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

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