Journal Entry: Thu Apr 12, 2012, 2:48 PM
Those Who Hunt Elves (herein abbr. TWHE) is another lost classic of sheer lunacy mixed in with some tender moments. The plot is dog simple, allowing many self-contained slice of life episodes to entertain us until they have to wrap it up and put a bow on it in the last couple of episodes for the season. An interesting swerve characterizes the ending. The main characters are quite funny, doubly so in the English dub which soon parts ways with the subtitle script about halfway into the first season. Unfortunately, TWHE is a joke that is funny only once--too bad the series doubles down for a second season with the same jokes and set-ups as the first season.
TWHE follows in the footsteps of El Hazard--a group of random people from contemporary Japan transported to a fantasy neverwhere (El Hazard goes for an Arabian world, TWHE a D&D world). We get a Hollywood actress in Airi, a martial arts strongman in Junpei, and a hot-tempered, gun-happy schoolgirl in Ritsuko. Ritsuko owns, maintains, and drives her very own Soviet T-74 tank. (Don't ask, just roll with it! This IS anime, you know.) The elf priestess Celcia tries to send our group and their tank back to their world, but not only does it fail, the fragments of the spell scatter in several directions. In order to get back to their world, our team must collect all the fragments onto Celcia's body. In order to get all the fragments, which have attached themselves to various female elves in the land, our team must strip the female elves naked so that Celcia can transfer the fragment onto her.
Since this is anime, and we have 12 episodes to cover, things get complicated. The beautiful blonde elf Celcia accidentally turns herself into a goofy-looking dog. The whole elf-stripping thing doesn't take long to sour on the whole elf populace, and practically the entire land wants to lynch our team, despite Celcia's pleading. (One exception is the elf warrior maiden who wants our group to strip the magic armor off of her that refuses to be taken off, with our gang trying anything and everything in their power to do so, with successful but hilarious results.) It also doesn't help that the other elf elders send a hit squad after our team. The bigger joke involved with their mission is that the fragments are all visible without our gang having to rip an elf's clothes off. As our gang collect the spell fragments onto Celcia, she ultimately looks like the Pringles potato chips mascot with the marks making glasses and a handlebar mustache, a development that absolutely mortifies Celcia even more so than being turned into a dog. After one episode, the tank gets possessed by the spirit of a cat named Mike (pron. "Mee-kay"). Plus, the main characters get along like cats in a sack. Junpei is rash, impulsive (he's the most gung-ho about stripping elves in order to get back home), and deeply homesick for a good plate of curry and rice. Ritsuko is put off by Junpei's brawn-over-brains approach. Celcia and Junpei are frequently crapping at each other. Junpei complains about how she blew the big spell in the beginning and loves to tease her about being a yellow dog with a mustache. Celcia gives as good as she gets from Junpei as she craps at him for his gusto in stripping elves. Airi is the only sane person in the group, the one who has to think of ways to find the spell fragment without causing any more embarrassment to them or to Celcia.
Eventually, the spell fragments are collected, and Celcia gets another try at the spell to send them home. By this time, our group has learned to get along together after all their (mis)adventures. Hell, Junpei and Celcia come close to a love-hate relationship. Too bad something goes wrong AGAIN, with the spell fragments going everywhere like before, and the team back at square one when the first season ends. A joke of an ending on you, dear viewer! At this point, the makers of the anime should have stopped right there, because what they have is a good 12 episode season.
Too bad for us they didn't stop there. Another season starts in a second-verse-same-as-the-first approach, an approach that should be restricted to early classic songs by the Ramones. Our characters remain the same, except Celcia gets turned into a panda instead of a dog. The mission to collect all the spell fragments onto Celcia remains the same. We get different slice of life episodes, but they play like the second-best ones from the original manga, the ones that are left over after all the good ones had been used in the first season. Our team still has a bounty on their heads after all the complaints about the elf stripping, stripping which remains wholly unnecessary (the fragments are still accessible without taking off clothing). Most damning of all, the same joke that ends the first season ends the second season. It's like the makers of TWHE had spent most of their production budget on a lavish party, and the next morning decided to keep all the presets from the first season and spend as little time and money as possible coming up with new material.
The writing and production staff may have been slackers, but the voice actors in both versions make it work despite the long odds against them. Kotono Mitsuishi is hilarious as Celcia, in all her wounded dignity and her lashing out at Junpei. Tomokazu Seki makes fun of his own action hero typecasting by making Junpei a vainglorious, impulsive loudmouth who takes pleasure in teasing Celcia. Ritsuko is played by Yuko Miyamura, who is no stranger to playing temperamental characters (Asuka in EVA, Aisha in Outlaw Star, etc.). Michie Tomizawa's Airi adds a touch of class and manners to the group, but she's not above asserting herself to Junpei or Ritsuko.
ADV released both seasons of TWHE (and the original manga), and they do a bang-up job in the dub for both seasons. Andrew Klimko makes a funny Junpei, playing him like an even more abrasive version of his role as Gateau Mocha, the martial arts strongman in Sorcerer Hunters. Rozanne Curtis makes a bratty, trigger-happy Ritsuko. Kelly Manison as Airi brings humor that is subtle yet biting (for something less subtle from her, check her out as Nahga in the Slayers OVAs). But the show-stealer is Jessica Calvello as Celcia in the first season. Shelley Calene-Black takes over the Celcia role in the second season, and she's good in that role, but Jessica Calvello is funnier and more insane. On being forced to work construction as a dog: "I'm covered in sweat. I'm covered in dirt. Hell, I'm covered in FUR!" Or her response to Junpei's insults: "Am I wearing a saddle? Then quit riding my ass!" The dub script, especially so in the first season, parts company with the sense of the subtitle script. If you played the dub soundtrack and put the subtitle script with it, you'll see how far apart they grow from each other as we get into the second half of the first season. The humor is often pretty rude, crude, and sometimes R-rated for adult humor, especially when Junpei and Celcia sink their fangs into each other (After Junpei mutters "Damn" under his breath after Celcia narrowly survives getting crushed by a falling tree: "I heard that, you son of a bitch!!"). The crazy dub script, in one episode, even subverts the happily-ever-after story of a poor elf girl getting together with the prince of her kingdom with plenty of profanity and a fair bit of sexual humor.
I recommend the first season--the second season, not so much. At any rate, rudeboy sez: check it out.
Listening to: the new Halestorm CD
Reading: Europe Central, by William T. Vollmann
Watching: Man vs. Food
Playing: with my cat
Eating: Chinese food