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ADV Films presents
Soul Hunter #1: Taikoubou's Mission (1999)

"Aww, why did my master have to be such an idiot?"
- Sibuxiang (Yoichi Masukawa)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 12, 2001

Stars: Ikihiro Hanawa, Yoichi Masukawa, Yumi Kakazu
Other Stars: Yuki Matsuda, Tamio Ohki
Director: Junji Nishimura

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild animated violence, partial nudity)
Run Time: 02h:04m:48s
Release Date: December 18, 2001
UPC: 702727022425
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BA-A- B-

DVD Review

Quite a bit of Japanese anime owes something to many Chinese myths and stories of therise and fall of various empires. Soul Hunter joins that group as an interesting, heavily comedic series, partially inspired by the ancient Chinese stories of how the Yin Dynasty was plagued by demons corrupting its officials and starting wars. The story essentially begins with the immortal gods deciding that China can no longer be left to simple fate; they must intervene. They enact "Project Soul Hunt", an idea in which over 300 demons of various strengths will be found and have their souls imprisoned. In a quirk of fate, though, the gods choose the extremely inept immortal disciple Taikoubou to carry out this plan. The problem is, Taikoubou is lazy, unlearned, and can barely handle his meager responsibilities in heaven.

Taikoubou is given a magical staff, the Paopei, and partnered with the magical beastSibuxiang, who looks sort of like a giant, flying hamster with horns. Together, they musthunt down all of the demons corrupting the Yin Dynasty and bring harmony back to thatarea of Earth. The problem is, these demons are tough customers, certainly morepowerful than a mere apprentice of heaven. In cocky fashion, Taikoubou figures that he'llignore all the demons on his list and head for the number one enemy, Dakki. Dakki is afemale demon who now controls a whole kingdom, because she has the ear of itsextremely gullible leader. Soon after their quest begins, though, Taikoubou and Sibuxiangfind out neither of them is quite up the task, barely staying one step ahead of being toastedby the demons.

Despite some serious undertones, Soul Hunter is pretty much a comedy, and apretty funny one at that. It basically milks Taikoubou's ineptitude for all it's worth, but itdoesn't get repetitive because it breaks the humor with moments of earnest storytelling. The serious portions come from the plight of all the human characters; the ones for whom the Yin Dynasty problem is a personal one. It details the saga of how the other lords of the realm believe that a mysterious child will be their saviour, a child who will be trained by the immortals and returned to Earth, ready to be a new king. There is action, too; thanks to some wonderful, strange demon characters, Taikoubou has plenty to fight against, especially as each demon also wields its own kind of Paopei weaponry.

What you end up getting is a mixture of all sorts of anime elements, and surprisinglyenough, it works. Usually, I'm not much of a fan of heavily comedic anime because thehumor either obscures the storyline or is achieved through means that feel tasteless orcontrived. Soul Hunter surprised me, though. It satires itself while still telling an amazingly solid tale of fantasy. It takes skill to be able to change gears like that so fast, from slapstick to political drama and back again. The mixed artistic technique (using cel-shaded computer graphics for some of the stranger objects and characters) also adds a certain level of originality and spark. It won't be for everyone, but Soul Hunter stands out nicely from the pack.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The first episode of Soul Hunter uses a strange combination of traditionalcelanimation and computer enhanced animation. For some reason, the traditionalanimation looks extremely harsh and grainy, almost like it's very old. After that, though, from the second episode on, all the animation is pristine and super-crisp, as is usually seen in most modern anime. The image is virtually perfect, with no sign of artifacts or source problems, falling in line with the kind of excellent animation transfer typically seen ADV's work. The only real problems are with that first episode, which seems to have some unusual source flaws, but they're fairly minor and never crop up again.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Surrround 2.0 audio is used for both the English and Japanese mixes, and while both sound perfectly good, they're not an elaborate experience. The musical score and most sound effects are beefed-up into stereo with some minor directionality. The center channels carries most of the track, and does so without any complaints or issues. I cannot recall any significant surround channel usage, certainly nothing noteworthy.

Overall, the audio sounds clean and very much fits the program. The English dubbing is pretty good and generally manages to replicate the tone of the program, much better than most dubs.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Textless Opening Animation
  2. English Voice Actor Profiles
  3. Translation Notes
  4. Relationship Tree and Yin Dynasty Historical Notes
  5. Glossary of Terms
Extras Review: An interesting variety of supplements fills out the disc rather well.

To begin with, there is a textless version of the opening credits sequence, a nice artistic touch. There is also a series of bios and filmographies on the English voice cast, including their pictures, which is a rare thing considering that English dub actors are usually ignored in the anime world.

Also included is a large number of text pages with notes on the translation of the Japanese scriptinto English subtitles. It discusses the issues with simplifying Chinese terms and makingsense out of terms that, in Japanese, are primarily made-up. It's a good look at the detailsof translation which, in itself, is an often overlooked subject. A Relationship Treegraphic (which can be zoomed-in on) reveals the relationships between all the maincharacters and who follows them. It's a good visual aid for those confused by the complexpolitical aspect of the plot. Historical notes regarding the actual legends of the YinDynasty (a mixture of fact and fiction) are presented in text format, but are also actuallynarrated by one of the English voice actors.

Wrapping things up is a glossary that explains the meanings of many words and terms used in the show that might confuse people or not make enough sense. A similar, but smaller, glossary can also be found on one side of the keepcase insert.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

For some, anime is an addiction, and it's easy to see why when so many of these showshave such great hooks. Soul Hunter isn't going to win awards for brilliance oringenuity, but it's a clever, two-sided show with one part being a great fantasy plot and theother being a wonderful comedy; both coming together in an impressive way.


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