It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to have an honest-to-goodness rant. I’ve tried to moderate myself and just post my thoughts in the form of structured reviews, but the time has come to break down those barriers and lay into the easiest target of the Spring 2007 season- El Cazador de la Bruja. A series which generated low expectations even before it began, Cazador nonetheless managed to plumb untold depths of dullness and monotony, and much as it pains me to revisit it in any form, this rant shall be a cathartic experience that will justify sitting through those twenty-six episodes in the first place.
Billed as the third in Bee Train’s ‘girls with guns’ trilogy, El Cazador was to be the successor of Noir and Madlax, one a solid series with a tight focus, the other a HARD YURI-fest packed with dubious supernatural elements. With this in mind, it was perhaps not wise to ever expect too much from the series, which promised yet another pairing of young girl and skilled gun-woman, albeit this time with different hair colours to their predecessors. This time around we would be following the adventures of bounty hunter Nadie as she attempted to protect her charge Ellis from various forces out to capture her- although as per the usual formula, there was more to Ellis than met the eye. Over the course of the series, this intrepid duo were to travel across Central America in search of the village of Wiñay Marka, all the while pursued by both recurring and one shot characters.
So far then, not too bad- it may not be the most enthralling of concepts, but surely something could be made of it- couldn’t it? Well, yes it could, but not something that anyone would choose to watch. Instead, each episode was so spectacularly dull that it made monster of the week series look innovative- every week, Nadie and Ellis would stop off at some insignificant town, get involved in the mundane lives of the characters of the week, perhaps indulge in a car chase and then move on again. Whether it was the lives of a couple who ran a roadside café or the dull antics of an underwhelming village, each and every episode succeeded in achieving absolutely nothing. In short, it was the dustiest and most boring road trip in history- a sort of extended version of the bus arc first seen in Tsubasa.
Even so, you might argue, there was still a girl with a gun, and that must surely mean that the poor stories of the week could at least be compensated for with a healthy dose of action, right? Admit it, if you seriously thought that, you have absolutely no knowledge of Bee Train whatsoever, do you? For, fearful that action might actually overly stimulate the viewers, Koichi Mashimo and his pals decided to make Nadie a rather unique personality- a bounty hunter who doesn’t actually go after any bounties. Indeed, why bother with a tense and exciting hunt for a dangerous killer when you can spend an episode working at an Amigo Tacos restaurant instead (despite not being a real franchise, Amigo Tacos is to El Cazador what Pizza Hut was to Code Geass and Pizza Hut). Then again, perhaps it was for the best that Nadie chose not to foray into the world of bounty hunting, because on the odd occasion when she did attempt it, she failed so miserably that it was clear she had chosen the wrong career. From slipping and tripping at the drop of a hat to falling for one of the oldest cons in the book, it was abundantly clear that the only bounty hunting Nadie had experience with was searching for a particular brand of chocolate bar in the aisles of her local store.
Under these less than ideal conditions, the series plodded on, but there was worse to come when it tried to convince us all that yes, there was actually some kind of plot going on. At the centre of the conspiracy we have Ellis, a ‘man-made witch’ with disturbingly orgasmic special powers that activate whenever the plot deems them necessary. Naturally, a hero cannot have powers without various antagonists wanting them, and so in pursuit of her are both evil scientist Rosenberg and a clan of descendants of ‘natural born witches’. In order to truly expose the ridiculousness of the entire series, we can do no better than to take a detailed look at the modus operandi of these two factions.
Rosenberg: a villain who likes to switch on a light using a complex system of ropes and pulleys
Many men seem to have a knack for making simple tasks unnecessarily complicated, but none more so than Doug Rosenberg, a scientist dedicated to the idea of harnessing the power of the witches. His plan is to awaken Ellis by causing the deaths of the people closest to her, first by killing the beloved Professor Schneider with whom she grew up and rather disturbingly fell in love, before sending her off on a long journey with Nadie in the hopes that they would become close enough that Nadie’s death would trigger her final awakening. Yes, in short, he was responsible for the whole interminably dull road trip through Central America in the first place- and for that alone, he should have died a far more painful and horrible death than the one he actually experienced in episode twenty-five.
LA: the psychotic bishounen
As one of Rosenberg’s lackeys, LA’s job was initially to trail Ellis and shoot video footage of her- a task the psychotic stalker took to with relish. As a fellow genetically engineered specimen, LA felt a kinship with Ellis that went beyond the usual limits; so devoted to her was he that even her lighting his crotch on fire was a source of excitement to him. Even capturing him and attempt to reduce his affections via brainwashing did not seem to work, and so he spent some twenty-four episodes acting irrationally in pursuit of his beloved before finally getting killed.
Ricardo and Lirio: a disturbing relationship
Also in Rosenberg’s employ to keep an eye on Nadie, Ellis and LA (talk about redundancy) is Ricardo, an older man who travels with his own personal loli- the mute Lirio. The way Lirio (whose head reaches up to Ricardo’s groin) cuddles up to him when in danger is rather disturbing, as is the rather creepy lack of clarification about their relationship. In fact, the whole point of Lirio at all is something of a mystery- she spends most of the series mute, only to suddenly awaken to her witch heritage at the end in time to speak two lines to Blue-Eyes. Was she just there because Bee Train productions have to have a pink-haired loli? All signs point to yes.
Melissa: who was she?
Partway through the series, Rosenberg’s superiors at the CIA briefly step into the series to tell him to stop lusting after Ellis and take a vacation with a woman of legal age. Rosenberg duly follows their instructions and spends several pointless episodes vacationing with a woman named Melissa- a woman of undisclosed background and purpose who comes into the series purely to be with her beloved ‘Doug’ for a while. As the series starts drawing to an end, however, Rosenberg ungraciously leaves her high and dry in order to get back to the plot, cementing her existence as nothing more than a pointless time filler.
The clan of the witches, or why body sacks are not in fashion
Also keeping an eye on Ellis and her powers are the clan of the witches- real witches who are slowly losing their power and dying out, but fear that Ellis may misuse her abilities. From their base at the Dark Assembly, these cosplayers don all manner of hooded robes designed to retain anonymity and thus minimise their embarrassment at their continually changing policies. Every few episodes, they alter their stance, unable to stick to either hanging back and observing Ellis or moving in and capturing her. The point of including them in the series at all is unclear, as is the episode where they send .hack rejects to chase the leads over the course of one night before giving up by dawn.
Blue-Eyes: a woman of two looks
The main operative of the clan of the witches (and indeed the only one to be blessed with a name), Blue-Eyes spends several episodes as a wide-eyed meganekko working for Rosenberg. Unfortunately, bland attempts to outwit him, getting stuck in a ceiling vent and periodically claiming that his plans were sure to fail was not really a recipe for job satisfaction, and so at the halfway point Blue-Eyes transforms into a sexy sharp-eyed woman with an agenda of her own.
From hereon in, Blue-Eyes and her nameless underlings pursue the leads in their own bid for screen time, generally observing and only rarely aiding the plot. Sadly, whilst I must admit that Blue-Eyes in her second form is the most attractive female on the series, she deserved more than her role of being the “other woman” with added minor plot role.
As to be expected from any Bee Train series, El Cazador is a series with distinctive named character designs in the familiar style, dull looking generics, beautiful panoramic settings- and a distinct lack of much in the way of action. Characters are all too often seen in low detail distance shots, mere specks on the horizon, whilst action scenes are meted out sparingly, in case an excess of fighting might excite the viewers too much.
Background music is, unsurprisingly, handled by Yuki Kajiura, who adds a Mexican flavour to the score that ensures that whilst it is solid enough and in keeping with her familiar style, it just isn’t up to par with her best work. Nonetheless, after the glut of slow ballads used in the likes of Tsubasa, it is nice to hear some decent insert songs, whilst both OP and ED are catchy and memorable (in fact, they are one of the most watchable aspects of the series). Speaking of the ED, however, we must question something- who was the masked man who appeared so prominently in it? And what was the point of the ‘sniper cat’?
A series so dull that I could watch entire episodes on a low volume setting without noticing, El Cazador consistently failed to excite or entertain, instead offering only a target for parody wrapped up in a pleasant presentation. Noir was focused and worthy, Madlax was convoluted and over the top, but this was just one long stretch of monotony interspersed with frustratingly unanswered questions.