Devil Hunter Yohko Anime Review
Mamono Hantaa Yohko
Devil Hunter Yohko
US Release By
Erotic Action Horror Comedy
Yohko is pretty much your average, run of the mill high school student; she's got a crush on the school stud, the school loser has a crush on her, her oversexed mom and ninja grandma routinely get into brawls at the breakfast table, and she's the latest in a long line of Devil hunters. Ok, make that average, run of the mill anime high school student. In any case, the principle at her school has some unusual extracurricular activities planned, namely summoning up the minions of the demon world to overrun the earth. And, of course, Yohko (as soon as she gets over the shock of having her friends possessed and finding out about the whole Devil Hunter thing) is going to have to take on the bad people and save the world.
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Devil Hunter Yohko is a short and entirely unoriginal shot at light erotic-action-horror, attempting to cover all the "dumb fun" basics: Amusing characters, exposed skin, some action, and a dash of humor. Sadly, the things that stand out most are the choppy story, weak directing, cheap animation, and forced sleaze. High points are limited to a nice sword fight, an amusing sports-equipment duel between two family elders, and Yohko's snazzy costume and wild hairdo. The end theme is also the first of many decent spunk-with-an-edge songs in the series sung by Aya Hisakawa, who also voices Yohko effectively.
Though Devil Hunter Yohko spawned several sequels and holds something of a "classic" label as the first release of ADV, it's recommended only for big fans of not-entirely-serious horror-action, or if you're not picky and are looking for some demon-fightin' fun.
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Devil Hunter Yohko is a number of things, but for the most part it's just not very good--certainly far better known than it deserves to be. If you're not picky, though, it does put together the basics of a brazenly sleazy horror-themed entry in the "dumb fun" category: Amusing characters, sufficient exposed flesh, some action, and a dash of humor.
Sadly, aside from the rather lame erotic edge, Devil Hunter Yohko's most notable feature is its lack of substance and quality--the story is cut down to a bare minimum, and the directing is as choppy as the animation. Don't get your hopes up about the "extended edition," either--it adds 15 or so barely-noticeable seconds to polish some of the rough edges. Even the awkward attempts to titillate try too hard--a couple unnecessary, uninteresting seduction scenes in the middle and a few heavy-handed attempts at humor aren't likely to do much more than induce mild embarrassment in anyone old enough to meet ADV's age standard to be watching it.
In truth, I doubt many people would even remember Devil Hunter Yohko were it not for the small bit of history that goes with it. Aside from kicking off a string of sequels and music videos, it is the first piece of animation that ADV released (then AD Vision, way back in 1992), and it set the tone for a good portion of their future releases--somewhat sleazy dumb fun.
Though calling the rushed progression of events a "plot" is generous, the balance of genres does work--a little more serious than some of its action-comedy kin, notably lighter on the gore than a lot of action horror series, and somewhat heavier on the adult themes than average in either.
The characters are a familiar lot--embarrassed high schooler surprised by demon-hunting family history Yohko as the protagonist, a loser everyguy pining for her, an overeating friend for a couple of cheap laughs, and a small bit of turnabout in the school stud, who ends up playing damsel in distress (but is completely devoid of personality). The most notable of the bunch are Yohko's ornery grandma and rather worldly mom who liven up the couple of scenes they appear in (the Mano family elders also serve up a fun little sports equipment duel).
Usually seeing the studio Mad House attached to a production bodes well for the visual end, but not so here--Devil Hunter Yohko is notably cheap looking in all but the final action scene (a decent swordfight). The backgrounds, however, have a nicely dark, loosely-painted look, including a few mildly creepy school-after-hours scenes. The only other thing of interest is Yohko, who has an interesting outfit, cool sword, and some of the flashiest braids this side of Battle Athletes.
The Japanese acting is unremarkable, but not bad, with Aya Hisakawa voicing Yohko (ironically the same name as one of her best roles a decade later in Twelve Kingdoms). The subtitles are the first in the long AD Vision tradition of spicing up the dialogue a bit with some additional one-liners, but otherwise OK. The dub is acceptable--certainly no worse than the rest of the production (Yohko sounds a bit like a valley girl, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste, but works with the character).
Hisakawa also sings the end theme, which, like many of the other Devil Hunter Yohko songs, is actually pretty good--spunk-filled but with enough of an edge to keep it from being too annoying. What little background music there is, however, is bad.
I seem to remember there being a lot of hype surrounding this video at one point, but it has rightly faded into the realm of the forgettable "classic." It manages to serve up a bit of action and some mild mature humor, but there's not much to heckle and its biggest strength is that it sets up a string of sequels, if you like the concept. On its own, it's unlikely to be worth it for most outside of those with a strong jones for demon-fightin' cheese.
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Aside from the passel of Devil Hunter Yohko sequels, bears a strong resemblance to Ushio and Tora for its mix of humor and horror, and Kotetsu for the same reason. The movies of Yoshiaki Kawajiri--Wicked City for example--do the erotic horror thing with vastly more style and none of the humor. Other anime with a vaguely similar feel include Blue Seed, and perhaps the Dirty Pair.
Notes and Trivia
The "special edition" version--available only as a dub, since the original dialogue wasn't done for it--has only the smallest additions, amounting to 15 seconds of extra bits added to the ends of a few shots. The end theme also has a music video that ADV includes as a bonus extra (even on that first VHS edition). The series as a whole has quite a bit of music associated with it, and what I've heard is pretty good (it is Aya Hisakawa singing, after all).
US DVD Review
There are a few different sets that include this on DVD, but they all have pretty much the same thing--a disc with both the subtitled (only) original version and the dubbed (only) special edition, which adds a few seconds here and there. The subtitled version also has a sort of commentary track, but it's as much reminiscing about the early days of ADV as the movie itself. The subtitles (a full subtitle track on the original version and a track with some onscreen text in the special edition) are all DVD-subtitles, not hard subtitles, and the 2-channel audio is acceptable. The video looks a little rough, but that's the fault of the source material, not the DVD transfer. Extras on this disc in the set include ADVs trailers for the film, the music video of the end theme, and some assorted artwork from the series.
Some fairly mature themes bring it into the 17-up range ADV suggests.
Violence: 2 - Surprisingly low gore.
Nudity: 3 - One scene, and assorted other bits including one of those classic transformation sequences.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - One moderately explicit possessed boyfriend scene and assorted bits of sleaze.
Language: 2 - Enough strong language to notice.
Available in North America from ADV as part of two different Devil Hunter Yohko hybrid DVD collections, one with half the series and the other with everything in one set. Was previously available on subtitled VHS or an "extended director's cut" dubbed VHS.