Anime studio Bee Train has a particular style of storytelling that has endeared itself to many fans over the years, as no other studio seems to have perfected the art of showcasing cute girls packing massive firepower as the have. They’ve also made their fair share of detractors, as there’s certainly nothing empowering or sexually liberating in their work, although you could probably say that about 90% of all anime collections released here in the States. While it doesn’t rock the boat, their latest project may be their best yet, as there’s plenty of fun and excitement to be had in their best female lead series with El Cazador de la Bruja (The Hunter of the Witch). Funimation packs the whole thing in El Cazador De La Bruja: The Complete Series, a 4-DVD compilation that collects every episode for your titillating pleasure.
Called the ‘spiritual successor’ to Bee Train’s “girls-with-guns trilogy”, following their previous productions of Noir and Madlax, El Cazador keeps you watching with it’s superior story and characters (and plenty of cute girls…with guns!). The series follows Nadie, a down on her luck bounty hunter who prefers to catch bounties alive instead of killing them, and Ellis, a young girl with uncontrollable magic powers and who’s wanted for murder, yet can’t remember her past. Nadie was after the bounty on Ellis head, but after realizing that she’s not a killer decides to help Ellis regain her memory and protect her from others that are hunting her. As they move forward in their quest, the two discover they’re caught up in something bigger than either could have ever imagined.
The first half of the series can be a little slow as it establishes the look and feel, but still entertaining as the mix-matched pair travel and stop to help folks they meet along the way. While doing so, we’re treated to little tidbits that reveal the underlying main plot and help flesh out the world these characters inhabit. Thankfully, things really start to pick up considerably in the second half by focusing on the main cast and what the true story is all about. The character designs and artwork look great, any really gives off the feeling of Mexico where the series takes place. Yuki Kajiura does as great job with the soundtrack as she’s done on Noir, Madlax, and the Dot Hack series. She captures a perfect Latin feel with the music, while also incorporating her infamous Yoko Kanno-like haunting choir sound here and there.
While there isn’t a lot of action happening onscreen, what’s there looks pretty good, and Funimation did a great job with the DVD transfer, with the picture quality as crisp and even being presented in a proper widescreen display (thank you). The dialogue for both the Japanese and English dubs sound great as well, with the English dub going further and getting the 5.1 surround treatment opposed to the 2.0 stereo of the Japanese dub. No matter which one you choose, they both sound excellent. There’s not much in the way of special features except for Episodes 1 and 24 featuring commentary by some of the US cast and crew, viewing of the intro and outro songs (with the text removed), as well as obligatory trailers for other Funimation titles.
While it can be slow to start and tends to drag some, El Cazador De La Bruja: The Complete Series collects all of Bee Train Studios’ latest anime production in a solid 4-DVD package that should make diehard anime fans very happy. Those hoping for another all-out, guns blazing anime with cute chicks (much like Bee’s previous efforts, Noir and Madlax) will likely be disappointed and want to seek their “girls-with-guns” thrills elsewhere. But those who stick with these strange and interesting characters will be rewarded with a fun, if somewhat generic, adventure with enough surprising twists and turns to justify the commitment. While it may not be essential viewing, Funimation’s latest would make a nice addition to the library of any self-respecting collector, post-feminism be damned.
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