Reviewby Casey Brienza, Jan 13th 2009
Sasami: Magical Girls Club
DVD - Season Two
The performance of the Magical Girls Club during the tournament has attracted the interest of the witch world leadership, and against the wishes of Washu-sensei, who finds herself branded a traitor for her troubles, the girls return for a combat training summer camp. There is conflict on another front as well: Misao, tired of taking a backseat to Sasami, leaves her friends behind to become the Maiden of Dawn. But little does she know that there are even bigger things at stake than she realizes. The witches have opened up the Great Cauldron and plan to use the magical girls to “reeducate” the earth. Can Sasami and her friends make the Chief Sorceress and Executives change their minds? And what will success—or failure—mean for Sasami's burgeoning relationship with the adorable Ami-chan?
Sasami: Magical Girls Club takes a more sinister turn in the second and final season, which includes episodes 14-26. Several crises, all of them at least hinted at previously, are confronted and solved. Some of these crises involve the witches and their ambitions for the magical girls; Sasami, like practically every other magical girl to come alive on Japanese page, stage, or screen, has some mighty, as of yet untapped power that the bad guys (or in this case gals) want but that only she can wield. And to get at Sasami, the witches are willing to pit the friends against each other, using Misao's feelings of loneliness and isolation to turn her. The girls also get a several chances to dispense with the long-held rancor of the witches against the earth and to bring the Great Cauldron (which turns out to be a person—one guess as to whom) a measure of peace.
Themes of the show once again include friendship, triumph over adversity, and faith in the fundamental goodness of the world. Some of the lukewarm moral conceits prosaic to Japanese popular culture get trotted out here as well—with the most notable of these being that those selfish souls who make others worry about them ought to be punished—and as usual they do not always translate across cultures.
In the first season, An-An's shrill, one-sided devotion to Tsukasa was more irritating yuri fanservice than all but the most tolerant of viewers could handle. The second season now starts batting shamelessly for the other team, giving yaoi fans their due, with Amitav clinging like a lost puppy to Sasami's father Ginji—and it is equally overdone and annoying. (Interestingly, both the English subtitles and the English dub play down Amitav's frequent declarations of love in a way that they do not play down An-An's; “daisuki” becomes “like,” for example.) Fortunately, the show redeems itself character-wise with its treatment of Washu-sensei, who really comes into her valiant own when push comes to shove and she is forced to take a stand for her girls. Though used for comic relief, she arguably manifests more consistent conviction and bravery than any of the other characters in the entire series.
All of the voice actors from the previous season reprise their roles, with Amitav and the five members of the Shining Team featured more prominently. As before, both the Japanese and English language casts deliver solid but not necessarily stellar performances that seem appropriate in their respective cultural contexts. The five members of the Magical Girls Club do not sound quite so affectedly cute in English as they do in Japanese, for example. The second season also features quite a lot of intra-episode singing, from Itoki singing drunken karaoke to Amitav delivering his signature number to Sasami. All of it grates on the nerves, no matter the language, and those with limited patience may find themselves tapping the fast forward button impatiently.
There is a perceptible decline in animation quality from the first season to the second, and the character designs start looking very sloppy in places, particularly toward the end. A lot of the most impressive new visuals, particularly of locales in the land of the witches, are actually still images that seem inspired by the imagination of an elementary school girl. Suffice it to say that the witches can build more than just modest huts with grass roofs. Most of the animation budget appears to have been blown on an epic battle with a grown up Misao and the horde of butterflies that accompany her temporary assumption of Keura's fell power.
All in all, this is a solid second season that ramps up the relatively low key action of the previous thirteen episodes. The pacing is especially excellent, and most of the episodes are not “episodic” at all. Those subplots involving visits to the land of the witches run quite long and are experienced during back to back viewing as continuous narratives. Although Sasami: Magical Girls Club continues to be a highly derivative take on the magical girl genre and once again there are no big surprises, it is good, mindless entertainment that you will not be embarrassed to share with the whole family. It should do quite well in syndication on the FUNimation Channel in 2009.
Extras in this two-disc set are near non-existent. As with the previous FUNimation release of the first season of Sasami: Magical Girls Club, the only bonuses are textless opening and ending songs. Given that both animation sequences differ—at least in part—from the previous season and are vaguely interesting from an artistic point of view, fans of the show may appreciate them.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ A fast-paced, plot-driven run of episodes with little filler. Still relatively kid-safe, despite the sinister turn.
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