Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jun 27th 2012
Modern Magic Made Simple
Sub.DVD - Complete Collection
Koyomi Morishita is a clumsy, not too bright high school student who wants to better her life, so when she finds a flier for the Anehara Cross School of Magic, she decides to check it out. There she meets Misa Anehara, a Modern Mage who uses computer code to cast spells. Misa agrees to teach Koyomi, but unfortunately she only seems able to learn how to summon wash basins. But even this skill might come in handy when the evil Classical Mage Jean-Jacques Guibarthez attacks Koyomi and Misa's friend Yumiko in an attempt to get his hands on something called The Sorceress' Library.
In the world of Modern Magic Made Simple, magic exists as computer code. In some ways, this is all you need to know about this show. Magic is called “code” even when used by Classical Mages (who use techniques that predate computers, such as a caduceus-style wand) and is shown as ribbons of ones and zeros spiraling through the air whenever someone casts a spell. Why is this important? Because in the world of Modern Magic Made Simple, this is about all that makes sense.
Based on a series of light novels, although the character designs look more like they came from a visual novel, the story follows Koyomi Morishita, a high school first year who isn't good at much of anything. She isn't terribly smart, she's dreadfully clumsy, and she has the body of an elementary school student. One day she comes across a pamphlet advertising the Anehara Cross School of Magic and decides to enroll, hoping to find something that will make her life a little better. Unfortunately the flier dates to the time of the current Aneharas' grandfather, but busty and bespectacled Modern Mage Misa Anehara decides to teach Koyomi anyway. At some point Koyomi's class representative Kaho also becomes a student, but the anime skips over that part, going from Kaho taking a picture of Misa and Koyomi with her cell phone to Kaho being a student.
Unfortunately this level of continuity is common. The DVD set begins with an OVA that introduces Koyomi's sole magical talent, the increasingly ubiquitous summoning of wash basins, and has the Classical Mage Yumiko Christine Ichinose trying to teach her other skills. Then we jump right into the TV series, which takes place six years in the past, before returning to the present so that we can learn how Koyomi became a Modern Mageling in the first place. It's confusing and off-putting, throwing characters and world building information at you willy-nilly. Presumably the show was intended for viewers who had already read the source material, because otherwise it is a hodge podge of faces, terms, and names that simply come at you too fast to make sense. Also making little to no sense is the show's fondness for removing Yumiko's underpants, an activity that serves as the plot point for two separate stories. Since she wears a long skirt, it doesn't even really have much fanservice impact, at least from a visual perspective. There could be a teasing aspect, but overall it just feels strange.
One of the greatest weaknesses of this show is, sadly, its characters. Soichiro and his special talent are interesting, making him one of the most likeable characters, even if Shintarō Asanuma makes him sound like he's talking around a mouthful of marbles. Koyomi, however, walks the fine line between “innocent” and “stupid,” and sadly crosses it from time to time. Misa appears for most of the show to be totally self-centered and unsympathetic, as well as a touch amoral, while Kaho seems to lack a personality at all. Yumiko wanders around in tsundere territory but her relationship with Koyomi is woefully undeveloped. Their interactions make up a good deal of the fanservice in the show, but it never seems to go anywhere. In some ways, it would have been a more satisfying use of the fanservice, and possibly the characters, if they had been painted as a potential couple. It might also have worked to explain the disproportionately high number of women to men in a non-harem story.
Fortunately there are a few redeeming points to these thirteen episodes. Around the nine minute, fifty second mark in the TV's series' second episode, observant viewers will see a billboard for Higurashi: When They Cry, and in a later episode Kaho plays with a Nintendo Power Glove. At one point Kaho makes a veiled remark about Koyomi's appeal as a loli-type character, remarking that in comparison to the buxom Yumiko, “Your kind is more in demand.” The animation is in general very nice, with small details rarely, if ever, omitted, such as when Koyomi skins her knees and puts on band-aids, which are consistently drawn in for the rest of the story. The theme songs are both quite catchy, with the ending, “Made in Wonder,” having a vaguely mid-century pop feel and a nicely animated walk/skip cycle.
What Modern Magic Made Simple suffers from the most is a lack of overall comprehension and well-developed characters. With a plot that rarely feels consecutive, characters it is hard to care about, and Koyomi's disturbing orange eyes, when we reach the denoument, we are more likely to be counting the number of episodes left than sitting on the edge of our seats. No matter how fluidly the code flies it cannot disguise the fact that only one offensive spell appears to exist or that the story isn't making a whole lot of sense. Perhaps the novels do a better job. The anime, however, leaves much to be desired.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Nicely animated, the differences between “Modern” and “Classical” mages are interesting. A few fun details concealed within the imagery.
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