What They Say:
When an unlikely trio of humans find themselves transported to a world populated by elves and other mystical beings, all they want to do is go home. Fortunately, the sorceress Celsia has a spell that can send them back! Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong and the spell is scattered to the winds, with different parts attaching like tattoos to the bodies of elves across the entire planet! Now, the only way to put it back together is for strongman Junpei, actress Airi and teenage gun-fanatic Ritsuko to travel around the world in a T-74 tank, convincing random elves to strip down for a “spell check”! Get ready for the weirdest, most un-PC road trip ever as the tank treads hit the road and the elf-clothes go a-flying!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and the previously created English dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. This gives the sound a good boost over the very lossy Dolby Digital we had years ago with how compressed it was so there’s a bit more warmth to be had in the music and some of the incidental pieces. It’s still a show of its time where it’s not got a lot of directionality or even depth and impact to it, but the overall mix comes across well with a clean and clear feeling to all of it. The action works nicely as it does some mild movements across the forward soundstage while dialogue is clean and clear throughout. The levels are more in tune with modern shows and just getting this without the heavy compression is a big plus.
Originally airing in 1996 and 1997, the twenty-four episodes of this TV series are presented in their original full frame aspect ratio in 480p using the AVC codec. Each season gets its own disc so only twelve episodes are included per disc with plenty of room to work with. Animated by Group TAC, the show is certainly showing its age and that’s to be expected with this standard definition release. In general, it’s a pretty good positive because you get a full season on one disc in bilingual form where the colors are a bit richer and hold up better. There’s still some cross coloration int he source that comes up from time to time but that’s fairly manageable overall. The color improvements over the old ADV Films release is a definite plus and it just has a more solid feeling about it as a whole. The black sections hold up well with no breakup while the main color fields retain their solid look. The bit rate doesn’t look to go past ten in general and sits around an 8-9 overall, but with the better tools that come with AVC over the MPEG-2 that this was originally done under, it’s getting handled far better.
The packaging design for this release is done with a standard sized Blu-ray case where each disc gets its own hold on the wall inside without a hinge being used. The front cover artwork is one that works pretty well for me as we get a good piece of artwork that puts all the leads across it, some in comical form, others just looking sexy and powerful, with the sigil in the background providing some nice contrast. The darker color for that works well against the bright character artwork and even the light green for the logo doesn’t feel garish or like it clashes with anything else. The back cover runs with the camo design and has a good visual in the middle of the cast from the swimsuit period on the tank along with some adorable shots from the show. The premise is well-covered and we get a breakdown of extras along with production credits that are clean and clear. The remainder is the technical grid that lists how it’s all put together accurately and without issue. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design is kept simple but it works well, particularly since the static artwork looks a lot more vibrant and appealing than you’d think after all these years. Te standard layout is here where the left third has the menu and the rest is the static image. It’s got a good visual of the core cast around the tank along with some supporting characters while the background has a camo visual to it all. I love that they still use the tank tracks as a kind of separator for the two things and the whole design is bright and colorful in a lot of very good ways. THe navigation has the full breakdown of episodes by number and title along with language section and extras where appropriate. As has been seen before, SDBD releases can’t use pop-up menus so everything has to be set from the top level. It’s a good looking menu that delivers the right look and tone, especially with the theme song playing.
The only extras included is a four-minute video that showcases various production sketches that we had gotten in the original DVD releases. Sadly, no clean opening or closings made it onto this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Yu Yagami, Those Who Hunt Elves is a two-season show that aired in the fall 1996 and fall 1997 seasons. Animated by Group TAC, is captured the tone of the original manga well. That work began in 1994 and ran for twenty-one volumes in its original run and even had a minor revival in 2007 before launching a ten-volume sequel run in 2013 that wrapped up in 2018. The anime for this was pretty damn popular when it came out among the fansub market and it saw VHS releases quickly, along with eventual DVD releases from ADV Films. It was what you kind of expected, a mishmash of things in a fantasy setting with pervy humor, elf-stripping, and other silly elements that worked better than one would expect.
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. Junpei provides our muscle man, Ritsuki is our tomboy and military fan, while Airi is the refined actress that’s quite attractive, all of which gives us some basics to move about with. 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.
The seasons are a lot of fun as most of the episodes are self-contained in what they do. Which is mostly the group finding the next elf that they’re looking for and then find some way to get them to strip. 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.
With the first season, I found each of the episodes to be pretty strong with no weak ones in the batch, a real rarity. 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.
As there was a lot of material to draw from, the second season coming out a year later pretty much hit the ground running. The best thing is that the show works just as well as the first – though as we noted originally, the dub works better in the second as it doesn’t use quite as much dated slang and the like. The main cast continues on from the first season as they’re journeying along with the tank that’s possessed by a cat and Celcia, the elven mage who has caused all of their problems. Well, the big ones at least. Not only is she the cause of their being in this world, but she’s also the one that 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.
This pretty much just plays out like the first season did, which is completely fine. Initially, Celcia’s 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 are 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 second 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.
The back end of the second season is just as strong as the first. A number of Western concepts are played with throughout these episodes and one toss-away episode ends up leading into the series culmination. It starts off strongly with a talking wolf who has been exacting 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 are 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 cover 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 sacrificed 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.
It’s probably been about fifteen years since I last had a good look at this show, though the title and its premise have surfaced in my mind once in a while. This is the kind of series that made for a lot of fun back in the old VHS days in getting a couple of episodes, watching the craziness with friends, and eager to see more. While I do wish for a proper native HD release some day, I’m really pleased that we get this nicely updated SDBD release so that it’s all together, on the cheap, with each season getting its own disc. It’s an easily accessible release to put back on the market, tickle some nostalgia, and leave me foolishly hopeful that it’ll get a full modern remake someday. This was a delight to revisit and while I don’t know how well it would play to a modern/younger crowd because of its age and style, it’s one I’m really glad got to be put together like this. It’s an easy recommendation for fun and silliness – and a tank possessed by a cat!
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p AVC
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.