Abandoning the format of the first half, the second half of El Cazador de la Bruja begins with a bang and ends with a sunset. In episode fourteen, the history of Ellis explained as viewers are taken into her past. Showing her childhood while growing up with a researcher named Dr. Heinrich Schneider, the tragedy that is Ellis’ life and the death of her caretaker before beginning the journey towards real answers.
After that short detour, the real story in El Cazador is brought forward as the girls continue their quest south. Along the way, there will be many obstacles to overcome; The organization that Blue Eyes works for has stepped up their attempts to get Ellis back into their custody. Meanwhile, Rosenberg’s secret plan to revive Project Leviathan has come to the surface forcing him to move forward with his evil plans in secret. Hampered and sometimes helped along the way by the mysterious LA and the rough Ricardo (with the still adorable Lirio at his side), Ellis and Nadie will face new enemies and confront death itself in order to find out who Ellis really is and what is hidden in her past.
Good and the BadIn the first half of El Cazador, viewers grew used to a somehow strong mix of action and slice of life. Creating a relaxed pace, viewers were allowed to take their time growing attached to these characters. In the second half of the series, things are immediately altered and given a much strong sense of purpose.
In episode fourteen, all bets are off as viewers are taken in the past of Ellis. Finally seeing exactly what happened to her while she was living with the doctor, it’s all laid out. With only one critical detail missing, the bare emotion in this episode completely shakes the foundation that viewers had grown accustomed to before coming back to the real beginning to the girls’ quest for answers.
Moving forward with a much stronger purpose, El Cazador manages to switch gears effortlessly which is another testament to just how well this series manages to get their audience involved emotionally. Had this been any other action series, I could have easily seen myself blasting it for taking such a drastic change in tone and pacing. Without a trace of sarcasm however, there was never a moment when this switch didn’t feel like a natural and needed progression of the story.
Filled with twists and turns, the journey to the end of the series is always an enjoyable ride particularly due to the same sharp dialogue that filled the first half. After fourteen episodes, the relationship between the two heroines will be nearing its peak in familiarity which is reflected so well in the tone. Always filled with a sarcastic (even biting) edge, the humor found in this series never actually reaches out for the laugh. Always dry in its delivery and never over the top, it was such a nice change to watch a series that didn’t try to hit its audience right in the face every single time someone said something funny.
What really brings the writing and story together however is the character relationships that become the true foundation for this series. While the relationship between Nadie and Ellis is inarguably strong, what fills all the moments in between are the relationships the girls build with the characters around them.
In this half, the supporting cast will come forward and really start to reveal their roles in the overall narrative and their own hidden agendas. Showing a dedication towards making everyone more than just skin deep archetypes, the exchanges between Nadie and Blue Eyes (or even Ricardo) keep things moving strongly thanks to more exchanges in sarcastic humor. You can argue that a little more variety in the humor could have benefited the series in the long run but then the entire tone of the series would have been altered and probably not for the better.
While nimble in their steps so far, no series is bulletproof and El Cazador will take wounds that even Nadie couldn’t have avoided. As the story progresses forward, all of the supporting characters get their time to shine a little by becoming much more constant figures in the lives of the heroines and in some cases becoming someone entirely new. The most startling change comes from the character Blue Eyes. Now in the field as an active participant and out of the office, the personality and look of Blue Eyes is completely changed. Gone are the glasses and down comes the hair, the change is made suddenly and with little dramatic fanfare.
Always standing in the wings ready to lend a hand to the story progression and providing some of the strong moments in the middle to late episodes, the supporting cast is one of the strongest to come out of an action series in recent memory. Unfortunately in the series’ long quest to deliver answers, some people and things will be left out of the loop. You know the feeling; twenty episodes into a series you finally think that you’re about to get everything that you’ve been waiting for but instead are kind of just left hanging in the wind. And that’s also pretty much how you can describe the end of the series: a desperate search for answers, most of which won’t be there.
Anticlimactic in its finale and character resolution, El Cazador is definitely a series that will frustrate a certain percentage of the audience. By the time the final episodes were playing the story was even treading into predictable territory which is never a place a series wants to be. As with other series from Bee Train, it’s important to remember the growth that has occurred along the way and how much fun it was to get there. But if you’re looking for everything to be laid out for you in black and white terms, you should probably prepare yourself for heartbreak now.
Now in a very controlled story push, the music in El Cazador takes a much lighter approach to its tone. Still mostly string based, composer Yuki Kajiura does change things up by inserting a lot of flute and harp themes into this half (particularly in the hot springs episode). While some early themes were aesthetically annoying to my senses (there was a harp theme in episode fifteen in particular that bothered me), I can only say positive things for the insert songs and strong mood pieces that filled the background which drive towards a wonderful closing insert song titled ‘I reach for the sun’.
Dub vs. Sub
Much like the first half, the dubbed version of El Cazador manages to capture the dry tone of the series to create a very enjoyable viewing experience. Continuing to use a localization that more effectively uses Spanish and a bit of extra cursing, the dub cast was enjoyable all the way through to the end (though I feel bad about how long it’s going to take for people to stop asking Trina Nishimura [Nadie] and Maxey Whitehead [Ellis] to sing the ‘Super Tasty Taco’ song).
Clean animations and a commentary on episode 24 featuring Christopher Bevins, Clarine Harp (Blue Eyes), Ian Sinclare (Rosenburg). Honestly, it’s not very often that I actually sit through a commentary track these days. In this case though, it’s actually kind of interesting to hear how Bevins tried to stay true to the old ADV/Bee Train formula. Plenty of awkward pauses but industry geeks will find some interesting information here.
Despite the bitter feeling I felt at the lack of character resolution, I still managed to come away from El Cazador with a sweet, mostly satisfied feeling. From the start, I’ve been attached to this series because the characters made the story compelling and until the closing episodes, this series never gave me a reason to stop feeling that way. While fans aren’t going to walk away from El Cazador with all the answers they want, they will walk away with laughs and fun time spent driving south through Mexico with a full crew of likeable (or in LA’s case, eventually sympathetic… sort of). While predictable in places and anticlimactic at the close, it’s not something I’m sorry I watched. If you’ve already started this one it’s worth it to see it through to the end and if you haven’t started, let yourself start the journey. If you’re looking for a solid character driven action series, it’s worth your time to look this direction.