Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Komugi Nakahara is a scatterbrained 17-year-old cosplay idol and aspiring actress. Armed with a magical staff and the cute animal mascot Mugimaru, she's also Magical Nurse Komugi, whose job is to fight off "viruses" sent by an alien invader in a bid to take over humankind. In Episode 1 of this disc, one of Komugi's classmates has been infected, and the virus ultimately manifests itself as a monstrous amalgam of ASCII art and Internet forum discussions. Episode 2 occurs at the Comiket convention in Odaiba, and when Komugi's enemy Magical Maid Koyori turns the convention center into a menacing giant robot, Komugi has to delve into some old-school cosplay to save the day. Finally, the aptly named Episode 2.5 is a series of music videos strung together during a day in the life of Komugi.
The cover of the DVD case should be a dead giveaway of what you're getting yourself into: bunny ears, nurse outfits, and lots of pink. This incongruous spinoff takes characters from the darker-themed Soul Taker series and re-casts them as players in a plotless, brainless example of what's wrong with contemporary anime.
It's hard to analyze the story of Nurse Witch Komugi when there is no story to speak of. It's a monster-of-the-week formula boiled down to its very essence, set against the backdrop of anime fandom. If references to cosplay, conventions, doujinshi, and fat pimply Internet addicts are your kind of thing, then dig in! You may also enjoy the boob jokes and fanservice that pepper this show like Naruto headbands at Anime Expo. The only high point in Nurse Witch Komugi (and by "high point" I mean "not as awful as everything else") is the raucous parody of Gatchaman, where Komugi plays all five members of the Science Ninja Force and goes God Phoenix on her adversary. Unfortunately, it was only good for a five-minute laugh out of this old-school fan, and were it not for those five minutes I would have rated the DVD a complete failure. Of course, there are also the magical girl elements, but it's basically the same old spin-and-chant with syringes and scalpels being the gimmick.
In a show like this, it's no surprise that the main female characters have indistinguishable teenybopper personalities. Komugi, Koyori (her well-endowed best friend who also happens to be the evil Magical Maid Koyori) and Megumi (her well-endowed rival in the acting business) are all bubble-headed brats who basically have hair color and relative chest size as their defining characteristics. The girls' interactions consist of empty conversations or shrill arguments, which are usually stopped by their nondescript showbiz managers. Because her existence is so shallow, it's impossible to develop any sympathy for Komugi or her friends--this is a show that's neither plot-driven nor character-driven, but exists only as eye candy.
The artwork in Nurse Witch Komugi isn't so much art as just a library of competently drawn stock characters that can be copied by in-between animators or doujinshi artists. Even Mugimaru, the obligatory cute animal mascot, looks like a reject from the Di Gi Charat cast. The real work that goes into the visuals is in rendering the cosplay outfits with detail--and it's a sad state of affairs when a character's clothes carry more impact than the character. The one bright point in the artwork is the crisp, high-contrast color scheme, even if it is somewhat juvenile. The animation is another decent aspect of the show; it moves just enough to give a lifelike feeling and it actually pulls off the exaggerated, comedic action quite well. Of course, with that generally consisting of things flapping back and forth or zipping across the screen, there's not very much artistry to it.
There's hardly any content in the show to motivate the voice actors for the English dub of Nurse Witch Komugi. Luci Christian tries her best as Mugimaru and is perhaps the one fun character to listen to, but everyone sounds like they're reading or yelling directly from the script (and possibly gawking in disbelief at how ridiculous this all is). Meanwhile, the background music is entirely forgettable, and the theme songs and music videos are textbook examples of the mildly pleasant, throwaway J-pop that sets the musical standard for shows like this. The medically themed lyrics in the opening song are particularly cringe-worthy. "Parasol pikaru chloroform" indeed.
As if to make up for the shallowness of the series, there are a couple of unexpected extras on the DVD. A "How to Anime" documentary features a Mugimaru plushie wandering around a studio describing the animation process, and there's a commentary track for Episode 2 with the director and the English-language VAs. Whether you would want to re-watch Nurse Witch Komugi just for the commentary track, however, is entirely a matter of personal choice.
These past few years have seen a disturbing trend in anime and manga known as "moe" (pronounced mo-eh): wide-eyed girls with improbable proportions and looks that would land most interested guys in jail. Dressed in fetish outfits that combine the worst elements of frilly, short, and skintight, these female characters are designed to be "everyone's favorite girlfriend" with their blank personalities and complete subservience. Nurse Witch Komugi contributes to that trend by unapologetically throwing as much cosplay and fanservice on the screen as possible. While there are certainly those who enjoy such things, viewers with more refined sensibilities are advised to stay well away from this release.
Overall (dub) : D-
Overall (sub) : D-
Story : F
Animation : C
Art : D
Music : D
+ That one Gatchaman parody moment
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