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Recap / Love, Death & Robots: "Good Hunting"

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"The old magic may have been gone from the world, but I could make new magic from their machines."
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Before and during the British invasion of China, a spirit hunter's son forms a bond with a shapeshifting huli jing. Based on the short story of the same name by Ken Liu.

Matthew Yang King voices Liang while Elaine Tan voices Yan.


Tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The original story this is based on wasn't terribly long to begin with, but certain elements are trimmed down. These include the explanation as to why magic is dying (British railroads are damaging the chi pathways), a scene where colonialists destroy a Buddha statue (which makes the focus on the Buddha statue when Yan murders the Governor more significant) and why Huli jing answer people who call for them (being foxes they have hypersensitive hearing). A minor plot point of the British being Flat-Earth Atheists is also ommited.
  • Adapted Out: The survey engineer planning railway and the owner of the Peak Tram are both absent. So is governor's son.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
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    • The governor is only mentioned in passing in the original story - it's his son that uses and abuses Yan.
    • Zig-Zagged with Mr. Alexander Findlay Smith. In the story, he's the one giving Liang "praise" for his engineering skills, but then helps him to get proper training, even if only for personal profit. In the short, he's Adapted Out and his line is given to a random Englishman, but it also means Liang has to learn everything himself.
  • Antagonistic Governor: The lecherous man who forcefully turns Yan into a cyborg explicitly holds the title of governor.
  • Attempted Rape: At the end of the short, Yan is about to attack some thugs who are attempting to gang rape a woman.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Yan express her wish to be able to turn into her real form once again and prowl over the roofs of Hong Kong, climbing to the highest tower. She gets her wish fulfilled - after suffering from Unwilling Roboticisation and then Liang redesigning her new body.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Yan's original body is gone but thanks to Liang she can now transform into a fox like before and now hunts any British colonialists who do harm.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Due to the increasing machinery in Hong Kong, Yan slowly loses her ability to transform into a fox.
  • Cybernetic Mythical Beast: Yan loses her ability to transform as The Magic Goes Away, and then is converted into a Steampunk cyborg involuntarily. But in the end Liang modifies her mechanical body so she can transform into a steel fox.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • In the original short story, Yan simply chokes her abuser into unconsciousness and steals his money. Here, she outright kills him with her mechanical arms.
    • A variation happens to Liang's father. He is dead in both versions, but in the short story he hanged himself when being no longer needed due to The Magic Goes Away.
  • Disappeared Dad:
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The scene where Liang repairs and upgrades Yan's body has a lot of sexual connotations in the positions they're put in, such as Yan with her legs open so Liang can repair her backside and Liang putting a new pair of breasts on her, as well as her laying down watching him work. It doesn't help that Liang never puts on a shirt.
  • Evil Colonialist: The British, who are portrayed as deprived, power-hungry and insatiable. Even the less awful of them are still condescending racists.
  • Fan Disservice:
  • Fantastic Foxes: Huli jing, a Chinese fox spirit similar to Kitsune, alleged to feed on the yang of men. In this case they hear the voices of men obsessed by their beauty, which spirit hunters mistake for bewitching them.
  • Fat Bastard: The governor is terribly obese and is the most evil person in the short.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Unlike the short story it's based on (which main theme is Occupiers out of Our Country), the animation is primarily about Yan becoming an android vigilante after all the mistreatment she received throughout her life from various men. Not that it wasn't in the story too, but it's the only theme left from it.
  • Foxy Vixen: Huli jing are fox spirits who can take the form of stunningly beautiful women and are known for preying on men. They can morph from a nine-tailed, fully fox form to a humanoid fox with Barbie Doll Anatomy to lovely female form.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Liang has quite a knack for technology, getting into railroad repair and moving up to automaton design. He's so good that he manages to create an android body that can shapeshift into a fox for Yan.
  • Ghibli Hills: The lush, green Chinese countryside, which is shown just before Liang leaves it for the bustling metropolis of British-controlled Hong Kong.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: After Hong Kong jumps from regular Industrial Revolution-level technology to full on retro-futuristic Steampunk, several Englishmen in the background can be seen wearing the realistically impractical but stylish either way goggles-on-top-hat combo. Hilariously, one gentleman in particular has goggles over the brim of his hat, plus another pair that he is actually wearing over his eyes, while zooming along in a swanky retro-futuristic vehicle.
  • Hate Sink: The Governor is a disgusting man who can only become aroused by machines. He abducts the prostitute Yan to painfully turn her into a cyborg so he can treat her like a toy and regularly physically and sexually abuse her.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The governor is killed by his own creation.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The huli jing are just trying to survive while humans hunt them out of a mistaken impression that they're malicious. Then we jump ahead a decade or so to the period of British occupation and they get so much worse.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Liang's father. In the short story he hangs himself when he is no longer needed or respected.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The son of a human spirit hunter and a huli jing become Platonic Life-Partners.
  • Irony: A Hunter of Monsters and Fantastic Fox end up as best friends and confidants. More - he's protective toward her, even before the British come into the picture. Then they band together against people who made their lives miserable. And all of it lampshaded by Liang.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The jerks harassing Yan back off when Liang brandishes a wrench.
  • Lady of War: Yan's mother's human form is a beautiful woman in an ornate gown who is undeniably graceful when she fights.
  • Luminescent Blush: Liang develops one when he meets Yan — who had just transformed from a fox into a naked girl — for the first time. While debunking his preconceived beliefs about huli jing, Yan scornfully takes this as evidence that he's attracted to her.
  • Made a Slave: Sex Slave, to be precise. Once Yan is turned into a machine, she's almost literally the toy for the Governor. In the short story, she mentions she wasn't even treated like a person by all the surgeons and staff around her, but an animated object instead, being degraded even from her bottom-low standing of a Chinese prostitute.
  • Magic from Technology: Liang builds an automaton that is able to mimic the shapeshifting of a huli jing, allowing Yan to hunt.
  • The Magic Goes Away: As the world modernizes, magic slowly disappears. Eventually, Yan is trapped in human form.
  • Magic Versus Science: The old Chinese world shrouded in myth and magic gradually gives way to the Steam Punk industrialization of the invading British Empire. Eventually the protagonists adopt science themselves to get back at the British who do harm to the locals.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Downplayed. Liang and Yan are shown as either pre-teens or teenagers in the beginning.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Whoever Liang's mother was is left unknown.
    • Yan's mother is killed by Liang's father when she is young.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: The huli jing being hunted by Liang and his father has a pup, Yan. Liang's father expected this, but Liang — who is smitten with the young huli jing — lies to protect her.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The huli jing aren't evil seductress, but are simply bound with people who fall for them, even if they don't want that themselves. Nor do they feed on anyone's chi. In fact, Yan's mother was tending to the poor fellow poisoned by a snake oil "cure" applied on him to get rid of his "possession".
  • Off with His Head!: How Yan's mother is killed, a surprise decapitation from behind.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The British colonists abuse the local population, particularly the women such as Yan. After being abused and experimented on by the governor, Yan asks Liang to help her take revenge. He grants her wish by building her a modified body that can transform into her original form, allowing her to hunt the men preying on local women, fulfilling both her desire to get revenge as well as her innate desire to hunt.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Liang and Yan. While as a teenager he blushes at seeing her naked and she scornfully points out that he's attracted to her while debunking his preconceived beliefs about her species, as adults their relationship has no romantic element. Instead, he cares for her, possibly to atone for his father's actions, and acts as her Only Friend and confidant — being the only one she trusts to help her after she's violated. However, it's implied in the original short story that Liang has fallen for Yan, as his parting words of "Good Hunting" were an echo of how a huli jing can hear a yearning man's call for her.
  • Point of Divergence: The rise of steam-based mechanical technology occurs around the very end of the 19th century and likely into the early 20th. The Peak Tram (which Liang maintained) began operating in 1888.
  • Punch Catch: After finally having enough of it, Yan intercepts another punch to her face mid-air, crushing the hand of the Governor. And he's stupid enough to take it for a foreplay.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Yan and her mother, who are notably beautiful women, both have pale skin and dark hair.
  • Reality Ensues: Yan encounters a big problem when she finds herself stuck as a human because she has no talents or skills to make her employable - her human form is just a disguise after all. Prostitution is literally her only viable means to survive, which has it's own problems...
    • Likewise, Liang and his father ends up jobless once The Magic Goes Away. Since their only skills were in fighting supernatural, they lack any "real" abilities. Liang eventually becomes a maintenance worker. In the short story his father hangs himself due to losing respect and source of income.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: Yan and Liang are Platonic Life-Partners, but aren't actively pursuing any stable contact or relationship, instead just meeting each other by chance once per few years. Despite being very close, they never stay together for long (in the short story they end up living together for over a year, but that's about it).
  • Robosexual: The governor can only become aroused by machines, and turns Yan into a cyborg.
  • Science Fantasy: The setting starts out as fantastical, then gets mundane, then turns into Steampunk and eventually steers toward Magitek, all while the original fantasy creatures are still lingering around.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock:
    • Tossing dog piss on a huli jing traps it in its current form, at least until it can dry off.
    • Without magic, Yan ends up trapped in her human form until Liang builds her a borderline Magitek body that can shift form.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The huli jing take on the form of hauntingly beautiful women, causing human men to obsess over them. Humans assume this makes them evil and hunt them, resulting in the death of Yan's mother at the beginning of the story. After losing her powers, Yan's beauty forces her into a life of prostitution to survive and leads to her Unwilling Roboticisation at the hands of the governor.
  • Something Completely Different: The only episode that isn't futuristic in nature and starts out as outright fantasy.
  • Steampunk: In this case, the sub-genre of Silkpunk — steampunk technology with British-ruled China at the turn of the century.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: As adults, Liang and Yan take after their father and mother in looks, respectively.
  • Superpowered Robot Meter Maid: Giving your sex slave a body that is actually strong enough to rip a human to pieces with her bare hands may not have been the smartest idea the governor ever had. Liang improves on the design, but does so on purpose.
  • Technicolor Eyes: So many blue-eyed Chinese...
  • Time Skip: After the death of Yan's mother, we cut ahead to Liang as a young adult and China just getting into the Industrial age, with a few more short timeskips here and there.
  • Title Drop: "Good hunting, Yan."
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Bewitching men for money"
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: Yan is forcibly converted into a cyborg by the machine-obsessed governor. Liang removing part of her face to reveal machinery implies that there's almost no organic parts of her body left.
    • This is still somehow better situation than what's done to here in the short story. After she's drugged and gets her legs replaced with prosthetics, she's given a "choice": get the prosthetics removed and be cast away on streets as a cripple or willingly allow complete violation of her body, with more and more of it being turned into a machine.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Despite hardly knowing Yan and being under the stern glare of his father, Liang lies about the dead huli jing not having a pup.
  • Will They or Won't They?: The ending leaves the question much more open than the source material.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Liang's father beheads Yan's mother.
    • A number of the British colonists have no problem abusing Chinese-born women, especially the Governor.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Liang's father was prepared to kill the possible pups of the dead huli jing if she had any.
  • Wuxia: The story opens as part of the genre, but doesn't stay there for very long.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: An Englishman calls Liang "very clever for a Chinaman."
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The first sign the story suddenly shifts from quasi-historical into outright Steampunk is a huge airship over the skies of Hong Kong. Up until it shows up, the setting is "just" Magic Realism. And it only goes from there.

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