Sorcerer on the Rocks
(adapted from Wikipedia)
Long ago, in a time of magic and mystery, there lived a group of courageous individuals known as the Sorcerer Hunters. Pure of heart and dedicated to justice, their job was to rid the kingdom of the powerful sorcerers and demonic monsters that oppressed the people and terrorized the land.
This isn't their story. This is the story of ruthless sorcerer named Chiv... WHOOPS! Shibas Scotch, a bounty hunter whose job it is to rid the land of the powerful sorcerers and baneful monsters that oppress and terrorize the people... for a price.
Shibas is hired by a count named Cuttlefish to destroy an evil monster attacking a nearby village. But things go awry when Shibas fails to destroy the monster and he's forced to transfer his spirit in the body of his beautiful servant Gin Fizz.
Part of the fun of Sorcerer Hunters was that, while the characters were off-the-wall and deranged, they were still very likable, so it was quite enjoyable to follow them along on their various and sundry misadventures. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Sorcerer on the Rocks because the lead character is a gigantic douchebag.
Now, you can make a fantasy anime with a snarky anti-hero lead and make it work. The easy answer here is, of course, Bastard!! - a fine case of truth in advertising in which the lead is so gloriously amoral you can't help but laugh. One could argue that the entire idea behind the creation of this OVA may have been to recreate Bastard!! by replacing heavy metal with alcohol. If only it were that easy to make even partially successful anime!
The problem lies with the fact that Chiv- err, Shibas is an unrepentant jerk and is given no reason to act any other way. The eponymous Bastard!! himself, Dark Schneider, occasionally pays attention to his morality pets and actually seems to care for them: you never get an iota of that from Shibas. Ever. You could even argue that all his abuse of Gin Fizz (the one good character in the bunch) and the rest of his "property" is even rewarded by the end, which is a psychological implication I find utterly repulsive. Gin Fizz, as a "Sister of the Golden Cross" (gotta love those incongruous anime nuns) is apparently around to "redeem Shibas's soul" but it's soon evident that there's no hope of it actually happening, and I'm pretty sure that Stockholm Syndrome has set in even before this series comes to its inevitable and merciful close. With only two episodes and a clear-cut ending, there is no room for character development, and apart from Shibas and Gin there's really no one even worth talking about as the rest of the cast including the villains are somewhat less interesting than empty soda cans and probably less recyclable. I still haven't figured out why anyone follows Shibas, other than perhaps out of a sense of fear (better to make him your boss than your enemy I guess?).
The storyline is pretty stock - Shibas and Co. go through some sometimes-comedic, sometimes-serious trials and ultimately persevere - much to my dismay as by the end of this I was kind of hoping Shibas would die. Or at least run into the Sorcerer Hunters and get taught a lesson at the end of Tira Misu's whip. Either would be preferable to the anticlimactic ending we get here - it's almost unnecessary to say that Shibas is so overpowered as to render any potential threat entirely ineffectual, thereby robbing the series of any tension or excitement it may have had. There are a couple of funny jokes here and there - Shibas has some creative moneymaking ideas, and the throwaway gag with the monster-of-the-day showing up as street food the next day was actually great. The art and animation are certainly on par with any other turn-of-the-century fantasy feature, but there's no escaping that watching Shibas humiliate Gin for the gazillionth time gets really old, really fast. At least it's self-contained and we don't have to worry about a "to be continued" (not that I'd particularly want any more of this).
Ogden Nash once said, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker"; however, the creators should've stuck with the sweets, because the only way to watch Sorcerer on the Rocks and enjoy it requires a lot of the very booze they're referencing. If I were a lawyer at Pernod Ricard / Chivas Brothers, I think I'd sue anyway just on sheer principle: Sorcerer on the Rocks is a total party foul.
A relentlessly unlikable lead and weak supporting characters leave Sorcerer on the Rocks ... on the rocks. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: There's a gratuitous amount of fan service here, especially in the extras, which is on par with the rest of the Sorcerer Hunters franchise: one particularly egregious scene involves Shibas pimping out his adventuring party for spare cash as table dancers. A fair amount of violence, including dismemberment of a monster. Older teens and up.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD from ADV Films
Review Status: Full (2/2)
Sorcerer on the Rocks © 1999 Satoru Akahori / Yuuki Mirai / MediaWorks
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