by Amy McNulty,
Kota Shibaki has all the makings of a harem anime protagonist—well, the original kind, anyway, dating back to Rumiko Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura, not the bland and personality-less kind that's sprouted up in the last few decades. He's a high schooler without a chance of getting a girlfriend. To call him perverted would be an understatement and probably a compliment. Enter one otherworldly young girl who hits the "emotionless" moe trope right on the head, down to the very petite figure and the short blue hair. You're probably thinking, "Been there, seen that," but there's more to this series than initially meets the eye. It's definitely more of a slapstick comedy than a harem show.
If you could have any wish granted, what would you wish for? Money, fame, love? You'd think Kota would have at least picked "a girlfriend" since he can hardly go a minute without his mind in the gutter, (as his friends are eager to point out), but instead he wishes for a girl's pair of panties. Because, you know, it's one of those legendary items that anime men want to snuggle with to keep themselves warm at night.
After his friends in the Mysterious Discovery Club conveniently find a mysterious book in the school's library, they construct an elaborate summoning circle that promises to harness the power of a wish-granting magical being. Although initially skeptical, Kota figures he may at least get a pair of panties out of the deal. And he does, finding a pair on his desk at home. Unfortunately, he failed to read the fine print for making a wish. Once he lays his hands on the panties, the witch Rurumo appears to claim his life with a gruesome sentence of death by bird pecking. "But don't worry," she says calmly, withdrawing a massive hammer from her cape. She'll knock him out first.
Suffice to say, Kota doesn't die before the first half of the episode is over. After learning the panties are actually Rurumo's—no magic necessary to give them to him—the two form a bond in his "last hours" that winds up being the reason why Rurumo breaks witch law to let him live. Banished from the realm of magic users, Rurumo and her talking cat Chiro are sent to Earth, and Rurumo's last chance to regain her freedom as a witch convinces Kota to use her as his own personal wish-granter via a magic coupon book. The bigger the wish, the more coupons are burned. Once the coupons are gone, Rurumo is free to return home and use magic as she pleases—but she's not aware, although Chiro is, that Kota will die when the last coupon burns. (Chiro conveniently waits to tell Kota until after he's started using them.)
So now that he knows his wishes will lead to his death, you would think he'd put the coupon book away, never to make a wish again. (He should at least know better than to waste wishes on ladies' undergarments he could acquire through other means.) Kota does try to keep the wishes to a minimum, but he's got a lot of them to get through before his time is up, and he carries his wish book with him wherever he goes.
Initially living in a tent and appearing only when Kota summons them for a wish, Rurumo and Chiro eventually move in with Kota. He has trouble deciding whether or not it's worth using a wish to fool his mother into thinking Rurumo is her own daughter and not some young woman he's kidnapped. Let's just say Mrs. Shibaki is all too happy to jump to the wrong conclusions and she's quite handy with a kitchen knife.
Despite the promotional art and opening song animation featuring "girls, girls, girls," Magimoji Rurumo doesn't follow all the harem anime tropes. Kota continues to have crushes on girls at school, but since he earned the nickname "Great Porno King" in middle school, almost none give him the time of day. (The one who might like him, bespectacled Disciplinary Committee president Sumiko Inoue, clearly wishes she didn't.) Episode 7 steers dangerously close to so-sick-of-these-same-perverted-"jokes" territory with an obligatory beach episode, featuring ladies in bikinis and a "legendary swimsuit" that makes its wearer more sexually aggressive. At least it's not as bland as many fanservice episodes, and Kota ramming his head into a classmate's voluptuous breasts with impunity makes for a more amusing take on the trope than an accidental-fall-and-hands-or-face-on-breasts-and-crotch "gag."
The next otherworldly cute girl after Rurumo doesn't really appear until episode 4, and she's not there to drool over Kota, thank goodness. It looks like episode 8 will finally bring the appearance of the next otherworldly girl, and it's refreshing that she hasn't been made to fight Rurumo for Kota's affections from the beginning. Rurumo definitely likes Kota, but not in an overly romantic way, thanks to her emotionless character. It'd be shocking to not see them getting together eventually, but it's a relief to make it through each episode without Kota being eager to spy on Rurumo in the bath, or Rurumo blushing every time she sees him and fighting with every other girl to cross his path.
Even though it's a comedy, there's a time or two when things get touching, like in episode 6 when Kota takes in three stray kittens and tries desperately to find them owners. The episode plays with viewers' emotions, keeping a tragic plot twist on standby to pull on their heartstrings. There's one thing that bothers me, though. Rurumo gets a job as a lunch lady at Kota's school despite everyone believing she's his younger sister, which would make her a middle schooler or a high schooler at best. At least it's a definite twist on the "Class, please welcome this transfer student!" "Eh?! It's you, magic otherworldly girl?!" exchange we see time and time again.
Yes, there's a lot of anime like Magimoji Rurumo, but not exactly like it, and I have faith that each episode is going to be a hit, not a miss. The focus of each episode is one or two stories in which Kota is driven to use up a wish, bringing him ever closer to finishing off the book. But the situations in which he finds himself—and his desire to not use a wish until there really seems to be no other option—provide quite a few laughs, and each episode is just fresh enough that you don't feel like you're retreading common ground. It's hard to recommend Magimoji Rurumo if there are only a few shows you can watch this season, but if you have a soft spot for magical girls and perverted boys, and you want to see that formula done right, it just might prove worth your time.
Magimoji Rurumo is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for nearly two decades.
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