Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Apr 10th 2008
DVD 1 - A New Witch in Town
Self-proclaimed connoisseur of boring normality Haruo really has no idea how far from normal his life is until the day he meets Ayumi Mamiya on his way to school. Ayumi is a witch, and not shy about using her considerable powers in front of others. Placed under a curse as a child that will one day drain her magical powers and deprive her of her rightful place as the Mamiya family heir, Ayumi needs to awaken Haruo's latent magical powers in order to break the curse. Which leaves her with no choice but to pose as a maid and seduce him. Haruo's discovery of the existence of witches is short-lived however, as it turns out that not only are all three of his younger sisters witches, but they also have memory-erasing hammers and no qualms about using them to preserve their brother's peaceful obliviousness. Not that there's any peace to be had once scheming, selfish, violent Ayumi becomes their live-in maid. As the number of witches at Haruo's school increases, Ayumi does everything in her power to awaken his powers. Drugs, magic, night-time attacks, fashion shows—nothing is beneath her. And all that stands in her way is Haruo's sisters. And a smitten student-body president, an inept witch-hunter, peeping toms, a lustful student body, and the fact that Haruo might well have no magical powers whatsoever.
Beware any series whose female lead makes the deadly procession from cherry-petal-enshrouded, fatefully encountered bishoujo to mysterious transfer student to live-in maid in a single episode. Especially one that imitates, point for plot point, any dozen other like-minded series. Magikano is a graveyard of harem comedy clichés, a series whose utter lack of originality is only trumped by its inability to entertain.
Tellingly, if not surprisingly, a quick purview of Magikano's crew unearths strong links to two of the more abysmal series to muck their way onto the American market. Director Seiji Kishi's reliance on manic SD girl-fights to bolster limp humor more closely resembles his work on Galaxy Angel Rune than his anemic, but less irritating, direction on Ragnarok the Animation, but he maintains the same soul-sucking dearth of enthusiasm that blighted both. Katsuyuki Harada's score drills at the skull with the same sloppy, migrainic energy as his score for Rune, and Hideki Mitsui's writing does its best to give his obscenely stupid script for Ragnarok a run for its money, but fails thanks to his occasional successes with humor. When watching him cleverly, if less than tastefully, turn a joke involving a half-dressed girl and a giant, slimy eel on its head with a well-timed gender switcheroo, it's a little easier to believe that he's the same Hideki Mitsui who had a hand in the superb Fantastic Children.
For all of the staff inbreeding however, Magikano's heart—or what passes for it—isn't in works like Rune and Ragnarok, but in high-energy harem comedies like Kishi's later (and infinitely superior) Seto no Hanayome. So much so that it wastes no time on distractions like creativity. Line up Magikano's DNA fingerprints with those of its genre-mates, and on top of general similarities (constant addition of love interests, vapid geek/loser/pathetic idiot lead, substanceless slice-of-life comedy structure), you'll notice enough specific similarities to already derivative series like Maburaho (witches, hero with unplumbed magical potential) and Happy Lesson (overprotective female family, weird "best friends" with camera fetishes and short/tall physiques) to indicate a series that, if not cloned, at the very least sprang from a family with Deliverance-like breeding practices.
There is one way in which Magikano distinguishes itself from creatively bankrupt but vaguely amusing series like Maburaho and Happy Lesson: it isn't even vaguely amusing. Which, in the name of succinctness, we'll for now blame solely on Magikano's cast. Where the others could be vaguely amusing because their cast was at least tolerable, everyone in Magikano—even, by some miracle, its passive lead—is so intolerably obnoxious that even vague amusement is out of the question. From Haruo's family, who dominate large stretches of each episode, to Ayumi's sister, whose screentime clocks in at under thirty seconds, the entire cast, with no exceptions is like a cheese grater to your nerve endings—nothing but base stereotypes sped up to freeway speeds, wound tighter than watch springs, and jacked up to brain-frying extremes. That Ayumi is a deceitful, self-centered dominatrix instead of a sweet, passive sexpot is the cast's one claim to something besides the lowest common denominator, but that doesn't make her interesting or sympathetic, simply different.
So lazy is the construction of the cast that even the character designs are lackluster, little more than generically cute—a fatal flaw in a genre that lives or dies by its female characters. So shallow is the animators' faith in the appeal of their character designs that when Ayumi is introduced they have side-characters describe her appealing qualities (like her small face...no, I don't understand it either) instead of letting the visuals speak for themselves. In the name of fairness, it should be mentioned that none of the other technical merits are high enough to merit referring to the character designs as a disappointment—despite computer-spruced magical mayhem that gets mighty close to being impressive whenever Ayumi gets her ire up and enough mad energy to distract from the otherwise mediocre animation. Nevertheless a bishoujo series really should have more "bi" in its shoujo than this.
ADV throws a platoon of veteran voice actresses at this title, all of whom immediately begin serving up thick, steaming slices of comedic ham. It's largely thanks to them, and the script's occasionally amusing rewrites, that the series works marginally better as a comedy in English. The addition of small print to the insert ads that accompany the suspicious technologies being pushed by Haruo's buddies was a particularly clever touch. The effort and talent, both of cast and crew, are wasted however on a series that no amount of tweaking can make anything less than thoroughly irritating. Though dropping the female cast's vocal register a notch or two does provide some blessed relief for much-abused eardrums.
For a romantic comedy, Magikano has precious little romance. Or comedy for that matter. Indeed, with a third of the series already over by the close of this volume, it seems devoid of any ambition at all beyond testing how far sheer hyperactivity can be taken before viewers begin using their DVDs as doggy chew-toys. And, no, cheesecake cosplay fashion shows don't excuse anything.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : D+
+ A funny giant eel gag.
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