Sorcerer Hunters Anime Review
US Release By
Sappy Fantasy Comedy
26 25-minute episodes
1995-10-03 - 1996-03-26
Meet the Sorcerer Hunters: Five extraordinary humans charged by the powerful entity Big Momma with the task of traveling the land in secrecy and hunting down evil Sorcerers who use powerful and forbidden magic to enslave the helpless masses. Sounds good, until you meet them.
Take, for example Carrot Glace, a lecherous young lad without many other talents. But they keep him around for a reason: He happens to have the ability to transform into a giant demon by feeding off the power of those sorcerers. To keep him in line (or literally whip him back into human form), there are the Misu sisters: Tira Misu, an unassuming woman who, when faced with a challenge, presents her rather... "dominant" alter ego, and her sister Chocolate Misu, who's more forward most of the time, and even worse when she's ready for action (hint: she fights with a needle-tipped garrote wire). Then there's Marron Glace, Carrot's much cooler younger brother, a master of defensive magic and both the team's toughest and coolest member. Finally, there's Gateau Mocha, the party's burly (but not that dumb) muscleman.
Together, this band of misfits searches out the bad guys with help from Big Momma and her cute angelic right hand babe, Dota.
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Sorcerer Hunters is kind of like Slayers with less breast jokes and more actual breasts. Actually, it's distinctive enough to be judged on its own, though it's hard not to compare two series about a bunch of weirdoes on a quest through a fantasy world full of somewhat funny bad guys and usually funny bad jokes that both star Megumi Hayashibara. Seasoning the classic formula with plenty of mildly raunchy humor, S&M styling, and a surprisingly sentimental romantic streak, Sorcerer Hunters is unoriginal and very inconsistent with its moods, but it is passably fun, especially if you're a softy. The art is nice but the animation sorely lacking--don't come looking for action. Brett Weaver's Carrot makes the entire dub worth watching: hilarious, yet just sweet enough at the right times. The Japanese version is less noteworthy--underpowered, particularly Hayashibara's disappointingly mellow dominatrix.
A fantasy yarn that is by turns mostly silly, entirely sappy, and moderately dramatic, Sorcerer Hunters is worth a look if you like good but dumb jokes and sentimental romance, but the back-and-forth combination won't do it for everybody.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Sorcerer Hunters is kind of like Slayers with less breast jokes and more actual breasts. At least, that's true in that both series are about a bunch of weirdoes on a quest through a fantasy world full of somewhat funny bad guys and usually funny bad jokes. Sorcerer Hunters seasons the formula with plenty of mildly raunchy humor, S&M styling, and a surprisingly sentimental streak.
The Slayers comparison is almost unavoidable given the similar premise and that Megumi Hayashibara (aka Linna Inverse) voices Tira Misu. For all the connections, however, the specifics of Sorcerer Hunters are almost the opposite of Slayers. For one thing, they're hunting sorcerers instead of being them, and for another the party is run by the fantasy equivalent of Ataru Moroboshi with a Jekyl-and-Godzilla complex. The rest of the crew look like Naga in dominatrix garb. It isn't as gag-heavy, and it's simultaneously sleazier and sappier. Basically, there are similarities, but Sorcerer Hunters is distinctive enough to be judged on its own.
The show certainly gets going quickly--it jumps into the story with no long character introductions or set up at all. You may spend a few minutes figuring out who people are, but there's no time to get bored. It maintains this brisk pace throughout. On the down side, the speed makes the episodes feel even shorter than they are--the plots are sometimes hurried.
There is little story early on, but it actually gets relatively heavy once the ongoing plot develops. The first few episodes fall squarely into the "discuss nefarious plot, meet bad guy/gal (usually gal), meet tragic villagers, kick bad guy butt" category. These come complete with plenty of bad jokes and skirt chasing by Carrot inserted between every stage. Later, it moves into plots more like this: Carrot skirt chases tragic villager and inadvertently solves her romantic dilemma while becoming a (slightly) better man in the process. This transition from "dumb but fun" to "dumb but kinda sweet/romantic/sentimental" is rather jarring--Carrot bounces violently between total loser and sweet and almost romantic.
Some of these stories have a surprising amount of emotion to them and are often rather sappy. Whether the drama is a good thing, just silly, or overdone to the point of humor sort of depends on your taste, and I'm not quite sure which was the original intent (probably some of all three). Being a bit of a softy I did enjoy it, but in the end the mix is awkward and I would have liked the series more if it had focused on either comedy or drama.
That's not to say there isn't plenty of outright stupid humor--Carrot, in addition to being the main character, carries most of the jokes and does a fine job of it. The rest of the cast consists of two women who are basically "I (for no apparent reason) love the guy that hates me" types with a dominatrix makeover, and two other guys who are what they seem--cool buff type and smooth but quiet hero.
Given the scantily clad women with whips (or worse) and plenty of (violently unsuccessful) skirt chasing and "dominating" heroines, it's a little surprising that Sorcerer Hunters doesn't feel very dirty. It's partly because nothing ever comes of the lechery, partly because of the "romantic" sentiment, and maybe just because the jokes are so lame. Regardless, I never felt like I should be embarrassed by it. No, strike that--I was embarrassed, but it was because I was actually laughing. That's why I found it particularly annoying that after the first few rollicking episodes you have to put up with a long chorus of heartstring playing to get to the humor.
Sorcerer Hunters is as visually uneven as it is emotionally. The art and character designs are, at the very least, good looking, but the animation is at the low end of average. It's "non motion" rather than choppy, so at least the action scenes look good, and they feature some rather creative set-ups. However, in another surprise for this sort of series, there sure aren't very many of them--even when the showdowns do involve some fighting there's a noticeable effort to keep the budget down by avoiding fancy stuff. In fairness, if you don't come expecting much fantasy action, the episodes without any make up for it with either comedy or romance of some sort (or both).
Despite the lackluster animation, the end and especially opening sequences are slick--worth a look. On that topic, Sorcerer Hunters features quality catchy techno-pop theme songs (not surprisingly reminiscent of Slayers, given that the opening is sung by Megumi Hayashibara). The background music is nice, if a bit repetitive--one decent but overblown romantic theme in particular is used way too much. There are also a few brief, vaguely Scooby Doo-style musical interludes, but they feature music reused from elsewhere in the series.
Sorcerer Hunters is a rare case where the dub is at least on par with the original, if not better. The English voices are all well cast and funny, but Brett Weaver's Carrot steals the show. He has most of the funny lines, and does wonders with them--just the right blend of goofy, sleazy, and total idiot, with a good measure of wimp thrown in. (More impressive still, from what I've heard most of his funny lines were ad libbed.) Plus, he also has sudden outbursts of supersmooth (mostly to pick up women) or sweet romantic (at just the right moments). Hilarious stuff, and it makes the character work--you sympathize with or cheer for him at the right times and laugh at him the rest.
The Japanese version has plenty of good actors as well, but Shinnosuke Furumoto's Carrot is more whiny and has a much less impressive range. More surprising, Megumi Hayashibara's performance as Tira seemed underpowered. There is implied depth to her personality, but she's little more than passably cute in her normal meek form and not nearly as over-the-top as I'd have expected in "dominatrix mode" (in fact, the two sound disappointingly similar). Certainly no bad performances, but not of the caliber you'd expect given the cast.
Summing up, Sorcerer Hunters is a fantasy yarn that is by turns mostly silly, entirely sappy, and moderately dramatic, with good art and not-so-good animation. If you like good but dumb jokes and sentimental romance it's worth a look, but the back-and-forth combination won't do it for everybody.
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Obviously, the other big-name fantasy comedies have similarities: Slayers is obvious, but Ruin Explorers probably has more in common with this one. Gestalt also shares some themes, and Rune Soldier Louie is passingly similar, if much more straightforward. There's also a spiced-up OAV series, free from the restrictions of broadcast TV.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a thirteen-volume manga series of the same name written by Satoru Akahori with art by Ray Omishi; it's available in English from Tokyopop. The manga version has a similar blend of moods but is much weirder in the humor department, and in my opinion is quite a bit better once it gets going.
This TV adaptation aired early in the day (6pm) on broadcast network TV Tokyo, so for the sake of broadcast standards the costumes of the female characters were toned down somewhat from the manga version. This apparently disappointed many male fans. As is often the case, the randier OAV version had no such restrictions.
This is probably obvious from the recognizable ones, but all of the main characters' names are European desserts (Japanese dessert names are frequently taken directly from the European country of origin). Tira Misu is of course the famed Italian dessert, then there's Chocolate Misu, Marron Glace (a French candied chestnut dessert popular in Japan), Carrot Glace (either candied carrots, which I've never heard of, or just a reference to Carrot cake), and finally Gateau Mocha, French for "chocolate/coffee cake." There are a number of other food-based names elsewhere, while other sets of characters have names with different themes.
Sorcerer Hunters was the first project by now-famous animation studio Xebec.
US DVD Review
The original DVDs are more or less ADV standard issue for when they were released; the video is crisp and the audio in both languages sounds good. Extras include the original trailer and some character bios, but the best part of the discs are that they include lots of episodes--6 or 7 each.
The series has since been re-released on a trio of remastered 2-disc "Essential Anime" sets.
Despite what it looks like (and the sexed-up advertising copy), it's not all that bad; I'd call it 13-up based on occasionally raunchy humor and skimpy costumes.
Violence: 2 - Generally not that serious.
Nudity: 1 - Lean outfits, but no actual skin.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Some mature jokes.
Language: 1 - Not much.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Carrot Glace: Shinnosuke Furumoto
Tira Misu: Megumi Hayashibara
Chocolate Misu: Yuko Mizutani
Marron Glace: Mitsuaki Madono
Gateau Mocha: Kiyoyuki Yanada
Dotta: Sakiko Tamagawa
Big Momma: Sumi Shimamoto
Narration: Banjyo Ginga
Lila: Chika Sakamoto
Regner: Nobuo Tobita
Amore: Garo Takashima
Man A: Eiji Sakiguchi
Man B: Tomohiro Tsuboi
Girl: Yuji Ikeda
Zaha Torte: Banjyo Ginga
Barabara: Naoko Matsui
Battler: Eiiji Maruyama
Bomber: Akiko Hiramatsu
Alex: Kousuke Okano
Girls: Yuka Matsui, Akiko Toda
Lake: Masako Sugaya
Girl: Rai Sakuma
Lin: Sakiko Tamagawa
Kou: Tsuyoshi Kusao
Man: Kousuke Okano
Women: Momoko Ishi, Yuko Ikeda, Mifuyu Hinagi
Marina: Sakiko Tamagawa
Old Chief: Ichiro Nagai
Daniel: Hidehiro Kikuchi
Cat: Kazue Ikura
English Dub Cast
Carrot Glace: Brett Weaver
Tira Misu: Tamara Lo
Chocolate Misu: Tiffany Grant
Marron Glace: Jason Douglas
Gateau Mocha: Chris Corey
Big Momma: Sue Ulu
Narration: Dell Gibson
Lila: Sheri Simms
Laura: Diane Salter
Regner: Bryan Bounds
Amore: Marcy Rae
Man A: Dell Gibson
Man B: Rob Mungle
Girl: Tina Pollack
Zaha Torte: Gull Lunde
Additional Voices: Meredith Mae, Kelly Manison, Diane Salter, Sheri Simms
Zaha Torte: Guil Lunde
Barbara: Jessica Calvello
Battler Butler: Rob Mungle
Combative Girl: Meridith Mae
Sad Girl: Kelly Manison
Bomber: Cynthia Martinez
Ox: Doug Smith
Girls: Meredith Dahl, Pam Lauer, Cher McDonald
Lake: Kim Sevier
Girls: Kira, Junie Hoang, Pam Lauer, Cynthia Martinez, Cher MacDonald
Lin: Juni Hoang
Kou: Jason Lee
Man: Dell Gibson
Women: Meredith Dahl, Pam Lauer, Cher MacDonald
Marina/Girl Cat: Cindy Duhe
Old Chief: Jorge Herrera
Daniel: Todd Greenfield
Cat: Guil Lunde
Director: Koichi Masahimo
Producers: Noriko Kobayashi (TV Tokyo), Masakatsu Kozuru (Sotsu Film), Yukinao Shimoji (Xebec)
Script: Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Continuity: Koichi Mashimo
Storyboards: Takao Kato (ep 1), Naoyoshi Kusaka (ep 2), Nobuyoshi Habara (ep 3)
Animation Director: Keiji Goto (ep 1), Koichiro Niiba (ep 2), Akio Takami (ep 3), Kazuya Sato (ep 5), Koichiro Niiba (ep 7)
Character Designs: Keiji Goto
Production Design: Ikusa Bune
Music: Kenji Kawai
Director of Photography: Yukio Sugiyama
Produced by: Satoru Akahori, Rei Omishi (Media works, from the Dengeki Comic Gao!), TV Tokyo, Sotsu Film
Opening Theme: What's Up Guys
Lyrics: Miho Matsuba
Music: Shyo Goshima, Toshiro Yabuki
Arrangement: Toshiro Yabuki
Performed by: Shinnosuke Furumoto, Megumi Hayashibara (star child rcrds)
End Theme: Mask
Lyrics and Music: Masami Okui
Arrangement: Toshiro Yabuki, Tsutomu Ohira
Performed by: Masami Okui, Kasmui Matsumura (Star Child Records)
Animation by Xebec
Available in North America from ADV on bilingual DVD in the form of three remastered 2-disc "Essential Anime" sets, now out of print. Was originally available on four individual bilingual DVD volumes, which were later combined into a Complete Collection box set. Even earlier, there were six subtitled or dubbed VHS volumes produced, but the VHS release was cut short halfway through the series, at episode 14.