Thousands of years ago, it was a time of witchcraft and dark magic. An evil sorceress has bewitched the emperor of the mighty dynasty and he has become a mindless puppet. The country is in shambles, and evil spirits lurk everywhere. The human world is on the verge of utter destruction. A bold mission is planned by the Confederation of the Immortal Masters. They send a young master wizard to hunt down the villains and evil warlocks in the devastated lands.
Hello, it's been a while since I've wrote a review, so I decided to write an article on one of my favorites, the famous but yet not so famous Soul Hunter (aka Hoshin Engi). It sounds like I'm contradicting myself but listen to this tid bit of history. Soul Hunter was a popular manga series from the very renown Shonen Jump Magazine, and lasted for a good 4 years (1996 to 2000) and won a best Manga award. Which soon became an Anime in 1999, one year prior to the end of the manga series. The show had good audience and was pretty successful. When
the series traveled overseas to the US it was meeting a market that was just being introduced to Anime: Animes like Akira, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, etc. But the series quickly fell short into a VHS format due to its short 26 episode line up. Major Television channels in US refused to air the Anime since it didn't have enough marketing potential like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball which had season after season of shows. So the series was left to collect dust at video stores. Fortunately the series was a big hit with European and South American audiences, along with other popular Shonen series such as Saint Seiya, Ranma 1/2, and uncut versions of Dragon Ball Z.
That's enough History let's get into the details.
The story takes place in Ancient China, when the five great Kingdoms come into power. The story is also based on a Chinese folklore, just like The Great Journey West (which is the basis of the Dragon Ball story line). The world is split into two planes, the plane of mortals and the plane of Doshin. Doshin are like immortal spirits or demi gods in the Chinese folklore. Our main character is a lazy Senin named Taikoubou, basically he's training to become a Doshin, who is sent on a quest to capture over a 1000 Yokai (aka Demons) that plague the Mortal world. Taikoubou doesn't like fighting but uses his sear wits to out smart his enemies. Though he seems to get himself into near death situations, he always proves victorious in the end, while accompanied by fellow mortals, Senin, Doshin, and even Yokai that wish to make the world a better place.
The characters are all likeable, and you'll eventually pick your favorite character since the story also revolves many of Taikobou's companions. Along with a mythical or fantasy like storyline, many characters have some futuristic looking weapons like lightsabers, laser cannons, with a splash of some panda looking robots. Another good mention is that there many awesome battles where they use the natural elements as their weapons, so action junkies will get their fill.
With many pros there are also a few cons. Even though the series was made near the turn of a new millennium, but it still looks like it came from the late 80s or early 90s. The show has a lot of political intrigue so prepare yourself for half hours of war and economic strategies (feels like I'm watching the news). The series is also 26 episodes long so you won't get your fill, and trust me there is no continued storyline either.
All in all its worth watching. There are complete DVD box sets of the whole series at Best Buy or FYE for like $29.99. And for those who have ever played Shonen Jump Super Stars on their DS and never learned the name of that bunny eared character you've just learned now.
Okay, before I get into the nitty gritty, I’ll make it clear that I won’t be wasting time by recounting the series, so if you were hoping to get a better squint into the plot- sorry but there’s no juice. None.
Based on Ryu Fugisaki’s epic manga series Houshin Engi, Soul Hunter had all the potential to be a master piece in itself. But the constraints of condensing over 200 chapters of vivid narration into 26 episodes of animation not only forced the title off to an entirely different plot tangent but also off the leader boards of great anime.
The story is your typical
shounen in which the protagonist is made to face a myriad of powerful oppositions and does so with the aid of a growing group of allies each with distinct and varying abilities. With that said, Soul Hunter doesn’t differ all that much from the conventional, but (also as a side note for those you’ve read the manga) Soul Hunter initiates rather faithfully to the base plot of the manga, though given the constraints of only 26 episodes, it’s no surprise that the series much conclude on an alternate route. However, this is where the anime really falls short, because in its attempt to replicate the manga, the anime instigates a range of big ideas and concepts about humanity, history, immortality and the prospect of a greater omniscient power- which the ending never got around to address nor justify.
In short the anime grind on slowly with minor development per episode, while the ending was to a large extent very ironically rushed.
ART & SOUND:
Soul Hunter is not a new anime and with that I hope to have justified my stance on its lacklustre animation and odd assertions of elevator style background music. There are numerous occasions where the animation was limited to the panning of a still image and though limited screen frames are really no fault of the anime itself, it’s common occurrence was (at least to me) a serious impairment to the overall quality of the show. Sound in general was mediocre throughout the series, with low emphasis on both diegetic and non diegetic sounds, the anime suffered greatly in its attempts to capture and create ambiance.
For a 26 episode series, to incorporate the full cast of its manga predecessor would be highly unlikely, though the anime did make an effort. But that’s just the problem, the show attempts to give air time to a range of major characters (or rather, the key ‘fighters’ of the series) and neglects the fact that in showing them all, none of those characters under go any major development, there was no learning curve for the characters and everyone just conveniently reaches an epitome in the time of need. Indeed, this may be a reflection of episode constraints, but realistically speaking, you can take this as a warning to just postpone watching this show.
Having read the manga, I acknowledge that I may be biased in saying that the anime really didn’t amount to much for me. The fight scenes are mediocre, the emotional scenes aren’t sad, the humour is forced and the while it’s possible to get a laugh or two out of the series, that’s really all there is.
For those who’ve read and enjoyed the original manga, you WILL be disappointed, especially since none of Fugisaki sensei’s genius will be evident here and none of depth, emotion and characterisation that made the manga great can be found here either.
For those who haven’t read the manga, then yes, you’ve guessed it- this is not the place to start getting into the series. Period.
An anime that is truly a gem, very old but indeed memorable. The characters feel so natural and fresh, the history is simple and direct with no fillers and the pasting is nice. Without a doubt if you are looking for a good shounen anime this is your catch, few episodes but it's all it need and specially I recomended to everybody that thinks they've seen every good old anime, at least I asure you will enjoy it most of the time.