Outlaw Star – episodes 1 to 13

February 27, 2005 on 7:41 pm | In Outlaw Star | Comments Off on Outlaw Star – episodes 1 to 13

The work, which becomes a new genre itself, will be called … Outlaw Star. Wait, no.
Outlaw Star is another in the seemingly endless line of sci-fi Westerns that were produced in the late nineties. Produced by SUNRISE, no less! This 26 episode series about a womaniser, his twelve year old side-kick, their frequently naked navigation android, their faithless computer system and the occasional drop-in woman assassin and cat-girl – in space! – is surprisingly fresh and amusing.

A universe with three factions: the Space Forces, on the side of good; pirates, on the side of wanton abuse of the law; and outlaws, people who can swing either way but are fiercely independent about it.
Gene Starwind and his assistant Jim Hawking run Starwind & Hawking Enterprises, a “problem solving” company. They are hired by a mysterious blonde woman as a bodyguard. When it is revealed that the horrible Kei pirates are after this blonde woman, she removes her mask to reveal that she is the notorious eye-patched outlaw, Hilda.

Hilda leads Gene and Jim to a naked android, Melfina, and then the fastest ship in the galaxy. Outrunning the pirates’ Tao magic(!), Gene and Jim, along with Melfina inherit this ship and name it the Outlaw Star. The three of them now search to find the Galactic Leyline that Hilda told them of, and also to find the reason for the brutal death of Gene’s father – all while trying to pay off their constantly increasing debts.

Exposition is handled in “cold opening” narrations; these never feel like they are forcing information upon the viewer, and are frequently quite funny in their presentation. The background information for the universe inhabited by Gene is actually quite deep and intriguing, even if some of the revelations are suspect (such as one of the six alien races being the “Sith”).

The story starts taking a break around episode 13, but in this case it is just fine because the material is hilarious. The plot threads tie themselves together in unexpected ways, and the central idea is ingenius. If all alleged “filler” episodes were like this, the world would be a better place.

Gene himself is an interesting character: a blatant womaniser at first, but then curtailed by duty. Gene is a blatant “space cherry”, terrified of voyaging beyond the stars since a horrible incident some years before. The Outlaw Star feels natural to him, and with his crack team he has no difficulty manning it. Gene is a very personable character, and his quest for the past is interesting, as well as the perfect reason for him to assist Melfina in her inquiries.

The rest of the characters are simply supporting acts at the moment, with Melfina being the traditional character who needs to discover an entire past, Jim being the voice of reason and the delightful Gilliam II (the Outlaw Star’s computer) being plain delightful. There’s even Fred Luo, a man in love with Gene who just so happens to be his sponsor, thrown in from time to time for good measure. The characters are clearly defined, purposeful beings that definitely populate the series; when the story’s not in gear, it’s simply fun to watch them.

Much loved in the world of anime is cross-genre pollenisation. Outlaw Star is an excellent result of this experimentation. The first episode is set on one of those traditional big cities that is surrounded by desert. There’s an escape to an old castle, and then the characters move into space. The science looks ancient in style, with controls that look quite similar to mandalas – and, unlike a lot of Japanese SF, the displays are written out in giant characters rather than English.

Outlaw Star works well in space, with what one would assume is sound physics. Touching back down on Sentinel, the biggest genre jam is introduced: Suzuka, the lady assassin. Cowboys and samurai have always been an excellent match, just like pirates and ninja. While the cowboys have been modernised for Outlaw Star, Suzuka is traditionally Japanese. Not only can Suzuka cut buses in twain, she can also produce cups of tea out of nowhere for her drinking enjoyment.

Another level is added to the space combat with the inclusion of grappler arms, an idea that at least looks original. There are several classes of ship, and the most expensive to maintain are the grapplers. Grappler arms are essentially as they sound: grappler ships can lash out and grab onto other ships; two grappler ships in battle turns to hand to hand combat! So while there are machine guns and missiles, the grappler arms are a welcome change. They are not exactly genre changing, but they are definitely cool. That is the best word for them.

SUNRISE productions have a blessing and a curse: consistency. The scenery, colour design and, in many instances, supplementary characters look very similar from series to series. The El Dorado ship, for example, is an instant notification of this series’ origins.
The characters themselves are a mixed bag, with Gene, Jim and the rest of the male characters looking fine. The women have extreme cases of “hash markings” under the eyes (a common complaint for Mike Toole) and generally their faces are too narrow and obscured by hair. Saito Takuya has made the series generally attractive, but he should have reined in Melfina somewhat.

The mechanical designs are at least partly done by the masterly Kawamori Shoji, which guarantees that the Outlaw Star itself is a beautiful sight to behold. The highlight of all the mechanisms are the Ctarl-Ctarl ships, which are shaped like fish and feature almost organic insides and waterfalls running throughout. Organic technology is a nice idea, although it is unlikely that this will get a look in; it’s just pretty to look at.

The casting is exemplary. Shibuya Shigeru is just right as the nice, slightly arrogant guy Gene. Matsumoto Rika unsurprisingly is excellent as Jim; her trademark is pre-teen boys, and nigh on ten years of playing Satoshi (Ash Ketchum) has definitely helped this. Kawasumi Ayako is in one of her earlier roles as Melfina, and her meek voice suits the character; it is surprising that she sounds shy considering that she spends all of her ship operation time naked, but it still works.
Miyamura Yuko is always a joy to listen to when she plays pissed off characters, and that is precisely what Aisha is. Rounding out the main cast are Hashi Takaya as the excitable narrator and brilliant Gilliam, and Sayuri as Suzuka. Sayuri really has made a name for herself playing aloof, strong, women. She’s just too damned good at it.

Outlaw Star offers not just an interesting story and characters, but more than a fair amount of comedy. While it does not play up the drama, this is definitely worthwhile.

Street Fighter II V – episodes 19 to 29

February 24, 2005 on 10:35 am | In Street Fighter | 1 Comment

Despite the realisation that the last fifteen-odd episodes of this series chronicle maybe two days, that episode 23 of 29 is no place for a recap and a constant fear of sliding into the void, Street Fighter II V manages somehow to barely pull it off.

There is perhaps too much focus on Vega here. The best moments in the latter part of the series are set in the real world, not in the fortress of doom off the coast of Barcelona. A particularly impressive episode is one that deals with two plotlines and three battles.
The fights in this series are interesting but not enough to sustain entire episodes. Creative editing is used to maximum effect, with punches flowing from one scene to the next.
One of the most entertaining battles is that between Cammy and Fei Long. It is difficult to understand why the narrator makes constant reference to Cammy’s green eye, but less so to see why almost every scene featuring her shows her lounging at a pool in a variety of swim suits.

The strength is that Guile comes back with his partner Nash – a character not in the games, and therefore totally expendable – to save Ken and Ryu. This is, of course, full circle, as it was Guile who inspired the two to take their street fighting world tour (which ended, quite disappointingly and without ceremony, here in Barcelona).

Guile fights against Zangief, and the presentation of the communist wrestler is interesting indeed. Perhaps because he’s big, or even because he comes from the U.S.S.R – despite the fact that the union had disbanded by the time Street Fighter II was published – Zangief is stupid, or the logical extension of such: innocent. Naturally, he works for Shadowlaw. Notice that, in the course of all the violence he commits, he never refers to killing. He has no concept of right and wrong, only of duty. Even as he tries to clothesline a man, he will refer to them as “my buddy”.
The idea of the “gentle giant” – as gentle as a man who will show someone the wall can be, anyway – is not new. One might expect Zangief to be tough, but he is not really. Zangief is just strong, and that is an important difference.

So, while quite a few interesting, even cool, things happen, there is an unsurprising problem: Vega. He is a giant megalomaniac. The power he wields is Psycho Power, of all things. However, he is slightly more efficient than your next leading world conqueror; he is more likely to explain his plans for world domination after brainwashing his captors rather than over a gourmet meal.
Come to that, his plot doesn’t even make sense. Shadowlaw is essentially a crackpot organization, and one never gets a feel for what it is they are after. Vega has no eyes and an insane smile; unlike the lust and pride motivating Balrog in their fight, or the cowardice behind all of Bison’s actions, all you get with Vega is a desire to see wrong done. Or something like that; his plans aren’t even convoluted, they just don’t make any sense.
In the context of what Street Fighter II V is trying to be, the character of Vega is out of place, here only because he is expected. When Vega is not inviting people around to fight each other so that he can claim control of the world’s strongest, he’s just an insane man in a suit – and it’s not even red, here.

What you have to love about all of these sorts of programs, it has to be admitted, is the technological equipment. There are machines around to measure Ryu’s ki, a power unknown to Shadowlaw before they saw him on the beach. The readings are right off the scale, which suggests that they have not studied hard enough to even begin looking at this unknown quantity – but at least they have got a start!
Better even than that is the fact that Vega’s scientist – and really, he has only one actual employee – can perfect a mind-control chip overnight. This time frame pushes the limits of believability to the very edge, so it is best not to think about any of the events inside the fortress of doom. They’re a wash.

Basically Street Fighter II V was a series with an entertaining first half, that ended up mired in its own sense of “truth” to the Street Fighter universe. The balance that it attempts to strike between original and adapted material stumbles when it comes down to a key player, Vega. The ending is fitting enough for a Street Fighter property – and really they all end this way when it comes to Ryu – but even lines like “It’s times like these I thank God that my old college room mate went on to become director of the CIA” can’t elevate Street Fighter II V to its past glories.

Mezzo Forte

February 23, 2005 on 10:04 pm | In Mezzo Forte | Comments Off on Mezzo Forte

Mezzo Forte is the spiritual successor to Umetsu Yasuomi’s Kite, but also the thematic opposite. Mezzo Forte is a lot more enjoyable because it just goes for wild action comedy and doesn’t try to grasp at anything. However, unlike Kite, the sex scenes are throwaway and these two episodes could do without them.

Mikawa is an agent of the DSA (Danger Service Agency – although the acronym is never actually explained in the series), a crack team of three people that take on dangerous jobs for those willing to pay the price.

This two-part story features an old man hiring the DSA to kidnap the manager of the awful Peach Twisters baseball team. Unfortunately, they did not reckon with the fact that Momomi, the manager’s daughter, is a “psycho bitch” who arbitrarily kills people for her own amusement. A battle of the wills between Mikura and Momomi takes place – connected not only by their reddish/pinkish/orangey hair but also because they both happen to be inexplicably psychic.

Umetsu is, in the field of action comedy, practically a genius. He hits so many spots in the creation of this that it is almost impossible to not enjoy the vast bulk of the program. The DSA is a close-knit trio, led by Kurokawa. Kurokawa is an ex-policeman who wrote a tell-all book and used the profits to form the DSA. Harada and Mikura come from suspicious backgrounds. Mikura’s is disclosed, Harada’s doesn’t really matter as he’s here to have crazy, crazy hair.

Mezzo Forte is excellent fun. The subject matter is not serious, so there is no problem laughing at any of it. There are throwaway plot points that don’t mean anything at all. This is what we call “false intrigue” – Umetsu has placed some red herrings so blatant into the mix that it is clear from their very mention that nothing more is going to become of them.

At heart, this is a caper OVA. The “jewel” that is being heisted just happens to be the manager of a baseball team. Harada and Mikura steal him from a toilet stall at a bowling alley and carry him around in a giant body bag through the ventilation ducts – which leads to an incredibly amusing (and surprisingly intricate) battle atop the bowling alley catwalks. You know how in these things, the thieves always lose their quarry disastrously at one point? Exactly.

Mezzo Forte is well animated for something that was funded by a hentai company. Umetsu has a unique style – and it is definitely his style as he amazingly wrote, directed, key animated and storyboarded all of it. Umetsu has to be a man who wants to take a hands-on approach to all of his work, and so Mezzo Forte is truly his. His direction is amazing, using the cool “title framing” technique with a baseball, excellent comic and action timing, and all sorts of cool tricks. Umetsu ensures that this is extremely fun to watch.
The cast is also fun, but being as this is a Green Bunny project, it’s impossible to name any of its members. They seem too talented to be simply hentai actors – and could possibly be the same as Mezzo DSA.

Due to the lighthearted nature of this anime, the inclusion of two rape scenes is simply bizarre. The fact that rape turns people on is disturbing enough; inserting it amongst the action and general carnage of Mezzo Forte makes for some uncomfortable viewing. These rape scenes are shoe-horned in as Umetsu was still limited by his “X rated material” clause but did not want to intrude on the program itself.
There’s a lot of integrated nudity, shower scenes, panty shots and naked exploding robots in the show proper, and that is cool. The sex is distinctly un-sexy, however, and this is one case where I would actually recommend the edited version over the uncut (provided it kept the nudity, panty shots, shower scenes and naked exploding robots).

Umetsu said that he would really have liked to make Mezzo Forte into a television series; in 2003 he managed to get the funds together for Mezzo DSA, and thusly this fun prospect lived on. Mezzo Forte is highly recommended; the version that you choose should depend on your personal tastes – losing the sex scenes does not affect the whole in the slightest. I would vouch it would make it even easier.

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.

Argentosoma – episodes 1 to 14

February 13, 2005 on 1:08 pm | In Argentosoma | 1 Comment

For some reason, I am eating Argentosoma. With a spoon. This is not a good thing, as the surgeon general warns against the ingestion of anime. From its ridiculously inappropriate ED to its young blonde girl with her giant black hat, Argentosoma somehow clicks.

In 2059, Takuto Kaneshiro (written onscreen as Takt, but subtitled as Takuto) studies metallurgy in university. Dr. Noguchi calls on Takuto and his girlfriend, Maki, to help him with his devious experiments. Noguchi has been collecting parts of aliens fallen from space and has fashioned them into a “tapestry” that he calls Frank. However, the experiment goes awry, with Frank killing Noguchi (who, frankly, had it coming) and Maki.
Takuto vows revenge against Frank and to that end enlists the aid of a man named “Mr. X”, who may or may not be an hallucination. Mr. X gives Takuto the identity of Ryu Soma. Under this persona Takuto infiltrates the government agency Funeral, who employ Frank to take out the other aliens descending to Earth.
At the same time, Frank has been discovered by a thirteen year old girl named Hattie. Hattie thinks that Frank is an elf, and Funeral now uses her to control him in their battles.

Argentosoma never offers too many plot threads at once, but it has a rather complex set up. Allegedly loosely based on Frankenstein, Argentosoma may be too damned literate. Takuto’s transformation to Ryu is a result of a Faustian deal – and this would not be such a problem were it not for Mr. X, a character that perpetually quotes Shakespeare and biblical verses. There’s nothing good about his character, and this is compounded by the fact that it is not even clear if he is real.

Hattie seems, for thirteen years old, to be fairly dim. Sue at one point asks if she needs help reading, and this is something that seems weird for several episodes – that is, until it is revealed that Hattie was in a coma for five years. This makes the characterisation somewhat more believable, and I do not classify it as a spoiler because this knowledge makes Hattie less infuriating to be around. What makes less sense about her is that she reminds Takuto of Maki – only explainable when it is considered that they are both blonde and share the same voice actress in Japanese.

Takuto has moments of being a total bastard, represented by the disfigured Ryu side of his face, but sometimes regresses to his former self and becomes interested in his work. Takuto’s attitude towards Frank is fairly random, and the “revenge” aspect of the series is ultimately not very interesting. Takuto is made up of too many conflicting emotions to be single-mindedly devoted to something as intense as revenge, so the idea of destroying Frank is only occasionally peddled out.

The other character who gets any sort of interesting coverage is Ines, the female commander of Funeral. Initially she’s just another hard-nosed woman, but through Hattie she rediscovers her maternal instincts. The way that she begins to handle the base and operations becomes, as a result, quite interesting.

The way that the characters intercept is a large part of what makes Argentosoma interesting. All of the aliens look exactly the same, so the action is definitely not what is interesting. Watching the characters work together and forming an actual team rather than a group of people is one of the more rewarding aspects of the series. It is no surprise, then, that the weakest episode features only Ines and a group of talking heads. An episode consisting of twenty minutes of talking heads discussing politics and the social ramifications of the aliens is very difficult to watch. This is the only episode in the series that comes close to boring, a small mercy.

Argentosoma boasts a high-profile cast list: Kuwashima Houko does double duty as Maki and Hattie. Hattie is distinctly against Kuwashima’s type as, since her debut in Nadesico, she has kept to the quieter characters. Hattie has a very high-pitched, squeaky voice. It is no surprise that in the English version she is voiced by Sandy Fox. Kuwashima fits the character, but the lack of meaningful dialogue she is given (“you’re a liar and a bad person”) does not make her particularly stand out as great. Hoshi Souichirou, who was fairly new to anime at this time, is good as Takuto. He is very angry, and while some of his anger gets tiresome quickly, he manages to sustain the passion.
There is a cavalcade of other greats of the nineties: Sayuri, Koyasu Takehito, Inoue Kikuko and even the darling of the late nineties, Horie Yui. They all do good jobs, with Sayuri allowed the most exploration of character as Ines so far.

The music for the series is generally good, with a particularly nice, haunting OP – Silent Wind is the sort of song not very common in anime any more, it would appear. The true highlight, however, is the ED. It is the greatest, least appropriate song ever. Horizon is a fast song about the joys of space travel, featuring pictures of grinning astronauts and the observation of space launches. This sort of stuff is nowhere to be seen in the series, so it’s nice to see such incongruous material at the end of a particularly heavy episode of Argentosoma. The joy of DVD is that you can either skip the song or jam to it. I jam, without fail, every time.

The characters, courtesy of Murase Shukou, look weird. Straight on, they look like they have no noses. To look at them in profile and see that they do, in fact, have noses. The sense of perspective makes no sense, and can be quite distracting. A bigger problem related to this is that a lot of series have guest designers, and it appears that Argentosoma is no exception. Straight on, then, some extras have noses!
Frank himself is such a conglomerate of alien parts that he ultimately looks like nothing. He is a shape, and the design gives him little character. As Hattie is supposed to empathise with the creature, this distances him more than it should.
On more positive notes, the backgrounds and scenery are pure SUNRISE. The palette is mostly blues, oranges and yellows, creating a good desert-scape. The mixture of Ryu’s face with Takuto’s is a nice look, and leads to some of the series’ best artistic direction. Argentosoma should also be noted for having the best English screen displays ever: the SARG’s HUDs proudly bear the inscription “Rock On.” There’s some hope in this world yet.

Argentosoma is not exactly great, but for some reason it is extremely compelling. I want to keep watching, and while I’m not confused I want to know what’s happening. That has to be some sort of praise.

Studio Ghibli Collection: Pom Poko

February 6, 2005 on 3:25 pm | In Pom Poko | Comments Off on Studio Ghibli Collection: Pom Poko

Takahata Isao made Pom Poko at Miyazaki Hayao’s insistence that Studio Ghibli’s project following Porco Rosso should be about tanuki. Takahata had something else in mind, but made Pom Poko anyway and was quite successful with it. As a film, it’s a little less successful due to its intense running time and repetition of key themes: in short, it runs out of steam.

Tanuki are Japanese raccoon dogs. While they’re not the same as raccoons, they’re close enough for that to be an acceptable translation. Raccoons in Japan hold a special significance as they share the same trait as the fox (kitsune) and some cats (neko): they can transform themselves. Generally this is thought to be with the aid of a leaf, but the truly talented can do this unaided.
Western children of the early to mid-eighties would be familiar with tanuki and their leaf transformations from Super Mario Bros. 3, wherein Mario could fly with the aid of a leaf that gave him a racoon ear and tail. Back before anime was widespread, Nintendo games were the best source to gain an understanding of Japanese culture, at least on a visual level.

Pom Poko is about a war between raccoons and humans. The raccoons lived peacefully with humans until developers decided to get rid of traditional Japanese housing (one with nature) and replace it with a community for people to live in (high rises, “concrete roads”). The destruction of their mountain causes a shortage of food, and the two tribes of the mountain fought a war. Eventually they realised that they would have to combine tribes in order to continue existing and unite against the common evil of the humans.
Two raccoons are sent to find the masters of transformation in Shikoku and Aikawa and the rest are trained in the arts of warfare – and three years

This movie bursts with promise, but it never realises this. It’s an incredibly long series of failed attempts by the raccoons to rid themselves of the humans, obviously a futile attempt as humans still prevail. There are many scenes that re-iterate the raccoon’s goals, and their plans are generally too tedious to write down.
The point where Takahata seems to have really lost the thread is at the very end when one of the raccoons directly addresses the camera to talk to the audience; it is distinctly not cool.

The most publicised part of Pom Poko is its testicle fixation. Many of the film’s funniest moments involve the raccoons’ testes, and there is no way to make it sound good; because of this feature many parents claim that Pom Poko is harmful to children. Like fun! Despite its Japanese cultural specifications, a lot of the material on offer in this movie is told in a universal language: the raccoons’ actions are funny by anyone’s standards and testicle jokes are especially funny to children – they choose to be delighted rather than horrified by the body.
Basically the only reason to be offended by this movie is if you’re a knee-jerk reactionary.

The production is, as expected from Studio Ghibli, quite attractive. The tanuki have three forms: raccoon dogs, tanuki and SD tanuki. That is: natural, anthropomorphised, and drunk anthropomorphic raccoons. The traditional parade to “scare” the humans is remarkably well done and practically drips with Japanese culture.
Direction is a bit sloppy; not only is the whole film drawn out, but there are several shots and “jokes” that last entirely too long for their own good.

Pom Poko definitely has its moments, its just that overall it has too many of them. When the movie brings itself to a logical conclusion, it comes back for more. This is a good film but would have done well to have less overall content or at least fewer occasions for Gonta to say “Kill all humans!” Pom Poko could have been a TV series or a shorter movie. While Pom Poko is not easy to recommend, it can’t simply be dismissed.

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.

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