Of course, not all fantasy manga are serious business. Sometimes people try to make light of the genre through comedy. The only question is if they can actually write good comedy or not.
SORCERER HUNTERS (Bakuretsu Hunter), written by Satoru Akahori & drawn by Ray Omishi. First published in 1993, and first published in North America in 2000.
In a far-off world, the everyday Parsoners are ruled by the magic wielding Sorcerers. Unfortunately not all of them do so fairly and justly. Thankfully, there is a system in place for maintaining justice in such a world. When the mysterious being known only as Big Mama detects some evil Sorcerer plot, she sends out her faithful Sorcerer Hunters to stop them. The team is composed of strong, quiet Marron Glace, tiny little Tira Misu whose meek exterior hides a shockingly kinky power, and Carrot Glace, who mostly prefers to chase girls and wealth, but when necessary has the ability to absorb magical damage and use it to transform into various magical beasts. Together, they can stand up to the most powerful of Sorcerers...that is, when they CAN work together.
To truly put this series into proper context, we have to start by talking about Slayers. That series started as a light novel series back in 1989, and it became a huge hit, spawning all sorts of manga and multiple seasons of an equally popular anime. Its unique combination of fantasy adventure plot and character-driven comedy works in a way that few series can pull off. Of course, like any popular franchise, it also spawned a lot of imitators. Amongst those imitators is Sorcerer Hunters.
Sorcerer Hunters isn't driven by a single continuous plot, but instead is a monster-of-the-week style story. The gang are tasked to find a villain, they fight, they defeat said villain, and the whole thing starts over again. Akahori stuck to this story structure very hard, and it only takes a couple of times for it to get boring. It's not helped by the fact that he keeps using the same old gimmick of having some hapless girl put in danger by that chapter's villain. She has either lost some one due to the villain's action or she is being held captive by the villain. Every single time, she is there only for cheap drama and to give Carrot something to perv over.
Carrot's perviness and desperation is a joke Akahori hammers on time and time again, just like every other running gag in the story. It wants you to laugh every time Tira throws off her cape and shades to reveal her dominatrix gear. It even wants you to laugh at the main trio's goofy dessert-themed names. Too bad that it all just reeks of trying too hard. It, like the many other Slayers rip-offs, miss the reason why that series was funny and the others were not. Slayers' comedy was more situational than it was personality-based. That main cast wasn't necessarily goofy by nature; the jokes came more from their reactions to the plot and how those reactions run contrary to fantasy convention. Here the characters aren't really characters, just a single gag personified. The characters never change, and neither does the joke.
So if the comedy part of the story is a failure, what about the fantasy parts? In a word, meh. The concept of a magic ruling class abusing the normals is really basic, but it's a perfectly fine skeleton upon which to build a plot. The problem is that we never really learn more about this world. Who is this Big Mother figure? Is she a goddess or some sort of magical entity? How does magic work in this world? What produces the difference between Sorcerers and Parsoners - is it a hereditary or racial difference, or is it something that can be taught? I'm not exactly expecting this silly comedy to turn into a Tolkien work, but even the most light-hearted fantasy needs some sort of structure or rules to define what is and isn't possible.
Sorcerer Hunters is a failure on every front. The comedy is lame and the fantasy elements are too thinly sketched to support even its own simple premise. I can't imagine this was all that funny when the series was brand new. These days it might as well be a fossil.
The artwork is typical of that seen in 1990s manga. There are plenty of big chins, tiny heads, poofy hair, and those inexplicable little hatchmarks on a character's face which either indicate eyelashes or cheekbones to go around. While most everyone is distinct, I'm a little disappointed that Omishi clearly took a lot of visual cues from Lina Inverse when drawing Tira. You can't tell me that his version of a tiny, ginger, hot-headed heroine wasn't influenced by Lina. She's also the one responsible for most of the fanservice in this volume, as every time she takes off her clothes the panels explode into huge splash panels to better show off all her leather and fishnets, wielding her whip with wild abandon. It's tame by today's standards, but it's still pretty shameless.
Still, it's preferable to the actual action here, because Omishi adds so many speedlines, explosions, and sound effects (clunkily translated and reinserted) that it's all but obscured. It's even hard to literally read, thanks to Tokyopop's bizarre choice of font. Instead of using the Comic Sans-esque font that most of their later works used, they used a strange, brushstroke-like font that reminds me of written Hebrew. It's certainly not done to make things more readable or add any sort of emphasis, and it only just adds to the visual carwreck that is the art of Sorcerer Hunters.
The comedy is flat, the art stinks, and it's a blatant rip-off of a far better series. Yeah, there's a lot of good reasons that Slayers is still fondly remembered while series like Sorcerer Hunters have been all but forgotten.
This series was published by Tokyopop. All 13 volumes were released, and all are currently out of print.
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