Devil Hunter Yohko
Mike Toole rates it:
Like a lot of older stuff that’s just now getting to DVD, I kinda view Devil Hunter Yohko through rose-colored glasses– it was one of the first commercially-released anime shows I ever saw, back in the former half of the 1990s. ADV Films (then A.D. Vision) wisely snapped it up and pushed it as their very first release, and it was appropriately popular, because there really was nothing else like it on the market at the time. I have to say that, after nearly ten years (Yohko was released ten years ago– I saw it eight years ago), it was really interesting to revisit Yohko.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts, however, I’ll touch on what Devil Hunter Yohko is all about. It’s about Yohko Mano, a perfectly normal teenaged girl. Only, like all other perfectly normal teenaged girls in anime, Yohko has some odd things going on in her life. First of all, given that she’s sixteen, Yohko is starting to think about sex (okay, maybe that’s not so odd)– something that her mom cheerfully approves of, going so far as to pretty much tell Yohko to remember to lose her virginity Real Soon! But for some reason, Yohko’s grandma is opposed– violently opposed– to the idea of Yohko getting deflowered.
Yokho isn’t ruffled by any of this, however, and goes off to school with her buddy Chi and their geeky friend Osamu, who gets a nosebleed upon catching a glimpse of Yohko’s panty-clad behind. Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in awhile. It’s one of those old anime stereotypes that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years, or maybe I just don’t watch the shows that employ it. Anyway, Yohko soon realizes something is amiss, because after school Osamu tries to seduce her. She’s charmed by his sudden manliness (apparently, in Devil Hunter Yohko, nerd + car + sunglasses = MAN), to the point that she agrees to go off with him to a love hotel. You know what those are for, right?
Before Osamu can get all horizontal with Yohko (but not before the audience is treated to an amusingly lewd bed sequence), the imperiled virgin is rescued– by none other than good ol’ grandma, who happens to drive a badass motorcycle. (I kept waiting for grandma to blurt out, “I’m gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza!” I waited in vain.) Before she knows it, Yohko is spirited back home, where the score is explained to her in due course: Yohko is the 108th descendent of a line of devil hunters, spiritual warriors who fight the forces of darkness. Retaining her virginity is crucial, because without it, her powers wouldn’t awaken. (Apparently, Yohko’s mom was a little too adventurous, and missed out on the whole devil hunting thing.) To make matters more amusing, Yohko’s grandma has an awesome, top secret Devil Huntin’ headquarters, which works just like the one that Peter Parker had in his apartment in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
That’s the framework for Devil Hunter Yohko, and the show is executed mostly as a cute action-comedy, with a heaping helping of fanservice on the side. What’s enjoyable about the show is that Yohko generally gets to her Devil Hunting duties with a minimum of angst and indecision– a lot of characters tend to quail upon having even small responsibilities forced on them (see I’m Gonna Be an Angel‘s amusingly selfish Yuusuke), but not Yohko. As the show progresses, she faces greater challenges, and gains allies, notably the diminutive Azusa.
Technically, a few things will stand out about Devil Hunter Yohko. ADV worked hard on the DVD presentation, but the fact is the first episode’s master is old, so there’s some noise and dust here and there. To compound matters, the first episode’s animation is absolutely awful. It’s not quite as rotten as typical low-grade hentai anime, but for an OVA, it’s animated like a particularly budget-starved episode of the hideous Lost Universe. It’s not surprisingly that episode one is so thick with fanservice, because otherwise there’s no way that Yohko would have been a success. Fortunately, it did well enough to spawn episodes two and three, which look about a million times better in every way.
Other than episode one’s low-grade animation, there’s little to complain about. ADV faced an interesting dilemma with episode one– as explained in the DVD’s excellent commentary track, the initial Japanese master of Yohko had some footage excised from it, and when they got the music and effects to create the dub, the audio and video didn’t correspond because of the excised footage. Rather than try to shoehorn the audio to the truncated episode’s length, ADV squeezed the uncut (but lacking Japanese voice audio) episode out of the licensor, and create an uncut, dub-only version of episode one. All of this is detailed in the commentary by ADV’s David Williams, Matt Greenfield, and Janice Williams– I have to say that this commentary is great, especially for longtime fans. The trio discuss ADV’s history as a company, frequently touching on how Yohko was instrumental to their early success, as well as sharing some amusing tales about the early days. Listening to it is definitely a rewarding experience.
In fact, in terms of presentation, Devil Hunter Yohko is very close to perfect. (The only nit I’ll pick is a brief moment in episode two when the subtitles bleed off the screen.) Content-wise, while Yohko is definitely cute and appealing, there’s not a whole lot of intellectual stimulation to be had from a story about a nubile, monster-fightin’ teen clad in cheongsam and high heels. Some titles will provoke the viewer to consider the messages in the story, but Yohko would rather provide the audience with lowbrow humor and Yohko’s eye-popping transformation sequence. Devil Hunter Yohko isn’t great animation, but it’s cute and surprisingly engaging. The substantial DVD package, with three episodes over two discs, makes this a most attractive release.
Added: Friday, October 17, 2003
Related Link: ADV Films