Magic User's Club
In the near future, a giant cylindrical extraterrestrial object known simply as the Bell enters the Earth's atmosphere and invades just off San Francisco, vaporizing the US Pacific Fleet within seconds (save the crew), and seemingly bent upon conquering the world. But within a year, people get used to floating robotic eyeballs stopping at street lights and traveling with almost complete apathy to the people around it.
Despite the rather passive nature of this "invasion", the president of a small magic club at a Japanese high school takes it upon himself to rid the world of the Bell once and all. This story chronicles the adventures of the Kitanohashi High School Magic Users' Club ... and all the mayhem that a little magic can cause in a lot of people's lives.
Yes, the premise is a little...odd. (But then, isn't it like that for all magical girl anime?) But Magic User's Club proved far more entertaining and clever than I ever expected it to be. The art is very well-done, with meticulous attention to small details, as well as interesting character designs and lush backgrounds. Clouds, in particular, are done in an almost photographic style, lending to the very atmosphere of the film. The Bell and its machines are definitely some of the most unique mecha designs to come out of the mid-90s (with their selective vaporization beams and other interesting gadgets). The Bell itself, being computer-generated in the opening sequence and near the end of OAV 6, lends to a few odd clashy sequences with the cel animation, but overall, that was done adequately enough.
The strength of this anime, however, truly lies within the characterization and storyline. Most series dealing with magic treat it as a natural, latent talent ... but not this one. The characters actually have to learn how to do such basic things as how to keep one's rear end on a broom without falling off! (Humor is one thing this anime has no trouble finding.)
The magic club itself ranges from seemingly stock shoujo characters (the clumsy, yet pure-hearted heroine Sawanoguchi Sae, her bossy best friend Nakatomi Nanaka, and the popular, but somewhat apathetic "princess" Aikawa Akane)... to the somewhat bizarre (namely, the club president Takakura Takeo, a decidedly nerdy guy prone to hallucinations about girls at the most inappropriate times, and the club vice president Aburatsubo Ayanojou, the bishounen who seems to want to be more than just friends with his superior). All of them transcend their initial stereotypes and become very human characters within the course of the show, with their hopes, dreams, and loves dependent on the impossible task ahead of them.
Magic User's Club, though definitely in the category of magical girl anime (well, not counting the two guys in the magic club - "magical boys" perhaps?), also has some moments of ecchi that will certainly entertain the fan service portion of the anime's surprisingly wide audience. No nudity, but there are some very -delicate- moments played out for laughs. (The club president is prone to some of the most explosive anime nosebleeds ever seen ... and situations that will leave male members of the audience cringing in pain.) Still, there isn't much in this anime that will offend any but the most sensitive (or the homophobic, in the case of the very blatant, but incredibly funny Aburatsubo).
Magic User's Club is a prime example of shoujo anime that deserves far more attention in the US. Hilarious, yet very touching, this OAV series is a real treat for the eyes and a great escape from the dreary, depressing tone that many recent releases have set in the last few years. With a great soundtrack (which prompted at least one THEM member to immediately seek and obtain the opening and closing MP3s), great animation quality, and a solidly done and truly charming storyline and characters, this anime can't come to the States soon enough. Magic User's Club is quite truly one of the most perfect anime to use the OAV format, and it's no wonder that this show is a THEM favorite.
Pure magic, indeed. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Probably best for the 13 and over crowd, due to some innuendoes that are mostly played for humor's sake. (If you don't mind teenage girls in swimsuits and underwear, and Abaratsubo always fawning over his "Takeo-kun", that is.) The use of magic in this series is treated a little more seriously than most (that is, there's more window dressing on it), which might bother some audiences.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Magic User's Club © 1996 Triangle Staff / Bandai Visual
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