animefringe february 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Witch Hunter Robin - Playing With Fire

In the future, people emerge endowed with superhuman powers that place normal mortals at their whim. Naturally, the only viable solution in this scenario is not to embrace these people as the future of human evolution and incorporate them into society, but instead to label all abnormal humans as "Witches" and hunt them down. Although the premise sounds eerily similar to Hellsing, Witch Hunter Robin, a new series from the powerhouse team of Bandai Visual and Sunrise Entertainment, takes a more subtle approach to this familiar theme.

STNJ is a secretive Japanese organization for whom a small group of "Hunters" work. Their job, simply enough, is to hunt down any rouge Witches and eliminate them. Equipped with special "Orbo" amulets to protect them against the Witches' powers and bullets created to pierce their defenses, these Hunters make short work of those who cross their path.

In comes Robin, a fifteen year old girl sent by STNJ’s parent organization in Italy as a replacement for a Hunter that died in STNJ’s ranks. She uses neither Orbo amulets nor bullets. Instead, wielding a power called "The Craft", Robin commands fire to leap into existence where she wills. Powerful as her skill may seem, she is still inexperienced and is teamed with veteran Hunter and all around cold-ass Amon. Amon is your stereotypical lone wolf character. Dark and brooding with plenty of nasty secrets, he’s the perfect person for Robin to fall for.

In her first few hunts, Robin’s flames flare out of control and cause quite a bit of collateral damage. Amon takes her to the eye doctor and he determines that she needs glasses - a conclusion that Robin finds unappealing. Amon doesn’t heed her protest and gives her a pair, instructing her to put them on when she uses the Craft. Robin, perplexed at her inability to accurately use her power, fiddles with her glasses constantly and refuses to wear them.

This is where the series stands out. Instead of focusing on the action and eye candy (of which there is a copious amount, rest assured), Witch Hunter Robin takes a methodical and quiet pace to develop the human side of these characters and the world that they live in. Robin, despite her power, is still a young girl with personal demons and a dark past that she must contend with. She questions the difference between her and those that she hunts and finds herself without any answers. Throw into the mix a thick stew of conspiracy and betrayal, and you’ve got some tasty brain food to go with the eye candy.

Speaking of eye candy, the series is a blend of 2D and subtle 3D animation. The artwork is top notch with great character designs and awesome renditions of Robin pitting her powers against witches. I won’t ruin the surprise, but there are a few action sequences which will leave your mouth agape.

Unfortunately, Witch Hunter Robin just stopped airing in Japan late last year, so you won’t be seeing a domestic release anytime soon. Your best bet to catch this series is to grab the Rice Box fansub or grab the import DVDs.

Young, hot, and fresh from Italy, Robin is sent in as a replacement hunter. She’s got the power to control fire - anything you need burned to a crisp, just give her a holler. Robin’s got this thing for Amon, but it doesn’t look like he’s very interested.
He’s dark, mysterious, and hunts Witches for a living. No wonder the girls love him. The most senior hunter in STNJ, he commands respect from the other hunters, but also harbors many secrets. He doesn’t really say much, but that’s to be expected from this kind of character.
She’s also a member of STNJ, though not as much of a Hunter as the others. Dojima’s the ditzy Japanese type (if that’s even possible) and seems to play more of a secondary role in the Witch Hunter business.
A young member of STNJ, Sakaki seems to be still unsure of his abilities. At first, he freaks because he thinks that once Robin is incorporated, he’ll be fired. Sakaki’s the unsure rookie player on the STNJ team.
Also one of the senior hunters, it seems she once had something in the past with Amon. Other than Robin, she’s the only Hunter with a special ability. She can read the emotions of a person or a place if they’re particularly strong.
Once a hacker, Michael made the mistake of hacking into to STNJ’s computer system. He was caught and would have been "quieted," but the leader of STNJ made him a deal. Michael is the resident computer specialist and information coordinator of STNJ. The only catch is that the can never leave the STNJ headquarters building.