Anime Reviews: Witch Hunter Robin

2002; Director: Shukou Murase; Studio: Sunrise
2002; Director: Shukou Murase; Studio: Sunrise

SOLOMON is a closely-guarded global organization specializing in the hunting and capture of witches—witches who in these modern times don’t so much wear pointy hats, ride broomsticks or resemble Elizabeth Montgomery as they are just ordinary people with the odd superpower, or “craft”. The Japanese branch, or STN-J, is different from other branches as the witches they hunt are captured alive with the help of a substance known as “Orbo” that neutralizes their powers?

They have recently taken on a new replacement hunter: Robin Sena, fifteen years old, born in Japan, raised in Italy, and a “craft-user”—not a normal human, not yet a witch—with the ability to summon fire at will. Her arrival goes mostly unnoticed by the rest of the STN-J staff, as they are right in the middle of a case when she arrives, until they finally confront the suspect and she puts her pyrokinetic abilities to work. Unfortunately, her aim sucks, much to the chagrin of Amon, another hunter in their employ and Robin’s eventual partner.

Despite the cop-show format of the first few episodes, by the time we are halfway into the series and Robin finally gains the trust of her co-workers, certain questions are raised regarding the STN-J’s methods. What happens to the witches they take into custody? Where does Orbo come from? Who is Amon, and is he friend or foe? Even Robin herself becomes a mystery as her rapidly developing powers soon put her in other hunters’ crosshairs.

The first thing you notice heading into this series is its design. The artwork and character designs are very skillfully drawn and look more realistic than your normal Japanese import. Coupled with a paint job consisting mostly of blacks and dark colors, it meshes quite well with the many CG backgrounds plastered throughout and adds nicely to the show’s atmosphere.

Sure, there’s not a lot of action, but that’s not what the show is about. It’s a complex suspense story with multiple angles which encourages the viewer to piece the puzzle together, whether it’s covering the secret carryings-on of and personal politics between SOLOMON and the STN-J, Robin slowly unraveling her past while her powers grow more dangerous in the eyes of her overseers, or the question of just how humane the witch-hunts they are sent on really are. The characters are mysteries in themselves—three or four of the STN-J staff come as advertised, but to everyone else there’s more than what we’re given. Amon is perhaps the most suspicious character here, and some elements suggest that there might be more than just a co-worker bond between him and Robin (the intro for instance, which looks like it comes right out of a Madonna video). The one complaint I have with the story is that the ending is a little ambiguous after the showdown to come once the big bad is ultimately revealed - I won't spoil it for anyone, but there will be a few questions left unanswered.

It has become more than a cliché to say that you can’t please all the people all the time, and shows like Witch Hunter Robin are proof of this. Anime viewers with more discriminating tastes who prefer a little more method with their madness should certainly give this show a chance.

tl;dr:

PROS
CONS
Very realistic character design; suspenseful atmosphere
Light on action; ambiguous ending

Witch Hunter Robin: Awesome or crap?

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