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[Modern Magic Made Simple]
AKA: よくわかる現代魔法 (Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou), Comprehensible Modern Magic
Genre: Modern fantasy with comedy, action, and yuri elements
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks
Content Rating: 16+ (brief nudity, innuendo, violence)
Related Series: Modern Magic Made Simple OVA
Also Recommended: Maria Watches Over Us, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Serial Experiments Lain
Notes: Based on the light novels by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and Miki Miyashita, printed under the Super Dash Bunko imprint. There is also a manga by the same creators that was serialized in Jump Square, as well as a promotional episode released as an OVA, which will be handled separately.
Rating:
 

Modern Magic Made Simple

Synopsis

Koyomi Morishita is a short, slightly built, and clumsy high school freshman, and in a last ditch effort to gain confidence in something, she trains with a computer programmer named Misa Anehara. However, Misa's programs aren't mundane at all: they're actually the modern manifestation of magic. But classical magic-users still exist, like the silver-haired patrician Yumiko Cristina Ichinose, who carries around a magic staff with great offensive power, and Koyomi, despite her lack of talent, is drawn ever further into the magical world.

Review

I just made this sound pretty sensible in the synopsis, but unfortunately the first few episodes are such a jumbled mess that it's sort of hard to figure out what's going on. With such a dojikko female lead, you wouldn't be too far off the mark calling this Modern Magic for Dummies.

There's a lot going on here that takes time to absorb, and not all of it good: for starters, the first few episodes are chronologically out of order, which would work better in a more adroitly written (or perhaps longer) series, but winds up being confusing and boring a lot of potential viewers. We also get a fair bit of strangely targeted fan service, often involving Yumiko losing her panties, which is even less funny when you realize the first time you meet her is several years in the past, before she's hit puberty. Then AFTER Yumiko hits puberty, there's numerous scenes which seem contrived for the very purpose of having Koyomi fall face-first into Yumiko's now-ample chest - and yeah, I love me some boobs-in-the-face humor - but even three times in a twelve-episode series is clearly excessive. Not to mention what would happen if you combine "pants-less" and "in the face" humor ... Even outside those particular missteps, there's tons of blatant nods, including some Uta~Kata style yuri ship-teasing, that this was clearly targeted at the moe-otaku market.

That's a real shame, because there's actually some interesting ideas here about the nature of magic within this universe, in which even non-magically-inclined people, such as Koyomi's classmate / junior genius hacker Kaho, can trigger magical events by running programs on cell phones or computers, which is at least a wrinkle in the usual storytelling trope. In reality, the magic portrayed here is fairly pedestrian even in terms of Yumiko's hereditary "classical magic" powers; magical battles lose their excitement rather quickly due to the lack of creativity in the actual execution of the magic, with a few exceptions. And then there's Koyomi's magic, just about the entire extent of which involves the summoning of wash basins.

I'm not kidding.

The light-hearted comedy and fan-service really don't mesh well at times with the overall plot, which involves some rather sinister and shady characters - you can tell because they look and dress sinister and shady - largely blowing stuff up and inflicting a surprising amount of damage on our leads. There's a fair amount of bloodshed in the series, though the televised nature of the show generally precludes anything truly horrible from happening onscreen.

The characters, by and large, are nothing extraordinary, though older-sister type Misa (Hitomi Nabatame - Arcueid Brunestud in Tsukihime) and deadpan snarker Kaho (Minako Kotobuki - Tsumugi Kotobuki in K-On!) stand out here as likable support roles. Ai Nonaka seems to reprise her old Shipon role from Stellvia as the never-confident but blindly loyal and optimistic Koyomi, while Haruka Tomatsu (Lala Satalin Deviluke in To Love-Ru) gets to break out some "polite speech" as high-class tsundere Yumiko, who doth protest too much about her deepening "friendship" with Koyomi. There's not a lot of time for depth here, as there's only twelve episodes, and some of the yuri elements feel like they come out of left field at times, but there is a sense of heart and likability that nearly makes up for it.

Overall, this feels like a real missed opportunity - instead of delving into the creative possibilities of Modern Magic, the brains behind this decided to give us something aimed at pleasing as much of the core fanbase as possible. Still, there are enough interesting ideas and well-executed moments to keep this from being a net loss, particularly midway through when the series ditches most of its fan service and storytelling gimmicks and concentrates on the characters. Of course, getting part the very first episode may be the biggest hurdle any prospective viewer may face here.

I really hope you like wash basin humor.

Modern Magic Made Simple overcomes a very rocky start with some likable characters and interesting ideas about the nature of magic, but never really achieves any great merit due to an overemphasis on juvenile humor and fan service in place of a well-written plot.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: There's some pretty blatant fan service, wth brief nudity, panty shots, and camera angles, plus some innuendo between the two female leads. Despite the vast differences in their body types, barely-pubescent Koyomi and voluptuous Yumiko are both high-school freshmen. There's also some violence, including collateral damage, physical injury, and blood, with implied character death. Given that, I'd hesitate to recommend this to anyone below high school age, despite the juvenile nature of a lot of the humor.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll and The Anime Network
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Modern Magic Made Simple © 2009 Hiroshi Sakurazaka / Miki Miyashita / Shueisha / Modern Magic Production Committee