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Anime / Knight Hunters

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Florists by day, assassins by night!

Knight Hunters: Weiß Kreuz is the brainchild of veteran voice actor Takehito Koyasu (Angel Sanctuary, Fushigi Yuugi, Tokyo Babylon, etc.), which was originally conceived as a star vehicle to allow himself and several other high-profile voice actors to show off their acting and singing talents. He sent his idea to a group of producers, who at first were wary of signing on for an obvious vanity project unless there was something of "substance" to get audiences to watch. Thus, they hired some writers to use Koyasu's ideas to create a series with Multiple Demographic Appeal, which included hiring a character designer to create some rather sexually dubious promotional illustrations (in other words, action and intrigue for the boys, and plenty of Bishōnen eye candy for the girls).

The series itself is about a quartet of incredibly handsome professional assassins with very dark and angsty pasts, who fronted themselves as the clerks of a flower store. They were involved in an Ancient Conspiracy between the corrupt factions of a very rich family, and had to fight against a group of psychic-powered assassins even more unhinged than them.

To the surprise of just about everyone but Koyasu, Weiß Kreuz was a success. Everybody won: he was able to demonstrate his dramatic capacity and win some credibility, the female public across the world drooled, and the executives made an obscene amount of money.

Weiß Kreuz is a multimedia franchise, ranging from radio drama (as it was initially conceived by a bunch of seiyuu), to anime series, OVAs, light novels and manga. The seiyuu themselves formed a music band under the same name and released several singles, albums and concert tours. These releases may also be in anachronic order due to a couple of prequels, and certain releases centered around some characters' pasts (such as the Schwarz drama CDs).

A rough chronological (not release) order of the series, radio dramas, manga, etc. are as follows:

  • Wish a Dream II: A Four-Leaf Clover: Four audio dramas about Weiß before they were Weiß.
  • Wish a Dream III: The Orchid Under The Sun: Audio drama. Kritiker sends Aya to their Tsushima base, where he meets Knight's sister.
  • Crashers: Knight and Ran I & II: Two audio dramas detailing Aya's membership in Kritiker's Crashers unit. This was before Ran assumes the name of Aya.
  • Wish a Dream IV: First Mission: Exactly What It Says on the Tin, an audio drama about Weiß's first mission together.
  • Weiß: Forever White: a light novel, illustrated by Kyoko Tsuchiya.
  • Weiß - An Assassin and White Shaman: A two volume manga illustrated by Kyoko Tsuchiya, detailing Aya's Start of Darkness and recruitment into Weiß. Has been quite thoroughly retconned by the anime and CDs, but still very popular among fans.
  • Eternal Angel I & II: Drama CDs which establish the Weiß Kreuz series' love affair with butchering young girls.
  • Theater of Pain: An audio drama released around the time of Glühen, Weiß chase a target to Italy and team up with another assassin group called Fortuna. Includes a cameo from Knight and name-drops Kryptonbrand.
  • Holy Children: Audio drama in which Weiß is assigned to kill the nun that raised Ken and Nagi. Explains how Nagi became one of Schwarz.
  • Wish a Dream I: Flower of Spring: A Formula-Breaking Episode audio drama, in that it's pure comedy over angst.
  • Kaleidoscope Memory: Audio drama. Momoe-san leaves for a retirement home, Omi is hearbroken.
  • Weiß Kreuz: The original 25-episode anime series co-produced by Studio DEEN and Magic Bus and distributed internationally by TMS Entertainment. The most famous part of the franchise. Popularly referred to by fans as Kapitel since the release of Glühen. Weiß fights against Reiji Takatori, Eszett and Schwarz; Schwarz probably wins.
  • Schwarz I & II: Audio dramas focusing on Schwarz. Pure, unadulterated Fanon Dis Continuity to Schwarz fans.
  • Endless Rain: Audio drama divided between Weiß's mission in Sendai and flashbacks to Aya's early days with Kritiker's Aoba Center team.
  • Weiß Kreuz - Verbrechen and Strafe: a two-part OVA animated this time by Triangle Staff, taking place during the mobile flower shop period, showing first signs of Ken's madness. The main plot concerns the American army hunting down and killing high school girls, then turning Weiß against each other. Has never been released anywhere outside of Japan, likely due to the Japanese owners were a little iffy about releasing a product in America where the antagonists are all American military.
  • Ranjatai: An illustrated short story which takes place while Weiß are travelling and operating out of their trailer/mobile flower shop, in which Aya encounters a woman connected to one of his earliest missions.
  • Dramatic Precious: 4 drama CDs detailing the eventual destruction of Weiß (Aya and co. are actually the 3rd incarnation of the unit) as they come up against the 2nd generation Weiß (gone rogue from Kritiker). Yohji and Ken go through Break the Cutie events, Omi is recruited as the next Persia and head of the Takatori zaibatsu and Aya finds resolution by fighting his mentor. Directly responsible for the huge difference of characterization of the main cast in Glühen.
  • Fight Fire With Fire: 2 years after Dramatic Precious, this audio drama leads into Glühen, picking up on where the main cast has ended up since the previous drama and depicting their recruitment into the 4th generation of Weiß headed by the new Persia. Aya is an assassin in the U.S., Ken is trying to get someone to play Persia so he can kill people without (as much) guilt, Kyo is introduced, Omi has taken up his birth name, and Youji is living off various women.
  • Glühen Dramatic Soundtrack II Jazz Me Blues: takes place before Aya enters the Koua Academy. Aya, Knight, Rex and Queen meet at a bar.
  • Weiß Kreuz Glühen: the 2nd anime series co-produced by ufotable and Animate Film with international distribution once again handled by TMS Entertainment. Introduces Sena.
  • Weiß Side B: the final, discontinued manga series where Koyasu teams up with a new mangaka. Aya and Ken join British assassin group Kryptonbrand with several new characters, while Omi and Youji are Demoted to Extra following the conclusion of their character arcs in Glühen.
The Glühen redesigns.

Unfortunately, after the original TV series ended (and accompanying artbooks and OVAs were released), Kyoko Tsuchiya quit the project and denied the producers the right to continue using her designs. As the story was still unfinished and there was more money yet to be made, they were forced to continue with a new artist, who had to radically alter the character designs to avoid a lawsuit. The Oddly Named Sequel, Weiß Kreuz: Glühen, didn't do as well financially, and the new designs turned away many fans.

After Glühen, the series continued with a new manga and artist. Weiß Side B lasted about thirty chapters before being Cut Short. It remains to be seen if Takehito Koyasu's project Velvet Under World, which features a lead character named AYA and several apparent other nods to Weiß Kreuz continuity, will be set in the same universe or if it will even make it off the ground.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Weiß Side B, the final manga produced for the franchise, was discontinued before completing the story. Whatever the deal with Human Interleukin is remains a mystery.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The main characters' designs vary, between the Kyoko Tsuchiya manga, Kapitel anime, Glühen anime, and Shoko Oomine manga.
    • You don't even have to go that far. Due to Off-Model and Animation Bump, Kapitel has the characters changing appearances, from the style they're drawn to their eye colors. Ken has his eyes colored brown, blue and green in many different shades.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Throughout the entire series, there are exactly two romances that turn out anything resembling well. (That would be Yoji and Asuka Ito at the end of Glühen, and Farfarello and Sally in the Schwarz drama CD, if you were wondering.) Even one-episode background couples are not safe.
  • All There in the Manual: Of all the content created for the franchise, only the two anime series have been exported. While much of the rest of the material is more or less extraneous, a considerable amount of plot and character development takes place in the OAV and the Dramatic Precious CD dramas. Fans who attempt to start watching Glühen directly after the original anime series without any knowledge of the events of Verbrechen / Strafe and Dramatic Precious are likely to find themselves confused by the changes which have occurred between the two.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Kritiker's members all have code names that are breeds of cat.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Essett is cult-like conspiracy that is headed by three elders with psychic powers. Their goal is to summon a demon to achieve immortality and world domination.
  • Animation Bump: The animation in Kapitel is mostly low-budget and low-consistency, but there are some standout moments. Ouka's death scene is well done, and episode five, the Yuriko episode, features key animation by Haruo Sotozaki back when he was just getting started in the industry.
  • Badass Normal: Weiß frequently go up against enemies with superhuman abilities in spite of having none of their own.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The title is (bad) German for "White Cross".
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Verbrechen and Strafe don't have a particularly higher body count than Kapitel, but the violence is animated with a lot more blood, especially as compared to the original anime's relatively Bloodless Carnage. Glühen settles into a more reasonable medium between the two.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Subverted: Omi Tsukiyono and Ouka Sakaki turn out to be cousins, not half-siblings.
  • Brown Note: The music released by Wunder X is designed to induce insanity and also causes physical pain in its listeners. Why people purchase the Wunder X CD and attend Wunder X concerts is unclear, given the circumstances.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The main characters are a vigilante team that happens to be made up of pretty boys. It's evident that the TV series is angling for Multiple Demographic Appeal, but its approach to this makes it difficult to discern who the primary demographic was meant to be.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: To simply ridiculous degrees.
  • Continuity Nod: Surprisingly often in Side B. One of the first things Aya says to Ken after their reunion is a reference to Fight Fire With Fire, asking him about his 'lingering affections.'
  • Contract on the Hitman: In the OVA, Ken and Omi refuse to kill a sympathetic target, so their teammates are ordered to kill them. In Glühen, Weiß goes against orders and Saijou Takatori orders the Crashers team to eliminate them.
  • Deadly Game: The Human Chess game in Kapitel episode 2 isn't very chess-like, but has plenty of fights to the death.
  • Deus Angst Machina: The franchise overall is a continual escalation of From Bad to Worse (see below).
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Intimacy is strongly implied when Ken and Yuriko shack up in a cabin. Yuriko seems to want something to happen, but it's unclear if anything did happen.
  • Dirty Business: The general opinion that the members of Weiß have about their profession. They all consider themselves unforgivable sinners, but do what they do in order to protect innocents.
  • Downer Ending: The final scene of Glühen shows Aya bleeding to death on a street somewhere. Side B mitigates the effect by showing how he survives thanks to the intervention of Orphan, but since the manga hasn't been imported many viewers probably aren't even aware of it, and even if you are it's still a pretty depressing note to end an anime on.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Virtually all the major characters are weighted down with various forms of personal trauma. It often causes members of Weiß to behave in ways that seem inappropriate for a team of professional killers.
  • Evil Counterpart: Weiß has Schwarz, the two forming the classic Color Motif of white against black symbolizing good versus evil, and Schreient, who not only function as an evil counterpart but also a Distaff Counterpart, as they're an all-women team.
  • Fanservice: While promotional art tends to make the members of Weiß look very chummy, Kapitel favors Panty Shots and incidental nudity from its high school girl victims.
  • Flower Motifs: The franchise dabbles with flower motifs and hanakotoba; the four Hitman with a Heart protagonists work as florists as a cover job and are each associated with a particular flower, and they also use hanakotoba as a code language, allowing for a Out-of-Character Alert plot twist in the Verbrechen ~ Strafe OVA. Additionally, Aya's real name, Ran, means "orchid" and is pronounced the same as the word meaning "war," an association played upon in both the "Ranjatai" short story and the Dramatic Precious Radio Drama.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Brad Crawford is cruel, calculating, and wears glasses. He would likely be a kichiku megane if Weiß Kreuz ever made good on its fangirl baiting.
  • Four Is Death: Weiß is a team of four. So are Schwarz, Schreient, Kritiker's Aoba team, previous incarnations of Weiß... Also notable is what happens whenever Weiß is suddenly not a four man team: when Omi leaves and Kyou and Sena both join, it doesn't take long for Kyou to get stabbed through the chest—and then when Omi rejoins, Sena is almost immediately shot.
    • Furthermore, all of the spoiler text above refers to the fates of the fourth iteration of the Weiß team, which is also the iteration that ended up with Kyou dead, Sena dead, Yoji completely amnesiac, Ken in jail, Omi abandoning his identity to become Mamoru Takatori for good, and Aya bleeding out on a New York City sidewalk.
    • On the other hand, Ran's inclusion makes Crashers effectively a Five-Man Band, and Kryptonbrand is a six-man team. Both are notably less dysfunctional.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Schreient, Masafumi's assassin team, is comprised of four young women who adore him. They strongly mirror Weiß in terms of character roles and personalities - Hel is the smart, serious leader; Schön is the pretty one; Neu, the tough one; and Tot is the childish one.
  • From Bad to Worse: Verbrechen ~ Strafe, Dramatic Precious, and Glühen are long, inexorable progressions of From Bad to Worse.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Aya using his sister's name is an example - Koyasu Takehito is on record saying that he likes giving male characters feminine names.
  • Gratuitous German: Plenty of it, beginning with the original title of the show, Weiß Kreuz. Note that it's actually grammatically incorrect. It should be "Weißes Kreuz" in correct German.
    • It was almost Gratuitous English, with the title potentially being ..."Cat People". Really.
    • It is also possible, that they misspelled "Weißkreuz", a German World War I chemical warfare agent.
    • Gratuitous English: Side B. And then Kurumi tells Aya his English is good...
  • Healthcare Motivation:
    • One of the reasons Aya became an assassin was to pay for his little sister's medical expenses, also the main reason he joined Kritiker.
    • An ill little sister with medical bills is also what drives Jun to join the Human Chess game in episode 2.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Ken pulls this in Side B, and then leaves Aya to do the explaining.
  • High Turnover Rate: Kritiker personnel have a high mortality rate; the series goes through three Persias and four handlers, and the main characters make up the third and fourth incarnations of the team. At the end of Glühen, Rex discusses assembling a fifth incarnation of Weiß.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: These are included among the bonus features on the English DVD releases, and there are some real gems:
  • Hitman with a Heart: All four members of Weiß have big enough hearts to suffer psychological harm from the work they do.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Kapitel uses German words, while Glühen went with Weiß song titles. The four Dramatic Precious stages are Sleepless Night, Tearless Dolls, Hopeless Zone, and Dreamless Life.
  • Image Song: "Weiß" is also the name of the singing group formed by the four leads.
  • Important Haircut: Prior to setting out for the climactic battle in Glühen, Aya uses his own katana to cut off the waist-length braid he'd grown between series.
  • In Medias Res: Weiß Side B starts with Kryptonbrand carrying out a mission and meeting Kurumi, before backing up and showing how Ken and Aya wound up in England in the first place.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Yuriko, Sakura, and Aya-chan get this treatment, via the main characters simply disappearing and never seeing them again — for good reason, since the ones who don't get this treatment such as Ouka, Maki and in Glühen, Asami always end up dead.
  • Karma Houdini: Again, Schwarz; they are morally black compared to Weiß's gray but Weiß suffers more negative consequnces that they do.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Aya's response to running unexpectedly into Reiji Takatori: attempt to jump on him, run after him screaming his name, then throw his sword at the helicopter he's leaving in. After takeoff.
  • Licking the Blade: Farfarello does this a lot.
    • A baddy from the first episode also does this with an axe. In the English dub's outtakes, the character's voice actor made him say "I need to shave my tongue," as he did so.
  • Lost in Translation
    • Most notably the title, which went from "White Cross" (the lit. translation) to "Knight Hunters". Because apparently it was too difficult for TMS to go straight from German to English- they had to bypass 8 other languages on the way.
    • It helped that even the earlier Tagalog dub (around 1999, way before the English dub) of Weiß Kreuz was already translated as "Knight Hunters", due to it being TMS's international title as noted below.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Omi manages to have not just one, but two, surprise paternity reveals.
  • Mad Artist: Kawagi, the hearing-impaired composer of music that induces pain and/or insanity, insists his work is not an experiment, but art.
  • Mad Scientist: There are several, but the one with the most screen time is Masafumi Takatori, an Evilutionary Biologist who formed the Schreient team as his own personal version of Schwarz, and who busies himself in Kapitel with splicing the genes of various fearsome animals into unfortunate kidnapping victims with the goal of immortality/godhood. He ends up using his drugs himself to transform into a Hybrid Monster when Weiß closes in on him, and proves not so immortal or godlike after all.
  • Market-Based Title: Well most people in the North America can't speak German, so Media Blasters brought it over to the US, under the name Knight Hunters (which is TMS Entertainment's international title for the series), and luckily they used the series original name as a subtitle. This is averted in the rest of the world with the other exception being the Philippines which also used the "Knight Hunters" name.
    • In France, Weiß Kreuz Glühen was translated to Weiß Kreuz Brilliance.
  • May Contain Evil: Employed a couple of times by Eszett, particularly the "health drink" Freude.
  • Naked on Arrival: Sakura Tomoe was introduced waking up covered only in Modesty Bedsheet in a middle of an ice rink after an organ trafficking ring kidnaps her, undressed her and removed her kidney.
  • Necessarily Evil: The premise of the story is that Weiß commit the immoral act of murder in the name of the greater good.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: The first episode focuses heavily on the girlfriend of one of the victims-of-the-week, following her perspective rather than following Weiß the way that the rest of the episodes do. Though established throughout the episode as an Audience Surrogate / Naïve Newcomer type of character, the girl never appears again in the series.
  • Oddly Named Sequel: Weiß Kreuz: Glühen ("glühen" is actually the German word for "glowing," and "weißglühend" means, more or less, "white-hot").
  • Parental Issues: Omi starts Kapitel as an amnesiac, completely unaware of his background. It turns out he is Mamoru Takatori, the lost Takatori brother who was abandoned by patriach Reiji Takatori after being taken hostage. There is a good likelihood Reiji left Mamoru/Omi to his fate out of doubt regarding his parentage. This is justifiable - Omi's real dad is Reiji's brother, Shuichi - a.k.a. Persia. So Omi is stuck between a nominal father who doesn't care if he lives or dies, and a biological father who shows him some kindness, but sends him to kill his own relatives unawares.
  • The Psycho Rangers: Weiß have three separate sets of evil counterpart assassin teams to contend with - Schreient, Schwarz, and La Mort.
  • Retcon: Aya becoming Aya. In An Assassin and White Shaman, Youji gives him the name because he refuses to identify himself and he keeps repeating it in his sleep; in Kapitel, he vows to take it up in memory of his sister at her bedside, and in the First Mission audio drama, he makes the decision as he goes to meet the rest of Weiß.
  • Secret Test of Character: Knight and Pawn of Crashers each put Aya through one in Crashers: Knight and Ran. Bishop also gives him a Secret Test, but in his case it's purely a test of skill.
  • Start of Darkness: Although they're not villains, each member of Weiß effectively has one, as each has at least one episode flashing back to the event which destroyed their lives and left them ripe for recruitment by Kritiker. Aya's in particular is revisited in three different media (and portrayed differently each time).
  • Surprise Incest: Omi and Ouka Sakaki begin a relationship and then discover that they are half-siblings. Ouka gets killed almost immediately, and then the series reveals that they weren't actually siblings but cousins, for good measure. But the trope is played straight up to that point.
  • Team Power Walk: Weiß do one in episode 10 of Glühen as they embark on the final stage of their last mission.
  • Wax Museum Morgue: In the "Tearless Dolls" drama, Omi encounters very realistic wax models of fallen members of the Takatori clan, including former Weiß targets Hirofumi and Masafumi - and even Omi's ill-fated love interest, Ouka. While Hirofumi and Masafumi are stated to be normal wax models, the Ouka model is made from her actual remains by a mad artisan who has been draining the blood from kidnapped girls and injecting their bodies with wax. Mercifully, Ouka was dead beforehand.
  • Winged Humanoid: Imagery of winged human figures appears in the OP of Glühen.

Alternative Title(s): Weiss Kreuz