Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
In an alternate version of our world, truly great artists and artisans can produce a magical, sparkling light when they create something. Known as “artistas,” their highly prized work ranges from song to cooking to many other crafts. Hoshinomori Magical Arts High School exists to train young artistas to shine their brightest. Kohana Aigasaki is the daughter of one of their greatest graduates, and like her mother, she specializes in ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arrangement. She's just transferred to Hoshinomori, but she's only got a tenuous grasp on her artistic powers. Despite this, she finds herself placed with six of the school's best and brightest young men on the festival planning committee. Can they help Kohana find her sparkle? Or will she help them to shine?
If there were an award for the sparkliest anime of Fall 2016, Magic-kyun Renaissance would be one of the top contenders. As part of a multimedia franchise that includes an otome game and a manga series, the story not only actively bases itself in girlish glimmer – in the story's world, talented artists and craftsmen can produce sparkles of varying shapes, sizes, and colors when they create art. Because these sparkles are easily seen by everyone, their work is particularly prized, and the top school to hone your shimmer in Japan is Hoshinomori Magic Arts High School. A certain master of control over your sparkle is required for entrance, so our heroine Kohana Aigasaki has worked hard to transfer in her second year, not just because she wants to polish her skills, but because her late mother was one of the school's most remarkable graduates, and she yearns to prove her worth by following in her footsteps.
As set-ups for reverse harems go, it's not a bad one. The series has given itself a reason to indulge in beauty, emphasizing the skills of its gorgeous male cast members with as much bling as they please. Since everyone's sparkles are unique to them (at least until a surprise turnaround in the final three episodes), there's plenty of room for the visuals to set each contender for Kohana's heart apart not just in physical appearance, but also in skill and sparkle shape. It's an interesting twist on giving everyone a specific symbol, flower, or animal, and while it can feel like a child's beading kit exploded at times, it also gives the series a memorable edge.
While the male characters are all fairly stock to the point where watching this at the same time as another reverse harem show could cause name confusion, (is that Ren or Louis?) Kohana begins the series as one of the more interesting heroines in her genre. This is largely due to the fact that she has a personality and a backstory that extends beyond simply being in the right place at the right time. Kohana is both insecure in her talents and determined to the point of self-harm, and she's not above telling the boys when they're being stupid. She's a reassuring presence for them, but she also has enough spark to make it clear that they aren't just falling for her because she happens to be female and in their orbit. Being an outsider to the school does help in this regard, as she's able to see through things that the boys have come to take for granted, but mostly it's Kohana's own insecurities that allow her to understand theirs when they cannot recognize them. This is most clearly seen with Monet, who only paints in black-and-white, and calligrapher Aoi, who can't climb out of his own head. Interestingly enough, they aren't able to return the favor or even notice Kohana's insecurities at all until the very end of the series; she keeps her own problems largely to herself. The boys' late realization of this is a variation on the theme of having a heroine with a deadly disease, a plot device more commonly seen in harems than reverse harems, and although the finale is rushed and definitely corny, it's also just different enough in its genre to be interesting.
Although only one of the boys is a singer (strongly implied main romance Teika Ichijoji), each episode features a song by one of them, generally complete with UtaPri style music video. This isn't a all-out musical like Dance with Devils, and this does feel like a cash grab to sell CDs to some degree, but the songs themselves are pleasant enough, as are the opening and ending themes, even if the lyric “please kiss my heart” is odd. Kohana herself does not have a song, possibly because she's an unvoiced character in the game. The male voices are provided by the same actors who performed the game, establishing a continuity for anyone consuming the entire franchise.
While the basic format of the series is to give each of the boys their own focus episode, Magic-Kyun Renaissance isn't wedded to the concept, making this flow a little more naturally than some of its brethren. The first few episodes focus on introducing a few of them, the ongoing plot about preparing for the HoshiFest (school festival), and Kohana's own struggles with her sparkles. Surprisingly the HoshiFest is not the culmination of the series, but rather happens at episode nine, allowing for the developing relationships to continue as the group faces the fact that there is life beyond the festival, and friendships formed in committee do not have to end. There's also the specter of the third-years graduating, with the unusual reveal that dancer Louis is a “super senior” – completing an extra school year to get his sparkle up to snuff. While there does appear to be a slight stigma to this, Louis himself brushes it off; when Rintaro, the other third year, faces a similar situation, his reaction is much less laid-back, creating an interesting picture of school culture. The school itself is one of those luxurious anime institutions with giant rooms, excellent food, and elaborate uniforms; happily they do not cross the line into “fussy” too often.
Magic-Kyun Renaissance manages to set itself apart from other reverse harem shows with its pacing and heroine while still fitting comfortably into the formula made popular by the success of the Uta no Prince-sama franchise. It may not appeal to those who don't like the genre, but if you're curious about reverse harems without having seen one, this is a good introduction with a bit more universal appeal. It may stumble in the end by delving into far cheesier territory than before (humor often assuages the cheese in earlier episodes), but if you're looking for a heroine with a personality surrounded by a bevy of beautiful boys who sparkle, this is the show for you.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Story flows just differently enough from other reverse harems to set it apart, Kohana has a personality
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