| El Cazador de la Bruja Set 1
Released By: Funimation
In a small town in Mexico, a young girl named Ellis is living with a fortune teller while performing on the streets to make a little money. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s actually being hunted by bounty hunters from all over. Alledgedly a few years earlier, Ellis killed the doctor who was taking care of her though she doesn’t remember any of it. The first bounty hunter to find her is the wild Nadie but instead of taking her in, she decides to accompany Ellis south in search of the answers to her past. Over the course of thirteen episodes, Nadie will witness the strange powers that Ellis has and learn just how dangerous the secrets of her past really are. While all this is happening, two secret organizations are fighting their own private war to take control of Ellis.
Good and the Bad
I am not completely inexperienced when it comes to the studio Bee Train. Having sat through (and enjoyed) their previous ‘girls with guns’ series, I had an idea of what to expect but still attempted to treat this series as a blank slate. Unfortunately that notion was doomed almost from the very beginning.
If you have any experience with Bee Train (i.e. have watched Noir or Madlax), the entire first half of El Cazador is going to inspire some serious flashbacks. Just like previous series the premise follows two girls who are on the run, one of the girls is a gun expert while the other has amnesia, shadowy organizations loom in the background, mysterious men follow the girls and one of them is in love with amnesia girl. If you’ve been around for the last decade, you probably already recognized this as the Bee Train/Koichi Mashimo formula of win.
Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the previous works of Bee Train, there’s really only one thing to know in the end: El Cazador will have you glued to your chair before you can even realize it’s going absolutely nowhere. Throughout the first thirteen episodes, the series will follow Nadie and Ellis as they journey south for answers. All along the way, the girls will find one sparsely populated village, town or rest stop after another and all of them are filled with hard luck stories that the girls get involved in.
And that is essentially it for the main characters in the first half. Every episode is a new town and a new dynamic to Ellis that no one knew existed before. In just about every other case, this would be death for a series. Why would anyone want to continue on with an action series that doesn’t go anywhere? The answer lies in the characters themselves rather than what is happening around them. While every episode sheds a little more light on who Ellis is, the real story is the relationship that develops between them.
Very early the series establishes that audiences should expect few answers about Ellis’ past to be delivered on. In fact, one line of dialogue told to Nadie comes across as a clear directive to the audience: if you don’t have the answers, you don’t need them and are better off not knowing until later. This turns into one of the best choices this series makes as it gives the audience a new freedom with which to enjoy the series.
Knowing right off the bat that anything we need to know about Ellis will come later, enjoying the laid back pace of the series and dialogue becomes much easier. Throughout the half, the tone of the dialogue remains consistently light and fluid between Nadie and Ellis. Despite the constant action, suspense and intrigue happening in the background; the majority of this series is spent with two characters that are comfortable enough to share light verbal jabs and this keeps the series filled with a gentle humor that other series in the genre have missed.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect to El Cazador is how, despite how much screen time they get, the heroines are possibly the least intriguing parts of the series. Throughout the episodes, time in the desert is occasionally interrupted with things happening in the background. A rich executive is spearheading the project that produced Ellis but what is his purpose and what is the purpose of the woman working to stop him? Who is the mysterious bounty hunter Ricardo and why does he have a little girl named Lirio with him? All of these are questions that everyone in the audience will ask themselves at one point and yet will never quite get the answers to.
Unfortunately like bullets, food and a reliable mode of transportation; answers are a luxury that fans should not expect to be handed to them. Every few episodes, the story will take a swerve to provide half an answer but in exchange, new questions will be raised and those watching will be left more confused than they were before.
Before I begin this section of the review, I must remind everyone of a personal bias: I love Yuki Kajiura. I have enjoyed her music for years and so it was a given that I was going to love the score she composed for this series. That being said, it’s far from perfect and can even be accused of being completely off the mark in some ways. Despite taking place in Mexico, it’s rare that El Cazador actually tries to introduce any sort of strong Latin feel to the series and this particularly true of the music.
While occasionally using some Spanish guitar (such as in episode 6) or accordion themes, most of the music relies on Kajiura’s traditional string melodies. While beautifully composed, the music that played through El Cazador ultimately left a slightly empty feeling that always felt as though it could have been filled with music that played more to the setting. Taking place in such an exotic location, it feels like such a waste to not use the music to play to that more but in the end, it’s likely something that most viewers won’t even notice.
Dub vs. Sub
Alternating between the Japanese and English tracks, it’s easy to note that Funimation did a great job with keeping their localization close to the original which is hardly noteworthy. What is noteworthy here though is the handling of Spanish dialogue throughout the set. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Spanish is used in both scripts nor should it be a surprise to anyone that the English cast uses it much more frequently.
Honestly, I was a little surprised to hear Spanish used throughout the Japanese track. Unfortunately I’m left wondering if there really was any real point to it in the end. Admittedly, I’m sure that if someone who didn’t speak English regularly heard someone mixing English and Spanish together in the same sentence it might sound a little odd. Now imagine my confusion when I listened to a tertiary character call someone ‘senor’ and then follow it up instantly with an enthusiastic ‘Konnichiwa!’
On disc 1 is a commentary track featuring Christopher Bevins, Maxey Whitehead (Ellis) and Trina Nishimura (Nadie) sharing their thoughts on episode 1. On disc 2, there are clean animations.
This is not your typical action series. While there are plenty of gun fights and Bee Train signatures along the way, the real draw for this series is watching both the relationships and the background story slowly grow. Fans who have stuck with Bee Train the past may initially feel like they are watching ‘just another repackaged series’ but will be quickly proven wrong. A series that you can stick in and enjoy for hours, the first half left me wanting more in a hurry. This is worth your time!