Magic Users Club Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001



What They Say
The aliens have been defeated, and the Bell has been transformed into a gigantic cherry tree. Now, the brave Magic User's Club must reconvene to deal with a new problem. Sae, Nanaka, Takeo and Aburatsubo are all on the case. Akane would be with them, of course, but she has a date.
And, what is the problem our intrepid Magic Club must solve? Well, apparently some inconsiderate persons left a skyscraper sized cherry tree in the middle of Tokyo, and it's become a major inconvenience to everyone in the city.

Even though they have no idea who could have done such a thing, the Club feels strangely responsible and spring into action!

The Review!
After the six episode OVA series ended, Bandai thankfully went and commissioned a TV series to be done. And amazingly enough, the TV series didn't become a retelling of the OVA's in a 13 episode format, but instead picked up where the OVA's left off. Rare indeed, and quite a blessing.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Throughout the show we got a solid presentation across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is primarily through the center channel, though there did seem to be a couple of nice moments of directionality. Music and sound effects made good use of the left/right channels and the overall presentation is on par for what you'd expect with a TV series.

Video:
With the change to a TV series, something was done that caused the problems we had with the OVA's to go away, namely the cross coloration. There's practically none to be seen here, leaving us with just very nice looking fluid animation. The show maintains almost the same level of production values as the TV series, though things take a bit more of a leisurely pace instead of being as frenetic at times. Colors look nice and vibrant and blacks remain solid. The shows a bit soft in areas, but this is something that after seeing a good amount of the series seems to be intentional.

Packaging:
To avoid confusion since this isn't a retelling but a continuation, Media Blasters opted to call the first TV volume the 4th in the Magic User's Club series with a subtitle of Maho Tsukai Tai! TV. The cover has a great shot of the five members with Sae up front, everyone on a broom. The back cover provides a number of animation shots and other artwork as well as a good rundown of the show. Features and technical information is clearly listed as well. The insert provided lists the chapter stops for each of the four episodes.

Menus:
The menu layout is pretty similar to the past releases, with a nice bright vibrant image of the girls and the symbols floating around screen along with some music. Selections are all along the right and quickly accessed as there's no transition animations. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is pretty straightforward and works well.

Extras:
There's a good set of extras included this time around. The first is a sing-a-long version of the opening, which is basically a clean opening with hardsubbed romaji lyrics. All in all, I'd prefer these to be done soft-subbed and included with the actual episodes like all the other studios do. The original slates are provided in this section as well as there are a number of overlays in this volume, such as the character introduction cards. A clean creditless ending is provided here without any hardsubbing also. Probably the best extra here is a solid selection of dub outtakes. A lot of these were just hilarious, especially when we see a horde of schoolgirls meeting Aburatsubo's mother for the first time and they start chanting MILF. I just about died. Don't know what MILF is? Get your head out of anime once in awhile.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In just about every sense, these episodes are indeed follow-ups to the OVA series. Don't get me wrong, they're enjoyable as heck and do work well in the character development side of things, but it's not like a regular TV series that kicks off with all kinds of things happening.

In fact, the show kicks off with the club members cleaning up from the incident of the OVA series. That's explained briefly in the beginning, where the club members had been doing battle with the alien Bell, and through their magic, turned the massive device into a huge cherry blossom tree. Well, that tree has been blossoming and there are leaves everywhere. Feeling some amount of guilt over this, they decided to use their powers to move it elsewhere.

Of course, any use of magic with Sae involved causes weird things to happen. While their intent was to move the tree to somewhere better, they weren't intending for the tree to pull up its own roots and start walking through the city to someplace in the hills. The only downside to all of this is that the tree, shown from a distance for the most part, looks little better than a South Park 2D cutout. But it also works in this respect as watching it move through the city evokes some laughter.

The remaining episodes all focused on various aspects of the characters and how they fit into their odd little world. One of the better parts of this disc was the episode dealing with Aburatsubo and his problem with his mother coming to visit for parent teacher conferences. Aburatsubo in general got treated differently with these episodes, as he's something of a heartthrob among the girls at the school while he pines away for Takakura. This works well and adds some new secondary characters to add more mischief and complications. When we finally meet his mother though, all bets are off. She's hilarious.

Probably my favorite episode here was the one dealing with the doorways. The group decides to try some new magic that has to do with dimensional doorways that will give them a way to get out of situations where they get trapped or something worse. Again, as things would go, Sae's involvement causes things to go not quite right, and it looks like the spell failed. Instead, whenever one of them (other than Sae) opens a door, it leads to a different place. Yes, you can easily imagine the hilarity with these characters, with Takakura opening the fridge that leads to Sae's bathtub and all the other kinds of combinations.

These episodes were good overall and quite enjoyable, but if I hadn't just finished the OVA series I'd be walking away unimpressed. They feel for the most part like filler with some character building added in. But when taken in context with the previous six OVA's, it comes out better. If you enjoyed the OVA's, you'll get a kick out of these episodes with little drop in quality in the production.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Sing-A-Long,Original Slates,Outtakes,Creditless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan 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
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magic User's Club