Magic User's Club TV
The Bell has been defeated, but the gigantic cherry tree left in its place is causing problems for the city. The Magic User's Club rides again to solve this new problem, but afterwards a mysterious young man appears, watching over the members of the club as they continue to go about their lives, both as students and as magic users.
I actually completed this series some time ago, but never got around to reviewing it. Back in the day, I was a huge fan of the original OVA series, and once I got hold of the sequel, I tore into it, hoping to enjoy more of the pure magic of the original. And while it's there, the TV series has a few nagging issues that may have contributed in the great delay of this review.
For starters, just when you thought everything was emotionally settled at the end of the OVAs between the club members, Magic User's Club TV just about resets the character relationships back to square one. It's obvious from the plot continuity (i.e. the giant tree in town in episode one!) that the events of the original series clearly happened, but at times it feels like the characters have forgotten everything they learned about "believing in themselves", which is a real shame. I understand the necessity to inject some sort of tension or conflict in order to continue a series, but here it feels a bit forced and contrived.
Another aspect of the series that feels "off" to me is the seeming replacement of cutesy doll Jeff-kun with this weird androgynous cipher named Jurika Jinnou, who in retrospect feels like a prototype of Mytho from Junichi Sato's later series Princess Tutu (an altogether much better-handled character). While ultimately Jurika's appearance does have importance to the course of the series, the character ultimately feels more like a plot point than an actual character, which does this series no great favors as character development is otherwise one of the strengths of this franchise. Some of the amusing ancillary characters from the OVAs (the journalists in particular) are nowhere to be found; Mizuho has been toned down tremendously, while new characters (the crazed stalker fangirls who comprise the self-proclaimed Aburatsubo Safety Committee) are less than enjoyable. (In fact, sort of barf-inducing, in that particular case.)
That's not to say the main characters go nowhere; actually that couldn't be further from the truth, as the character interactions are re-explored and expanded upon (which is not too hard, given the increased amount of time given in a 13-episode series). We do get a great deal of explanation, for example, regarding why Aburatsubo is such a confused young man who relies so hard on the club for his emotional support (and you thought YOU had a scary mom!), and there are some great scenes covering the club members' family lives, an aspect of many anime series that is normally sorely lacking. Heck, we even find out why Sae's hair is such a messy mop (it's a throwaway gag scene, and yet utterly priceless when you get to it). I really found myself really enjoying following each of the stories of the club members, and when the time came to re-explore the magic aspect of the show, I almost found myself missing these character development scenes.
Another thing I found myself missing was the animation budget of the OVAs; while the TV series never looks bad, it never truly approaches the polish or sheen of the outright exemplary original, which is a bit of a shame. The new opening theme ("I Wanna Do More") just isn't as catchy as the OVA opener.
However, it's important to know that while the frenetic energy of the OVAs has clearly been replaced by a more sedate, deliberate pace, this actually works to the TV series' advantage in terms of the kind of detailed storytelling we're getting here. If anything, going at the same pace as the OVAs would have felt exhausting over a 13 episode run.
I guess the biggest thing that Magic User's Club TV has against it is that it has to follow such a well-executed original series. Junichi Sato and his team pretty much gilded the lily with the OVAs, and this TV series, while still plenty entertaining thanks to the always-entertaining and likeable core club members, just doesn't measure up to that benchmark. Even so, being a peg below perfection still means a job well done.
I really enjoy this franchise and its goofy, alliteratively-named characters, and while the TV series isn't as consistently magical as its predecessor, it's still a really good time. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: The television series noticeably tones down Takeo's trademark perverted "inner thoughts", so there's far less fan service than in the OVAs (and no nudity to speak of). There are scenes dealing with some serious themes (including emotional abuse of a minor) that will not sit well with younger viewers. Safe for older children and above.
Version(s) Viewed: bilingual R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Magic User's Club TV © 1999 Madhouse / Triangle Staff / Magic User's Club Production Committee
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