Thursday, February 16, 2012

El Cazador De La Bruja Review

El Cazador De La Bruja (Spanish for "The Witch Hunter") is a 26 episode anime from 2007. It was made by Bee Train and is the third and final installment of their "girls with guns" trilogy.



Plot Summary: Ellis, a young girl suspected of murdering prominent physicist Heinrich Schneider, is on the run from prosecution when she is tracked down by a female bounty hunter Nadie in a small Mexican town. However, instead of turning her in, Nadie impulsively decides to help her and the two embark on a journey south where they hope to find clues about Ellis' past. The guiding stars of their journey are the mysterious gemstone "Rosa del Inca" and the "Eternal City" of WiƱay Marka.
 --ANN

Ah, El Cazador De La Bruja. Such good intentions, such flawed execution. Really, this show is quite an enigma, at least at first glance. Parts of it have so much potential that, were that potential fully realized, I'd almost compare it to Mushishi, and indeed, the two are sometimes similar, in concept. On the other hand, its execution, and several other aspects of the show, is so bad that I would compare it to the ever-hated Hidan no Aria. This show has good character interactions, great sound, a nice dash of continuity to it, and a premise and overarching plot that seem pretty interesting at first, but it is severely hampered by poor direction, bland stories, flat characters, and, most of all, abysmal animation. Before I go on, I should let you know that, for the level of detail I plan on going into for this review, it is impossible to avoid spoilers. So if you don't want the show to be spoiled for you, skip right to the rating at the end. All right, with that out of the way, let me break down what I'm going to do. I'm going to start by talking about what's good about the show, then what would have been good but was somewhat flawed, so it ended up being "average," and then I'm going to discuss the show's major overall failings. Originally, I was planning on doing an episode-to-episode breakdown of all the little things that were wrong or didn't make sense in the individual episodes, in the style of my Hidan no Aria impression. However, between settling into a new job, the first week of exams, a ton of other homework, the massive amount of screenshots I'd have to take (although the inconsistencies aren't as bad in this show as they were in Hidan no Aria, I'd also be reviewing 6 times as many episodes), and of course the unholy length such a breakdown would increase my already lengthy review to, I decided to not do this. If any of you actually want me to do such a breakdown, however (hopefully things won't get quite this busy again), just post a comment and let me know, and I'll either tack it on the end of this review, or make a new post out of it (again, for length reasons). Just wanted to let you know I'm willing. So anyways, even without an episode breakdown, you should still buckle your seatbelts and be prepared for a commitment here; this review is going to take a while.


     Now that we've got all that down, let's talk about what was good about the show. I guess I'll go ahead and start with the best thing about the show: the sound. The sound in El Cazador De La Bruja is really quite excellent, especially the music, which was composed by Yuki Kajiura. A fairly well known music composer, Kajiura really did a fantastic job. The music usually matches the setting and the mood, and in fact creates it quite a bit of the time. Honestly, more than the stories or the action, it's the music that gets you involved. The music in this particular show is very hard to rate, because parts of it are used well and parts of it are used poorly. Normally I try to rate music based on how well it's implemented and how well it fits the mood (for example, loud rap music at a funeral doesn't really much match the mood), rather than rating it on how much I liked listening to it. This is because music is totally, probably more than anything other kind of media, subjective. What one person considers sonic garbage, another might consider a musical masterpiece. And the thing is, neither person is wrong. Because unlike, say, a movie, where a person can say it sucks and they'll be right because the direction, acting, and whatever else was terrible, music has no right or wrong. Even someone with an annoying voice and a band that sounds like they don't know how to play can be "good," creating their own unique style. Where am I going with this? Well, my reviews, while they certainly do reflect my opinions as well, are not meant to be "this is what I thought of this show. You're welcome." I want to give my readers some kind of meaningful insight or analysis of a series, and be able to tell them whether or not a show is worth watching based on criteria, not opinion. Which is not to say that opinion reviews have no merit; it's just that reviews based on criteria will be more meaningful to a wider audience. Thus, when I talk about something like music in my reviews, I try to focus not on how much I liked the music but on how well it was used in the show. For example, if it helped create a moody, dark atmosphere while the characters are being chased down a dark sewer, then it was good, regardless of how much I personally enjoyed it.
     So how does all this fit into my El Cazador De La Bruja review? Well, as I said, this show is a bit of a special case. There is a focus on the music, and the show clearly tries to bring your attention to it; this isn't background music that you hear, but don't acknowledge. This is forefront music, music that is meant to be heard and acknowledged. And it is well composed, and certainly nice to listen to. However, its implementation is not always spot on. There are multiple points throughout the show where the action has ended, and Nadie and Ellis are just sitting around a campfire quietly, and the "action" music is still going on. This kind of thing takes you out of the show a little bit, and makes you think things like, "So, uh...when is this song going to end?" Because the music isn't bad, you don't really mind, but it doesn't really match the scene, so you're a little confused. The only other gripe about the music is that it gets overused, a lot. I actually noticed this while watching the show (because the music really stands out). Pretty much every episode, a new track (sometimes two, and once even three) gets added to the mix. The problem is that despite this, many of the same tracks used since the first three episodes are still being used over and over, multiple times in a single episode. It even gets to the point where we can actually predict what kind of scene is going to happen next just from knowing which track it is. If it's one of the two or so "action tracks" then we know that we're going to get an action or a chase scene, if it's the "mystery track" then we know that we're going to get a scene with Rosenberg, and so on. Also, the same choir track is used to open almost every episode. Really, I promise I don't have anything against choir music, but this track gets overused so much that whenever it comes on, I felt like rolling my eyes to the back of my head and going, "Dear lord, not this song again! Please, someone make it stop!" So now, armed with this knowledge, you may be able to see the difficulty I had in rating this. There are only two gripes about the music, and what was implemented correctly (much of the music was) was used to great effect. By the same token, however, there were two whole problems with the music, and while not total deal-breakers, they did considerably limit the potential and ability of the music. Thus, we need a tie-breaker, and the only one that's really available is the quality of the music itself. Talking about this without bringing my own opinions into it is very hard to do, though not totally impossible. The music was certainly composed well, and by a competent composer. The range of styles, instruments, and sound used was large (that's a good thing), and any singing in the tracks was done pretty well (yes, even that one choir song). Now, as for those opinions I was going on and on about, first let me make it clear that I am a fairly open minded individual when it comes to the subject of music. Thus, it is not very surprising that I would like the music in this, and like it I did. I'll let you form your own opinions about how good/bad the music is, but I just wanted to explain the background behind the music and what I thought of it. Now do you see what I meant about this review taking a while?

     Alright. Moving on with the sound, I'll go to the next best aspect of it; the effects. In a show where so many technical aspects are so poor (I'll get into this later), I was really surprised by the sound effects. Their use in El Cazador De La Bruja is really quite good. There are two basic criteria for sound effects: how good the individual effects are, and how complete the execution of those effects is. The first criteria is pretty self explanatory. If a car starting sounds like a creaky door opening, that's a bad effect. If a car exploding sounds like a car exploding, that's a good effect. Of course, I could go into detail about how good the car exploding effect was, taking into account things like distance, environment, and what caused it to explode, but such an analysis would be a lot of time and work for not little reward, for me or my readers ("and so, in conclusion, the sound effect of the car exploding was incorrect, because the sound of the gas station exploding would have been much louder, so we would have heard that, and...") So, yeah. When something made a sound, it was the sound it should have made. The other aspect of sound effects is their completeness. This is basically quantity. The more sound effects there are, the more complete they are, and, usually, the richer the auditory experience. A basic level of completeness is the character's footsteps. A medium level of completeness is the character's footsteps and the sound of the floorboards creaking. A high level of completeness is the character's footsteps, the footsteps of the people around the character, and the various creaking sounds these footsteps elicit from the floorboards. And so on. Basically, sound effects should have both quality and quantity. In the case of this show, it really has both. There's not much more to say, really.

     And lastly, let's talk about the voice acting. This is actually the weakest part of the sound, and even it is pretty strong. Some anime shows have great voice acting for minor characters, while others do not. El Cazador De La Bruja falls firmly in the middle. There isn't any particularly good voice acting for the minor characters; however, there aren't really any flat dialogues or cringe worthy deliveries, either. I wouldn't call any of the voice acting "bad," I'd just call it...average. The same holds true with many of the more important re-occurring characters, really. However, there were four main characters who's VA's did great jobs: Nadie, Ellis, Blue Eyes (who is also the narrator), and L.A.




Really, it was these character's voices (more than the characters themselves, even) that brought the show to life (along with the music). Ellis and Nadie's small talk would have been markedly worse if the two voice actors weren't as good, and considering what a substantial amount of the script their chatting accounts for, anything of lower quality would have been a disaster. As for Blue Eyes (top right), it is not easy to find a voice that works for both a character and the narrator. Narrator's voices should have certain qualities, and should be nice to listen to, considering that they usually say the first and last words of an episode. At the same time, however, character's voices should sound like voices; they shouldn't be overplayed or speak at slow speeds. Blue Eyes' voice actor fulfilled the requirements of both admirably, and probably did the best job of the series. And finally, we have the character of L.A. (bottom right), who is voiced by Mamoru Miyano, probably the best known and most prolific voice actor of the series. L.A.'s character is really annoying and not fun to watch, and when you consider how little we're told about him, he is also very flat and bland. However, when you take his voice into account, his character becomes almost bearable; you can tell just from his voice and the way he speaks that he's a psychopath and is messed up in the head. In the case of most good characters, their actions are the window into their soul (as it really should be). In the case of L.A., however, it is his voice that does this. While the other way is certainly preferable for a stronger character, all I'm trying to say is that the voice acting for was this particular character's saving grace. The creators of his character didn't do a great job, and so the voice actor picked up their slack. Really, beyond this, there's not much more to say about the voice acting, or the sound at all. Overall, the sound is pretty strong, and while there are a few flaws here and there, they are not frequent or bad enough to substantially bring it down as a whole. Now onto the next thing I liked; character interactions.


     This is a fairly short point, but the character interactions in this show were really very good, especially between the two main characters. While the way that Nadie and Ellis meet and start traveling together is a little forced, pretty much everything else about their relationship was quite good. As I mentioned above, a large amount of the script in each episode is devoted to the dialogue between the two. This particular part of the series is exceptionally strong. The way they speak to each other is consistent throughout the show, but their attitudes towards each other change, and you can tell. Nothing about the two of them feels forced (again, excluding their initial meeting), and their conversations were fun to watch (which is in and of itself an achievement worthy of mention). While interactions between the other main and minor characters aren't bad, they, like the characters themselves, are kind of mulled over to make room for the two leads. Much like Skip Beat! interactions between two main characters are a large strength.


     The last exceptionally "good" aspect of the show is the continuity. While this is not a major aspect of creating a good story (at least, the kind of continuity I'm talking about isn't), it's a nice little bonus, and it's done well. This is mostly the little things in the show, things like Ellis' "Yes Sir," Nadie's habit of using "taco" as a general noun, the way Ellis hoards her various trinkets, Ricardo's habit of drinking, and so on. You'll have to watch the show a few times in order to get them all, but they're a nice touch. It's one of those "little things" that on it's own doesn't make much of a difference, but combined with all the other small and large things, can make the difference between a show being average or it being a masterpiece. In this case, it is largely on it's own, and indeed, El Cazador De La Bruja is not a masterpiece. Still, well crafted details like this deserve to be mentioned, so there you have it.


     Now onto the "average" things, the things that aren't bad, but aren't good, either. The first is the art. In a number of ways, the art is quite good. The landscapes are nice, and I like overall art style, especially for the character designs. I mean, it's not up to the level of, say, Mushishi, but it's still pretty good.




So why, if the character designs are nice and the background & landscape art is nice, is this not a good thing? The problem lies in the non-static elements of the images. In other words, things that move don't look nice. In fact, they look pretty darn awful. Things like this:


See how unnatural the cards look?

Now, this is just a quick example that hardly shows just how bad the art can be, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what I'm trying to communicate. To fully explore this, compare the picture above to a screencap from Mushishi:




Do you see what I'm saying now? If Mushishi had the same level of detail as El Cazador De La Bruja, then the fish wouldn't have spots, the shadow of the reeds in the water probably wouldn't be there, and the person's clothes wouldn't have as many creases, if any. Of course, it's unfair to compare just any show to the masterpiece that is Mushishi, and I recognize that. Still, the comparison helps to highlight the kinds of problems the art in this series has. The sad thing is that this flaw in the art (of El Cazador De La Bruja) has much broader implications for the show as a whole. You see, good art can make up for poor animation. Just take Kino's Journey, for example. That show, or at least parts of it, had pretty poor animation. However, because of the good art and the sparseness with which the animation was used, it ended up looking fantastic. This show, however, has rather poor art, and as a result the bad animation looks even worse. Perhaps even worse than this problem with the art, though, is the spacial relations problem this show repeatedly has. What am I talking about when I say spacial relations? I'm talking about the distance between objects and the way reality dictates those objects will act at that distance. What do I mean about problems? I mean they screwed this particular visual aspect up terribly. The worst examples of this (and also the most obvious ones) are when a character and an object are clearly a certain distance away from each other, and then in the next shot they are suddenly a different distance away. Here are three images from episode 13 to see what I mean:


screenshot at: 7:14

screenshot at: 7:25

screenshot at: 7:35


See what I mean? In the space of 20 seconds, without ever seeing them move back, those two guys in the suits have magically teleported about 15 feet back. This is really the worst kind of mistake you can make with your art, because it's the easiest to see. You don't have to be looking for these kinds of mistakes to see them. They jump out at even the viewer who is barely watching, and they always, always take the audience out of the show. In the end, I guess, you can't ignore the well drawn landscapes and the nice character art, but the low level of detail and awful spacial relations bring it down enough that the art as a whole is only passing in quality.


     The other "average" thing about the show is the overarching story. Overall it was interesting and it didn't make me shake my head whenever I watched it unfold, but there were numerous inconsistencies with character motives and smaller details. Before I go any further, I'd like to point out that, like Mushishi, this show is largely episodic. However, it is a different kind of episodic. Whereas Mushishi is "purely episodic" in the way that none of its stories are interconnected, El Cazador De La Bruja is "partly episodic." There is an overarching plotline, but most of the stories are not directly involved with one another. What I'm going to be talking about in this particular section is the overarching story (I'll focus on the flaws of the individual stories a little later on). Oh, and this goes without saying, but this section is going to be pretty spoiler heavy. With that out of the way, here we go.


*SPOILERS*


So this is a basic breakdown of the plot: Ellis is a genetically created human with witch DNA. In other words, an "artificial witch." She was created as part of a government project called "Project Leviathan." The government, knowing that her powers could create massive amounts of energy, tried to raise her to use this energy and profit off of it. However, Ellis' witch powers lay dormant, and, due to the lack of success or progress in the expensive project, it was abandoned. Ellis was left in the care of professor Heinrich Schneider, who's job was to monitor any changes in her powers. When Heinrich came to care for Ellis as a human, Douglas Rosenberg, a CIA agent who was part of the project, kills him. Ellis, suffering from amnesia, runs away to Mexico, around which time a $1,000,000 "dead or alive" bounty is placed on her head. As bounty hunters start to take notice of her, so does an organization of people who are descendants of original witches. The witches, who have lost their powers, want to observe Ellis to see if there is any way to revive their own powers. They assign a bounty hunter, Nadie, to protect Ellis from the various bounty hunters trying to get her, as well as from whoever Rosenberg tries to send after her. The two travel around Mexico for a while, going south and trying to find a city where they believe Ellis will receive answers about her powers. Over the course of their travels, a mysterious agent of Rosenberg's records their adventures for Rosenberg to view. Then, the government finds out that Rosenberg was trying to revive project Leviathan with the help of a prominent senator, and they sack him. The witch's descendents, as a result, immediately try to get rid of Nadie, eventually just trying to kill her. They fail, and Ellis and Nadie, with the enigmatic Ricardo (a former agent of Rosenberg's) and the makes-you-want-to-slit-your-wrists-...I mean, the adorable mute girl Lirio, finally reach their destination, where it is revealed that Rosenberg's driving motive for everything he's put Ellis through was so that her witch powers would awaken and then he would use them for himself. Needless to say, the two manage to overcome Rosenberg, and in the process Ellis gains total control over her witch powers. She and Nadie go from place to place, trying to settle down, but have trouble fitting in, and eventually they decide to go on another journey.


     Okay, so the first thing I'm going to talk about is Ellis' bounty, because, though a seemingly small detail at first, it actually plays a major role in several other aspects of the story, including Rosenberg's motivations. So, first the bounty itself. As I said, it's a million dollar bounty on the young girl Ellis, and can be collected whether she's dead or alive. The bounty is (at least, according to the bounty itself) issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Don't bother asking why none of her physical traits are listed even though there's a picture of her a few inches above this.

The first thing I want to talk about is why exactly Ellis even has a bounty. I assumed that the organization that created Ellis put the bounty on her, because it's like, who else would want anything to do with her? I mean, it's probably not the FBI, even though they supposedly posted the bounty. They certainly shouldn't want Ellis for the professor's death. After all, she's a minor, so they:
a) wouldn't want her dead (bad publicity, bad ethics, etc.) 
b) wouldn't put such a massive bounty on her head, and
c) wouldn't have a reason to put a bounty on her at all. Remember how they're the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Like, investigators? Why would they let someone else do their job concerning something important enough for them to offer a million dollars on it? The FBI would track down Ellis and bring her in themselves. And since what are strongly implied to be U.S. military forces operating freely in Mexico, it seems clear that they don't really care about the country's national sovereignty. Heck, even if they did, it probably wouldn't be that hard to interface with local police forces for a manhunt.
At the very least, we know that the FBI wouldn't post a bounty that would ask for her “dead,” as doing so would be tantamount to issuing capital punishment. So, we can assume that it's the creators of the Leviathan Project who put up the bounty, because no one else should want Ellis back. However, as the CIA executive in episode 15 mentioned, the creators of that project largely dispersed. Additionally, Rosenberg was offing the scientists who had worked on the project. So, that really only leaves Rosenberg as the one who would/could place the bounty, and indeed, we find out later that he was the one who placed it. However, it doesn't make any sense for him to have done so. The explanation Rosenberg gives for his actions is that he “released Ellis, who had lost her memory, put a bounty on her, and then made sure a crisis happened. This easily caused the witches' descendants to hire a bodyguard [Nadie] to protect Ellis.” Then we learn that Rosenberg also ordered around L.A. with the purpose of helping “make their [Ellis and Nadie's] hearts become one.” This all means that the reason for Rosenberg posting the bounty was so that someone else would give Ellis a bodyguard. This would result in that bodyguard and Ellis becoming close, and then when Rosenberg kills the bodyguard who Ellis grew close to, her high-running emotions would make her witch powers activate. That's the reason Rosenberg put the bounty on Ellis. The problem is that none of this makes sense. Why does Rosenberg need to use such a convoluted and risky method? Think about it. He relies on somebody else giving Ellis a bodyguard, then he relies on that bodyguard to flawlessly protect Ellis. All of this just so that he can kill someone close to Ellis and make her emotional. So, what if the bodyguard the witch's descendents hired was some fat incompetent a**hole who got lucky with a couple bounties and got a name for himself, and he was hired for skill he didn't actually have. What if he just ran away after seeing all the danger surrounding Ellis? What if he and his incompetence got slaughtered in the first few minutes of the episode when the first other bounty hunters show up? In either of these cases, Rosenberg is screwed, because, as Nadie tells us in the very first episode, all the bounty hunters after her will instantly default to killing Ellis.



And this isn't just an assumption of Nadie's, either. Every bounty hunter we see in this show who is after Ellis either shoots at her, or clearly intends to. Apparently, Nadie is the only bounty hunter who doesn't like taking targets "dead" when she can get the bounty alive (though, as we find out later, even this isn't really true). Actually, the "dead clause" is the first of the big problems with the bounty, but I'll get to that later. Suffice to say, if Nadie hadn't protected Ellis, then Ellis would be dead by now. In other words, Rosenberg would have lost everything. Now, even if he [the jerk bodyguard of my example] had survived and protected Ellis, what if he was a total jerk who Ellis hated? At the end, they'd show up, and Rosenberg would kill him, and Ellis would go "Wow, thanks for killing him. I ****ing hated that jerk. Well, my witch powers aren't coming back, so I guess I'm out of here. See ya!"


What I expect Rosenberg's reaction would be

This is the biggest problem, really. None of these options help Rosenberg accomplish his goals, and he clearly has the resources and connections to find other ways. Remember, if Ellis dies, Rosenberg loses everything. Nadie is not some black ops specialist trained by the Spetsnaz, Navy SEALS, and every other military organization ever (you know the stereotype). She just a sometimes lucky bounty hunter who happens to be an occasionally good shot. Not really what I would bank on for absolute protection from death. And don't say that Rosenberg had Ricardo or L.A. there to protect Ellis in case of an emergency, because in the very first episode, Ricardo made a deliberate decision to not go after the bounty hunters, and L.A. wasn't anywhere in the alleyway. In fact, if Nadie hadn't been there to push Ellis out of the way, then it's certain that a bullet would have killed Ellis, or at least badly wounded her. So clearly, Rosenberg relied on Nadie to protect Ellis. Thus, I again pose my question of "What if Nadie wasn't quite as lucky, and she couldn't protect Ellis?" Then Rosenberg would lose everything. But the underlying problem here is that all of this could be avoided by just not putting the "dead or alive" bounty on Ellis. Think about it. Force the bounty hunters to bring her in alive, and Ellis can still go through the traumatic experience of getting captured and maybe roughed up a little (Rosenberg's goal, so that Ellis' powers will activate), but she won't die. Even with this very minor adjustment, Ellis doesn't die, so Rosenberg doesn't lose everything. The smarter move, of course, would be to just not post a bounty at all. I mean, what if someone actually did capture and bring in Ellis? You'd be out a million bucks and you'd be back at square one. I can just imagine Rosenberg going, "Uh...um...well. Okay Ellis, you're free to go. Go, uh, go run off to that eternal city or whatever again, okay? <mutters to self> What the hell was I thinking, posting a bounty?! And why'd I rely on that stupid bodyguard the witch descendants gave Ellis? I'm such a fool!" Now, you could say that it was necessary for Rosenberg to put a bounty on Ellis and rely on the bodyguard someone else posted for her, because he needed Ellis to:
a) be put into situations where her emotions would run high, and
b) grow close to someone, so he could then kill them
However (there's always a however with this show), Rosenberg could have easily hired his own bodyguard, one who's competency he could personally evaluate, manipulated that bodyguard into thinking that he/she just had to protect Ellis (then betraying and killing that bodyguard in the end), and staged controlled events that cause Ellis to freak out, but never actually put her life in danger. There are no downsides to this plan. There's no bounty, so there are no unstable bounty hunters after Ellis, everything is controlled, so there's no chance of losing Ellis (you know, the most important part of the plan), and Ellis could still grow attached to the bodyguard. The bodyguard wouldn't know that Rosenberg would kill him/her in the end (Rosenberg is a master of deceit and manipulation, after all), and could protect Ellis in case they actually do run into any unplanned trouble. All of this is controllable by Rosenberg and furthers his plans perfectly, while posing no real disadvantages. The only one I could think of is that it would be more expensive, but I bet that if Rosenberg used that million dollars he put towards the bounty to pay for his operations, he wouldn't have too much trouble covering his financial debts.
     So the end result of all this is that nothing about the bounty makes any logical sense, be it the reasons behind it, the conditions of the bounty, or even the price itself. A million dollars just attracts unwanted attention, and it'll be dang hard for Rosenberg to explain where it went to his superiors ("Yeah, I just used it for an unauthorized experiment that got a little girl killed."). I have a sinking feeling that the reason for all this that I've been asking for is very superficial. They [the creators of the show] wanted to capitalize on the bounty hunter image, and make Ellis a more "mysterious" character by having a large bounty on her ("Wow, she's so young, but she has a million dollar bounty and it's okay even if they kill her! How mysterious!"), so they used a story that could have been quite good and made it riddled with holes. The worst part, though, is that even if they had everything in my suggestion about Rosenberg hiring the bodyguards and not posting a bounty, you could still include every major part of this story. Nadie and Blue Eyes (because you've got to have Blue Eyes, right?) could be bodyguard partners who are hired by Rosenberg to protect Ellis. They could be chased by a secret government organization that wants to erase the witches of Project Leviathan, and so they're trying to kill Ellis, and Nadie and Blue Eyes have to protect her from them (as opposed to from bounty hunters). You could even have a brainwashed L.A. (he's brainwashed anyways, so...) working for the secret organization. Blue Eyes could be a secret mole agent working for the witch's descendants, who want to capitalize on Rosenberg's plan for their own goals, and I'm sure you could fit in Ricardo and Lirio in there as incidental or re-occurring episode characters without too much trouble. Then, when they finally reach the eternal city, Rosenberg betrays them and tries to kill Nadie and Blue Eyes, and the group manages to overcome Rosenberg after a struggle. Ellis gains full control over her witch powers, and the secret government organization, who's main goal was to stop Ellis' powers from awakening, pull back a little. Nadie and Ellis, and possibly Blue Eyes, then go into hiding and eventually decide to travel again, both for the fun of it and to avoid the secret organization. This is just an example, but think about it. It includes all the major points of the original story, minus the inconsistencies, Rosenberg and Ellis and Nadie's goals all remain the same, and there can still be exciting action with lots of guns in it. Like I said, this is just an example, and I'm sure there are others like it with the same qualities, but you get the point. Just by discarding the bounty hunter theme, they already erase about 90% of the inconsistencies in the plot. This is what I hate the most about the bounty hunters; they feel like they were just added so that they could label it as "a show with bounty hunters." And while that's a legitimate theme and is certainly an effective marketing tool to use, it detracts from the story greatly. In other words, their attempt to capitalize on the bounty hunter image and themes (and I truly think that's what their goal was, though I suppose their mistake could have been more...naive) backfired and actually made the story worse.

     So, now that we've identified and taken care of the inconsistencies with most of Rosenberg's actions and the bounty, I'm gonna move onto the next story flaw, the witch descendants.




The witch descendants are a mysterious organization, not just in what we know about them, but also in their actions. So first let's talk about their relationship with Ellis. The witch descendants are a group divided when it comes to Ellis. Some want to bring her into the fold, while others want to try to use her to somehow get back their own witch powers (the witch descendants are unable to use magic), while still others view her as an aberration and want her dead. About halfway through the series, however, they all finally agree and decide that they want to protect Ellis, and this is where things get tricky. You see, the witch descendant leader, the one who gives Blue Eyes orders and got Nadie hired, has always wanted Ellis to live. However, up until about episode 15, she was content with simply observing things and continuing to let Ellis travel to the eternal city. Then (around episode 15), Rosenberg is sacked by the CIA and can no longer continue to formally run the project. This causes the witch descendants to decide to cut Nadie loose and protect Ellis themselves and bring her to their headquarters. My question is: why does Rosenberg's disappearance cause this to happen? What, did they say "Oh...well, now that he's not observing her, I guess we shouldn't either..."? I mean, I know there were divided opinions within the organization and all, but why not just bring her in right in the beginning or as soon as you've reached a general consensus? Don't tell me it was to "see if her powers grew" or anything like that, because they were clearly changing a little, but there was no significant change yet. So why the sudden decision to bring Ellis in? It's not really like Rosenberg was in the way. They could just send a helicopter, pick Ellis (and Nadie, if they felt the need) up, and fly them back to their HQ, with no one the wiser. Now, this isn't so much a plot hole, per se. It is, however, very confusing and doesn't entirely make sense. At best, the viewer has a vague idea that the witch descendants are trying to kill Ellis, or that they're trying to capture Ellis, and at worst, the viewer has no idea what the hell is happening. The biggest problem with them is that they add very little to the story except confusion. If more scenes were devoted to them and we were given a better idea of the organization itself, they could have worked well enough, but as it is, they were anything but helpful.

     That's really it for the overarching story. There could have been vastly fewer inconsistencies with a very small amount of tweaking, and there were certainly a number of confusing things that only served to worsen the plot, but overall, it was actually pretty average. I know it may come as a surprise after all that ranting (if you can call it that) about the bounty and how terrible that is (and it is terrible), but overall the story wasn't bad. The pacing and plot progression in the overarching story were pretty nice, and the way they revealed each of the pieces of the puzzle was done pretty well (even if those pieces didn't quite fit). Granted, the show has no real good reason to be 26 episodes long for the story it tries to tell, but I've seen worse. As you know all too well, from the way I keep linking to it.

     Now we can move on the truly "bad" aspects of the show. I'll start with the mildest one, since it's similar to the topic I was just talking about: the individual stories. The individual stories are poor. At first, even though the episodes are disjointed and terrible to watch, the story actually focuses on some aspect of one of the main characters, either exploring their past/personality, or causing some change in them. When the episodes themselves start getting better, however, the series pretty much abandons this and instead takes any time it would have taken to develop a character and devotes it to furthering the overarching plot a little bit. This means that the stories are about some random people who we really don't care about dealing with problems that often only partially involve the main characters. Now, in both cases, the individual stories aren't particularly good or engaging. But in the first case, at least the stories held some meaning; they had a greater purpose beyond what they were at base level. A lot of the episodes are bad for different reasons, but almost all of them (with the notable exception of episode 14) suffer from at least one of the following: bad pacing, bland stories, a focus on characters who are not Nadie and Ellis (or other main characters), and, last but not least, poor synchronization with the overarching story. These are all pretty self explanatory (and self evident, if you watch the show), so I won't bother giving examples. But what is really interesting about the stories is that nearly everything wrong about them is right in the overarching story. The episode stories have poor pacing that jumps around and slows down like it doesn't know what it's doing, and yet almost all the parts of the overarching story are revealed at the perfect speed, fast enough that the viewer doesn't get bored of it, but slow enough that they don't feel like they're missing anything. The individual stories are bland and generic, little more than a vessel for plot points to happen and the story to finish. The overarching story, however, builds on itself very well, and despite the inconsistencies is interesting and engaging to watch. The individual episodes have a bad tendency to focus on the episode characters, the ones who are only going to appear for one episode. The overarching story, however (and this is simply by virtue of being the overarching story), focuses only on the main characters, the ones we know and care about.
     The final problem common in all of the stand alone episodes is that they don't mesh with the main story very well. Like I said earlier, El Cazador De La Bruja is a "partly episodic" series. It has an overarching plot, one that it tries (or at least, should try) to expand on or resolve in some way each episode. The problem is that the individual episodes get too focused on telling their own stories that they stop trying to significantly advance the main story. At the same time, though, they can't completely stop trying to continue the overarching plotline, so the result is that neither wins. The stories are too disjointed and bland for the audience to care about them, and the more interesting, more important story gets chopped up and interspersed through the rest of the episode, making it get lost and confused. These are merely the technical failings of the stories, and they lacked more than just this. Most (not all, but most) of the stories lacked the most important thing they could have: the urge to tell a story. It didn't really feel like the creators wanted to tell us the story of the killer-turned-cook, or the girl digging for the silver cross. It felt like they were just filler in the grand scheme of things. I won't go into this too deeply, because I suppose that it's entirely possible that the creators did have some kind of creative spark and just failed to implement it properly. I mean, I think it's unlikely that they did, and instead just brainstormed ideas for "things that could happen in the episode," but, even if I did pursue the topic further, I don't think it would add anything to the review, so I'll stop there. Overall, the episode stories in this show are missing something, be it proper pacing or other technical aspects, or just an inability to engage and interest.


     The next "bad" aspect is actually a little surprising, because character interactions are one of the show's greatest strengths. And yet, somehow, the characters themselves are one of the worst things about the show. Basically, every character but Ellis and, to a lesser extent, Blue Eyes, is poorly constructed or executed, and we are never told crucial things about the characters. I'll start with the character of Nadie, one of the two main protagonists.




Now, before I watched this show, I had really high hopes for it. I had hoped that it would be a cool show with strong character development and interaction, some nice, atmospheric action, and a fairly interesting story. As is my policy for shows that I know I'm going to review, I didn't read any reviews or previews of this show before I watched it (in fact, I have yet to do this even now), so all I had to base my expectations on were the picture and brief synopsis you saw at the beginning of the review. That's actually something I'd like to point out here. I came into this show (as I do almost all other series) with the intent to enjoy it. Now, my expectations weren't especially high, and neither are my standards for enjoying something. And, admittedly, I was able to get some enjoyment out of El Cazador De La Bruja, but only just barely. The reason I'm bringing this up now is because I was greatly disappointed by the show's occasional inability to entertain at times, and nothing was a worse disappointment than the characters, especially Nadie. Before I get into her character though, I want to give you a little more background, this time on the external factors that played a part in this show's "legacy". So, first off, this show is the final part of the "girls with guns" trilogy by the animation studio Bee Train and its founder, Koichi Mashimo. The other two parts of this trilogy are Noir (2001) and Madlax (2004), neither of which I've seen (though I watched a couple of episodes of Madlax a few years back). All of these shows (which share only a spiritual and stylistic connection, by the way) supposedly feature "strong female leads," as well as female characters with ambiguous sexuality (that is, they may be lesbians - yeah, I know, I said the "L" word. Don't be scared off by it, I'm actually gonna come back to that point in a bit). Now, armed with this small new piece of knowledge, we can analyze Nadie's character. Hoo boy.
     Okay, so first let's look at what's right about Nadie.
a) She's human. Nadie isn't the grim, silent, imposing character that the stereotype I brought up earlier (the "special agent super soldier" one) is. She a fairly relaxed individual, and while not naive, she has a somewhat refreshing innocence to her character. While the silent, emotionally and mentally scarred war veteran stereotype certainly could have worked in a show like this, Ellis is a very quiet character, and it would be more than a little hard for the audience to grasp relationship growth between two near mutes (again, not impossible, but certainly more difficult).
b) Nadie is *mostly* competent. I almost can't give her this one, because she isn't really shown as being exceptionally skilled at anything throughout the show, but she does manage to protect Ellis well enough, and I guess she can sometimes use a gun really well.
c) ...There is no "c." That's it, really.
Yeah, I mean it, those are really the only creation elements that they got really right with Nadie. I mean, she's got a nice character design, but a pretty face isn't enough to make up for being a poor protagonist. To look at what is wrong about her character, I'll start by looking at why she's not a good protagonist (character does not necessarily equal protagonist). I like to say there are two basic types of protagonists, ones that you relate to and and ones that you look up to. Depending on the story being told, neither one is better than the other, and the possibility of overlap is certainly possible (though characters will almost always focus on one of the two). So, which of the two is Nadie? Well...she does certainly seem to be leaning towards the kind you relate to, but the correct answer is that she is neither. As I just mentioned, Nadie isn't exactly a super soldier or anything. She can be manipulated, ambushed, outwitted, captured, beaten or outsmarted in a fight, and isn't especially intelligent. I mean, she's by no means incapable of doing anything right, but beyond her ability to point a gun at people, drive cars, and moonlight as a waitress, Nadie isn't really good at much else of note. So clearly, she's not the kind of character we look up to and want to be ("It's my dream to become an average women, probably in her twenties, who can sort of hunt bounties, occasionally protect teenage girls, use a gun, and be defeated at various points throughout her life by her antagonists."). Then, is Nadie the kind of protagonist that you can relate to? Well, not really. Let's look at the reasons why:
   a) She a f***ing murderer! I'm actually going to look at this in a moment, but just for right now, let it be known that she ruthlessly guns down several people in cold blood over the course of the story.
   b) Much like her killing sprees, we also can't really relate to her profession or her life style (I assume that none of my readers are assassins or bounty hunters; if you are, consider yourself exempt from this). Nadie's homeless, "free," flitting in-and-out of towns lifestyle is something that is hard for most of us to relate to, and even if it wasn't, there is no kind of focus on this aspect of her character, so even if we led similar lifestyles, we couldn't relate.
   c) Nadie's personality, while nice, is really quite limited to what we see at face level. We never really know Nadie's true thoughts or feelings, and we never get a sense for her innermost feelings. All we know is that "she smiled at that joke" or "she gets angry when people call her less than pretty." I mean, it's also possible that she's just a very simple-minded (and by that I mean shallow) person, but the fact remains that we never feel like we know Nadie or can relate to her as a person.
   d) And finally, we never really know anything about Nadie's background. We are shown a few disjointed images from her childhood (that have a collective runtime of probably less than a minute), and we know that she was once a down on her luck waitress at a bar, but beyond that, we have no idea what her past is like. You see, even if her past was some tragic thing where all her family were killed by some evil warlord or something, it can still help us relate to her in some way, because even if we are unfamiliar with such events, all of us have experienced a moment in life of extreme sadness, and regardless of whether or not it's as strong as Nadie's would be, it still lets us relate to her. We can at least kind of understand her pain and grief, and it lets us know something about her character, something that, subtly or not, would change the way we view her character from then on. Even if Nadie had a completely happy past were she was raised by kind, understanding parents in the back country and she left her home to seek her fortunes traveling the land (eventually becoming a bounty hunter), it could still help us understand things about her character, and let us know "okay, she's normal like me. That's cool." There is nothing that does this in the series, not even a little. We know from episode 3 that she thinks having family is nice (implying that her relations with her family were cut off for whatever reason), but that just hints at her character, and doesn't tell us things about it. Overall, we can't relate to Nadie because of her past, no matter how much we want to.
     So, where does this leave us? Nadie does things we would never do, lives a life most of us would have trouble understanding, we never get to know her as a human (regardless of whether or not she's fictional, this is still a valid point), and we don't know her past. In short, we can't relate to her. So that means that Nadie is neither the kind of protagonist we can relate to, nor the kind we can really look up to. Now, it is possible to have a superb protagonist that doesn't focus on these elements. Take Kino, for example.


Probably the best and most original, unique anime protagonist of all time.

Despite being a protagonist that doesn't really fall into either group (it is certainly possible to relate to or look up to Kino, but neither of those aspects is focused on), Kino is an awesome protagonist, and one of the most human characters I've ever seen in an anime, or any TV show at all for that matter. So, is Nadie, like Kino, one of those rare protagonists that you need to neither relate to or want to emulate in order to be good? Sadly, no. Nadie is neither a protagonist you can understand at a deeper level, nor one who you would want to be, nor someone you can like in spite of that. I just want to quickly clarify that although I introduced those two major, standard types of characters, they are just a basic (though almost always the most effective) way of identifying or creating protagonists, and that exceptions to this formula exist. I also wanted to clarify that Nadie is not one of these exceptions. With that said, let's finally try to discuss Nadie's character, beyond her effectiveness (or ineffectiveness, as the case may be) as a protagonist.
     So first, let's talk about Nadie's outlook, and her view of life.

Those three guys were all just mercilessly slaughtered by Nadie so she could protect someone she didn't even really like...
The first thing we have to talk about, of course, is Nadie's peculiar views on death and killing. You see, Nadie spends the first 5 episodes of the show getting involved in a lot of action, and never killing anyone. Of course, other people kill other people, but Nadie resolves her action scenes by knocking people out or shooting the weapons out of their hands. She seems to even try to make excuses for not killing her opponents, like:




You see, Nadie not killing the two bounty hunters that are after Ellis and her (both of them are knocked out on the floor at the time of the above screencap) was an impractical move. The bounty hunters will surely pursue them again restlessly, as they have in the past, and leaving them alive is just inviting trouble. However, if Nadie has an aversion to killing, then most of her actions make sense. We could see that Nadie was just making a poorly veiled excuse for not killing the bounty hunters because she dislikes killing or secretly thinks every human life is precious or whatever, despite killing them being the best choice to protect Ellis. And while none of this explains why Nadie wouldn't take the bounty hunters guns so they, couldn't, you know, kill anyone with them, it does seem to explain why Nadie didn't kill them outright. Then, two episodes later, Nadie kills 3 people in what could be called barely-lukewarm blood, at best. Okay...well, let's just throw that character point out the window. So what, then, was the point of those 5 episodes where Nadie seems to take great pains to avoid killing anyone? What was up with that, huh? Why did Nadie not kill those bounty hunters after Ellis, the far more important character? And keep in mind this isn't like a one time occurrence or anything like that. Nadie will occasionally lapse back into the "won't kill anyone" mode (although most of the time, it's more that she "can't" - as in, she lacks the ability), but, more often than not, she nonchalantly kills people and shows a very lax attitude towards death, even saying that in the past she has actually preferred underground bounties, because they can usually be settled just by killing the bounty head. All of this is, simply put, bad. Whatever kind of character Nadie is supposed to be, she should consistently be that character. I mean, if there are obvious points where a character or their outlook can be changed, but Nadie doesn't go through any kind of change like this, and even if she did, she lapses back and forth far too often. This is why Nadie's character is weak in this regard. It's not that she does or doesn't kill people, or even that she changes her outlook; it's that there is no consistency in whether or not she kills them, and that there is nothing that would cause that change. When you have a character who is inconsistent in their actions and what you know about them, you're probably going to end up confused and at a loss for what is happening. This goes far beyond a character you can't relate to; this is a character who you can't understand, and understanding is one of the first steps to caring. Thus, not understanding a character inhibits our ability to care about them, and watching a story about a character who we don't care about is sad thing indeed.

     Really, every other problem with Nadie's character overlaps with why she is a poor protagonist, although for slightly different reasons. They were problems for a protagonist because they got in the way of relating to Nadie, but they're problems with her character because they get in the way of understanding (and, subsequently, caring about) her. We don't know about her back story or Nadie as a person; we don't know who she is. The result is that she is a mysterious character that we don't care about, at least not as a main character. Before I leave Nadie's character, I want to go over two more things, one specific to Nadie, and the other an element that, if properly executed, could have improved the whole show.
     The first thing is that "strong female lead" phrase that pops up whenever a Bee Train show gets mentioned. Let me come right out and say it: Nadie is not a strong female lead. I'm gonna back up a little bit here, because I realize that my definition of "strong female lead" may differ from the definition others have. Now, if you consider a S.T.L. (it was getting monotonous, so I abbreviated it) to be any female protagonist that can kill or fight for herself and against people that wish her harm, then you probably would consider Nadie to be a S.T.L. However, under this definition, pretty much every one of those girl characters in the shounen battle shows (Nami from One Piece, Orihime from Bleach, and so on) is a "strong female character," fulfilling all of the requirements minus the "lead" part. My definition of a "strong female lead," however, is a little different. My definition of a S.T.L. is a strong lead, who happens to be female. If a character is really interesting, if I really care about them, and I can relate to and/or want to emulate them, then that character has the basics of being a strong lead. I suppose this interpretation of the phrase might be too literal. I realize that the term originated from female characters being in lead roles and not relying on men all the time, so the phrase usually has feminist and anti-misogynist connotations attached to it. In other words, the phrase, in common use, seems to imply that any female who doesn't rely on men and is a lead character is a "strong female lead." Like I said, though, I disagree with this definition. I prefer a more literal approach, and want the term to apply only to those character who are actually strong leads. I suppose this section may seem a little redundant, because "protagonist" and "lead" are nearly synonymous in this case (that is, Nadie is a weak lead for the same reasons she's a weak protagonist). However, I just wanted to warn you that, if your definition of a strong female lead is at all similar to mine, you shouldn't be fooled by anyone telling you that this show has a "strong female lead." I suppose one of the reasons I brought this up is that I was really looking forward to this show, because I had heard that it had really strong leads, and I just felt lied to when the leads weren't actually strong at all.

     The next thing I'm going to talk about is the promised section on the ambiguous lesbian (the Japanese term is "yuri" which I will use from here on in) relationship between Nadie and Ellis. I can start this section out pretty much the same way I did the last one, only I'm unarguably correct on this one: there is nothing yuri about this show. The screencap below illustrates the full extent of it in the show.


Here, Nadie is shown using a medically unsound but not particularly uncommon method of disinfecting a bleeding finger.
Really, I promise you, this is as far as anything yuri throughout the entire series goes. No, really, I'm not kidding, nothing more raunchy or ambiguous then this happens in the entire 26 episodes. And I recognize that two girls loving each other can go beyond any kind of sexual interaction, but what I said still stands true. Really, I mean, this single action is the absolute height of any kind of romantic relationship the two might have. I leave it up to you do determine whether this is a good thing or a bad one, but I'm going to talk about how this aspect of Ellis and Nadie's characters could have been used to better the show as a whole.




Now, before I even begin talking about this subject, I want to make it clear that I really have nothing for or against homosexuals. If someone wants to include them in a story, okay, that's fine by me. I won't like or dislike it based on that. That said, playing up the yuri elements of this show would have actually resulted in a stronger series. Any of you who read my Skip Beat! review may remember that I said romance is best as a bonus; something in addition to a main story, not instead of one. The same holds true here. If the entire focus of El Cazador De La Bruja had been on romance, then the show would not be any stronger for it. In fact, it would probably be weaker, because it would disrupt the pacing of the overall plot, which is one of the better parts of the show. As a bonus, however, it could do wonders to improve the series. If Nadie and Ellis had their feelings grow into love and their conversations, interactions, and behaviors changed in a way that reflected that, however slightly, the show would have been better. Certainly, a nice romance, yes, even one between two girls, is still more entertaining to watch than flashy, mindless action with no foundation. I'd also like to point out that a romance story is significantly easier to animate than an action sequence is. Of course, you don't have to abandon one to have the other, but the pointless, painful-to-watch action scenes in this show made me want a nice character subplot. Anyways, back to the romance. If Nadie and Ellis loved each other romantically and we got to see a story about one of the two characters trying to come to terms with it or trying to find a way to say it, then that could still become a nice little episode story, and help strengthen the characters (without ever needing to become a full rom-com). Now, I do appreciate the decision to not overplay the yuri themes. In a way, it was a little refreshing to see two female characters who like each other and are good friends, but aren't romantically interested in one another. It seems like nowadays whenever there are two girls who are close friends, they have to be lesbians. However, playing up the yuri aspect would help strengthen their characters, and as a result, the show as a whole. This is like taking a tiny aspect of a character and supercharging it. The result will not always be good, but at least it will always make that character leave a stronger impression. That's all I wanted to say, really. If you were looking for a tidy little yuri romance subplot within a story, go somewhere else. Regardless of whether or not it should be in the show, El Cazador De La Bruja is pretty devoid of anything like that (I mention this because that's another aspect people try to sell Bee Train shows with).

     Alright, so with those prickly issues out of the way, we can move on. Yuri elements aside, most of the other main characters suffered from the same problems that Nadie did. For example, the character of L.A., the crazy boy created from the same experiment as Ellis (who he is obsessed with), also suffers from a few of the same problems.


L.A. having one of his creepgasms
Now, L.A. is a pretty awful character. The answer to the question of why involves approximately everything about him. His very existence is a flaw in the already less-than-perfect surface of this show. Really, that's the biggest problem with his character, is that he is a superficial existence. He occasionally causes Ellis to act or react in certain ways, but really, his character is entirely replaceable. Rosenberg or even Ricardo (were Ricardo an antagonist) could have filled in for nearly everything L.A.'s character has to do. He's utterly redundant and not really very interesting. Honestly, His whole character feels like it's flailing both its arms wildly at you, shouting, "Look at me, I'm so weird and crazy! That makes me interesting, right?" L.A. is a good example of a character element that is too "supercharged." He comes off like he's deliberately trying to get your attention by being overplayed. The similarity between he and Nadie's poor character creation has to do with his inconsistencies. You see, L.A.'s driving force, his one and only goal and obsession, is Ellis. He does anything he thinks will help or protect Ellis, and even though he's a psychopath about it, he still makes it very clear that he would never physically harm her. Until:



The arrow is pointing to L.A.'s metal strong cutting through the wall just inches from Ellis' face. If Ellis hadn't moved, the string would have taken off her arm at the shoulder and probably her left ear, if not more of her face. L.A. did this without provocation or reason, and it goes against everything we've ever known about his character. This is the kind of random inconsistency that confuses the audience and makes them go "Wait, what? Why?" And not in a good way, either. I mean, it wasn't a total character breaker, but we already don't like L.A. by this point, and such a massive inconsistency is just another particularly large nail in the coffin of his character. Really, L.A. doing this is the equivalent of Rambo deciding to not kill anyone at all costs for a few scenes, despite him not having any reason to do so. Another character who suffers from some of the same problems is Ricardo, the taciturn bounty hunter.



Ricardo, like Nadie, and in fact, every character in the show except Ellis, does not have a sufficiently explored background. Although Ricardo's whole image is built around being mysterious, having some nominal amount of information about him would still have been a good move. However, more than Ricardo's ancient past or what caused him to become a bounty hunter, what the audience needs to know is his relation with the pit demon-I mean, the cute little girl, Lirio.

Ricardo and Lirio
Now, the thing about Ricardo's character that makes him stand out is that he travels around with a young girl named Lirio. It really was a pretty effective character gimmick, and it does stand out. There's even some hinting at their past, with Ricardo saying that he's done some things he needs to repent for. At first, all of this is not a problem. Ricardo and Lirio are reoccurring characters, but not major ones. Even if we don't know their past, it's okay; their background is of no consequence to us. However, over the course of the show, Ricardo and Lirio become major characters, and then they start appearing in every episode, for large sections of those episodes. This is where we start to think that it's weird that they haven't told us about the two characters and how exactly they're related. Now, like I said, Ricardo's character has a really mysterious image, and you could say that revealing any part of his past would detract from that part of his character. And while that wouldn't be entirely untrue, there is a certain point where a character needs to have their past explored, or else the audience will begin seeing them as a boring, static character. Ricardo has certainly passed this point by the end of the show, and long before it.
     You see, there are basically two ways to tell a character's past using the kind of style the show wanted to. The first way is to tease it; show a small number of images, have characters use some vague lines and words, and maybe even have them reveal a tiny bit of it. This is actually what they tried to do with Nadie, but the problem is that when you tease a character's past, you have to tease it enough that the audience can make slightly specific guesses or assumptions about it. Nadie's past isn't teased enough; all you know is that she thinks family is nice, was down on her luck one time when she was a waitress, and was somewhere near or in a burning building as a child. We can certainly make guesses based off of this, but only the most general and arguable kind. So what's the other method, the one they tried to use with Ricardo? That method is hinting. Hinting is sort of like foreshadowing, in that we are told something about that character that we can then expect to be fully explained later on. Hinting initially reveals less than teasing does, but in the end we are explicitly told about the character's past. This is what they almost did with Ricardo. They gave him a few obscure lines that hinted at him doing something wrong or regrettable, and we see it even might be related to Lirio. And then that's it. We are never given the rightly deserved back story episode for Ricardo, or the story of how he and Lirio met. And that's the problem. When a character becomes important enough, we want to know about them, to know about who they are and what kind of a past they had that made them that way. But we are never told. If you have a character gimmick, but you never explain it, that gimmick becomes confusing, much like the inconsistencies of L.A. or Nadie's characters.
     Like I said earlier, this is actually a problem with all of the characters except Ellis. We don't know the details about their past. Blue Eyes, for example, was involved with the witch descendents organization from an early age, and something about being there made her wish to have witch powers herself. If we were told, or much better yet shown why Blue Eyes wanted witch powers, that moment that caused her to desire them, then she would have been a much stronger character. We probably would have cared more whether or not she got witch powers, and at the very least we would have been better able to understand her. There's also the fact that a background episode for any given character in this show would most likely have been significantly more interesting and entertaining to watch than any of the individual episode stories.
     Wrapping up, there's just one more character I want to briefly talk about. This character is the lich king, the ruler of the undead and the bringer of darkness to our realm.


The lich kin-I mean, Lirio
Lirio is the most aggravating and creepy character of the entire series. I'll discuss the aggravating part first. You see, Lirio is obviously a marketing move; they wanted to have a cute, adorable "moe" character that could make people feel warm and fuzzy inside, and could make them buy the series if they weren't sold on the inconsistent and terrible character of Nadie. Really, Lirio is the most frustrating character to watch in the whole show. The commercial purpose of her character is so painfully obvious that it would make you laugh if it weren't so sad. Her entire purpose is to be a character gimmick for Ricardo and to draw viewers. Really, think about it. What does her character do that could only be done if it were her character? The only two story purposes she serves are to be Ellis' friend, and to be the vessel for the leader of the witch descendents to say something for 5 seconds. Heck, Ricardo alone could have served both these purposes! Really, I'm not even kidding, aside from the part where she is possessed by the witch, she never speaks even one line of dialogue. That's how "cute" and useless her character is; she doesn't even add anything to the dialogue other than grunts. This is what is so aggravating about her character; it's unnecessary, and it's nothing more than a tool for getting the audience to like or buy the show. Now, as for what's creepy about the kid: her freaking bloodlust! Yeah, I'm pretty sure that any kid who likes and hangs around with a dude who is consistently killing people and getting covered in blood is perfectly normal in the head. Seriously, there's even a part in the show where L.A. is bleeding out, and of course Lirio comes across and mounts his bloody, dying body so L.A. can mistake her for a younger Ellis and have some kind of epiphany. What's creepy: Lirio walks up to his body and, seeing his bloody face and broken body, gives a smile of pure joy. I couldn't shake this thought for the rest of the show: "Lirio enjoys the sight of blood and violence. It all makes sense now." I'll leave you with that thought and go on to the third to last part of the review, the action.


     Put simply, the action lacks all tension, and that's its biggest failing. Let me give you an example of this; throughout the entire show, there is no combatant who ever shows fear at having a gun pointed at them, even if they are unarmed. No one has any fear of being shot or being killed, and although a few people do die, for the most part, everyone survives, and it makes the guns like toys. Violence in general is treated very casually by all of the characters, and the result is that you can't care about the action. You don't really feel all that worried about Nadie, because her character is one we have trouble liking, and there is not a single scrap of tension or fear to make you engaged. I'm not going to talk about the action much more, because nothing else really needs to be said. The action is poorly animated, but worse than that it has no base or foundation that makes us care about what happens. "Oh, they're pointing guns at each other again. How new and exciting. <fast forwards>" I mean, I do appreciate the studio's ambition. El Cazador De La Bruja is clearly not a very high budget show, and having the amount of action that was in it is a move that I can appreciate. The studio may not have had the resources, but they still tried. Overall, though, the action still failed. We aren't really engaged by it, and regardless of ambition it is also poorly animated.


     All right, we're finally in the home stretch now, and I feel it's appropriate to talk about the second worst aspect of the show: the direction. The director of this series seemed to think that dutch angles and long, panning shots were the equivalent of good direction. First, the dutch angles. For those of you unaware of what a dutch angle is, a dutch angle is where you take a shot and you tilt it, so that it appears at an angle. Most of you have probably seen many of these and not noticed them, because you automatically adjust the image in your brain so that it stands straight. However, this show takes them so far that they actually jump out at you, in a bad way. Episode 3 is where the dutch angles are at their worst. I'm going to show you two images that fully reflect this:

This is what appears to be a dutch angle on a dutch angle on a dutch angle, or, as I like to call it, a bad angle.

And this is just so much dutch angling that the picture turned out upside down.
Now, this is a minor point, really, but dutch angles do not equal a good visual style. The show eventually toned them down a little, but these two examples were just so ridiculous that I had to bring them up. Now we can get to the real visual offender: the panning shots. Remember when I was talking about the art, and I said the landscapes were nice? Well, it's good that they are, because a good 30% of the show's run time is made up of panning shots devoted just to those landscapes. Overall, I'd guesstimate that all the panning shots in the show (including those of landscapes, characters, and so on) combined make up for a good 65% of the entire runtime, if not more. I am truthfully not exaggerating here; I would not be surprised if they made up an even larger percentage. This is what I just call plain sloppy, if not outright unprincipled. While panning shots can be used artistically, here they do little more than pad the running length. It's like having an intentionally drawn out scene just so you can reach the end of the episode without having to do too much. The direction in this is very poor, and while I only talked about the two major offenders because I realize this review has already lasted for far too long, these two examples are hardly the extent of the bad directing in this series.


     And finally, I'm going to talk about the worst thing in El Cazador De La Bruja, the thing that I've been mentioning throughout my review. This thing is the terrible animation. Now, good animation is not a necessity for me, and even bad animation is not that big a problem. As I mentioned before, Kino's Journey had low budget, limited quality animation, and that show looks amazing. The problem with El Cazador De La Bruja, however, is that it attempts to do too much with too few resources. As I said, the show has a very ambitious goal of doing a lot of action scenes, having one almost every episode. While ambitious, however, it probably hurt the series more than anything else. The animation looks clunky and cumbersome. In stark contrast to Mushishi, very few of the motions look natural or real. At its best, things feel like they're animated, and at worst, things look like they're animated, and poorly at that. I feel that, had the show tried to have fewer action scenes (which are probably the most intensive thing to animate) and more variation in its episodes (things like the romance subplots, for example), then it wouldn't have looked nearly as bad. As it stands, though, almost all of the action scenes (which as I said occur in nearly every episode) look weird and unnatural, and the result is very hard to bear, visually. Once again, I don't need perfect or flawless animation, and even poor animation can look good in my book, but bad animation that is poorly implemented and constantly shown throughout the show is a big minus.

Overall: El Cazador De La Bruja is a flawed show which has a lot of wasted potential. If just a few things were tweaked, it could have been markedly improved, but as it stands it is simply disappointing. With that said, the show isn't all bad. Parts of it are decent, and there were a few aspects of it that were great, the sound in particular.
      Plot/Story: Overall, the story in El Cazador De La Bruja isn't terrible. If the setting had been slightly altered and the inconsistencies had been removed, then it would have been an interesting and original story with good pacing and a nice dash of conspiracy elements. As it stands, things like Ellis' bounty are severe detriments, and so overall I could only call this story "average.
     Characters: The characters in El Cazador De La Bruja are one of the weakest things about it; some are inconsistent, others we simply don't care about, and almost all of them need to have their past explored more fully. While the interactions between the two leads are good, the character themselves are weak and uninteresting. Bad creation decisions and poor support from the story itself are the main culprits behind the disappointing characters.
     Sound:
          Music: The music in El Cazador De La Bruja is the best thing about. As I mentioned, it is implemented poorly at times, and can get a little old, but in the end it is good and the songs themselves are nice. Overall, quite positive.
          Sound Effects: The sound effects are a little above average, with good quality and passing quantity. Granted, the sound effects weren't used in any particularly special way and didn't do much to enhance the story being told, but I only expect that level of quality from the best sound designers. Looking at everything, the sound effects in this series were above average, and that's about it.
          Voice Acting: The voice acting in this is not great and not terrible. While a good 90% of the cast the perfect "average," Ellis and Nadie's VA's did quite well with the character's small talk, the narrator/Blue Eyes voice actor was solid, and L.A.'s VA helped bring his character a little life. Like the sound effects, "above average" fits well for this aspect of the show.
     Visuals:
          Art: The art in this show is surprisingly good, with nice landscapes and an art style and character designs that are nice to look at. However, non-static components of the images are, in all honesty, rather poor, and there is a disappointing lack of attention to detail. The biggest failing, though, is the spacial relations flaw that permeates the series. In the end, the two pretty much balance each other out, so the art gets an "average" score.
          Animation: The animation, in contrast to the art, has no real redeeming qualities. Cumbersome movement and unnatural motions are both standard hallmarks of this show. If you're looking for eye candy, watch something else (like Mushishi).
     Rewatchability: Honestly, I can't imagine this show being all that great to watch again. I mean, the overarching plotline is nice and probably good for two or three viewings, but the individual episodes hardly bear the mark of quality. Additionally, this show has no good reason to be 26 episodes long. If it were half that length and the episode plots were more tightly wound, this would have gotten a higher rating, but as it stands, I blanch at the thought of having to watch this again.

Anime Rating: El Cazador De La Bruja is a flawed series. Decent in spite of its flaws, but flawed nonetheless. It's certainly not impossible, or even especially difficult to eke some enjoyment out of this show, but it is not as entertaining as it should be. The mixed visuals and poor characters bring it down, while the story serves to lift it up little as well. Still, it is by no means all bad, and good qualities do exist. They aren't quite strong or common enough to outweigh the bad, but they do come close, so this show gets a slightly below average rating from me. I'd recommend this show to people with a lot of patience, low standards for stories/characters, the ability to enjoy action that doesn't look especially nice, the ability to enjoy a show for its music, and an appreciation for good pacing and revealing of an overarching story. Those who are interested in nice visuals, interesting episode stories, strong characters, or pay a lot of attention to detail should avoid. Also, I should note that the first eight or so episodes are by far the worst of the series, so if you can get past them, the show goes mostly uphill from there.

Any suggestions/requests for my next reviews? Post a comment!

6 comments:

  1. Somehow I was not expecting this to be a "Noir" or "Madlax" success, but indeed a copy. Still plan on finishing it to see how I receive it, but think I might have a similar outlook once done.

    Nice and very detailed review. Appreciated the animation and spacial logic bit ^^

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    1. The show (for the most part) gets better as you go on, so if you've started it, I'd recommend you finish it. The ending was pretty good, all things considered.

      Thanks, and thanks for commenting!

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  2. We discussed this at my castle but I'll sum things up one more time here.
    Good balance between light and dark, lots of cool characters, except L.A. who wasn't sympathetic at all for me, Nadie is one of the sexiest flat chest 2D woman I've ever seen, Nadie x Ellis goodness, Blue Eyes, easy to follow plot with some decent twists and lastly, tacos.

    There you go, why I like El Cazador in a nutshell.

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    1. Thanks, that clears some things up.
      I think can understand those, and why you like the show because of them. Btw, am I the only who thinks that there should have been more Blue Eyes?

      Thanks for commenting, I'm glad the discussion could get wrapped up.

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  3. I actually skimmed through... Maybe just under half of what you had to say. Not to sound rude but you repeated yourself constantly, just using different words. I mean for a bit you seemed to get stuck on the whole aspect of Rosenberg, his plans with the bounty and the whole what if Nadie was just flat out retarded stuff. I mean just seriously stuck on it. I can understand someone not liking a show, if it's not to their tastes, or there were things about it that annoyed, and so on and so forth and while some of what you had to say made sense... It just felt more like you went on a wild long winded rant at times and I was like -scrolls to next topic- a lot. I get you didn't enjoy the show as much as you had hoped. That isn't really my issue (I personally enjoyed the crap out of it, there were a lot of things I felt done right with it, and some of it rather refreshing from the usual anime that comes out these days with dark gory natures, emo characters, or stupidly over the top comedic in nature), it's your... review style. You can make a point without repeating that point 10+ times with different sentence structures and words. I dunno, not trying to be mean to you, or flame, or what have you, I get you didn't enjoy it, that's fine, we all have our different tastes, but if you want to make a lengthy review refrain from repeating yourself. It kind of gets boring and leads to people like me skimming through it to not get stuck with you on a certain point you are making.

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    1. I respect your critique wholeheartedly (it's not rude at all!), though I do find some small irony in how many times you reiterate your main points. :P I will make the suggestion, however, that if your primary concern is my writing style, picking the 6th post on the site - written over 3 years ago - was perhaps a poor place to start.

      Thanks for reading/skimming in any case, and for your willingness to give feedback. :)

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