Sunday, March 27, 2022

Sponsored review - Sorcerer Hunters: The Complete Series on SD Bluray

Recently, Rightstuf sent me several random anime releases to write reviews for! This is the second and final review I’ll be doing for them. While I did receive these titles for free, that had no influence on my final reviews. Thank you again, Rightstuf, for your support!

A screencap from the anime, showing most of the main characters with the text "The Sorcerer Hunters" over them.

There’s a joke among older anime fans that “Record of Lodoss War is what you hope your D&D campaign will be like, Slayers is what your D&D campaign will actually turn out like.” And if that’s the case, well…then Sorcerer Hunters must be what your D&D campaign turns into if some of your players were fans of Urusei Yatsura who maybe got just a little too rowdy.

Based on the light novel & manga series of the same name, 1995’s Sorcerer Hunters was, at one point, a fairly well-known fan favorite amongst fantasy anime fans. And for good reasons! First of all, it had a fairly unique premise for a series for a TV anime at the time: a ragtag group of magic users (named, of course, the Sorcerer Hunters) travel the fantasy land of Spooner Continent, protecting poor, non-magic using humans from evil sorcerers who use their power to torment and even enslave non-magic users who are weaker than they are. The twist being that the most powerful magic user of the aforementioned Sorcerer Hunters is also an extremely girl-crazed, Ataru Moroboshi-like character named Carrot. And Carrot’s extremely monstrous powers can only be controlled by his fellow lady Sorcerer Hunters, sisters Tira and Chocolate, dressing as dominatrix and beating him into submission until he’s back to “normal”. Pair this with a villain-of-the-week style writing of the Sorcerer Hunters righting wrongs and clashing against the evil, rich social class, at the time it seemed like a new and interesting formula.

A screenshot from the anime of a young, poor non-magic user bowing in front of a wealthy, evil sorcerer in a white suit.A screenshot from the anime of a non-magic using woman trapped in a large cage by an evil sorcerer.

Second, the anime has some very talented cast & crew. We have director Koichi Mashimoto, who also directed Dirty Pair: Project Eden and Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Character designs were by Keiji Gotoh, who also did designs for Martian Successor Nadesico. We get theme songs by ani-song royalty like Masami Okui, and an OST by the legendary anime composer Kenji Kawai. And the vocal cast is pretty good across both the Japanese and English dub versions: most notably the iconic Megumi Hayashibara plays Tira, the prolific Mitsuaki Madono plays Maron, and beloved actress Yuko Mizutani plays Chocolate in the original Japanese version. While the dub is a little old at this point, we still get stand-outs like the extremely talented Brett Weaver as Carrot, and Tiffany Grant makes an exceptional Chocolate.

But with all these “fresh” ideas of the time, and all the talent involved, how does the anime stand up as a whole? Well…it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The first half or so of the anime does it’s best to juggle the romantic comedy and TV Censor approved sexual innuendos with the show’s sometimes surprisingly thoughtful stories of classissim and the oppression of the poor by the rich. Sadly, it’s apparent as the series continues that, since the manga was still unfinished at the time of its adaptation, the anime wasn’t really sure what to do to come to a totally satisfying conclusion to all of these things. A lot of the comedy starts getting very repetitive. The schtick of Carrot being a fantasy-land Ataru to Tira and Chocolate’s Lum and Shinobu gets a bit tiring after a while, especially if you’re binge-watching the series. The interesting themes of classism and oppression often don't get taken as far as they could go in favor of some slapstick comedy or fanservice gags. It also doesn’t help the dub that writers got switched up part way through the English adaptation of series, changing the tone of many of the jokes to sound harsher and meaner than originally intended. This sucks a LOT of the fun out of the series almost immediately, which is a real shame for those who prefer to watch their anime dubbed.

A comedic screencap from the anime, showing Carrot in his "monster" form, but in a less menacing style, being whipped to tears by Tira, who is offscreen in this shot.A screenshot of Tira in her "bondage" outfit, brandishing her whip and laughing.

Visually, the animation itself is also a mixed bag, which is pretty normal for a 90s TV anime. The opening and endings are lavishly drawn (of course), and there’s a lot of instances of really great character animation and action sequences. But expect these to be only sparingly added into a lot of just…pretty average looking episodes, for the most part. They’re not bad looking, but think on par with something else on TV around this era, like the Slayers series. When it wants to, it can look really great! But on the whole, it’s gonna take shortcuts and look...well, average!

A screenshot from the opening of the Sorcerer Hunters OVA, which shows most of the main cast of characters together, and notably Tira & Chocolate are wearing much skimpier bondage outfits than they were in the original TV series.

This collection also includes the 3 episode OVA that followed the TV series, which really amps up the fanservice in many aspects, such as more silliness and more fourth-wall breaking. But most notably, it gives Tira and Chocolate their original manga-design dominatrix outfits back. These were toned down for the bulk of the TV series for obvious reasons, but seeing as these OVAs were originally released on home video, that gave the animators a lot more freedom to show more skin, with 100% more bouncing and nudity. And that’s pretty much the reason for these OVAs existing: it feels like it’s for the fans who had enjoyed the series, but were disappointed that it had been toned down for TV broadcast. So if you liked the TV series, but were sad at the lack of things like a steamy hot springs episode, well, look no further! This OVA has got you covered. We also get some more great music done for this OVA, and though these new opening and ending themes aren't quite as memorable as the ones for the original TV series, they’re still extremely catchy and fun.

Discotek Media did a fine job on this release. You get the entire series and OVA on one standard definition bluray disc, making it a nice and compact collection that doesn’t take up much space on your shelf. An upgrade from ADV’s original DVD box set, which was quite bulky. The disc doesn’t come with a lot of extras, but that’s to be expected for a slightly older series like this one that didn’t really stay in fandom’s heart for very long. The picture and sound quality is what one would expect from a standard definition release–it’s not going to be amazing, but it feels slightly better than the old DVDs. 

A screenshot of the main cast of Sorcerer Hunters, with their faces covered in the shadows mysteriously.

Overall, I’d say if you’re a fan of comedic fantasy anime and don’t mind some silly 90s-era fanservice, Sorcerer Hunters is at least worth watching a few episodes to see what you think. While it definitely has its problems, when it works? It can be a lot of fun. If you’d like to try it out before buying, as of this writing, Retrocrush is streaming the entire series for free with ads on it’s platform in the US. And you can find this bluray release currently at Rightstuf’s online store. Big thanks to Rightstuf for sending me a copy of this series to review! You can use my affiliate link here to purchase a copy of it (or anything in their store!), and toss a few cents my way. If you appreciated this review, you can also leave me a tip of any size on my ko-fi account here!

Thanks for reading!

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