The idea of a hunter who teams up with the very monsters they are sworn to destroy, or becomes one themselves, is by now a classic literature trope. A trope which has often found its way into anime. This week’s review of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a recent example, though regrettably I was left underwhelmed by its story. For a better example, look no further than 1995’s Bio Hunter.
Based on a one-off manga by Gallery Fake author Fujihiko Hosino, Bio Hunter follows two university professors who are experts on microbiology. Koshigaya is a brilliant scientist who is investigating a bizarre strain that transforms the bodies of its victims into monstrous forms, and which awakens in them a lust for human flesh. His co-worker Komada is one such victim, but through an intense diet and sheer willpower, Komada has been able to restrain his hunger. Together they investigate cases involving bizarre murders and attempt to cure the afflicted before they claim too many lives. Failing that, they will use any means necessary to neutralize those who have truly turned into monsters.
Right off the bat, Bio Hunter scores points for its amazing visuals. It’s an old school Madhouse production under the guidance of director Yuuzou Satou; a man who is not often seen in the director’s chair, but who has done key animation on similar dark urban fantasy anime like the Devilman OVA, X/1999, and Gungrave. He was also key animator on Madhouse’s Ninja Scroll, which often had a similar atmosphere to this OVA.
Bio Hunter isn’t as intense as Ninja Scroll by a long shot, but it has some great visuals nonetheless. I was impressed by the expressive characters and the level of detail put into the backgrounds, for example. However, most impressive of all is how they managed to keep the OVA aesthetically pleasing, in spite of the grim setting. Bio Hunter shoots for a realistic artstyle and often has a muted color palette to accompany it. Similar anime often end up looking drab, but the variety and attention to detail help Bio Hunter avoid a similar fate. Impressive stuff.
When action scenes do occur, they are as visceral as you’d expect from a dark 90s OVA. Gore & nudity are of course to be expected, though I commend the creators for practicing restraint here. Bio Hunter doesn’t feel the need to flex its gore potential or cram in bare titties wherever they may fit. Its action scenes are just exciting and sometimes involve gore, but not just for cheap shock value. Exceeeeeeeeeeeeeept…
The first few minutes of this OVA are pretty crass. It starts out on a prolonged sex scene that eventually culminates into a burst of gore straight out of Go Nagai’s repertoire. The story also takes a few moments to kick into gear, which sadly includes a tediously-unnatural infodump. It was fun to see Bio Hunter then go on to subvert my expectations, but it reeks of being a desperate attempt to hook people in with sex & violence, for what is otherwise a much more plot and character-driven OVA compared to the usual, edgy drudge.
If you’re interested in the golden age of OVAs, then Bio Hunter comes highly recommended. It’s visually impressive and tells a good story through its 1-hour runtime. It has the violence and sex, but not in a way that is too off-putting, and it’s a good take on various themes and tropes that were popular in the scene at the time. Best of all, it doesn’t have any shit CGI, screeching comedy, or a main character that gets shoved into a box and forgotten about for most of the plot.