Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Sep 8th 2008
Tweeny Witches: What Arusu Found There
The absolute destruction of Arusu's adopted realm is at hand. In desperation, the warlocks invade the land of the witches in hopes of acquiring the items necessary to cast the black magic that will wipe the human realm clean, creating a safe haven for the fleeing masses from the magical realm. Arusu, being human, is quite naturally opposed to this plan. But Grande, the ambitious dictator of the warlocks, is weaving nefarious plans around her and the ones she loves most that will leave her no choice but to cooperate with his murderous scheme. The approaching doom will pit leader against subjects, mother against son, friend against friend. In the deepening whirlpool of fear and misery, Arusu, the sole wielder of the "light magic" that is the only weapon against the evils unleashed by Grande, searches her own heart for the strength to avert the onset of complete nothingness.
There's a powerful temptation to recommend Tweeny Witches simply because it is so unlike the majority of what is currently available on the anime market. But, while it is a genuine visual wonder, it's simply too dreary and ponderous to honestly recommend. And the climax's skyrocketing action quotient does nothing to change that.
As the series expands from fairy-gathering magical girl lark to apocalyptic drama, what sense of humor it once had is buried under waves of tweeny angst and witchy action—reduced to the inherent visual humor of its crazed setting. But strange foods and fairies that look like the ill-advised result of a ménage à trois involving a teddy bear, a motorcycle engine, and a burlap sack can't long compete against agonizing decisions of world-shattering import. This wouldn't be an issue—indeed it would be an advantage—if we gave a wolverine's spit about the characters, or if the plot moved fast enough to keep us from caring that we don't care, but the lead trio is so flat that there isn't anything to hang one's sympathy on, and the plot is continually dragged down by long, impotent appeals to emotion and "uplifting" discussions of the healing power of magic.
With the approaching apocalypse comes a tide of chaos as witches battle warlocks, light magic battles black magic, and the masses stage a magical coup d'etat. Magical shields flare, energy orbs fly, translucent crystal palaces are stormed, and scaly horrors born from the heart's darkness stretch their formless, tentacled bodies to the heavens and spread their ragged wings. There's no denying it: the series is beautiful to behold—more so now than ever. But there's nothing there to reinforce it. Anything would do, really: a character or relationship to serve as an emotional hook, a zippy plot, a breezy sense of fun, a recurrent banana-peel joke—anything. No such luck. All there is is a surplus of drear and a lot of drama trying, and failing, to wring spit from that wolverine. The wondrously idiosyncratic eye candy is left with nothing to do but distract the eyes while the brain is off exploring Timbuktu, where it lost itself after taking a wrong turn on the way to the realm of true magic.
It isn't that the series isn't trying to form something compelling from the cold, draggy clay of its disparate elements—if not, then why would it be shotgunning its audience with emotional tidbits in the hope that one will hit home?—it's just that it's consistently derailed by Tamiya Terashima's spare downer of a score and director Yoshiharu Ashino's inability to properly pace or execute anything outside of a rollicking action sequence. The series even throws in an eleventh hour twist, only to have its potential emotional ramifications defused by the fact that viewers would have to be blind and deaf (possibly in a coma) not to have seen it coming some eight or ten episodes back.
A pair of interviews with Ashino and character designer Daisuke Nakayama—this volume's sole extras—reveal, not surprisingly, a creative effort focused more on creating something new and different than something interesting or compelling. Their approach to the project was certainly novel (the dialogue was recorded first, and then the visuals made to order), but the result is far from satisfying.
One advantage of Ashino's approach is that it forced him to place as much of the dialogue as he could off-screen (thus dodging the need to customize the visuals), a strategy that allows Media Blasters' English adaptation to quote lengthy sections of the subtitle script verbatim. Luckily, this isn't exactly gritty street-anime, so the resultant artificiality isn't much of an issue. As the series progresses, the English performances grow on one, to the point where, at times, the appeal of Mela Lee's surprisingly touching lisping little-girl approach to Eva is actually preferable to the original. The other performances run the gamut from passable (Julie Maddalena's Arusu) to superbly hammy (Taylor Henry's Grande).
Want to see sights few series could ever hope to achieve? Want to see alternate-reality magical girl tropes given a visually spectacular new twist, or simply curious as to what Studio 4°C is capable of when given a full-length series to play with? Then welcome. Want your fantastic imagery to mold itself into something greater than a series of self-indulgent experimentations, to be entertained, moved, or amused? Turn back now, or forever hold your peace.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : C
+ Beautiful to look at.
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