Tweeny Witches Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, April 18, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 18, 2008



What They Say
Arusu, a young girl who believes in magic with all her heart, one day finds herself suddenly dropped into the middle of a magical world that's beyond her wildest imaginings. At first, it seems that her life's wish has finally been granted, but things quickly change as she finds out more about the less-than-perfect wonderland.

Arusu soon meets two young witches named Sheila and Eva, and one wild broomstick ride later, all three girls are blamed for the release of the witches' source of magic: captured fairies. After an unusual punishment is delivered, they are given the task of recapturing the fairies - a difficult thing to do when Arusu keeps freeing them!

Contains episodes 1-7 on two discs.

The Review!
When Arusu finds herself suddenly in the Magical Realm, she has to contend with a world very different from how she imagined witches and fairies.

Audio:
Media Blasters has gone beyond the norm for this release by including four language tracks. Both the Japanese and English language tracks are presented in 5.1 and 2.0 mixes at 448kbps and 192kbps respectively. The show is one that doesn't seem to make out too well by the bump up to the 5.1 mix as there really isn't much to the sound mix as it's pretty much just dialogue with some minor music cues. The 5.1 mixes do make out with a bit more of an impact and presence to them in comparison to the 2.0 mixes but it's not that much of a noticeable upgrade that if you don't have a 5.1 system you'll miss much. Dialogue is pretty much a full soundstage affair and there isn't anything here that really stands out during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2004, Tweeny Witches is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is an unusual one in its visual design because of the CG use in it which alternates between having some great depth and then a very flat feel. The color palette is very drab and dull for the most part as well which doesn't help it all that much. The main issue that comes from this presentation however is in the source material because of the rendering done for it. There are a lot of visible gradients throughout and several scenes where the background noise is quite pronounced. Combine this with some of the more awkward CG heavy moments with a lot of aliasing and it's not a very appealing looking show from this angle.

Packaging:
Tweeny Witches is a two disc release that's kept in a standard size keepcase without any flippy hinges inside. The cover art for the show is surprisingly dark and murky though it does fit with the shows visual design overall. The three main girls are kept together in a standard pose while being set against a backdrop of the Magical Realm cityscape. It has a lot of warmth to it in its own way but it doesn't paint the kind of image that one would generally associate with a title called Tweeny Witches. That works in its favor though as it'll get a second look by some based off of the artwork and designs alone. The back cover is a dark piece as well but it lacks the same kind of warmth as it's just a black background with a standard slightly off kilter layout for the text and image placement. A few shots from the show are along the top and the summary covers the basic premise of the series. The remainder of the cover is given over to the production credits, a brief listing of the extras and a good technical grid that lists all the important things. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
While Media Blasters usually has pretty simple static menus, they've gone the distance with Tweeny Witches by putting in a nice bit of motion. Designed similar to where the fairies are kept, there's a string of cages that rock back and forth slightly while there are various pieces of artwork around it of the Magical Realm creatures. The layout is a bit awkward at times to navigate but it's nothing that's terribly problematic once you move around a bit. Submenus load nice and quick but I continue to dislike the episode selection layout that Media Blasters employs since it takes multiple pages to get to later episodes. Due to the multiple audio options and the fact that the players pick up the first Japanese track which is the stereo one, we didn't bother with player presets as Media Blasters always puts the sign/song subtitles as the first English labeled track.

Extras:
The extras for Tweeny Witches are available only on the second disc and are decent enough. The mainstays are here in that we get a clean version of the opening and closing sequences but we also get a video interview with the original creator that runs about nine minutes. It's interesting in that there are some strong differences between what he originally envisioned and what we get here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally known as Mahō Shōjotai Arusu, Tweeny Witches is a forty episode series that's done up in half length episodes. The release for this is done in a way that presents two episodes within an opening and closing wrapper that simulates a normal episode length for the most part. Created by Keita Amemiya who is best known for his creation of Iria/Zeiram, Tweeny Witches is simply an unusual series aimed at slightly older children about a world of witches, warlocks and fairies.

Very ugly looking ones at that. The story centers around a school girl named Arusu who has very positive visions of what a witch should be like and what magic is all about. Anyone can do magic in her mind if they only believe that they can. Part of this belief comes from the book of magic that her father gave her years ago before he disappeared once again. She's a bit of an oddball and her outlook on life is one that sets her apart from her friends. While she believes in magic, it's hard to believe that she'd end up in the Magical Realm the way she does as she's almost just suddenly there after a bit of a quirky event. Arusu finds herself pretty much dumped into this realm and it's entirely not what she expected.

This area of the Magical Realm is controlled by the witches who are mostly geared towards training and acquiring what they need to practice their magic. Those needs are found in the various bits and pieces of the fairies that exist in this realm. Arusu's arrival comes with the advent of finding one of the rarer fairies that the witches need for their powers and she ends up interrupting the capture of it. The idea of capturing and caging fairies and taking what they need from them by force is really unsettling for her and she rails against the first couple of witches she comes across about it. When the other witches find out she's a human though, she's practically thrown in a cage herself since there's so much fear and distrust about humans.

That distrust isn't entirely unwarranted as Arusu ends up freeing all of the fairies who then flee into the countryside. This throws the witches off completely as they have to hide the fact that they lost all their magical ingredients all while still trying to go through the yearly routine of testing up and coming witches. The two witches that first met Arusu, Sheila and Eva, find their destinies tied with her as they begin the search for them while also showing Arusu some basic magic and finding her aptitude. Having the book that she does, Arusu is capable of fitting in for the most part. It's only when she gets on one of her many rants about how the fairies are being treated that she stands out in a bad way.

Tweeny Witches has a very unusual feel in its pacing for the first several episodes since it makes some strange leaps of logic. Looking for logic in a magical girl show isn't exactly the smartest thing to do in general but with the short episodes and the awkward transitions between each of the episodes sometimes, the beginning of the show just doesn't click all that well. Part of it may have been expectations in general as a title like Tweeny Witches just doesn't match up with what the show actually looks like and plays out like. As the episodes progress and some of the darker secrets of the Magical Realm comes out - including the introduction of the Warlocks - it starts to become more interesting as there are some political intrigue moments and the nature of how the world is tied to the human world is touched upon.

Animated by Studio 4C, Tweeny Wtiches has a very distinct feel which is certainly part of the studios style. While I've loved some of the things that they've done in the past, Tweeny Witches left me very cold. The Magical Realm is very drab and dark with lots of muted earthy tones to it. The style itself isn't bad but the actual animation and designs are just very rough, edgy and unappealing. The characters certainly feel lived in with how they're made, but when combined with the slow moving story and any real lack of connection to them, it just doesn't work well. The three lead characters don't hold much visual appeal, though there are certainly archetype aspects that will stand out for some. It was surprising that they took the approach of making the fairies look as ugly as they do, which makes Arusu's protective feelings of them all the more amusing. The variety to the fairies works well also since you just have to wonder what they'll create next.

In Summary:
After this first double disc set of Tweeny Witches, my opinion of it has been all over the map. With an intriguing opening sequence that then shifted to some less than pleasant 3D CG animation and designs that just didn't appeal, the slow moving and stilted story left me uninterested. As the story progresses and a bit more of the world is explored, some new elements introduced are more engaging to see play out but it can't quite salvage things yet. With as many episodes as there are on here, the show just hasn't done enough to win me over to being actually interested in seeing the next volume. Strangely enough, while it didn't appeal to me or my wife much while watching it, my eight year old daughter was plenty fascinated by it. And that's what the creator was aiming for so maybe he got it right in the long run. This isn't a show that I can recommend however unless you know exactly what you're getting into.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Interview with Keita Amemiya,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.99/29.99
Running time: 161
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tweeny Witches