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Ongoing Investigations: Case #191

November 23, 2012

Rental Magica seems like a fairly solid premise to me. The anime is about a magical organization that hunts down case of abnormal magic in the modern age. It seems to have a decently eclectic number of magic users and the school of magic seem well researched. The original light novels were written by Makoto Sanda who worked on the original Record of Lodoss War series and is working on Red Dragon with several other artists. It really seems like something that would be in my wheelhouse. But sadly the actual show itself does not live up to its promise. The show itself in not really bad. In fact it is extremely inoffensive. It is just not really interesting as well. It is like plain rice with boiled tofu. It is not totally tasteless but at the same time it is hardly exciting.

The main problem is that characters don’t really have any spark to them. Itsuki Iba is the head of the Astral company and he is just a milquetoast weenie. The sort of guy that bland harem heroes push around. It does not help that his running shtick is that he passes out every episode. He has a magic eye that when unsealed makes him super competent but that moments are few and far between. And even then he is sort of boring when he is in Glam Eye mode. It does not help that Naruatki and I could not stop snickering when ever they said Glam Eye despite the fact that I know that Glamour is the name for faerie magic. The main girl is a mix of the childhood friend and the angry girl. Her Celtic Magic is fairly cool but it hardly makes her character interesting. The rest of the company is a cat obsessed Onmyoudou expert, a little Shinto Priestess, and their mysterious secretary. There is also a blonde foreign sorceress who uses the Key of Solomon. Again there is nothing wrong with using well-worn archetypes. But you have to breathe some life into them.

The stories have a spark of possible interest to them. You have haunted hospitals and cursed shires which have some good story seeds in them. But like that characters the potential is there but the execution never capitalizes on what is there. It’s never boring. It just never engages you like it needs to.

I will say the show is interestingly fan-service free. There are plenty of opportunities to flash some panties, have girls popping out of their uniforms, or walk in on people changing. But so far no boob grabs or learning cameras. It seems like the type of show that would revel in such tactics but oddly enough it keeps itself inline.

The main problem with Rental Magica is not that it is a hard show to hate. In fact I would say it is super hard to hate it. The problem is there is not much to love as well.

I recall watching the first episode of Rental Magica when it was first coming out in Japan and feeling very negative about it. Watching eps. 1-6 now, I found it rather inoffensive because the show is just rather bland more than bad.

Our lead hero, the president of Astral, is so unassuming that I’d forget he even existed if the girls didn’t make such a fuss over him. He is always fainting or getting injured, and when I say always I mean it. In these episodes he passes out at least seven times, falls off a bike, falls down a flight of stairs, breaks his leg, and I’m probably forgetting some stuff. This is supposed to make him incredibly noble and whatnot.

The two lead girls are more interesting. Honami working for Astral and Addie working for Goetia are rivals fighting for magical jobs. They are also both fighting for the love of Itsuki, I try to say this in the most monotone voice possible. I truly think the series missed its moment to shine by making this show about the love between these two rival witches instead. Their interactions have the most bite in the show.

Rental Magica comes from that era of anime that decided to broadcast its episode out of order, riding on the coattails of Haruhi. They of course do this without really thinking it through or with a greater reason for changing the order of things. Maybe it shows greater purpose for it later, but in these first episodes it is just confusing. There were no grand surprises because I didn’t know certain information or any “aha” moments. If I didn’t know about the broadcast order VS. chronological order, I would have thrown up my hands in frustration wondering why people didn’t know each other among other things.

There is nothing special about Rental Magica. The story, the characters, their interactions with each other, even the animation are all mediocre and unmemorable. Can’t hate it, but there is nothing to recommend here.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Code:Breaker (eps. 2-6) is dumber than someone trying to set a yaoi doujinshi in the K-On! universe (with no rule 63 being involved). But like an ugly puppy some people are going to back away slowly and then start to run while others will find it simply adorable. Unlike Rental Magica it seems that Code:Breaker refuses to let you not have an opinion about it. The thing is everyone will say, “This is SO stupid.” The only difference is if you are smiling or shaking your head as you say it.

The main problem/draw to Code:Breaker is there is no moderation to anything in the series. The angsty anti-hero is amazingly tortured by the evil he has become. The pure heroine is blindingly naive. The villains are all mad cow insane psychopaths. I mean the most recent villains have backpacks that give them power by draining the life force of the little children inside them as they work in an evil research hospital that sells organs on the side. That is just about as comically over the top as you can get. The main villain is doing it for his daughter but even his death scene is beyond melodrama.

There is no art to this. There is no Leiji Matsumoto level of panache to this melodrama. It is pure junk food. You will either eat it up knowing it is probably not the best thing for you or you will spit it out when it’s overly fatty and sugary taste hits your palate. But what do you expect from the artist of Samurai Deeper Kyo.

As a side note did you know that Akimine Kamijyo is a woman. I would have sworn that she was  a guy by the content she produces. But I guess it goes to show you that you can never fully know with these things.

I continued on my reread with Sailor Moon vol. 8 which finishes up the emotional outer senshi arc. The destruction is so intense in this volume, it made me happy that we didn’t have to wait any longer to see the outcome.

The next storyline about the Dead Moon Circus is introduced in the last couple of chapters. This is a story that heavily focuses on Chibi Usa. It was certainly a poor piece of the anime, but the manga moves quickly enough to avoid a lot of the pitfalls.

My roommate picked up the Type-Moon 10th Anniversary Phantasm art book so of course I dived into that. 10 years of Type-Moon is certainly worth celebrating and this is a book that lives up to that responsibility. The art book covers the past, present, and even future of Type-Moon in a single book. It is also a way to experience some of the Type-Moon Fes is you were not able to attend this year.

The book starts when a wonderful collection of Takashi Takeuchi’s and Hirokazu Koyama’s  promotional art for the various Type-Moon games over the years. It has some real nice pieces like the Saber as a Master drawing and Takeuchi’s installations for Five Star Stories. It is a very simple way to see how Takeuchi’s art style has changed and improved over the years.

After that is the meat of the book which is a good deal of text with some lovely pictures to back them up. The first half is a retrospective of what Type-Moon has released over the last 10 years. It has everything from Tsukihime to Canaan. I wish they had more on Girls’ Work especially after playing through Forest. Sadly it was all things we have seen before.

There were also a whole bunch of interviews with people like Ayako Kawasumi, Kana Ueda, and Nasu himself. I am superior curious what they say but I will just have to hope they appear translated somewhere in the future. As a nice bonus the book has all the previous Type-Moon April Fools gag material. That includes all the tweets for when they made Twitter accounts for a random assortment of Type-Moon characters.

I will mention it again: Why does Type-Moon not do anything with the Type-Moon Wrestling Federation? It seems like a license to print money with figures alone. Takeuchi! You usally have un uncanny ability to sense a profit. What are you doing?

Then there are some gag comics and professional art to round out the book before the big finale. I did not recognize all the artists but I know that B-suke from All Around Type-Moon did one of the comics and Takehito Harada did one on the pieces of tribute art just because their styles are so distinct.

The book ended with some sneak previews of things yet to come from Type-Moon like Fate/Apocrypha and Fire Girl. Of course the pièce de résistance was the public unveiling of the new Tsukihime remake designs. But I already talked about that at length. Overall it just makes me want to see what they do with Ciel (if anything) even more.

Overall it is a wonderful little tome. But did you REALLY expect me to say anything else?

The shojo series Marimo no Hana got an OVA earlier this year, but I only just found out about it.

It is about an elementary school girl who is usual kind and quite, except when her friends are in trouble she becomes a powerful fighter. I haven’t actually read the manga so I don’t know too much about it. The OVA is definitely made with readers in mind as no one is really introduced, but with a simple premise it isn’t hard to follow. Some new punks threaten the class and Marimo has to teach them lessons using her words and her fists.

It was cute and quick but didn’t really get me interested in the manga.

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