Soul Hunter, Vol. 1: Taikoubou's Mission (1999)
Review by Dindrane

Original Story by Ryu Fujisaki
Directed by Junji Nishimura
Character Designs by Masashi Kojima
Music by Ryo Sakai
Japanese Voices by Ikihiro Hanawa, Yoichi Masukawa, Yumi Kakazu, Tamio Ohki, Kentaro Ito, and Akira Ishida
English Voices by Jim Canning, J. Shanon Weaver, Steve Fanagin, Claire Hamilton, and Stephanie Swenson


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Released by: ADV
Region: 1
Rating: 12+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it if you don't know you love anime; buy it if you know you do.

The show begins with a narration introducing this world of the past as it begins with Heaven and Earth; on Earth, the Chinese Yin Dynasty is about to fall because of the dark magic of one woman/demon, Dakki, and she has taken control of Zhou through her power of Temptation. The Immortal High Council has decided to institute the Soul Hunt to capture those souls deemed dangerous and lock them away, where they cannot interfere on Earth. The High Council chooses a formerly mortal "idiot" to carry out their plan instead of endangering a precious immortal; his name is Taikoubou, but is a human fool more interested in sleep than his lessons really ready to fight Immortal demons and save his country?

Initially, the show's action and characters are introduced via the magic eye of Shinkohyo and his magical beast. This conceit is an unusual way to lead viewers quickly through a great deal of backstory. Those viewers who oppose obvious exposition might be irritated, but given that the show's target audience was primarily teenagers, this is all instead useful and creative. Interestingly enough, Shinkohyo's name is on Taikoubou's list of demons to trap, though Shinkohyo is under a curse to tell only the truth.

The show's overall tone is both fantasy adventure and comedy. Facing a serious task like capturing deadly, truly evil beings with only a single weapon, the show answers with jokes, both silly and wry. It isn't all laughter and silliness, however; there's a great deal of fighting, magic, and spiritual philosophy.

The overall look of the show is excellent. The art is nice and attractive, the colors are bright without blurring or aliasing, and the characters are interesting and distinct. You may not get true art like the work of Yu Watase, for example, but the digitalization is just gorgeous.

The show sounds equally good. Both English and Japanese casts are good, though the Japanese cast is perhaps a bit less given to over-playing the comedy in this case. Either way, the sound is crisp and very clear. Sound effects, like birds in flight, flapping costuming, comic noises, and so forth, are all wonderfully clear.

The features list is nicely packed. First off, it's excellent that we have five episodes on this disc. Viewers who are initially confused by the mixture of history and fantasy will be grateful for the inclusion of the historical notes, as well as the translator's notes, relationship tree, and the glossary of terms. Be sure to refer to these features as necessary throughout the show; spoilers are blessedly at a minimum. Fans of Chinese history will just be interested in them anyway. The profiles of the voice actors are a wonderful inclusion; these actors work very hard and deserve more recognition than most discs give them.

Fans of comedy anime will love this one, as will anyone who likes fantasy and adventure, such as Record of Lodoss War or Ceres. You have to be able to handle the occasional comic anachronism, as well as slapstick, but it's worth it. Basically, this show is a good bet no matter what genre you favor: adventure, fantasy, comedy, historical, action/war, maybe horror, or anything character-driven. This first volume leaves viewers still a bit confused about who is on whose side and just what is going on, but there is enough promise here to keep us watching.

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