Puzzled about where to take their patented low-propulsion action after the glacial Madlax, the folks at Bee Train struck upon a brilliant solution: an action series that doesn't move at all. And thus El Cazador de la Bruja was born.
Marvel as Nadie and Ellis work part time at a cafe. Thrill as they take care of a little girl at a hotel. Hold your breath as they hang out in a deserted cabin and avoid the rain. One for the adrenaline junkies this is not. To be fair, nearly every episode ends in one form of violence or another, and a few of them-episode 12 with its take on The Gauntlet for instance-are almost what you might call action-packed. Nevertheless, the overwhelming impression the series makes is one of catatonic relaxation. Each episode unfolds with a carefree lack of momentum, drifting through events like Nadie and Ellis through their Latin desert. The overarching plot-a government conspiracy involving genetically engineered witches-is left to languish in the background, along with a great many apparently important secondary characters. And the action itself is brief and strangely devoid of tension, as if the laid-back tone of the series has infected the fighters. Well, they seem to be saying, we may be shooting at each other, but that's no reason why we should get all worked up.
It's a deeply odd approach to an action series, and one not without its charms. There's a laconic humor to the show that keeps it fun even as the lack of direction leaves you fuming. Nadie's wry sense of humor is never far from the surface, and Ellis's idiot-savant sangfroid can turn even the most desperate situation into something dryly funny. I mean, what kind of girl plays maracas while kidnapped? Elsewhere the series makes humorous hay of its own lack of ambition. One character, while attempting to infiltrate the evil megavillain's lab, retreats twice-once when her butt gets caught in the hole she's lowering herself through (was it that last slice of cake? she wonders) and again when she steps on her own glasses. The series even turns Bee Train's customary crawling pans and static compositions to comedic ends, applying them, for instance, to a spaghetti-western stare-down in which both participants are wearing big, dumb skeleton masks. Sure the show is dragging its feet, but it drags them most amusingly.
Bee Train's inflexible style doesn't flex here, but it does apply itself to different ends than usual. The top-flight background art-golden desert vistas and grimy little pueblos this time around-remain firmly in place, as do the staccato bursts of balletic action and interminable pans over eyes and vistas and pueblos. But the effect is entirely different. Rather than dripping menace, the series ends up exuding good-natured laziness. It's a curious phenomenon-an entirely different atmosphere stemming from the exact same atmospheric elements-and one that indicates Bee Train may be more versatile than their oeuvre of plodding, deadly serious action vehicles has thus far indicated. They also demonstrate a surprising facility for facial expression, communicating a vast range of bemusement with Nadie's expressive eyes and lips. Indeed Nadie proves one of the studio's most physically appealing characters in general, a lithe vision in hotpants and cowboy boots whose sarcastic personality bleeds from her every pore.
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