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El Cazador de la Bruja Season 1 Part 1 Anime DVD Review

9 min read
© Bee Train/Victor Entertainment, Project Leviathan

Two girls, lots of guns, plenty of vehicles and lots of dead bodies.

What They Say
All they have is each other.

Ellis is an amnesiac with a bounty on her head, and Nadie’s trigger finger is the only thing keeping her friend from falling into the wrong hands. They’re looking for pieces of Ellis’s past, and every mile of open highway brings the girls closer together – but their special bond is bound to be tested.

At the dusty border crossroads where ancient spirits and modern science meet, a storm of conspiracy is brewing low in the desert sky. Someone out there can explain the hazy mysteries of Ellis’s past. If she and Nadie just keep moving south, the Hunter and the Witch will get their answers soon enough.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!
El Cazador has a pretty straightforward audio presentation as it provides a pair of language tracks that serves the material well. The Japanese track is presented in its original stereo mix encoded at 192kbps while the English language adaptation is done in 5.1 while encoded at 448kbps. The Japanese track is pretty well served here with some very distinct sounds – especially the eye-catches – but overall it has a good sense of presence and directionality across the forward soundstage that you don’t often get with a stereo mix. Bee Train has always had fairly strong stereo mixes and this one is no exception. The English mix makes out a bit better because of it as it has more impact and more clarity with its directionality and overall presence, though some of it is attributable to just a difference in volume levels. We listened primarily to the Japanese language track and didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally  airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set contains thirteen episodes across two discs in a seven/six split which is fairly standard for FUNimation releases these days. The transfer for each disc looks pretty good though there are areas where there is some noticeable noise in the backgrounds, some of it may be done intentionally. Colors are generally pretty strong throughout with a good sense of vibrancy where appropriate. Detail is quite good in most scenes and the few dark scenes maintain a solid look overall, though there is some noise in them. Bee Train shows are usually pretty strong in the color and visual department and this one is no exception.

El Cazador has a solid packaging presentation to it with the standard thin slipcover holding two clear thinpak cases. The slipcover has a very appealing image that sets a good part of the atmosphere with Ellis and Nadie standing against the bar in a very poorly lit area that exudes warmth and charm. The woodwork and the bottles look great and the character designs, a bit thin and wispy, look good in this location as they have the right kind of smiles to them. The back of the slipcover runs with a Dead or Alive kind of approach with the parchment style coloring that holds several shots from the show and a good clean piece of artwork of Ellis and Nadie together. The summary is a bit short overall but they get the general premise across and here’s a good clean listing of the discs extras along with the amount of episodes in this collection.

Inside the slipcover we get two clear thinpaks that have the same shade of yellow for its backgrounds. The first volume has a really nice shot of Nadie and Ellis close together while Nadie whips out her gun. The second has Lirio along with her companion that’s quite cute since Lirio has such a happy little girl expression to her face. The back covers are laid out the same as they use the same wanted poster style with the logo along the top and six images from these respective episodes. Below that we get a breakdown of the episode numbers and titles and if there is a commentary associated with them or not. Each cover has reverse side artwork as well with the first volume showing off Ellis and Nadie in swimsuits while the second has the two girls in their jeep while weari8ng cat ears and tails which is far too adorable. No show related inserts are included in this release.

The menu design takes its cues from the cover artwork as it uses the layout from the back of the thinpak cases with the logo and adds in the navigation to it while placing it against a wood background to add more to the old wild west feeling. They also bring in some character artwork of the lead characters from the covers which work really well as it blends nicely and fits in with the instrumental music that shifts from slow to fast and upbeat over the two minutes that it runs. The layout is pretty straightforward with quick and easy selections and submenus that load quickly. Access times are fast but the discs don’t read our players’ language presets as it defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles

The extras are pretty minimal here but the small change in presentation makes it better. The second disc contains the clean opening and closing sequences while the first volume has a commentary track for the first episode. Previously you’d normally only know this if you went into episode selection but thankfully they’ve started changing it on some releases by giving it its own selection in the extras section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Clocking in at twenty-six episode series, El Cazador de la Bruja (The Hunt for the Witch) has been called the successor to Noir and Madlax in the apparent girls with guns trilogy that the creators have wanted to make. After those two series, it’s little surprise that Bee Train would return to it again even if there is an air of familiarity with it all. I’ve been a wary fan of Bee Train’s works for a few years now so there’s always some skepticism about them whenever I start up a series by them. El Cazador certainly has more than enough room ahead of itself to surprise me, but I suspect it’s going to take a bit of effort on their part based on this.

El Cazador takes place in a South American style area where we’re introduced to a bounty hunter named Nadie. She’s cute, good with guns and has an affable aura about her that makes you feel at ease. She’s in some run down little town looking for a pretty blonde girl named Ellis who has a bounty on her head, though it’s a dead or alive one. Nadie is intent on taking her alive after she’s given something of a mission by an elderly fortuneteller that she’s known for some time. Ellis doesn’t exactly cop to being who she is even when presented with the photographic truth, and it almost seems like she’s playing the amnesia card at first. It’s more that she’s simply trying to disappear to some extent, but life won’t let her. When other bounty hunters show up, they cause plenty of trouble as Nadie tries to keep Ellis safe and alive, circumstances that eventually put them on the road together to find the “place of eternity” that the fortuneteller told Ellis about.

While this is the larger narrative at first, there is something playing underneath as well as we have something called Project Leviathan. This part of the storyline takes place in a number of areas, from Rosenberg moving things behind the scenes at the corporation that’s playing with it to an auditor within the company named Jody Hayward who is trying to figure out what he’s up to. She’s very clued into things as she’s working with Nadie in taking care of Ellis and protecting her on the journey. Rosenberg and Hayward are playing a game of cat and mouse with each other, though Rosenberg has the upper hand, as she tries to figure out what the project is and how involved it is. He’s very crafty though in his manipulation of people as he’s using a man similar to Ellis named L.A. by sending him to watch Ellis to the point where he gains an unhealthy fixation on her, which is exactly what Rosenberg wants.

As the show progresses, we start to learn of larger factions that are watching all that’s going on and you see a power play going on between them over Ellis and what she represents. These are very intriguing moments but they don’t show until close to the end of this set. What the bulk of this set is like is a series of episodic adventures that focus on building the relationship between Nadie and Ellis. Initially, there is uncertainty about it but as it goes along Ellis really takes to Nadie and Nadie slowly realizes that she is more of a protector here than anything else, and the two bond rather nicely. The stories are fairly simple and predictable as they go along, but by stringing in the pieces with Hayward and Rosenberg as well as expanding on the mysterious powers that Ellis have, it’s a mystery that is slowly being teased out among all the gunplay and straightforward adventures.

I do have to admit that even if Bee Train provides a familiar experience, it is one that I enjoy. Noir took place in a European setting while Madlax delved into a fairly middle eastern feel at times. For El Cazador, it’s good to see them continuing this trend by placing it in a South American setting since it gets us out of the usual locations that most anime tend to play in. The visual design is definitely Bee Train material but it’s pretty and has a certain fluidity to it and a vibrancy to the animation that’s appealing. It’s likely that this series is going to be about the atmosphere and mood much like the other two, and it’s staking out its ground well in this first episode as it makes me want to see more of the pretty backgrounds.

In Summary:
El Cazador certainly seems like it’s running in the same vein as the two previous girls with guns series that came before it, right down to taking place in an area where anime usually doesn’t play in. It’s a very episodic show that weaves in various plot points from the larger narrative that’s slowly coming into play, but it’s more apparent when watched in a full set like this than the weekly experience. Marathoning it was a bit more entertaining and had me wondering where exactly they’d go in the next episode. I’m still uncertain overall of this series because it is still teasing out the details. Overall though, it’s not enamored me like Noir nor has it made me genuinely curious like Madlax did. Hopefully, the show will find a high definition release someday as well.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Track, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 15th, 2009
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 313 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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