The Fall 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magic-kyun! Renaissance ?
What is this?
Kohana Aigasaki has always dreamed of being a famed artista, using the magical arts to inspire others just like her mother. Following in her mom's footsteps, Kohana ends up transferring to the prestigious Hoshigei magical arts academy, where she runs into a gauntlet of gifted young men who each have their own special magical talent. Kohana is intimidated by their abilities, since she hasn't yet manifested any magical arts of her own - but a chance meeting with the cold and mysterious Teika Ichijoji might give her the confidence she needs to find her own artistic voice. Magic-kyun Renaissance is part of a mixed-media franchise project and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Sundays at 11:30 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined the artistic sensibility of UtaPri with Harry Potter? Then set the whole thing in a school that looks as if a couple dozen unicorns exploded on a Candyland board? If so, then Magi-kyun Renaissance is the show you've been waiting for. Obviously I was a bit taken aback by the degree of sparkle this first episode had, and like others was thrown off by the fact that it opened with a song clearly orchestrated by protagonist, and one of two female characters, Kohana, but once you get past the obscene amount of sparkles and the fact that Magi-kyun is nothing like a renaissance for the reverse harem genre, it turns out that there's a decent episode underneath.
The saving grace of this is that Kohana is more than just a blank slate everywoman, such as reverse harem protagonists tend to be. She's impossibly adorable, of course, with highly marketable hair clips, but she's also got a set of insecurities that only get worse as the episode goes on. Kohana's mother was an artista (the show's word for “magical artisan or artist”) extraordinaire, and the most revered alum of the Hoshinomori School for Magical Arts. Like her mother, Kohana's field is ikebana, or classical Japanese flower arrangement, but while she's clearly gifted, she cannot produce the magic that her mother did. That magic takes the form of the aforementioned sparkles, and each artista produces a different kind with a different scent or feel to them. It hasn't been explained yet if the quality of the sparkle indicates the artista's proficiency, but it would make sense if it somehow did; for example, when Kohana encounters one of the boys from the opening, Suminomiya, she comments that his sparkles are a bit cold, while another's smell like vanilla. Unless there's a candy or perfume line planned to go along with this show, it doesn't seem like these are just random comments. It also feels possible that while everyone can see the sparkles, not everyone can discern their other qualities, because there has to be something besides Kohana's family name to set her apart from the rest of the student herd.
In any event, being known as an Aigasaki stands to be a real trial for Kohana, and one that she feels keenly. She's already feeling insecure because of her lack of sparkle, and the fact that she had to wait to transfer in to Hoshige (as the school is abbreviated) because of a fever during the entrance exam suggests the level of pressure she felt about it. That the school may simply have accepted her transfer exam because of her mother seems more possible by the moment, since the teacher deliberately doesn't give her name when introducing her and its later revelation sends the class into a tizzy – and sets primary romantic interest Ichijoji off, with him declaring his eternal hatred for her moments after he seemed as friendly as the guy who drew the “asshole” straw in the character type lottery can. Even with Kohana beginning to be able to produce sparkles, it's clear that she's not going to be able to conquer her fear of living in her mother's shadow any time soon, because now she also has to make sure that her classmates see her for herself, not just someone with her mother's family name.
Magi-Kyun Renaissance’s first episode didn't grab me immediately, but it did manage to not only keep me watching without checking the time, but also to make me more interested as it went on. Granted, I do tend to enjoy the genre, but if this can maintain Kohana's inner turmoil and actual personality, it might be more than we were expecting.
Magic-Kyun! screams “reverse harem series” with every fiber of its being, and there's not enough going on here that's fresh or special to warrant recommending it to anyone who isn't normally at least tolerant of such fare. However, as such series go, this one is off to a better start than normal.
Unexpectedly, the biggest reason for that is protagonist Kohana. Although she is undoubtedly intended to be the female insert character, she is actually at least somewhat fleshed out and has a really, fully-developed personality. She isn't bland or entirely generic, either, as her winning smile and restrained but still strong spirit give her a degree of compelling charm that most reverse harem leading ladies lack; unlike many of these type of series, how and why the bevy of talented guys might eventually fall for her is abundantly clear and won't require any machinations. I also found it quite amusing that the producers came up with a way to justify the sparkly effects generated by all of the gorgeous guys: it's actual magic, a sign of their achievements as artista (artists whose efforts can generate magical effects). Kohana also strives to generate such effects, like her famous mother could, but the early implication is that she can only do it in conjunction with others. That puts an interesting twist on the standard scenario, as does Kohana actually having a female friend/roommate at the school and the fact that her family name causes the standoffish guy whom she had started to make a connection with to angrily declare her to be an enemy. Looks like the series might not be all fun and games after all.
Despite that, there's still no escaping what this series is. The distribution of basic appearance and personality types amongst the guys introduced so far is as formulaic as they come, as is this all being set at an elite school of palatial design. There are also already early suggestions that Kohana, in typical fashion, will go around solving the problems of the guys as she interacts with them, though Standoffish Guy is the only one she directly interacts with so far. Still, the production values are a distinct upgrade over Dream Festival, as is both the singing of one character and the general musical support, and the spirit of the show so far is far less crass than you might expect.
In other words, this is one reverse harem series that I might actually willingly watch another episode of.
Magic-Kyun! Renaissance opens with its gaggle of cute boys and one girl standing backstage together, leading me to initially think this would be another boy-focused idol show. But as the episode and introductions unfolded, it quickly became clear that this is an old-fashioned reverse harem, complete with color-coded boys and the stern but secretly tormented lead. I may not be a harem fan in general, but there is certainly a big difference between a good and bad harem. And as far as the genre goes, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance looks to be a pretty stable contender.
The show's writing definitely isn't anything special, though it helps that heroine Kohana is an actual character. She's slightly intimidated by her mother's legacy, she's insecure about her own talents, and she's quick to make friends with others. Those qualities don't by themselves make for a rich psychology, but in a field where leads of either gender are often noteworthy mainly for their blandness, a little individuality helps Kohana stick out. The crop of boys she'll be getting to know fared less well this episode - all of them fit to extremely broad archetypes, including main suitor Ichijoji, who slots neatly into the well-worn and fundamentally frustrating “ice king who just needs to be melted by a sensitive heart” mold. Additionally, compressing all the initial introductions into this one episode resulted in a fairly clumsy narrative structure, with only the last few minutes offering any sense of drama or forward momentum.
But if the show's writing isn't much to speak of, its aesthetics are at least fairly engaging. Magic-Kyun! imagines a world where great artists can actually conjure visual sparkles to accompany their work, meaning all of this episode's artistic demonstrations were accompanied by shimmering flowers and vivid strokes of color. These flourishes can lean towards the gaudy or over-the-top, but I liked how they added an interpretive complexity to the show's articulation of artistic talent. The show's character designs are quite attractive, and its backgrounds pretty as well - Hoshigei academy is represented as an endless series of ornate bridges and spiraling staircases, perfectly suited to its “prince and princess” mythology. Overall, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance definitely won't offer much if you're not looking for a predictable harem setup, but stands as a perfectly respectable articulation of its genre.
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