Anime Reviews: El Cazador De La Bruja

2007; Director: Koichi Mashimo; Studio: Bee Train
2007; Director: Koichi Mashimo; Studio: Bee Train

El Cazador de la Bruja is the third series in the “girls with guns” trilogy of studio Bee Train and director Koichi Mashimo. I have yet to see/complete the other two series, Noir and Madlax, but I have seen another Mashimo series, .hack//SIGNI own it, in fact—so my hopes were high going into it anyway.

The show is about two girls, Nadie and Ellis, who go off together on a vague and perilous journey south, thrown together only by the fact that the former is a bounty hunter who has been charged by a shadowy organization to travel with the latter, who has a price on her head for a murder that she doesn’t even remember committing.

Wait a second—if the bounty hunter is a girl, then shouldn’t the name of the show be “La Cazadora?” I’m just nitpicking here.

Anyway, the two of them take a road trip through the southwestern U.S. and Latin America to a place called “Wiñay Marca” guided only by a mysterious stone in Ellis’ pocket and the occasional revelation about her background. Should that Thelma-and-Louise-esque premise sound a little dull, they’ve also thrown in a CIA cover-up, an ancient underground cult, a murderous sociopathic stalker, a plethora of other characters with their own little secrets, and a very catchy jingle for a recurring taco restaurant chain which pops up so many times I would call it product placement if it actually existed.

Oh yeah, and Ellis also has supernatural powers. She can super-heat and freeze things with her eyes whenever she’s under stress, and she also has superhuman acrobatic skills.

If I’ve noticed nothing else from .hack//SIGN and what little I’ve seen of Noir and Madlax, it’s that Mashimo series make a lot of use of atmosphere in every scene, from the surreal fantasy landscapes of SIGN to the remote jungles of Madlax’s first episode. El Cazador is no different. A lot of the series takes place along the small towns and desert roads of the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America, so we get a lot of panning shots of the desert scenery which are, par for the course, pretty to look at. The music helps this as well, even though it isn’t quite as good as the orchestral trance music from SIGN.

The characters are quite interesting as well. Ellis starts out as innocent and naïve as a child, and it’s interesting and at times hilarious to watch her interacting with the world and bonding with Nadie. And seeing as how the first half of the series is largely episodic as the girls travel from place to place and meet different people, at least Ellis’ naivete is enough to keep you entertained until the plot starts up in full. She’s just adorable, and watching her is like watching a child walking outside into the great big world for the first time. We also get some other equally secretive characters--the much older bounty hunter Ricardo and his young mute companion Lirio whom Nadie and Ellis occasionally bump into, and a seemingly harmless accountant known only as “Blue Eyes”. On the other end there is L.A., the stalker character who fits the part so well I actually hate him.

The story is an interesting blend of amnesia, government conspiracy and a dash of the occult which slowly reveals itself from episode to episode. However, there is one aspect to this story which for me was very easy to guess—watch all the way up to Ellis’ flashback episode at the midway point and it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Also, the execution is not flawless--the animation and editing can get a little clunky and the final all-revealing confrontation with the evil CIA man who has an interest in Ellis is tense, but also feels a bit rushed in places.

It’s hard to compare El Cazador to the other two series in Mashimo’s trilogy when you haven’t even seen them, but on its own merit it’s a pretty good show. Despite some visible seams, the characters are entertaining, the atmosphere is done well and the bonding between our two female leads is engaging from beginning to end.

Taco, taco, tacosu, oishii taco—dammit, now I’M singing it!!

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Good use of setting; interesting story aspects; Ellis is adorable
Ocassionaly clunky; ending is rushed; some parts of the story I could see coming

El Cazador de la Bruja: awesome or crap?

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