Sunday, August 25, 2013

Anime Review No. 63-Magic Users Club OVA

"Believe in Yourself"
Magic Users' Club
1996 OVA, 6 episodes
Studio: Triangle Staff; Director-Junichi Sato
Writers: Akinori Endo and Junichi Sato (1), Chiaka J Nonaka (2-6) 

So, now I am doing a run of Magic themed series for the next three reviews, in case that fact escape you from the titles. Why? Because it's my blog, just so there! Anyway, first look is over Magic Users' Club, a 6 episode OVA from 1996 by Studio Triangle Staff and directed by Junichi Sato, who also directed Sailor Moon back in the days.

This show is about Sae Sawanoguchi and her friends in the local high school's Magic Club. Magicians in this world are simply people who can control their thoughts and imagination to make the impossible the possible. However, there exist only a select few. There's Takakura, the nerdy leader; Nanaka, Sae's requisite childhood friend; Akane, glam girl and 'ghost member' and Aburatsubo, the lone gay guy of the group. Together, they seek to blow up an invasion by the mysterious 'Bell' and its minions. However, it isn't just the Bell that they must deal. Be it some curious journalist or a childhood rival, it's all fun and adventure in Magic Users' Club.

Now, there are several things going well for this series, the OVA in particular. At first, it might seem it would be rather trite and cliched. But once the story develops, it goes off like a rocket, not really letting up much. I believe that's down to the writer they brought for the other five episodes: Chiaki J. Nonaka. For those of you not in the know, he's a writer on several other anime, like Armitage III and Serial Experiments Lain. Of course, I remember him as the writer for Digimon Tamers, the 3rd series of that franchise which was really quite good. Similar to that series, Magic Users' Club has a nice and even blend of the fantastical and the horrifying (especially the Bell which is a nice spin on the 'detached otherworldly invader' concept which has been done quite a lot over time). Regardless of that, there is also this element of excellent earnestness about the whole OVA.

This earnestness is encapsulated into the main character, Sae herself. Not quite smart, a bit ditzy (reminds one of Usagi from Sailor Moon, no doubt), but she means well and tries her best, which makes her struggle quite compelling in parts. I was certainly rooting for her all the way through the story. Fortunately, the rest of the characters are very well-rounded in their own respect. Takakura might seem at first a hapless nerd, but he turns out to be a nice mentor figure for Sae, despite his conflict between being her mentor and being more than a friend shall we say. Nanaka isn't just a nice, kind childhood friend; she does argue with and try to get Sae to strive for more than what she is, to better herself. Akane, the girly girl/ghost member who wouldn't seem out of place in Sailor Moon much less Cardcaptor Sakura, but she actually does play a crucial part of the story. Aburatsubo is perhaps a standout character, one of the rare gay characters in anime that is written with a measure of dignity and respect, giving a rather subtle performance as the group's voice of reason. Even the minor characters (the teacher, Mizuha, the journalist and his lackey) are given enough time and presence as to not feel unnecessary.

The story is helped by the animation immensely. The production was done by Triangle Staff, which also was involved in the original story for this series. Triangle Staff has mostly done assistance on other shows like Lain, The SoulTaker, Sakura Wars, etc and they haven't done much since the early 2000s. That is a bit of a shame since the animation is very good. There are bits of early CG graphics in there, but thankfully they are used to a minimum, at least here in the OVA, with the majority of the show being very good 90s cel animation: fluid and dynamic, tactile, etc. The characters look like they come from Princess Tutu (sharing the same character designer) with my only quip is that all characters, even the dudes, have thick eyelashes when eyes are closed.

Finally, the english dub is fairly good. Though released by Media Blasters, the dub was made by NYAV Post founded by Michael Sinterniklaas, who also directed and wrote the english dub adaptation for Magic Users' Club. It is actually one of the better NY based dubs that I've heard that I don't hate, thankfully. That's due to some soild performances from some US Manga voice actors, like Jamie McGonnigal, Kevin T. Collins and Lisa Ortiz. But I think that the standout performance for this dub is Misty Daniels, who voices Sae in the dub. She's fantastic and hits the right tone in nearly every scene she's in. Bummer she isn't in any other dubs, as this and the TV Series for Magic Users' Club are her only credits on ANN.

So, the OVA is very enjoyable on a lot of fronts, and I recommend this series (both OVA and the TV Series). Next time, I will be looking at the TV Series made 3 years later.


The Eclectic Dude

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Anime Review No. 62-Amazing Nurse Nanako

"Amazing Failure"

Amazing Nurse Nanako

1999 OVA, 6 episodes

Studio-Radix, Director-Hiroshi Negishi
Writers: Yano Rasputin and Ryo Yoshida

One of the few SFW pics I could find for this...

Note: I bought this from for 50 cents (the 3.99 S&H notwithstanding)
Oh, boy, I'm the Eclectic Dude and this time...well...I got a special kind of show today to talk about. For the past few reviews I have talked about shows that in one way or another, are like well-oiled machines where everything runs smoothly and operates as a coherent whole. However, there's the other side of the quality spectrum, where all aspects of the show don't work at all and therefore does not operate as a coherent, much less cohesive whole. Amazing Nurse Nanako is a perfect example, a show that tries desperately to succeed but fails in every conceivable way in the most spectacular fashion possible.

Amazing Nurse Nanako, or Nanako Kaitai Shinsho, is a 1999 6 episode OVA directed by Hiroshi Negishi (Tenchi Muyo, Burn Up W, KO Beast, Master of Mosquiton) and animation production by Studio Radix. Released on DVD by Pioneer/Geneon in 2003, its obstentily about the story of Nanako, a nurse who works for the mysterious Ogami Hospital, whose head doctor Kyoji is brought in to conduct experiments on 'special' patients that the military bring him in some vaguely explained conspiracy.

At least it would be, but instead of telling a good or compelling story it focuses on fanservice and comedy slapstick. But it fails in these two endeavors. First, the fanservice is not titillating at all, just very stupid and hilarious. No female is this show (only Nanako and one other) don't seem to wear bras at all, with some prominent tent poles abound. The boob physics is probably the most nuts I've seen in ages, and possibly more so then modern ecchi shows. Then again, it doesn't surpasses Eiken levels of fanservice, so at least I'm grateful for that. Second, the comedy slapstick fails due to the subject matter which is abuse and torture of Nanako. It is not funny, despite the efforts of the writing to make it so; it is rather off-putting and awkward. It barely reaches the point of being cringe-worthy, but thankfully doesn't sustain that for too long.

Even when it does focus on the story, which it does for about half the runtime, it is also a glorious mess. It is a patische of military/religious conspiracy and bizarro-science ideas that really don't gel at all. Even at the end, when the serious and compelling story comes into force, it is too little, too late. It seems to me that there is a good story here, but it is muddled by tracks of poor decisions, like the stuff I mentioned above.

That, and the animation, to be blunt, looks like crap. This was made in that halcyon era of early digital paint/animation techniques of the late '90s and early '00s and shows itself here, more so than other series from that time. Obvious CG work and off model shots abound, especially in the ending song. The only good I can say about the animation is that very retro-90s look to it, but's that about it.

Finally, the only thing that salvages this show is the English dub, which takes the bad writing and makes it at least looking like it was done as a deliberate parody. It has some good actors in (Patrick Seitz and some others) who try and make this show works a bit better, despite the poor source material.

Nevertheless, this show needs to be seen to be believed. It is great fun, though for not the same reasons the creators didn't intend for. And it is interesting to see this show as it does serve as a template for future ecchi shows to come, as shades of this show can be seen by the more astute viewer in shows like Sora no Otoshimono and Rosario+Vampire. I recommend it, but only barely.

Next Time: Magic Users' Club OVA

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fall 2013 Announcements

Hello, I'm the Eclectic Dude

Well, huzzah I got an article up at Animation Revelation

Check it out if you will!

As for my other reviews for this month, it being my 2nd anniversary, I got 2 reviews coming up:

Amazing Nurse Nanako August 10th/11th

Magic Users' Club (OVA first, will do the TV Series later) August 24th/25th

See y'all then...with -sigh-Amazing Nurse Nanako

Update: I have put together the schedule for the next 2 months after this one
Update, September 18: Changed the October blog schedule

7/8: Magic Users' Club (TV Series)

21/22: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

5/6: Iria Zeiram the Animation

19/20: 10 Favorite Anime Series, Entries 10 and 9 

31: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Halloween Special)