It’s been a nail-biting wait but the second volume of Witch Hunter Robin has finally been released and is now nestling on the shelves of fans up and down the country. No sooner does this title hit my review pile, than the wrapping’s torn off and it’s in the disc tray. As soon as the opening strains of ‘Shell’ by Bana waft from the speakers, that irresistible guitar line squeals into life and the drums start thumping I’m reminded just how much I adore this remarkable series.
If you haven’t already guessed from that gushing opening paragraph, I actually enjoyed the sophomore volume of Witch Hunter Robin even more than the first. Whilst the story’s true arc is yet to reveal itself you can see all the pieces gradually falling into place, as we are carefully primed for the grand narrative sweep that most assuredly awaits us.
This volume is riddled with small but carefully weighted revelations that will prey on your mind and keep you guessing long after the eighth episode winds down. Amon’s ‘power’ is briefly touched upon yet he seems hesitant to reveal just what kind of ‘gift’ he possesses. There’s also a chilling scene that heralds the arrival of the ‘Factory, the mysterious, militaristic organization who oversee the STN-J, that manages to conjure a portentous atmosphere of barely concealed malice.
Whilst we are on the subject of atmosphere, I feel compelled to address the significant shift in tone during the episode ‘Raindrops’. Which manages to invoke the same feelings of dread and uneasiness that pervade the very best of Japanese horror. It’s a chilling and worthwhile detour from the regular narrative path that managed to unsettle and entertain this humble horror fan in equal measure.
Somewhat expectedly the second volume adheres to the same self-contained, single episode format established in the first, some may bemoan that fact but I for one am glad, as it allows for the same kind of considered, meticulous character development this series excels at. Never do any of the characters feel like dead weight, with each personality adding a few new wrinkles to their repertoires and continuing to grow with elegance and conviction.
Tension also begins to creep into the group; the freshly empowered Robin’s eagerness to exploit her powers puts her at odds with some members of the group. There’s also a level of dynamism and creativity in these episodes that help to flesh out the series dramatic underpinnings, with the mysteries surrounding witch-kind slowly beginning to unravel. Many new varieties of witch for the STN-J to tackle begin to appear, some possessing rare and frightening gifts. The level of creativity is staggering, the creators have done a fantastic job of providing plenty of cleverly implemented powers, none of which feel far fetched or out of place.
My jaw dropped so much whilst watching this show it’s threatening to come unhinged. There are plenty of filmic touches that really heighten the cinematic feel, whip pans, hand held camera and sumptuous photography are employed to tremendous effect. Hats off to Bandai Visual, they really get the most out of their budget and their sense of style and aesthetics is rarely bettered.
After such a promising start I was afraid Witch Hunter Robin might stumble going into its second volume. Whilst this volume may not extend the scope of the series that much beyond the first it is still a delight to watch. The characters are as involving as ever and the level of intelligence and refinement in the writing makes sure proceedings are as captivating and exciting as we’ve come to expect. Certainly to my mind one of, if not the best series currently available in the UK, the third volume can’t come soon enough.