Magic User’s Club TV – episodes 8 to 13

February 15, 2005 on 9:04 pm | In Magic Users' Club | Comments Off on Magic User’s Club TV – episodes 8 to 13

Magic User’s Club improves almost immeasurably for its second half. Unfortunately, a 13 episode series that boasts even an excellent second half still has that lacklustre beginning to slog through. There are still some ill-conveyed moments in this series, but generally the last six episodes are on a different wavelength.

Firstly, where is Jeff-kun in this series? The inspirational little bear of the OVA is gone, replaced by Micky, the mysterious (and inconsistently named) former member of the Magic User’s Club with whom Sae exchanges letters all series. Micky is cool when she’s around, but there’s no dancing Jeff-kun to be seen, and I’m surprised the fans failed to demand blood over this.

Anyway, the reason these episodes pick up is the inclusion of Jinno, the mysterious tree spirit that turns out to be a very pretty boy. Gender confusion is at its peak here, as Jinno’s first speaking role comes when he is dressed as Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame. His second is at the urinals next to Takakura, so you know there’s something going on here.
Jinno is not a nice character – he’s the sort that the viewer will spend a lot of time yelling at the screen over. However, he is much needed. Jinno spurs the other characters to realise what is that they want, and what they should do, and that they shouldn’t be told what to do by a guy who looks very much like a girl. The final part of the series is quite good as a result, but also a little heavy handed.

Some parts of Magic User’s Club are still handled with club fists. There is an episode wherein Akane is trying to go against her mother’s wishes, but it is not even made clear that the woman in question is anyone’s mother. This sort of vague writing lumbers several episodes of the series, and makes it less than it could have been. When the series finally finds its message, it tries to convey it subtly then starts hammering it in.

The best moment in the entire series comes, surprisingly from Miyama Mizuha and it’s not even related to her boobs. This is the one instant in which Sato Junichi’s considerable mastery is allowed to be demonstrated; the use of manga backgrounds, dialogue and music is the sole example of perfect synergy. The fact that we are supposed to feel sympathy for Miyama, and that in the end we do, is something quite impressive – the only few minutes of the entire series that comes without reservations.

The episodes become more enjoyable and so, while the animation quality does not improve, it becomes visually easier to watch. There are still some awful, awful shots of Abaratsubo – something looks wrong with his face – but for the most part it becomes a whole lot easier.

Magic User’s Club is not excellent television. While it is true that it has a near-perfect OVA to live up to, there are too many faults beyond that to make it truly enjoyable. Fluff, for certain, but only passably entertaining fluff.

Magic User’s Club TV – episodes 1 to 7

February 6, 2005 on 1:46 pm | In Magic Users' Club | Comments Off on Magic User’s Club TV – episodes 1 to 7

Seven episodes into Magic User’s Club TV, I realised that the problems with it are not the series’ fault itself: they are the fault of the OVA. Magic User’s Club was close to perfection of the OVA form, so the follow up can’t help but be underwhelming by comparison.

This TV series starts exactly where the OVA ended, despite being produced three years afterwards. The giant cherry tree chokes the city, raining its blossoms everywhere and causing a general nuisance. The Magic Users’ Club bands together to remove the tree from harm’s way – and apparently, when they successfully relocate the tree, they awaken some sort of spirit from within. That’s just the first episode – and out of these seven, the only one that contributes to any major story.
The rest of the episodes are about the characters and various mischiefs they get up to, while the mysterious tree spirit hangs around in the background being infuriatingly unforthcoming about its meaning.

These episodes follow the various members of the club in their daily lives, not doing much really but allegedly learning big and important lessons. While there’s a lot of boob-cam from Miyama to be appreciated, there is very little on offer. The first episode gives the impression that important things might happen, but from then on we’re treated to clothed baths, and a disturbingly large amount of urination jokes. There’s even an episode that shows the shape of dreams that seems to last forever – and this episode did have some nice moments in it that established a little bit of continuity. That, and Sae’s distance from her sister are two of the best things about this series.

Magis User’s Club TV was made three years after the OVA, and in the last half of the nineties a lot of things happened to the structure of the anime industry. The animation shifted from cellwork to digital, which is the biggest problem with this series. The OVA had beautifully rendered background detail and the characters gelled. The characters now look like they don’t inhabit their world, but rather sit on top of it. The scenery is now mostly overly simple work, which makes this series nothing special to look at. The progress of four years may have made production cheaper, but in this case it certainly did not make it any better – about the only thing done totally right is that Miyama literally radiates boobs.

That said, this series boasts a stupidly catchy OP (“I wanna do more!”) and its one concession to impressive visuals is the ED, which is animated entirely with clay. That is not the sort of thing you see very often, especially in Japanese programs.
The entire cast of the original returns but some of the members sound different. Iwao Junko’s Akane sounds much more like her Tomoyo than she did in 1996, and Konishi Hiroko (before being drummed out of the industry) hasn’t put quite so much thought into her role. Onosaka Masaya and Koyasu Takehito (who can even make breathing sound gay) are still excellent, however, as is Iizuka Mayumi.

The DVD is random, with only about half of the Japanese text translated, many, many spelling errors and some highly dubious translations, such as “I used to be a fan of The Smurfs” – admittedly, I don’t know what the Japanese for Smurfs is, but it sounds wrong … and there is also flat out the worst translation of sumimasen ever. It’s not enough to destroy the series, but it is an unwelcome distraction on the whole.

Unfortunately, at the halfway point of Magic User’s Club TV the series feels largely useless. The episodes are light, and there’s no overall idea of what’s going on. With only six episodes left, it will be interesting to see if this series has a goal or direction.

Magic User’s Club OVA

November 28, 2004 on 11:47 am | In Magic Users' Club | Comments Off on Magic User’s Club OVA

Nosebleeds and magic finally join forces to create 1996’s six episode OVA Magic User’s Club.

Magic User’s Club is about a “Bell” that descends from space. Earth attacks it, so it decimates their forces. As long as Earth does nothing, the Bell will conquer the planet without hurting anyone. Things continue like this until Takakura Takeo, president of the Magic Users’ Club at his high school, decides to take action. He’s just blustering to impress the girls, but they take him seriously. However, because of the club’s opening gambit, the agents of the Bell take an interest in magic and set out to analyse it. Therefore, the Magic Users’ Club actually does have to stand up and face the alien threat. What is really surprising is the ability of director Sato Junichi to balance the plot perfectly with the characters.

The Bell threat is a definite source of confusion; these aliens don’t say anything, and it is uncertain whether they are actual aliens because their designs are as far from organic as you can get. The silence that accompanies these creatures, whatever they may be, gives a different feel to the science fiction in which aliens discuss what they’re doing to humans. Sato’s approach is to sometimes show what the Bell’s eyes see. While this shows their calculating way and provides some insight into what they are, it also gives a little bit of service because it strips the characters of the clothes. Basically, something for everyone.

As president, Takakura has to face up to many things; Miyama, the girl who made his life hell in childhood is president of the much more successful manga club, and has grown up to have ample cleavage and a team of servants. Try as he might, he is still under her thumb. Takakura’s desire to make something of the club is almost certainly a direct result of all of Miyama’s bullying, as is his lack of self esteem. However, Takakura refuses to live completely in her shadow and has an active fantasy life that is provoked by any little bit of service that he sees. Takakura is a very frequent nosebleeder, and is nowhere near as pathetic as he might sound. His dedication to the club and its members, and his gentle humour of Aburatsubo makes him a very nice character.

Sae is the true heroine of this anime, because it has always got to be a girl in these things. Sae has no self confidence, which is a great pity, because she is the most magically talented of all of the characters. This is just how these things go. One of the series highlights is watching Sae trying to come to terms with her ability and trying to rely less upon her magic bear, Jeff-kun. The sweetest moment comes at the end of the beach episode (because, yes, there is indeed a beach episode on offer here), which almost brought a tear to the eye.

Magic User’s Club is anime that has a fair amount of focus, that doubles as a romance in which everyone except the club’s ko-gal is in love with everyone else.
This romance would be fairly standard were it not for Aburatsubo. Aburatsubo is the club’s vice president and only gay member. He has romantic designs on Takakura, who is aware of the advances but ignores them. Outside of yaoi, homosexual characters are relatively silent or make a couple of cute remarks about one of the other men and not much else. A large problem with writing homosexual characters is that their sexuality can come dangerously close to being their only personality trait. While this is something very strong in Aburatsubo, he is written with actual emotions. Some analyses of Japanese life see something tragic about the pursuit of yaoi, and while Aburatsubo does have a doomed love he is strong enough to overcome it. Consequently, Aburatsubo is more than just a cheap laugh and brings something fresh to a love story between two shy magicians.

The character design and general animation are very nice to look at, but this was made in 1995 and there are a few failed experiments in CG – this is some of the ugliest computer generated stuff ever included in anime. It takes up only the tiniest portion of screen time and so is forgiveable, but it’s interesting to note that GONZO’s Maeda Mahiro was behind the mechanical designs.
Impressively the space scene plays without any sound at at all; because this isn’t anime crammed with dogfights, the scenes outside of the atmosphere can afford to be physically accurate. Of course, because it’s unexpected and the first thing featured, viewers may fear that their sound equipment has imploded.
Voice acting is of a very high standard, with tragic beauty of the nineties Konishi Hiroko providing brilliant work as Sae and Onosaka Masaya putting in one of his marvellously flustered performances as Takakura. The support cast is also very strong, with Koyasu Takehito in the part he was born to play as Aburatsubo, and other sweet young things of the era Iizuka Mayumi and Iwao Junko lending their talents as Nanaka and Akane respectively.

This is a nice, sweet OVA. Despite its godawful CG, it has some very attractive cell work. Gently romantic, with many fantasy sequences, a little bit of fan service and a character whose boobs precede her, Magic User’s Club is a lot of fun to watch.

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