The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide Magic Circle Guru-Guru
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magical Circle Guru-Guru (TV 2) ?
What is this?
In a magical land that would seem right at home in the classic RPG videogames of yore, the Demon King of Darkness, Giri, terrorized the land. It took a mysterious hero wielding the powerful sorcery of Guru Guru to lock him away. 300 years later, Guru Guru is considered little more than superstition, and the Demon King has broken free from his imprisonment to threaten the land once more. The King of Ansheint has sent out a call for heroes who would stand up to this menace, but none have proven worthy to answer the call. Fortunately, a hero-obsessed man named Bado has been training his son Nike tirelessly to live up to legends of those most famed adventurers. Despite his reluctance, Nike is literally catapulted to the village witch, who pairs Nike up her granddaughter, Kukuri, a young mage who is the last of the Guru Guru spellcasters. Together, Nike and Kukuri depart the tiny village of Boering in order to fulfill their quest and slay the Demon King of Darkness. Whether it's fighting monsters, summoning magic swords, or simply trying to survive a day out shopping, these two young heroes have one wild adventure ahead of them. Magical Circle Guru Guru is based on a manga, and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 2:05 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
One of my great anime disappointments is that Akazukin Chacha was never licensed. Magic Circle Guru Guru is now here to soothe that hurt. Its absurd brand of humor is in the vein of Chacha, Dragon Half, and Senyu, with a plenty of nods to the RPGs of yore to fill out the joke roster. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this episode is the pixel art, which goes between sprites and more realized pixel art, with creepy granny being my favorite of the portraits.
The humor of the show is heavily reliant on knowing your fantasy RPG tropes, although not necessarily from playing games; if you've read enough sword and sorcery fiction, you'll be just fine. Reluctant hero Nike's parents have clearly been planning his amazing future since he was born – his name is that of the Greek goddess of victory – and when a sign asking for a hero pops up on the outskirts of town, the whole village knows poor Nike is in for it. And is he ever – his dad's even had a giant slingshot built to send him on his inevitable hero's journey.
Most of what's great about this episode is its patent absurdity. From Nike's parents to the abrupt shifts into NES-era graphics, Magic Circle Guru Guru just never takes itself seriously. Nike's mage companion (yet another thing foisted on the unwilling young boy) is the weak link thus far, despite her amusing inability to properly cast a spell on the first try, but even she has her moments, such as when she realizes that Nike is at the mercy of a monologuing monster. The weird undulation of the crowd of heroes is probably my biggest complaint – I'm not given to motion sickness, but this nearly did it. But generally speaking, from its absurd magic swords to its silly characters, this is an episode that hopefully foretells goofy comedy for months to come.
This series is based on a '90s manga which has previously been adapted into two TV series and a movie, the earliest from 1994. However, it doesn't appear that any familiarity with the source material is necessary in order to appreciate this series. This is a hard reboot, with the first episode being a clear introductory tale.
The original series was aimed at older children, but don't let the youth of the main characters (only 12 and 13) and the young-skewing look discourage you from checking it out. That's because the first episode is great fun for all ages, especially those old enough to remember the first wave of '80s fantasy RPGs that this series is clearly parodying. (While Dragon Quest is the most obvious target for ribbing, the series could just as well be making fun of the even earlier Ultima games.) As someone who grew up on those games, this series works as a wonderfully goofy nostalgia piece, too. It perfectly skewers the story structures and set-ups of those early games while still in a very real sense paying homage to the heritage from which all modern fantasy RPGs descended. I laughed at least as much at this one as any debut so far this season.
It doesn't hurt that the cast so far is fun, too. Nike is great fun as the young man who has to be forced to become a Hero (he'd rather be a wizard) and he has a fitting adventuring companion in Kukuri, a girl who's on the cute side but stupidly naïve and only accidentally competent at magic – though when she does get it to work, watch out! The meta-flavored king was also a delight, as was the monster Nike first encounters, who's “always wanted to have a monologue” right before killing someone. Not sure what to make of the old guy yet; we'll need another episode there.
All of the 8-bit game screens, pop-up windows, and other artistic effects are also right on the money. I was flabbergasted to find out that Production I.G. was the studio behind this one, but they have been known to do lighter projects before and they more subtly put in a great visual effort here. This may not be what the “traditional” sharp-looking anime looks like, but this is a well-constructed artistic effort nonetheless.
I don't know if I'll be watching this one out or not, but it's plenty entertaining enough that it will definitely tempt me.
I definitely didn't see that one coming! Magical Circle Guru Guru wasn't even on my radar coming into this season, given it looked to be some kind of standard children's show. But this first episode was funny, creative, and charming throughout, feeling like a welcome blast from the 80s both in tone and content. Mixing something approximating the comic/storytelling style of classic Rumiko Takahashi with constant riffs on classic JRPGs, Magical Circle Guru Guru has somehow pulled off one of the strongest premieres of the season.
Guru Guru's strengths begin with its aesthetic charm. The show is self-consciously styled as a pixel-era RPG where a chosen hero must fight a demon lord. That genre savviness isn't just limited to the show's narrative and humor - the show also regularly indulges in clever pixel art interludes, or pulls tricks like “zooming in” on a character to reveal their pixelated nature. Those visual tricks are bolstered by the show's generally robust art design and surprisingly fluid animation. Guru Guru may not look the most impressive in single shots, but it's actually quite pretty in motion.
Of course, cute visual tricks don't carry the day all by themselves. Guru Guru manages a tricky narrative act of constantly making jokes about its premise while also giving you legitimate reasons to care about it. The jokes are quick and plentiful here, ranging from deadpan critiques of the job prospectives of heroism to sendups of genre assumptions, character-based repartee, and simple visual gags. Not all of the comedy lands, and some of it's a bit loud and broad for my tastes, but Guru Guru moves through its gags quickly enough that none of them drag.
In spite of presenting an inherently silly and self-aware world, Guru Guru also manages to make this a story worth caring about, pretty much entirely through the strong personalities of “hero” Nike and mage Kukuri. Each of them demonstrate multifaceted and endearing personalities even within the brief confines of this first episode. Nike hews a bit closer to the audience's perspective, sharing our presumed disbelief at the RPG conventions of this world, while Kukuri matches a spirit of wonder and charming optimism with occasional bouts of smugness, snark, or tantrums. Both of them demonstrate growth and mutual concern this episode, making Guru Guru fun to follow even in an emotional sense.
Overall, Guru Guru is easily the best comedy of the season so far, and also within the top bracket of shows in general. Its style of comedy wasn't a perfect fit for me, and I don't really have enough fondness for old-school JRPGs to see myself following the series through, but if you're in the mood for either a comedy or a nostalgia trip, definitely check it out.
You'd be forgiven for needing a bit of a breather after watching Magical Circle Guru Guru, because it's the most densely packed, ten-jokes-a-minute comedies I've seen all season. The dialogue and the visuals are working in tandem the entire time, and whenever one joke hits a punchline there are two or three already lined up in the wings to take its place. Serving as a parody of both classic 16-bit RPGS and generic fantasy adventure stories, Guru Guru has no shortage of wells from which to mine its yuks, and the breathless pace at which it does so is as entertaining as it is exhausting. Even if I was a little worn out by the time this premiere ended, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained the whole time through.
Though this is the third adaptation of the long running anime on which its based, Magical Circle Guru Guru 2017 also functions as a reboot, so no prior experience with the material is necessary to follow along. All you have to know is that this is Dragon Quest way of the Looney Tunes, and you'll be good to go. A knowledge of those classic Square and Enix RPGs certainly wouldn't hurt, but a lot of these gags feel like the general ribbing of an entire generation of gaming tropes, so you won't miss out on too much if you're like me, and were born a just little too late to experience the SNES’ heyday.
What I especially enjoyed was the show's elastic and deformed art style, which switched freely between traditional art and pixel art at a moment's notice, all the while tossing RPG menus and little visual asides left and right. It's a lot ot take in, and while some of the jokes only produce minor chuckles at best, I did find myself laughing out loud a few times. Nike's pixelated RPG map breakfast was especially funny, as was Kukuri's method of “equipping” gold pieces by sticking them all over her face. Nike, Kukuri, and every other figure fit squarely into familiar tropes, but that's the point of the entire series, and the writing and performances are enjoyable enough to carve out a unique enough identity for Guru Guru to work with.
Overall, this was a fun show, though it was certainly a bit more work to get through than I was expecting. So many of the gags rely on speedy visual cues and easy-to-miss subtitles that I had to double back every couple of minutes so I wouldn't miss anything. Couple that with the predictably loud and brash humor that you might expect from a series aimed more at children, and you have a series that won't be for everyone. Anyone looking for a decent comedy or a fun nostalgia trip could certainly do worse, though, and I can see this particular series growing on a lot of people.
Magical Circle Guru-Guru doesn't seem like an overly ambitious series. It's here to make a bunch of jokes about old-school RPGs, and that's about it. Then again, knowing your role and sticking to it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Without any superfluous content to weigh it down, this episode managed to be surprisingly amusing.
Rapid-fire humor is the order of the day here, with the logic being that if you throw multiple jokes per minute at the audience, at least a few of them are bound to get a laugh. It works more often than you'd expect, thanks in part to the show's willingness to go as far over the top as it needs to in search of a punchline. Reluctant hero Nike's parents use a giant slingshot to launch him off on his adventure, an expendable monster rejoices at the chance to fulfill his lifelong ambition of providing an expository monologue, and so on. The humor often relies on all of the characters being complete idiots, but it's pretty good fun as long as that approach works for you.
The downside here is that Magical Circle Guru-Guru comes across as being a one-trick pony. It doesn't have a whole lot going for it outside of the comedy, and that hyperactive level of energy does start to get exhausting by the end of the episode. The animation is better than the simple art style might imply, but the show has a habit of dimming the screen during shots with a lot of motion. This isn't unheard of, especially in shows aimed at younger viewers, and I'm given to understand that the idea is to avoid any kind of photosensitivity-related problems. Still, it happens often enough in this episode that it becomes distracting in its own way.
If you're looking for the kind of silly humor that's usually reserved for short-form titles, you may want to give this show a try. It certainly made me laugh more often than I expected it to, and it's arguably a better example of its genre than some of this season's flashier titles. While the manic pace of its humor could easily get old over the course of multiple episodes, this was a fun way to kill half an hour.
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