Reviewby Mike Crandol, Mar 13th 2002
Those Who Hunt Elves
DVD Vol. 2: Elf-Stripping for Fun and Profit
The further epic adventures of Those Who Hunt Elves can at last be told in "Elf-Stripping for Fun and Profit", and things have managed to get even more ludicrous than the last time we saw martial-artist Junpei, actress Airi, and gun-freak Ritsuko. The displaced trio continue to maraud their way through a magical fantasy kingdom in search of a way back to Japan, with the help of elven high sorceress Celcia (temporarily transformed into an ugly mutt), and their T-74 tank (temporarily possessed by the spirit of a kitty-cat named Mike). Five return-spell fragments have been magically tattooed on the bodies of five (young, female) elves, and our heroes have vowed not to rest until every (young, female) elf has been personally stripped, inspected, and unfortunately humiliated in the process.
Among the oddities encountered by Those Who Hunt Elves: miniature flower elves who live in the dirt and pretend to be ghosts, genuine ghost elves (who can only be stripped by fellow spirits...better temporarily kill ourselves!), and an elf in a magical suit of armor with swords for hands who begs to be stripped. In the grand finale the elf-stripping band is brought before the Elven High Court to answer for their heinous crimes. "Those Who Hunt Elves" is anime insanity only the Japanese could concoct.
Anyone who ever had trouble taking Dungeons & Dragons seriously will be able to appreciate the delicious premise of Those Who Hunt Elves: a mystical fantasy realm inhabited by fairies, elves, and dragons is mocked and massacred by three modern-day upstarts in a tank. Not wacky enough for you? What if one of the group was a cute schoolgirl with a borderline psychotic obsession with automatic firearms, and they were helped by an elven princess trapped in the body of a goofy-looking cartoon dog? What if their only way back home was a magic spell imprinted on the bodies of five elves? And instead of politely asking them to remove their clothing, this group of wanderers pounce on said elves at first sight and strip them naked for all to see? What if someone actually threw all of these crazy ideas together and lumped them into the ultimate what-if show? Well, someone did, and the result is Those Who Hunt Elves, which is nothing if not insanely original.
Unfortunately the show's concept is better than it's execution. Though there are moments of inspired hilarity, too often Those Who Hunt Elves feels like it is holding back, as if the setup were funny enough and no punchline was needed to make us laugh. The show could have benefited immensely from faster pacing; given the remarkably zany premise one expects the jokes to fly fast and furious, and while each episode contains at least one laugh-out-loud moment you can't help but feel short-changed. When kung-fu movie stereotype Junpei unleashes his fists-of-fury it is indeed a masterpiece of limited-animation comedy....too bad he hardly ever does it. And the tank, potential Comedy Gold in a medieval fantasy world, is used primarily for travel purposes, and the viewer waits in vain to see it go up against an army of hopelessly outgunned elven warriors on horseback, or even a dragon or two.
Like Rocky and Bullwinkle or South Park, Those Who Hunt Elves is a rare example of an animated show in which the limited television budget actually serves to accentuate the comedy. Junpei's afore-mentioned herky-jerky karate displays would not be half as funny if animated in a fuller, more fluid style. Fittingly, the canine Celcia's design is ridiculously crude to the point where it could not convincingly move in full animation (it would probably move like a sack of wheat with legs). And the constant "super-deforming" of characters, which often detracts from the believability of more serious-minded anime, is here all too appropriate, as there is very little to "believe" about this show in the first place.
It would be nice, however, if we could believe in the English dub. ADV vocal star Jessica Calvello is great as elven-princess/ugly mutt Celica, but the rest of the English cast gives an uninspired delivery. Those Who Hunt Elves is doubly funny in the original Japanese, thanks in large to part to Seki Tomokazu's Junpei, who screams every line in an hilariously over-the-top performance that's a perfect parody of all those second-rate kung-fu movie stars.
The music and art direction are both solid but unremarkable. At first I was perturbed by the increasing number of historical anachronisms (guns and tanks aside) that appear as the series progresses, assuming this to be another case of a fantasy anime series that cannot get the fantasy look down pat. The final episode reveals this fact to be an actual plot point, however, and in doing so redeems the numerous inaccuracies many other fantasy anime never bother to explain.
While not breaking any ground artistically, Those Who Hunt Elves is nonetheless a watershed mark for anime on television. The first-ever late-night anime, it was as such the first anime television series created exclusively for adult audiences. It's success opened the door for a greater variety of anime series aimed at an older demographic, such as Berserk and Outlaw Star....though ironically enough Those Who Hunt Elves is marked by a very juvenile (though amusing) sense of humor. It should be noted that there is nothing explicitly "adult" to be found in this series: though the comedy is a little dirty-minded there is no full nudity present, and the stripped elves always have their naughty bits covered, if nothing else.
Viewers more familiar with the conventions of sword-and-sorcery novels or role-playing games will get the most enjoyment out of Those Who Hunt Elves. Despite the surprisingly low joke quotient, the premise alone is enough to make fantasy-adventure fans crack a smile. Likewise, if you can't stand twenty-sided dice and are sick of all the "Lord of the Rings" hype, this show may be for you. But if you really don't give a damn either way, it's best to pass on Those Who Hunt Elves.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B+
Animation : B-
Art : C
Music : C
+ wonderfully wacky premise is irresistible to fans of the fantasy genre
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