Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Directed by Shukou Murase

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Robin, a sixteen year old girl with the magical power to start fires, comes to work at a mysterious organization, where she joins a team employed to hunt down witches. Each of these persons Robin and her comrades attempt to apprehend has his own magical power, but many of them are using these in a hurtful or even a murderous way. Over time, however, Robin uncovers evidence that calls her superiors' motivations into question and begins to realize that she herself may be in danger from them.

Shukou Murase's twenty-six part animated television series Witch Hunter Robin is occasionally slow moving, but its complex narrative and sense of mystery are sufficiently well realized to keep the viewer interested.

While there are themes running through the program from its beginning, each of the series' early episode tells an independent story, most of which revolve around the protagonists' investigation into the whereabouts of a given witch and their efforts to apprehend that person. While the first part of Witch Hunter Robin does not, as a result of this structure, have much of a sustained trajectory, each of the little tales it tells is nicely done.

About halfway through the series, however, the director leaves aside the short stories he had been relating and develops a coherent narrative out of threads he had already introduced or, at the least, hinted at. Because it emerges naturally out of such details, the second half of Witch Hunter Robin does not seem inconsistent with what came before it. Though the program may change its impetus, it does not do so in an arbitrary way.

I should additionally note that, technically, the quality of the animation is almost invariably high. The faces and bodies of the characters are well drawn, and these persons are usually effectively integrated into the computer generated images used for many of the backgrounds. There are occasions when the animation does deteriorate, when a character's face will be distorted or the computer produced images will be clumsily realized, but these moments are relatively rare and do not greatly detract from the program's visual quality. Unfortunately, as technically accomplished as Witch Hunter Robin generally is, it is not often truly beautiful. The director has made use, more often than not, of extremely realistic images which are never likely to awe the viewer.

Perhaps Witch Hunter Robin's greatest weakness is its presentation of its characters. The director frequently tries entirely too hard to make several of them seem cool and aloof. Such efforts are often awkward and, because Murase has made these persons so taciturn, it is can initially be difficult for the viewer to involve himself with Robin or her any of her companions. They are so quiet that their personalties long remain unexposed. That said, by the program's conclusion, enough of Robin's heart has been revealed so that she does emerge as a sympathetic person.

I will hardly claim that Witch Hunter Robin is the best animated series I have encountered, but it is entertaining, attractive, and, in the end, genuinely affecting.

Review by Keith Allen

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