Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Mar 8th 2009
Tweeny Witches OVA
DVD - The Adventures
Having successfully saved the Magical Realm from annihilation, apprentice witches Arusu, Eva and Sheila have settled into a comfortable routine. Well, comfortable so long as mountain-sized fairies, mysteriously connected twin witches and soup that turns your head into a giant fish can be considered comforting. Arusu, at the very least, does. In fact she's so comfortable she even has time to listen to tales of the Grand Master's battle with an infamous ice witch and Eva's inadvertent creation of the Dragon House.
The Adventure, though a direct continuation of the first season of Tweeny Witches, is really a throwback to the early episodes, when the show was all fairy-hunting fluff and silly side-adventures with no fate-of-the-world ramifications. Which is, frankly, a relief. The series' simple characters and Burtonesque (that's Tim) look are far better suited to somewhat dark magical whimsy than to breast-beating end-of-humanity drama. The series doesn't transform into candy-colored magical girl sweetness—the twisted architecture and freaky fairies ensure that—but it's lighter, and consequently far more enjoyable, than the dreary, draggy second half of the first series. There are goofy episodes (the girls suffering from fish-headedness) and the usual girl-bonding, but the series really comes to life while immersing itself in spectacular magical action. With all of the agonizing about doomsday and the meaning of magic out of the way, the girls now have plenty of time to fling fireballs and zip about on their brooms. And even better, they avail themselves of it at every opportunity, whether it's during a subterranean escape from an MPD witch, an aerial bout with a slavering, fairy-eating beast, or a gastrointestinal (!) race against a frenzied, explosive tree.
Sound like good, brainless fun, right? Well, not quite. Swooping brooms, exploding seeds and beams of magic can only occupy so much screen time, and the down-time between action scenes is often a little too...well, down. Though kept brief by the thirty-minute stories, the series' tendency to awkwardly insert lessons about believing in oneself and doing right by your conscience does assert itself, stopping the series dead in its tracks whenever it does. Director Yoshiharu Ashino's habit of drenching everything in ominous light and long shadows is not conducive to magical frolics, and Tamiya Terashima's score, while beautifully melancholy, is thoroughly inappropriate. The content may have lightened up and the action quotient increased, but it's hard to have a rollicking good time when speeches disrupt the action, atmospherics hang like a dark cloud over the silliness, and the score is telling you to go hang yourself with your boxer briefs.
The unusually subdued voice work does nothing to alleviate the problem, and Media Blasters, in its rush to maintain fidelity, misses the chance to liven the proceedings up. The English actors have improved considerably since the rather stiff opening episodes, but they're still bound by a script that maintains a slavish level of faithfulness to the direct translation, and thus to the under-played original. That said, Mela Lee's emotional range serves insecure Eva well, and the supporting roles are better played than in previous volumes—perhaps because there are fewer of them.
All of this dissection of course ignores one very important fact: Tweeny Witches is a throwback in more ways than one; it's also a throwback to the days when magical girl shows were made for girls. It's kind of refreshing to see a magical girl series that is actually aimed at girls, and as a plus, it may actually entertain them. Where the first season was a lumbering chore for children and adults alike, this season is about perfect for those too old for sugar like Sugar and too young for booze like Nanoha. Gaps in entertainment value aside, The Adventure is briskly paced, and there is certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery to distract when things begin to drag. Mature enough not to insult the intelligence of its target audience, it also features principled, unapologetically strong-willed leads that will please parents on the lookout for positive role models. Of course, if there is any way to bamboozle the kids into watching the frilly, deceptively simple Sugar again, then do it, but until something better comes along, you could do worse (for your kids if not yourself) than Tweeny Witches.
Media Blasters includes two interviews on the second disc, one with sound director Keiichiro Miyoshi and the other with composer Tamiya Terashima. The focus on sound is welcome given the influence of the series' voice-first, animation-later production schedule and Terashima's fun-squelching score, but nothing either says mitigates the damage done to an otherwise fine slice of magical-girl cake.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : C-
+ Less somber and faster paced than season one; plenty of action and adventure.
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