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.
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