Many years ago, my wife was shopping at Hastings, a book and music chain now long gone, and she found an interesting box on the clearance shelf. It was a promo pack for an anime series called Witch Hunter Robin. It contained a DVD of the first five episodes, the soundtrack album, a shot glass, and a T-shirt. It seemed worth a look.
I remember watching the episodes back when she purchased the pack. The series seemed promising. It told the story of the Japanese chapter of a worldwide organization that hunted dangerous witches. Robin was a new hunter. While born in Japan, she had been educated in Italy and had just returned. Robin was a “craft user” who could shoot fire at opponents. It seemed the main difference between a “craft user” and a “witch” was whether you used your powers for good or evil. The series had a very episodic approach. Each week, an organization known as the STN-J would be called out to find and deal with a witch. The STN-J’s mandate was not to kill witches, but capture them. STN-J is basically a Japanese acronym, which means Solomon Toukatsu Nin’idantai – Japan. Roughly translated, that’s the Solomon Executive Organization. What exactly happened to the captured witches was never made clear in those early episodes. Over the course of the first five episodes we mostly saw Robin learn her new job and better earn the trust of her teammates. We enjoyed the show, but not quite enough to follow up and watch more of the series.
Fast forward to last summer, when we were shopping in Bookmans, a very nice used books, movie, and music chain in Arizona. While browsing through their anime section, I happened upon a few copies of the complete series of Witch Hunter Robin for a nice price. We decided it was time to finally discover what happened in the rest of the series. I will note that they had several editions of the series and we did a little research to decide which one to buy. We purchased the Bandai Entertainment edition from the early 2000s pictured above because it included cast interviews and a few more special features than the later Funimation release.
We have now watched the entire series and enjoyed it. Witch Hunter Robin continued its episodic approach until about the series mid-point, at which point, soldiers break into STN-J headquarters and send Robin on the run. During the second half, the series takes on more of an arc format where Robin learns more about her past, her family, and what STN-J does with the captured witches. We learned there are factions within the worldwide STN with somewhat conflicting objectives. In tone, the show reminded me of the X-files where we learn there are layers of truths behind conspiracies and paranormal phenomena. One thing I especially enjoyed is that we learn there’s something of a scientific explanation for the rise of witches in this world.
On reflection, I think it does the show something of a disservice to break it into two halves. The first half took its time giving us information and clues which paid off in the second half. You would make a mistake to skip the earlier episodes. In fact, I want to go back now and watch the series over again and see what hints about the ultimate resolution I might have missed. The show is a little slower and quieter than some anime. It lingers on some scenes, giving the series a classic cinematic quality. My one criticism is that we could have used a few more light or humorous scenes, especially early on, to break the tension and allow us to relate to the characters just a little more.
Still, if you like the idea of a serious supernatural-themed drama that has elements of a police procedural and a detective show, Witch Hunter Robin is worth checking out. If you don’t want to seek out DVDs, the show is available to stream at funimation.com. The first four episodes are free, after that, you have to subscribe to watch.
You can also see my take on a supernatural mystery told in two parts by reading my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. Watch the trailer and learn more about the book at: http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html