Cute girls with magic powers combined with one slightly dorky unaware guy equals predictable and simple fun that plays it safe.
What They Say
Haruo Yoshikawa always thought he was your average run-of-the-mill middle school student: great attendance record, no real plans for the future, and three adorable, loving sisters, Maika, Chiaki and Fuyuno. Perfectly normal, right?
Wrong! What Haruo doesn't know is that his three sneaky sisters have been keeping him in the dark about a little family secret: they're all magic users! In the blink of an eye, Haruo's "normal" life does a 180 degree turn into the insane with the arrival of the enchanting Ayumi, who for some reason seems very interested in turning Haruo into a "real man" ...as well as awakening his dormant powers!
Contains episodes 1-13.
This bilingual presentation follows a fairly standard formula for a series of this nature by having a stereo Japanese mix and an English 5.1 mix. The Japanese mix is done with a good 224 kbps encoding that gives it a fairly full feeling across the forward soundstage. The English 5.1 mix doesn't feel the same since it provides a more distinct sense of placement for the dialogue. It doesn't overwhelm in the same way which is good but also has it feeling more subdued. Dialogue on both tracks is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in early 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Originally released on three discs from ADV Films, the FUNimation collections brings it down to two discs with a seven/six format for the episode layout. Though there are still plenty of full frame shows being made these days, it's still a bit of a surprise since we tend to see more widescreen shows, even when it comes to comedies, when they're brought over here. Magikano doesn't suffer from this though as the presentation is very solid with great looking colors that hold up very well. There's hardly any noise at all in the backgrounds which gives it all a very solid look. Colors aren't oversaturated and cross coloration is pretty much absent here along with line noise which is a surprise. Though this isn't a standout looking show in some regards, it's a very strong looking presentation when it comes to the video quality of it which helps to make it all the better.
Considering this is a release of a Sojitz show that came out in 2008, I wasn’t expecting much from the packaging, especially as it’s a clear keepcase with both discs on one side inside. The front cover has a good if too-pink image of Ayumi in the foreground in full color while the rest of the cast is in the background in that various shades of pink. Granted, it’s a very girly show in some ways, but it’s also a standard male harem fantasy so the pink could easy push away some interested viewers. The back cover has more pink and some purple as it shows Ayumi riding a broom in her maid uniform as well as several snapshots of other parts of the show strewn about. The summary is a good length as it sells the basic idea well enough and there’s a clean listing of the discs extras. The remainder is done with the standard production credits and a good technical grid. What surprised me is that there is a reverse side cover to it that’s actually more appealing. The left side has the episode rundown for each of the volumes while the right side has a good full page shot of the three sisters in different outfits. It doesn’t have the logo but if the pink really bothers you, it’s a good option.
Not surprisingly, FUNimation uses the designs and colors from the front and back covers for the menus on this release. Each volume has a different piece of artwork, which I believe we saw with the original ADV Films releases, though they’re static menus with some music playing to it. The navigation is kept simple, especially on the first disc which doesn’t have much on it, but it’s easy to move around and quick to access. Submenus are quick to respond and the layout is straightforward and logical, following how FUNimation does the majority of their releases. Language selection is standard as well, as it doesn’t highlight what is actually selected nor does it read our players presets.
The only extras included here are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the original manga by Takeaki Momose which started in 2003, Magikano is a thirteen episode series that quite simply plays it safe. Not only does the show itself play it safe but it feels like this is a token show of sorts for a US company, the kind that they needed to fill the gap left when some other standard harem comedy isn’t on the schedule. With the manga still ongoing you know that it's going to be fairly predictable and without any true resolution, but they take that to a new level with the way this ends.
The series revolves around the Yoshikawa family, a family that's made up of the eldest brother Haruo and his through younger sisters, Maiko, Chiaki and Fuyuno. The parents aren't really discussed here nor are they present in any real way but that's not the big secret. The big secret is that all three sisters are actually witches. Their beloved big brother Haruo is the odd member of the family in that he doesn't have any magic powers. Due to this, Maika decided at an early age to cast counter spells on him to keep him safe and they utilize memory erasure spells in order to keep the secret. This way he gets to live a normal life and everyone is nice and happy. That can go on for only so long though before something else stumbles into their lives.
And that something is a young woman named Ayumi, a witch herself who has come to the household and by order of the Department of Magic is now their maid. It's all very confusing at first but with a few well placed memory alteration spells, everything settles into place and Ayumi becomes something of a member of the household. The first few episodes deal with her arrival and how she fits into the scheme of things. Ayumi is the typical somewhat loud, outgoing and stubborn character who is only focused on her own goals. It's sort of understandable though since the reason she's there is to save her life by removing a curse she's on her since childhood. The involvement of Haruo in all of it isn't given more than a nod to ensure that there is a connection, but the end result is that she's intent on turning him into a proper man and getting his powers back on track so that her life is saved.
With four girls under one roof there is plenty of material to work with before you even introduce the magic side of things. That's not enough for Magikano though and we're introduced to student council president Yuri, a proper young woman intent on keeping the schools moral code intact. The discovery that Ayumi is living with Haruo sends her off on a tizzy because she too is interested in Haruo and cannot abide by this for numerous reasons. And yeah, she's a witch too. It's like they're falling out of the sky when you find out about this part of her life. Yuri is actually a nice addition to the show though since she falls in between Maika's brother complex and Ayumi's machinations. But even Yuri's not enough because they have to introduce another young woman later named Marin who is a witch hunter, something that shouldn't exist anymore due to how the magic using community reorganized awhile ago. Marin brings more tension to the show but also wacky comedy as her inept spells and accidental moments cause plenty of misery for everyone.
As the show progresses into the middle of its run, it hits up more material that really has me feeling that some of its best episodes are already behind it. With Ayumi being in the position she's in, having a personal maid sent to assist her and take care of Haruo certainly wouldn't be encouraging. The arrival of Rika brings us yet another attractive young woman who wears a maid uniform. She's actually a bit more than a standard maid as she's trying to get personal and combat data on all the people in Ayumi's life as well as making sure that things are moving forward for Ayumi to remove the curse. To balance it out, Rika is given a straight face for everything and she likes playing jokes on people. Except that her jokes aren't really jokes but rather ways of causing panic and fear in people so she can get her data. Rika brings in more competition when it comes to Haruo, something that plainly wasn't needed.
Magikano does start to show some promise later when Michiru makes her mark on the human world and completely ruins the play that the student council is putting on during the culture festival. The Cinderella play is amusing enough in itself, as are the things the gang in general are doing for the culture festival, but once Ayumi begins tossing real magic into the event as the Evil Witch, Michiru takes it a step further and brings almost all of them into a magical world where she does her best to steal away Haruo and wreck havoc with everyone else. It's got some cute literary moments to it as it deals with the various wolves from childhood tales and the Queen of Hearts and such, but the episode is overly frenetic and chaotic at times which is compounded by the audience seeing it all and trying to understand it. It just felt like too much without enough proper direction to it.
In terms of comedy, the show does have some saving graces, such as how it has Rika doing something to help Ayumi acquire Haruo's attention. With a pair of panties passed down from Ayumi's grandmother, they're designed to triple her magical power and to fetch the eye of the one she loves the most. Ayumi of course puts them on quickly only to discover that the panties have a cute cat face on them and they talk. And oh does it talk, especially about how it likes to be pressed against her skin and then later commenting on whether she's shaved there recently. The worst part for Ayumi is that she cannot take the panties off herself, it has to be done by the one she loves after he sees them. It's all quite twisted and you have to wonder how any grandmother would consent to passing these on. But the humor is there, especially when Ayumi discovers that if other men see them, they fall in lust with her on the spot. Cue the horny zombies...
The two story points that come across in the next couple of episodes are pretty weak, though at least the second one isn't a full length deal. Episode eleven brings us to the Christmas holiday and you know with one guy and half a dozen women interested in him that things will just go badly. Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, uncertainty about what they mean to each other... all personified in how Ayumi handles everything of course. When she catches sight of Haruo shopping with another woman in an almost affectionate and comfortable way, she ends up becoming incredibly depressed. There seem to be only a couple of standard story ideas associated with the Christmas Eve holiday so it's fairly easy to figure out where it will go. And once you know that, it's a matter of whether you like the characters as to whether it'll work for you. Having been fairly bland to them, this and the subsequent New Years Day storyline left me counting down the seconds for the show to be over with.
But, there has to be a proper ending for Magikano. There has to be the build up to something big that will happen as you can't leave the relationships like this. Even if it's all going to be reset at the end, you cowardly writers, you have to bring in the potential of drama before you can close it out. With Haruo supposedly being this incredibly powerful person and Ayumi needing him to lift the curse, the potential for having it all come out must be dealt with. When Haruo seemingly can't be affected by the memory removal spell, it signals the start of his Awakening, an event that's made a mess of when Michiru steps in and reveals that she's met them before and has worked her manipulations in the past. With a nod and a wink she essentially kidnaps Haruo so she can strap him to a chair in her mansion in the Magical World and suck his Demon King power out of him.
Flush with power, it's easy to see why she thinks of not only conquering the Magical World but the real world as well. Nothing goes easy for Michiru though and having a gaggle of girls who love Haruo for different reasons coming after her gives her a challenge to deal with. But with the way the show has played out, predictability ensues and honestly you know exactly how it will go. This has been the weakest part of the show and it feels even more oppressive towards the end here. What really frustrated me with it was that not only did they give us a basic kind of reset in that the relationships are all back to the same thing at the end, they actually reversed time so that it can all be done once again. You know you're showing your age if you're having some Superman movie flashbacks going on after seeing that. The plot device at the end of the show for dealing with the threat of the ominous Demon King took what tiny little wind was in the shows sails at that point and let it float away.
Magikano engages in the cardinal sin of being… average. While it has some good production values to it, there isn't anything here that separates it from many other series out there. The combination of magic users, high school girls and the harem motif combines well enough here but there isn't anything here that sets it apart. As much as Magikano bothered me at times, it is a series that is sort of ideal for people new to anime to get into. It works through a lot of the archetype storylines that new fans will find positively hilarious and it does it all quite competently at that. For the older fans, it's going to be a draw for very personal reasons such as voice actors or creative staff that are behind it, or even the allure of a particular character design. For me, the only saving grace towards the end was a pair of magical talking panties. I don't know if that says more about more than the show itself, but I found that aspect to be the bright point of the entire series. Not worth it just for that, but if you've made it to the third volume, it might just be your highlight too.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.