#1 A western-style road trip
The show is set in the modern-day, but takes place in an undefined location that I assume to be Mexico or at least elsewhere south of the USA. The story is about two girls, a bounty huntress called Nadie and a quiet girl with psychic powers called Ellis.
Ellis is currently the target of a massive bounty, so an army of ruthless thugs, mercenaries, and other unsavory folk are on the hunt for her. Nadie has a special job, however. While she claims to also be hunting the bounty, she actually takes Ellis along with her and begins protecting her. Ellis wants to reach an undefined place “to the south”, so the two steal jeep and begin traveling in that direction.
with each episode the two arrive at a new locale and meet new people, usually leading to them causing some kind of trouble. A convent of nuns has their peace disturbed when they come under siege for housing the two girls, for example. It’s a story with a lot of variety in it, as some episodes are more about action, some have more levity to them, and again others are very emotional, such as an encounter with a former romantic interest.
#2 Old school Bee Train
El Cazador was made by studio Bee Train in 2007 as part of its trifecta of “girls with guns” anime, with its related shows being Noir and Madlax. Directed by the studio’s backbone Koichi Mashimo and with support from other great staff like key animator Mutsume Sasaki (Canaan, Code Geass), it’s hardly a surprise that El Cazador turned out looking pretty damn good.
Being a gunslinging road trip across Middle and South America, the style and feel are also vastly different compared to its sister shows, while also benefiting from the experience gathered from making them. Bee Train was a fantastic studio back in the day and their anime originals were always creative shows worth watching for the sheer originality alone. This certainly applies to El Cazador as well.
#3 A Yuki Kajiura soundtrack
As with many other shows by Bee Train, the soundtrack is provided by Yuki Kajiura, who we still know nowadays as the composer behind Sword Art Online, Madoka Magica, and many other shows lauded for their soundtracks.
The OST is rife with music that feels distinctly like her usual work, in a good way. Emotional and beautiful moments are reinforced with tracks that sound like they could have been background music for Madoka, but we also get a lot of tunes that feel more fitting for the Mexican setting of the show and don’t match Kajiura’s trademark sound at all. A pleasant surprise and a good fit for the show’s lovely visuals.
#4 A more adventurous tone than the manga
I originally read the manga by chance and reviewed it as part of one of my Quick Manga Reviews pieces. While its story overlaps with some of the episodes of the anime, it is very short and has a completely different tone to it. The manga is very violent, fan-servicey, and cruel, whereas the anime feels more like an adventure story.
I could appreciate the manga in its own way, but enjoyed the anime’s PG-13 take on it a lot more. There’s no full nudity, little fan-service, and shoot-outs tend to be largely bloodless affairs, more concerned with looking cool and being nicely paced instead of just goring some dudes. I was especially fond of the cheesier elements, like the recurring characters or the fact that both Nadie and Ricardo insist on always saying their badass one-liners, even when the situation is completely unsuited for them.
El Cazador the anime just feels confident in its appeal, it knows that it has a fun story and entertaining scenes, so it doesn’t have to keep you invested with titties and blood.
#5 A different culture
One of my pet peeves with a lot of anime is that it’s always afraid to explore different lands. A lot of shows just stick around in glorious Nippon or play it very safe when going abroad. “Write what you know” is useful advice, but it also limits the medium when every writer is Japanese and has the same general background. This show is an example of writers stepping out of their comfort zones and managing to create something very special.
El Cazador deals with a lot of stereotypes, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, almost every episode brings up tacos in some way, but it also puts genuine effort into presenting the interesting culture of the places the characters find themselves in. You really get to immerse yourself in the setting and they draw nice contrasts by often cutting to the American characters living it up in villas or toiling away in busy offices.
Besides stuff like food and architecture, the show also scores points for Nadie being Hispanic herself. Her design is absolutely fantastic and is made even more impressive by how many different outfits she wears and how frequently her hairstyle is changed up. Dialogue is also frequently spoken in Spanish, though not as often as I would have liked if I am being honest.