What They Say:
Tales of traveling to alternate dimensions are fun to watch in the movies, but when you get stuck in one yourself, it’s not quite as much fun. So when strongman Junpei, actress Airi, and teenage gun fanatic Ritsuko find themselves transported to a world populated by elves and other mystical beings, all they want to do is go home.
Unfortunately, after putting their trust in the scatterbrained sorceress Celcia, the spell to send them back to Earth ends up getting scattered to the winds, with different parts attaching themselves to the bodies of Elves all across the planet. Now the only way to put it back together is to travel around the world, convincing elves to take off all their clothes for a “spell check!”
Fortunately, the team also has access to a T-74 tank, so it’s time for the weirdest road trip ever. Warning! There are naked elves ahead as the ultimate fanboy fantasy is launched in Those Who Hunt Elves!
The audio presentation for this release is decent but it falters compared to previous editions as it has just the original Japanese language track and English language adaptation, ejecting the Spanish language dub from it that we had before. Considering its age and elements there’s not a lot here that stands out in a big way but it certainly gets the job done in both action and dialogue terms. There’s a fair amount of directionality with some of the gunshot/cannon sequences, but for the most part, the effects and music use the left/right channels fairly well. Dialogue is clean and clear through the center channel with no noticeable distortions or dropouts.
Originally airing back at the end of 1997, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The twenty-four episodes are spread across four discs with six episodes per disc. When this series came out it was one of the many that were being done at the beginning of the end of traditional animation and the shift to digital. But at that time, things were done so well that it’s a great looking show and the transfer brings out a lot of that. Colors are rich and vibrant, though not quite to the same level that we’re used to today. Cross coloration is a little more apparent here at times, but it’s also something that’s more from the first season and isn’t as strong once it gets going. Aliasing only shows up in a few areas in a minor way and mostly due to motion, such as the bouncing movement of the tank. Some of the nighttime sky sequences show more grain and pixelation than the rest of the print, but it’s pretty minimal. Overall, this is a nice solid release that shows the age of the materials and the lack of a fresh remaster.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized clear keepcase that holds the four discs inside on hinges. The front cover artwork has the good image of the four main characters across it with the tank where it’s almost illustration style but not quite. There’s a simplistic and old school feeling about it that’s charming and quaint, but I don’t know how well that’ll register with newer fans. The black border is what it is as is the green Sentai Selects stripe along the top but at least we have a reversible cover. The back cover is a busy and colorful piece with better character artwork that’s more detailed and varied along with a few shots from the show as well. The premise is well covered and the extras, season count, episode count, and disc count stand out well so you know you’re getting a fair bit of content. The bottom gives us a good clean white background where it lays out the production credits and the technical grid in an accurate manner. The reverse side cover is a fantastic piece that certainly plays up the fanservice a bit as we get a two-panel spread that has the tank dominating but also plenty of skin from our four human/elf characters that’s just fun. With a breakdown of the episodes by season, number, and title along the upper left, it’s a colorful and engaging cover that reminds you how fun the show is.
The menu design for this release goes in a very simplistic way that’s frustrating since using the cover artwork would be a lot more appealing. All the menus use the same layout and design with a breakdown of the episodes by number and title with shades of orange used while the background has a mixture of black bars and some camouflage behind it. It’s not terribly inspiring nor does it set the mood well for the show since it’s essentially all text. While the menu is functional and easy to use it’s the kind of design that’s all about just providing access with no real style or flourish, unfortunately.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal as expected as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as some production sketches material.
Based on the manga series from Yu Yagami, Those Who Hunt Elves is a two-season twenty-four episode anime series that originally aired in the fall of 1996 and the fall of 1997, coming from Group TAC. The original manga itself began in 1993 and ran for twenty-one volumes until its end in 2003. Yagami has had a few works since then, including his work on Dokkoida, but nothing ever hit the same level. This series along with its manga was picked up by ADV Films during the boom period and did well for the company as there were a few releases over the years. It’s been in limbo for some time now and having it come back in a low-priced and simple collection is essentially for the best as it provides a compact way for fans to add it to their collection and revisit something that was definitely a lot of fun.
Like a lot of shows from this time period, the premise is simple, though parts aren’t told until several episodes in. Through some magical accidental means, Junpei, Ritsuko, and Airi are literally dropped into this magical sword and sorcery world. The person who brought them there, Celcia, is the high important elf in the world and has taken it upon her to find a way to send them back to Japan. This, of course, is done through a magic spell. But it goes awry, and the spell gets imprinted on five elves across the land. So to do the spell properly, they need to reacquire these fragments.
So the gang goes off to hunt elves. Get it? Those Who Hunt Elves? Oh, and don’t forget that when the trio was brought through, they also for some reason had a tank drop through with them. So they’re rolling around in this world with that bad boy, which is pretty much owned by Ritsuko. She’s the tank otaku of the group and takes it seriously (as well as finding the fruit that produces gasoline). Junpei’s their obvious strongman, something of an amusing mix of intelligent yet always says the wrong thing on purpose because it’s what he wants to say. Airi is supposedly some sort of famous actress, which allows her to use all kinds of particular looks and smiles to get what she wants from whomever she’s dealing with.
With each episode of the series pretty much self-contained, as the group looking for the next elf that may have the fragment that they’re looking for, it works a familiar pattern that you can settle into easily after the first episode. Sometimes they just rip the clothes right off, sometimes they get involved in a local issue and end up rendering services for it. Though in the end, it seems like it’s always Junpei demanding that they take their clothes off.
Frankly, that’s a line that needs to be said in more anime and live action shows.
Originally watching this years ago in smaller batches, marathoning it certainly does diminish it a bit because of the episodic nature of it as it all begins to blur by its very nature. But there are a lot of things to like within it even as it doesn’t really have an overall arc to it. A particular favorite had to do with the local police who had a female elf as their person in charge. After an invading army of skeletons made inroads into the city, Junpei made the deal that if they took out the enemy, she’d have to strip. All her subordinates nodded along with that mentally I’m sure. She agrees to it, and the gang goes and starts banging the skeletons out. During the battle, a huge dinosaur sized skeleton arrives and the elf panics. She takes the potion that Celcia had that enlarges people, so we’ve now got a fifty foot high blue haired female elf.
Of course, they played it out realistically; the clothes didn’t grow with her but simply shredded. So we’ve got the huge naked elf. All the kids pointing and yelling “big boobies!” over and over was hilarious. The reactions of everyone was hilarious.
The first season does start to tease some bigger elements along the way, including the idea that our lead character’s world and this one are actually a blending of the two, hence finding a lot of things from their Earth here, but for the most part, it’s just standard standalone material that runs for the fun and silliness of it all. I did like that one of the gags worked it so that there’s a tank that’s possessed by a cat and Celcia, the elven mage who has caused all of their problems to begin with, messed up the spell in the last season after they collected all the spell fragments. The fragments are once again free in the world and they’re all off searching for them with the backing of the Elf Investigation Committee. So, no surprises here that the second season is more of the same.
The second season contains a number of solid episodes. One episode has Celcia suffering from dreams of mermaid elves which ends when the group ends up at an island where they believe they’re close to their home. There’re some hilarious moments regarding the rules of the beach since it’s a fishing park, but in the end, we have everyone crossing down and into the home of the mermaid elves. Their lives are being threatened by a huge man-eating shark, and they’ve agreed to strip if the group will help them. Cue Junpei as bait and then provide the image of the tank being the actual fisherman with the string tied to its cannon and you end up with a series of bizarre but comical scenes.
Quite possibly the most disturbing episode though is the one entitled “Those Who Wipe”. I would never have believed that they could focus an entire episode around Junpei having to have a bowel movement, but they pulled it off here. One of the differences between the two worlds is that in Celcia’s world, only the royalty use toilet paper. Ritsuko had managed to secure a stash of it before for the tank and their journey, but they’ve now run out and Junpei is starting to freak about it since he’s got to go. Their arrival at a new town causes him to try and find a bathroom to do what he has to, but amazingly, none of the places he goes actually has a bathroom. His frantic nature leads him off into the wilderness of the mountain that the town is at and has built a wall around.
Junpei comes across an extremely cute little bear-type creature in the woods and realizes that he’s as soft as toilet paper is. This goes into so many bad directions as he tries to use him and the others, and then the tables get reversed, is just priceless. His expressions play out great as hordes of these little creatures size him up. Add in the second plotline about a mysterious treasure hidden in the mountain and it’s just so wrong yet so funny. The addition of one of these little creatures to the party brings out comedy in later episodes as well.
There’s just so much to all of these episodes that made me laugh. Celcia gets screwed over nicely in this volume. She managed to avoid being a dog for a while after getting trapped in that form in the first season, but she’s not going to stay an elf for too long in this season either. Her change is great and the resulting chaos from it only adds to it. With her being cursed to a new form and dealing with the various spell fragments that she’s re-acquiring onto her own body, she’s turning into a punching bag for this season, something that usually falls to Junpei.
With the final six episodes on the fourth disc, a number of Western concepts are played with throughout and one toss-away episode ends up leading to the series culmination. It starts off strongly with a talking wolf who has been extracting vengeance on humans in the area that killed his parents some time back as well as driven wolves from the area. The wolf is nicely creative, such as going to a house as little red riding hood or dressing up as a newspaperman to collect what’s due the paper. When Junpei and the crew arrive he realizes that they’re the hunters who’ve been called in to try and take him down. The wolf is keen on a real challenge and goes Wile E. Coyote style in coming up with plans but continually gets foiled. There’s an amusing revelation as it progresses but overall it’s played for the comedy more than the plot and it works great.
Another episode that plays with folktales and the like has the group ending up in a rather nice city on Christmas Eve, an event celebrated in this world as well. While there’s no snow on the ground, there’s dozens upon dozens of Santa’s riding through the sky. Including some really hot looking female ones. As it turns out, the holiday is a bit different here than it is in Japan so the group has some fascination with it and try to get some familiarity of home through it by trying to get some presents for themselves. This, of course, fails badly; you know it’s not going to end well when the first Santa that comes to help you is the Satan Santa…
Through the second half of the episodes, the group ends up in a sunken city called Treetown that has a massive tree in the center. There are an inordinate number of strong sorcerer types in this city as they’ve been working to seal various evils that visit the world in here over the years. The most prominent women in the city, Regina, is in fact covered with sigils that look like spell fragments that show what’s been sealed inside of her own body. Initially, the group is brought in to be sacrifices to the next incoming evil and is set against each other, but eventually, they’re sought out for their help in dealing with the equivalent of a Ghostbusters ending to the series. The last couple of episodes end out with some solid wacky moments but also some good action moments with Junpei getting to be the hero type he wants to be.
Those Who Hunt Elves is a kind of show that in a lot of ways tends to feel like it’s not made these days. The episodic nature of the show is largely frowned on by fans, though there are obviously exceptions, as the favored approaches are seasonal arcs and the like. This is a show where the destination is not actually something desired since it would end the premise, never mind that the manga ran long past when the anime ended. It’s a journey/travel show that’s built around continually searching and looking for the spell fragments and providing new and different adventures each week. In that regard, Those Who Hunt Elves succeeds perfectly. While watching all twenty-four episodes in a row may be overkill, taking in the episodes on an individual basis shows just how well written and sly the writers have been with what they’ve got to work with. All of the characters get balanced out nicely and everyone has their shining moments all while the comedy doesn’t stop. Sentai’s bringing this back to the market is welcome and while I would have liked to have seen a bit more put into it, I’m glad we at least got a great reversible cover out of it and a compact presentation overall.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, Production Sketches, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 15th, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.