Shelf Life
Magic Users Club

by Bamboo Dong, Jan 7th 2008

It's the new year, so what better way to celebrate 2008 than… watching more anime? Last year was an interesting year for the industry, but let's hope that this year shapes up to be one of change and progress.

Ragnarok is not only one of the worst video game-based series ever made, but possibly one of the worst series, period. Watching an animated MMORPG is not my idea of fun, and all the in-game references are ridiculous. The game has a lot of character types and locations to choose from—the anime creators couldn't use any of it to invent a storyline that didn't suck?

The series stars a swordsman and a white magic user, whatever they're called. The two are together all the time, but as the series reminds you every six minutes, they're not a couple. Along with some friends they meet, they go on quest after quest, and in return, are rewarded with items like cards, carrots, and accessories. No matter how dangerous of a locale they visit, there's always a crowd ready to congratulate them and throw items, which is convenient, because how else would they get all that stuff? It's a good thing one of them can heal people, too, because why waste precious story time on someone's injuries when you can just yell “heal!”?

Having played a lot of RPGs in my day, Ragnarok didn't entertain me at all. I rolled my eyes at every game joke, and every time they tried to reference the game (“Oh, we used to be in a party together!”), I became more and more angry that they created this abomination. It's boring and trite and there is no character development or storyline at all. Who are these people? What are they looking for? Where are they going? What is their motivation for living? The only mildly interesting character so far is Takius, a sorceress who blindfolds herself in order to attain some kind of inner truth. The story also hints that she's trying to let go of someone, but nothing else is revealed besides that.

Overall, this series is just not worth watching. It's completely dull, and not even the technical aspects can help revive it, as the animation is mediocre and the music is unimaginative. The Japanese voice acting is screechy and annoying, and the English dub manages to hit all the wrong notes, too. The release touts nine episodes on a two-disc set, but getting through one disc is hard enough. Pass on this dud and go play a game or something.[TOP]

Deciding to cleanse my palette with something a little more low-key, I decided to round out my watching of Air with the Air motion picture. Animated by Toei, it's a retelling of the visual novel, centering mostly on Misuzu's life and the summer she met Yukito. Owing to the different production company, the movie looks different from the series, and loses much of the dreamlike quality that was inherent in the series. The characters aren't as sugary cute, and there's definitely much less “gao.” However, it's not without its own merits.

Although it's a retelling of the same story, there are several changes. Yukito's much more bitter this time around, and you get to see much more of his inner thoughts. Also, the backstory of the winged princess is worked into the movie via a school project that Misuzu has to do over the summer, rather than in a series of flashbacks. Overall, though, the story is a familiar one, and the intangible thing that's the most different is the atmosphere. Having to rush through the story in just one movie leaves things feeling rushed, and the film ends up being much more story-focused, rather than character focused.

In the end, it's interesting to watch, just for the sake of seeing the story told from a different perspective, but it didn't grip me nearly as much as the series did. It still has just as much angst, but the characters don't get the same kind of care and narrative treatment with the shorter run-time. Still, for fans of the series or the game, it's still worth watching, and it proves to be a great companion for the series.[TOP]

The next title on my list actually gave me quite a bit of problems when I tried to decide which Shelf Life category to place it in. On the one hand, it's contrived and unimaginative and horribly misogynistic—on the other hand, there were moments when I genuinely laughed out loud and almost forgave the series for being awful, but in the end, the fashion contest in the second episode sealed the deal for me, and I decided that I couldn't be nice to a show that objectified women in such a horrible manner.

The first volume of Magikano probably gives a fair indication of what the series will be like—lots of cute girls trying desperately to vie for one man's attention, including his sisters, one of whom has a brother complex like no one's business. When a transfer student comes to Haruo's high school, we discover that there's something different about her—namely, that she can use magic. Within seconds, it's revealed that all of Haruo's sisters can use magic, too, and so can the student council president. This allows them to do all sorts of wacky hijinks, like get trapped inside each other's dreams, conjure food out of nothing, cast spells, and change into a variety of fetish clothing with the snap of a finger. To make things even wilder, the transfer student has agreed to be Haruo's family maid, in order to break a curse put upon her.

What? A bevy of women all under the same roof? Nonsense. That would never happen in an anime series. But, despite how trite the whole premise is (which is, basically, “look how crazy my life is!!”), there are some funny moments. Haruo's nerdy friends are fun to watch, and are constantly pushing bizarre products in infomercial-styled segments. Aside from these gems, though, most of the other laughs in the series are a dime a dozen, and usually revolve around slapstick and sight gags.

It must also be stated how incredibly misogynistic this series is. In the second episode, two of the women face off in a battle for attention in a fashion show that has them coming out dressed up in animal-print lingerie and various fetish outfits. The student council president does feel remorseful afterwards for dirtying herself like that, but Haruo endorses it heartily, saying that he's glad he got to see a different side of her. I realize that some anime series were meant to purely entertain lonely nerds, but this is a little sick. If you're a lonely nerd, then yeah, this show will strike your fancy, but I do hope that you don't have any little sisters around who are getting the wrong idea about how to attract men.[TOP]

Taking things in a different direction now, but still within the vein of magical powers, we take a detour over to Tokyo Majin, a monster-of-the-week show that pits high school kids against a variety of evil-doers, ranging from zombies to bad guys who can kill people with the power of rock 'n' roll.

In terms of sheer action-fueled entertainment, Tokyo Majin has its moments. It's too bad that none of the fight scenes are backed up by anything of substance. In the first episode, viewers are thrown into the middle of things when a rash of murders has left a sea of dessicated bodies and zombies. In comes our team, ready to kick ass and destroy the bad guys. Of course, it's hard to cheer for the good guys when you have no idea who any of them are, but the series tries to remedy that by going back in time and trying to explain how the kids met. I use the word “try,” because it isn't entirely successful. Although it does start with the introduction of a new transfer student, it still doesn't really explain how they all know each other, how they get their powers, and what their job is. In fact, the only person that does know shrugs it off by saying, “If I tried to explain it, you'd only just get confused.” Thanks.

What viewers do know, however, is that apparently something or someone has caused a rift in the balance of the world, and demons are being unleashed upon the city. The five kids aren't the only ones with powers, and although it's never explained who the various bad guys are, we know they're bad, because evil music is played every time they pop into frame.

Really, the story is just a mess. There are constant hints of backstory and exposition, but it never really comes to fruition, and viewers are just left dry. Even the dark atmosphere being created is constantly broken up by feeble attempts at humor, with the introduction of an annoying girl who works for the school newspaper. What's left is just a muddled mess of kids trying to beat the hell out of monsters.

Despite its horde of problems, the series isn't without potential. If it goes back and actually explains what's going on, things may actually get really interesting. As it is, the animation's great and the art is nice and detailed, so the action scenes are fun to watch on a superficial level. It's just missing some coherency, so while it's not something I would buy blind, it may be worth a rental.[TOP]

That's it for this week; thanks for reading!


This week's Shelf Obsessed is a little different from the usual. It's courtesy of Randy, who is a big Devilman fan. His collection includes gum dispensers, bobble heads, boxers, lighters, bottle openers, and two pachinko machines.

Totally wicked.

If anyone else would like to send in pictures of their collections, shoot the jpgs over to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com!


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