Those Who Hunt Abuse

In the future, I’m going to hold my reviews until I have had time to think about a show and work through it in my mind. A couple of weeks ago, I posted three snap reviews, and in the end, I was only comfortable with one and a half of them. I need to spend more time mulling over my opinion and choosing my words. Also, I find that my opinion often changes around 48-72 hours after I’ve seen something, as the “refrigerator factor” kicks in: i.e.: that odd realization you have after the show on the way to the refrigerator. Ok, so I’m slow. I already posted the re-written Nuku Nuku Dash, and now I’m re-writing Those Who Hunt Elves for this post. However, this is going to be a much briefer review than the original. (Oh, stop thanking me. Grrr. :-[ )

To start with, this had to be one of the coolest ideas I’d seen in a while. I’m a bit of a military otaku, and I don’t think there’s a player of any fantasy role-playing game that hasn’t wondered how a little modern firepower would do in a fantasy world. I’ve run across various home-brew rules where the ROTC boys would introduce M-16′s into orc-hunting, and the results were always bad for the game — though funny. TWHE plays with this idea, but instead of soldiers with automatic rifles, it’s a famous Hollywood movie star, a street tough with top-notch karate skills, and a young woman who was born a military fangirl and got crazier about it as she grew up. Oh, and their Mitsubishi Heavy Industries T-74, a fine Japanese tank. (It’s a bit undergunned and under-engined compared to some modern tanks, but has an incredible suspension system for dealing with the rough Japanese terrain.)
Ms. Airi, Ritsuko, Junpei, and the T-74
Ms. Airi, Ritsuko, Junpei, and the T-74

Cool concept! Now have them stuck there unless they can find five elf women who have pieces of a spell tattooed on their bodies– so they have to go around stripping elf babes to ogle them. Strictly in the interest of going home, of course! We’ve got firepower, martial arts, beautiful women, and an excuse to see them naked–how can you go wrong with a concept like this?

Well, the writers tried to find out. They…

Made the characters all rather shallow.
Had supporting characters appear and disappear without warning.
Never seemed to realize that a tank is heavy.
Made the only regular native female character (an elf priestess) into a dog in the first season and since that problem got fixed, turned her into a panda the second season.
Made the martial artist abuse her constantly. Physically and verbally.
Then made her fall in love with him despite the non-stop abuse.

I’m sorry, but it was funny only the first time. After that it got sad… and a bit sick to me. I don’t care that she gave as good as she got, I just don’t find it funny to take this:

Mistress Celecia
Mistress Celecia

and then do this to her, over and over again:

Junpei and Celecia (in their usual interaction)
Junpei and Celecia (in their usual interaction)

It wouldn’t even be funny if Celecia had been a dog to start with. This is one of my hotbutton issues, ok? There are some women who like sex, er, a little rough, but this isn’t what we’re talking about here. Celecia and her temper were meant to be funny, but she is turned into a big joke by the writers — then spends the whole series being abused by Junpei. I ended up hating him for it. He lives to fight, eat curry, and strip elves. In that order. His only redeeming feature is his sense of honor, which doesn’t extend to allowing elf women to disrobe in modest privacy and be inspected by the women with him. No, his usual method is to just yank their clothes off in public.

So Celecia, high priestess and elder of all the common elves joins them to help. Somehow she doesn’t realize she could just order all the elves to report any funny tatoos that suddenly appear. She disguises herself as a talking dog, to avoid repercussions, gets upset at her assistants for constantly giving away her identity, and then decides to announce it herself, which makes one wonder why she remained a dog for just a bit too long . . . I’m not going to get into why (it’s a spoiler) but she gets stuck in the dog form, then later as a panda. Junpei was just a heartless bastard about it both times; he was verbally and physically abusive towards Cecilia. We wouldn’t stand for it if he got into face-pulling contests with a pretty blonde, so why are we supposed to tolerate it when she looks like a panda or a yellow dog? It’s still her, dammit. Neither of the others really lift a hand to help, and even Ritsuko snickers over her predicament. I’d have blasted the lot of them to cinders and gone to find the spell fragments for myself. (She needed them to return to elf-form). Don’t ask me how she started getting hung up on Junpei. I just have visions of battered wife syndrome. Seriously. God, that sucked.

The second time she could have easily and obviously avoided becoming an animal, but somehow didn’t. I spent half my time pitying her for the situation she was in and half hating her for being stupid enough to put up with it. Had she set out to find the spell fragments herself, she could have easily done so — because Junpei would not have conveniently broken her magic mirror in a fit of pique. Without her, the other three could only find the spell parts through dumb luck, not reassemble or cast the spell. That’s a point the four major characters — meaning the writers — all somehow overlooked.

Which brings me to another major complaint I have about the series: the writers had everyone ‘go stupid’ constantly to advance their chosen plot. And at the end of the first season, when the spell’s been reassembled, they had the whole cast go stupid in order to justify the second season. The first time the ‘return home’ spell blew up, it was because Junpei accidently distracted Celecia during spell-casting by talking about her being naked, and in less than complementary terms. It was really quite funny. “I mean, it’s not that I want to see her naked– ha! You couldn’t pay me enough to look at that scrawny body!” The second time it’s because he was yelling at her, asking a question to which the answer should be obvious — but no one clobbered him and yelled “SHUT UP!” So the spell blew up a second time, putting them right back where they started–in short, the writers did a reset. A freaking reset. Lazy bastards. Other things I wanted to scream at:

  • Too many plot elements were deus ex machina. (How do we get gas for the tank? Plants we can squeeze for it.)
  • Too many logic holes you could, um, drive a tank through. (How do you get a tank off of an island that’s been destroyed? You don’t, it just appears in the next episode. For that matter, how do you get a tank to the island in the first place?)
  • Having a series that involved stripping elves naked and then having less fan service than the average harem comedy! Not even panty shots, nipples, nada! (How lame. . . )

That’s not to say that the series was a total loss. Two really good episodes come to mind; “The Curse of 1000″ and “Big Bad Wolf”(?). ‘Curse’ was Junpei at his best, being an honorable warrior vs. a foe who learned a valuable lesson. And Ritsuko’s special weapon to ensure their privacy was hilarious. “This side toward enemy,” indeed! The other episode was a riotously funny send-up of Little Red Riding Hood. Imagine Wile E. Coyote meeting up with this crew and you’re close. A third good one is the “mandrake elves” episode. And then there’s the classic “Denied!” moment in the second episode when an elf bandit queen decides to take out the party with her ultimate weapon, a stone golem:

Stone Golem vs. Mitsubishi T-74.
Stone Golem vs. Mitsubishi T-74.

Excedrin headache #105(mm)
Excedrin headache #105(mm)

Denied!
Denied!

Never bring a stone golem to a tank fight...
Never bring a stone golem to a tank fight…

Note the incredible detail on the tank–this is the norm throughout the series. This has got to be more evidence of the digital animation that Steven Den Beste was talking about the other day. I wanted to do a photo comparison vs the tank, but it was too much torture to re-watch the series for good shots to adapt.

The series has some great moments, such as when the characters occasionally break the fourth wall. Once, a desperate attempt to retrieve their bodies (after a spell turns them into ghosts) becomes a parody of clichè’s in anime battles, as they possess one inanimate object after another. “FLYING UMBRELLA ATTACK!!!” But even such inspired insanity can’t save the show from its flaws in the end. Despite the coolness factor and some genuinely funny moments, I just can’t give TWHE a good score. All the dei ex machina, the attacks of stupidity, the complete absence of logic, and plot elements which are conveniently forgotten add up to a hair-pulling experience. And the final episode was loaded with all four.

Fanservice level: Amazingly low, considering the premise. Bikinis were about it. (Stripped elves always had strategic regions blocked by shreds of cloth or an arm.)
Characterizations: Mediocre at best.
Plot: It was there, but pieces of it appeared and disappeared at need.
Storytelling: Bad. Bad, bad, bad — mainly thanks to the plot problems.
Animation Quality: Above average. One of the bright spots, actually. Take that with a grain of salt; I’m still adjusting to digital animè after not watching much for several years.
Title menu: Static pictures, but the second season’s menus were confusing.
DVD Extras: Non-existant, unless you count previews. I thought they should have included data on the real T-74 at the least. Character backgrounds really would have helped flesh them out.
Music: First season’s opener and second season’s closer were forgettable; I like the second season’s J-pop opener a lot, and find the first season closer to be ok.
Rewatch: Are you kidding? It was torture just to get these screenshots! (maybe the few good episodes. Someday.)
Overall Grade: D.

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