Magic Users Club Vol. #1 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2001
What They Say
Several years after the arrival of a massive, unknown vessel from outer space, life goes on as usual. The invaders even observe earth traffic lights. But now an unlikely group of youngsters have vowed to defeat the aliens--with Magic. Sae is a spirited apprentice who will endure any hardship to be a true sorcerer like her mentor and idol Takakura. Only she must learn to have some faith in herself. An all new animated comedy from the creators of "Sailor Moon."
The first disc in the three part release of the six OVA's originally released in 1995, Magic Users Club is a rather cute and fun show that's at times very reminiscent of the flight sequences in Kiki's Delivery Service and the mystery of what magic really is.
For the purpose of our review, we listened to this in its original language of Japanese. This is another fairly typical stereo soundtrack with the majority of dialogue coming through the center channel and the music and a few ambient effects making use of the left/right channels. We didn't notice any issues with the audio, though we were concerned at first as the opening segment is without sound (intentionally we hope). It's also accurate, as it shows the invading ship in space where there's no sound, but as soon as we hit the atmosphere, the audio track starts coming to life.
For the most part, this is a good looking disc. With it being an OVA from the mid 90's, it's got solid production values and some really nice animation sequences. There's plenty of vibrant colors flying around and the darker sequences hold their black levels well. There was one area where a deep blue sky had some artifacting, but otherwise the only issue we really had was the rainbows throughout. Mostly they're along characters hairlines and a few other areas, so it's pretty frequent, but it'll vary depending upon your equipment.
While in the past we've been fairly ambivalent about the clear keepcases (they tend to feel like a cheat to doing a proper insert to me), the apparently limited edition clear keepcase used here is wonderful. The cover, instead of being the usual paper, is actual another slip of plastic that folds in that's also partially clear. You see the front cover artwork and through it you see the the disc artwork behind it as well as bits of the back cover. This is the first time I've seen a package done up like this, and it's very neat looking and is the kind of thing you just don't expect from region 1 releases. The front cover lists both the Japanese and English language versions of the title while the volume number is there and on the spine as well, earning big points in our book. The back has a few pieces of small animation shots and a good summary of the show itself. Obviously, no insert is provided.
This is the kind of creativity I really like seeing.
Much like the cover, the menus are pretty bright and smiley/happy. There's a static image in the center of the main menu like the cover with the various squiggelies falling around her. The style is pretty much in the vein of the show itself, borrowing from the crayon drawn scenes for the submenus. The main menu has some nice animation and music for it as well. Access times are pretty solid and we had no troubles with them at all.
Two extras are included on this volume. The first is a brief image gallery that has some really nice pictures (a few I noticed I already had as wallpapers) while the second is a clean opening sequence. I had hoped it would have romaji subtitles selectable since the episodes were both hardsubbed in English, which means my wife doesn't get to sing along and our daughter wonders why she isn't singing, but alas, no, there are no romaji subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the first look, Magic Users Club is a form of magical pretty girl, or at least that's what most people will initially latch onto. Once you start the show though, you realize that it's really a mix of various styles and genres.
The show kicks off in dead silence as the alien from Star Trek IV finally finds a new gig and invades an anime Earth. After destroying one attack satellite, it makes its way down into the atmosphere and quickly eliminates any and all of the forces sent against it. We learn that a year has now passed and the world has learned to accept this Bell and its mysterious plans that seem to include its conquering the world. During that time, the machines that come out from the Bell have interacted properly with civilization, as shown with them obeying traffic laws of all things.
In the end, the world has stopped trying to fight against it and simply live with this new oddity. All the weapons tried have been ineffective, so on the surface it looks as if things have settled back into a routine.
We then meet up with Sae as she's bicycling towards a Magic Users Club meeting. She's decked out in her short and skimpy club uniform complete with hat. After a few troubles she meets up with club president Takakura and his friend Aburatsubo. Both of these guys bring a different shade to what seems to be the magical girl show as Takakura acts in typical shonen ways with his oogling and lusting after Sae in all her fanservice moments while Aburatsubo has a thing for Takakura. And then there's Sae's friend Nanaka whose got a crush on Aburatsubo who keeps insisting that they quit the club but Sae's too slow to understand that she was supposed to quit.
We also eventually meet the other club member Akane, whose given very little to do here early on other than look pretty.
Takakura has decided that the only way to fight against the Bell is to use magic, something that it knows nothing about. Now, don't go asking where magic comes from or why it's available on this world, as that's not even hinted at here or why certain people have it. At least its cross-gender and allows the guys to participate (though thankfully their outfits aren't quite as skimpy). Takakura, Aburatsubo, Sae and Nanaka head off towards the Bell on their brooms (with Sae being proud she can finally fly) to try and take it on.
Suffice to say, the complete and utter lack of a plan throws things off kilter when some very twisted looking surveillance/soldiers show up. They're like spindly wooden dolls with helicopter blades coming out of their heads, and they're very interested in the abilities of the people who are flying near their Bell. Tentacle like sensors flow out of their arm appendages and begin to look over the four (with Aburatsubo making some cute remarks and moans) while Sae tries to not move even though her butt really is sore from flying on a broom.
The show really does seem to cross various genres and does it in a nice style. The animation is very good quality with some great looking character designs. There's plenty of fanservice during the two OVA's presented here but there's also the beginnings of an interesting story, but after so many disappointing OVA's in the past year, I'm skeptical that they'll pull it off well enough to explain things while keeping it interesting.
In the end, we smiled a lot during this show and had several laugh out loud moments. We'll definitely be looking forward to seeing more and to see if the creators are up to presenting enough of the world they've created and hinted at.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Creditless Opening
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magic User's Club