Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 30th 2005
Rumiko Takahashi Anthology
DVD 3: A Touch of Magic
Once again popular writer/creator Rumiko Takahashi offers up three independent stories, each one this time involving an older woman and the unusual circumstances surrounding her. In “Hundred Year Love” a 90-year-old woman gains extraordinary powers after recognizing a young man in a hospital as a dead ringer for a lost past love and fearing that the young man might meet the same tragic fate as her love. In “In Lieu of Thanks” a housewife gets caught in the midst of condominium politics when she sides with a “witch” against the “queen” of the complex. In “Living Room Love Song,” the living room of a middle-aged man's house is haunted by the ghost of his recently deceased wife, which becomes an inconvenience when a much younger coworker seems to take an interest in him.
Because of its status as an anthology series, each of the episodes in “A Touch of Magic” is a self-contained story entirely unconnected to one another or any episode from a previous volume (though if you watch closely, some of the characters from episode 8 do briefly pop up in episode 9). As such, one does not need to have seen either of the previous volumes to be able to appreciate this one.
With this volume the series continues a predisposition towards light, whimsical drama; while I can't exactly classify these episodes as comedy, neither are they particularly serious. Only in the last episode does any of these stories get heavy, and then only towards the end. Despite a supernatural component (or intimation thereof), each episode also deals with a common problem of ordinary people: episode 7 concerns pining for a long-lost love, episode 8 concerns the interpersonal dramas and conflicts which can spontaneously generate amongst housewives in a condo facility, and episode 9, despite some misdirection, actually concerns dealing with the loss of a loved one. The light-spirited musical scoring, a distinct improvement over the previous volume, assures the viewer that nothing except the end of episode 9 is intended to be taken too seriously, however. Though no graphic content will be found here, these are still stories oriented towards adults, with almost exclusively adult characters involved and situations which would probably not be of much interest to a younger crowd. That isn't to say that kids couldn't be entertained by these short stories, and this volume is certainly safe for family viewing, but parents should keep in mind that kids are not the target audience.
Though the stories and characters change from episode to episode, artistic merits and designs remain consistent. Except for the old lady in episode 7, characters are realistically-proportioned and mostly appealing, but they are also very ordinary-looking people who could have stepped out of any of Takahashi's other works. The wizened little old lady in episode 7 also could have stepped out of some of Takahashi's other works, but the beaklike mouth isn't ordinary-looking and the “little” part is taken to extreme overkill, given that she is depicted as being a normal-sized woman in flashbacks. Though a fairly bright palette of colors is used for the series, the character designs have a flat, slightly rough look to them. Background art is better, with a couple of places where a small amount of CG enhancement was used, though the integration between the two is seamless. Overall, though, the production looks a bit older than it actually is. The animation uses tricks and gimmicks common to Takahashi's other work, but is good enough to suit a series which doesn't put heavy demands on it. Opener and closer are unchanged from earlier episodes.
Geneon's English script stays reasonably tight to the subtitles, with most discrepancies merely involving the use of equivalent phraseology. I only noted one place where the English script used a significantly different meaning, but it was not on a point intrinsically important to the episode. The English roles in each episode are adequately cast and performed, producing a competent dub which should satisfy dub fans but is unlikely to interest or impress purists.
The extras in “A Touch of Magic” are sparse, including only company previews and character art. Menu screens lack any music or animation, but they do have separate vocal and subtitle options and a better set-up than most for scene access. As with previous volumes, the Japanese closer is retained with English credits after the previews for the last episode.
“A Touch of Magic” is hardly one of the more exciting recent volumes of anime and doesn't have the sharp look or feel of the hottest current titles. It is, however, a light, pleasant, and entertaining volume which offers up a good option for those who don't want to commit to a series or are looking for something clean and a bit more mature than school-aged romantic comedies, magical girl titles, or stylish action series.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Good light entertainment which mature audiences can appreciate.
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