Magical Play -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 150
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Magical Play

Magical Play

By Chris Beveridge     July 07, 2004
Release Date: June 29, 2004

Magical Play
© ADV Films

What They Say
In the world of Sweetland, Padudu has fallen from Sea Heaven on a quest to become a Magical Girl and go to the Earth of her dreams. She will have to participate in magical battles and collect Hanamaru stamps. On her journey, she will meet many friends and fight countless rivals. Tag along and see if Padudu can accomplish her life-long goal of becoming a Magical Girl!

The Review!
Some of my favorite creators behind series such as El-Hazard and Battle Athletes come back together to produce something that's pretty out there.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The episodes have a pretty good stereo mix to them with some very distinct moments of directionality across the forward soundstage. Overall it's a good mix with only a few areas standing out during the episodes but the dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2001, the OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This show uses a variety of different animation techniques and shows off just how much detail can be visible in some scenes. One of the biggest aspects of this show is just how bright and varied many of the colors are, going from backgrounds that are done in a storybook mode to the full 3D animation backgrounds and everything in between. There's some aliasing going on in various scenes, often occurring during panning sequences, but they're not terribly distracting. Cross coloration is thankfully absent for the most part as well. With such large blocks of color throughout it all stays nice and solid with a smooth feel to it. This is a very good looking transfer.

Done up in a standard single keepcase but with disc holders on each side inside, the clear keepcase does a good job of holding both discs firmly in place. The front cover gives you a good feel of what to expect with a shot of three of the key characters to the show in their brightly colored outfits set against a simple blue background. The back cover provides a few shots that do a better job of giving you an idea of what the show is like. The layout is good with a couple of explanatory paragraphs and a listing of the discs extras. The usual production credits are included above the useful technical grid. Interestingly, there's a new little button included that says "Featured on Anime Network". I know the need for cross promotion but this just seems sort of silly. The cover for this release is doubly reversible! You can set it so the front cover is as you buy it but you can also change it out to be either Myumyu or Pipin as each have their own full cover shots included. The included booklet provides a number of production sketches and details some of the creators backgrounds for the show as well as what they were trying to achieve with the 2D/3D animation techniques.

Going for a simple shot, we get an image of Padudu standing to one side while episode selections and the rest is to her right while underneath that there are four little blocks of animation playing, all set to the opening song. It's a cute and vibrant menu that definitely sets you into the mood for the show. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate, but with as many in-episode breakdowns as there are for this show I wish there was an actual scene selection. The setup also correctly read my players defaults which is a huge plus.

There are some good extras included in this release. The opening and ending sequences are done in textless form and the character art gallery is done rather well. In addition to showing character art, they do bits of the story along side the pieces to help flesh things out a bit more, all set to the closing theme song to the show. The voice actor commentary is? different. It's done by a trio of voice actors and two of them aren't even in the show, so this is more of just a comedy session for the actors as they watch the show (apparently for the first time) and try to understand what's going on. And they start with the fourth episode. I have to wonder why it was done this way. The second disc doesn't contain any extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Magical Play is something that we don't really see all too often being licensed. It's a series of OVAs that are, well, pretty out there in some respects. It's look and feel is kiddy in nature but a lot of it isn't aimed for kids, enough so that they gave this a 15+ rating. Magical Play also stands out in the way it uses a variety of animation techniques to tell its story. Or rather, stories.

The basic concept is pretty simple. A young girl named Padudu from Sea Heaven has come to Sweetland so that she can go on the training journey to become a magical girl so she can eventually go to Earth and fulfill her dreams. Along the way she ends up with some friends, enemies and a number of trials to go through in order to achieve her goal. Sweetland is a place where things are just so completely different in some regards that it takes on fairytale status. For example, Padudu arrives wearing an oversized fish on her body with her head visible through its mouth. The fish has a name, Uokichi, and is probably one of the comedic highlights of the show. Padudu uses him in her quest as both a shield and sustenance. Whenever she's hungry, she just rips a part of his flesh out from the inside and eats it, much to his wails and moans (his only kind of dialogue).

Padudu has to acquire hanamaru through the various official tournaments that are held throughout Sweetland. When she has enough and completes the journey, she can go up for magical girl status. Private magical battles are strictly forbidden though, which Padudu finds out after she accidentally acquires her first hanamaru at the expense of the actual winner and the two end up in a fight, only for it to be broken up by the local police girls Ketchup and Mustard. Through this fight, Padudu makes a lifelong rival in the form of Pipin, a young woman with a rabbit on her back who is intent on being a magical girl as well. She does make a friend named Myumyu though, another girl on a journey to be a magical girl but one who wants to control the entire world. Myumyu is great as her costume is made up of two cats that stretch around her body with their heads cover her breasts. It's amusing watching them eat or just get interested in something else, such as Uokichi.

Each of the episodes of the first four OVAs run just over thirty minutes long so there's a fair amount of content on the first disc with that. Within the episodes there are multiple shorter stories, some of which don't directly connect to the one that follows it. They go through the motions of Padudu, Myumyu and Pipin going through their journey, sometimes as friends sometimes with Pipin trying to stop them, and dealing with whatever is thrown their way, especially in the challenges. One of the more amusing challenges has them being placed virtually on Earth as a human girl with magical girl powers and having to deal with the situations that come up by answering properly. Do you take advantage of your powers or just suffer through life?

On the flip side of things, one of the people that Padudu befriends, a powerful magical girl named Nonononn, is the subject of a hunt by the Queen of Sweetland, Purilin. The two once traveled together as partners on their journey to become magical girls but a rift developed between them and caused a fallout. So Purilin sends her lackey, a boy named Zucchini (and really the only main male character of the show) to get information about them and stop them since Nonononn befriended the trio. Unfortunately for Zucchini, he's in lust with Myumyu and her obvious cleavage which leads him to massive body-hurling blood spurts.

What's interesting about the show in terms of its visuals is the mix of animation techniques. There's a number of scenes where it doesn't mesh all that well but it's outweighed by the scenes where it does look good. For example, the fourth episode has the characters going to a place where they're literally 2D and they look like pieces of paper that you can rotate around while everyone else is fully 3D and it's used as a gag for that world. Some other areas in the episodes have the characters being more 3D realized than normal and they look a bit out of place, such as when they run towards the camera, but the bulk of the show is intriguing in the mix of styles.

The second disc has one episode on it (why it didn't make it onto the other disc is a mystery) that I believe was done first, and it's a condensed different version of Padudu's arrival in Sweetland and how she meets the different characters and gets along in the world. This episode is fully in 3D and for it being three years old is fascinating. A good half of it probably looks bad in different ways, but there are a lot of scenes that just look fantastic, such as when Uokichi is first rescued from the river and Padudu pops out from her. The mouths tend to be the weakest part though since they're more cartoony than anything else in the show and the lip flap match-ups make things more awkward.

In Summary:
It's hard to pin down this show. It's definitely a strange piece of work and it doesn't feel up to the same standards as some of the creators previous works, but there's a charm to it as it goes along with its offbeat sense of humor and the way it messes over the characters at times and puts them in awkward challenges. The sheer strangeness of the setting at times, at least initially, will probably turn some people off and it took us a fair bit to get into it enough that we were laugh at what was going on and actually liking the characters. With this being all there is, it's at least a good self-contained collection and something that's a minimal commitment.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Character gallery, Voice actor commentary

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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