded by crosses and gothic imagery. Once again, the insert is focused primarily on providing track listings for unnamed episodes and advertising other Media Blasters titles.
I really liked the menus for Knight Hunters. Unlike the box art, which is dark and brooding, the menus are white with a floral motif. There isn't any animation, but the main menu has a karaoke version of the opening song running behind it.
The stash of extras here is actually quite nice. Typical of Media Blasters, there is a collection of English dub outtakes (which is Kind of unecessary, since this is primarily a show for fans of these Japanese voice actors.) There's a textless opening, which is excellent to have, since the opening is the most compellingly animated part of this show. The production sketchs [sic] are fun to flip through, though page numbers or something would be nice. I found myself looking at some pages twice before realizing I'd seen them all. But the best extra of all is the cast biographies for the four Japanese actors who make up Weiβ Kreuz. Considering this show is little more than a vanity piece for them, it helps to understand who these guys are in real life. Just like the cast biographies on Pioneer's 3x3 release, I love it when credit is given to the artists who brought a show together.
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)
Weiβ Kreuz is Takehito Koyasu, Shin-ichiro Miki, Tomokazu Seki (misspelled on the disc), and Hiro Yuuki. This group of four popular actors have played some of the most famous male roles in recent anime from titles such as Fushigi Yugi, Gundam Wing, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Initial D, and A Vision of Escaflowne. These are the strongest, sexiest voices in anime today. Given that these actors all command top-dollar salaries and usually play the main male or romantic lead, it was unlikely that they would get together naturally. So, enter Weiβ Kreuz, a group of handsome, brooding assassins who work in a flower shop.
Umm....that's right - flower-arranging assassins.
You see, they have to bad-asses for the male audience, so they're highly trained assassins with no remorse. But they have to be sensitive for the female audience, so they're florists. And they have to be tall, thin and pretty, just because this is anime and a fat hero hasn't worked since Ryu of Gatchaman. Also, they're brooding, tormented, and capable of striking a pose...since that's cheaper to animate than jovial and, well, cooler.
Knight Hunter's biggest flaw is simply that it's too much buried in its own demographic marketing. The characters are so interchangeably stereotypical that the killer florists need a gaggle of giggling groupies to introduce their archetypal characteristics. That's Aya, the smart one type. That's Yohji, the playboy. That's Ken, the quiet one. That's Omi, and he's so cute! And just so nobody's ego gets in the way, the members of Weiβ Kreuz appear to be equals, there really isn't a leader, although there is a mysterious "Charlie" who gives the boys their mission and a sassy redhead who..., well, I don't exactly know what she does, but she's pretty hot, too.
Gundam Wing proved that pretty boys written by marketing wonks can work if the story is compelling enough, so how does the first volume of Knight Hunters shape up? Unfortunately, it's something pretty close to average all the way around. After the false start of the incredibly lousy first episode (you could almost certainly skip it and never know the difference) each episode offers a fairly interesting look into the dark criminal underbelly of Japan. There are prostitution rings, organized crime syndicates, and corrupted corporate leaches.
In each episode, Weiβ Kreuz is called upon ("Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." with a less catchy tagline) to defeat these cancers of society. Unfortunately, after watching several episodes of the show, it's a wonder that they can defeat anyone, since each member of the group is their own worst enemy. Every week, a member of the group flashes back to some aspect of their dark past (segue to brooding), usually involving a woman, then goes rogue from the rest of the group, gets into serious trouble, endangers the mission and gets rescued by the rest of the team. EVERY WEEK.
Note to self: Never hire assassins with a propensity to flashback.
Unfortunately, the show itself is poorly animated and less than competantly directed. Since this was a TV series, it's kind of expected, but the lack of budget really shows during the action scenes. The show maintains a constant frame rate, which really sucks the energy out of what should be a pretty exciting show. Also, the sheer stupidity of some of the characters ("Where did Ken run off to?") threatens to make the characters unappealing for the long haul. Yohji is particularly bad. Sent in to break up a prostitution ring made up of kidnapped women (some of them taken as children!), Yohji proceeds to sleep with two of them, then sends the proverbial hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold out into the streets to her death. His eventual remorse is unconvincing. Although the episodes on this disc are mostly unconnected, the last episode appears to set up an ongoing conspiracy, which may build some longer-lasting tension into the series.
Not particularly compelling, suspensful or exciting, the show is simply average all the way around. If you really dug Gundam Wing, not for the Byzantine politics or mecha action, but for the boys, Knight Hunter might be just what the doctor ordered.
Panasonic Panablack TV, Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Knight Hunters