Isn't it nice to stumble on an Anime series that isn't just the same old, same old? While I wasn't bowled over by Maburaho Vol. 1: Bewitched and Bewildered it was certainly a cute comedy series that both imitated and lampooned the Harry Potter movies. In fact, one thing that immediately springs to mind is the hilarious (intentional or not) SNL sketch featuring Lindsay Lohan as a newly 'developed' Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts crew taking particular interest in her recently acquired assets. It's this type of bishoujo fan service, otherwise known as gratuitous panty shots and the jiggle factor (especially in the case of the character, Kuriko) that this show provides in spades.
"Maburaho" doesn't mean anything in Japanese, but is actually a mish-mash of the words "magic" and "love." So a loose interpretation would be "Love in Magic," which is really the best way to describe this show. While I enjoyed something like the New Cutey Honey - Essential Anime Collection when I was entering college, this type of show just doesn't appeal to me anymore. Some of the humor is clever, but it is really aimed at boys in their mid-to-late teens and possibly older men who just like to see some hot 'toons.' These days I like my Anime with a little more substance, something more akin to the great Cowboy Bebop, Witch Hunter Robin or even the interesting Wolf's Rain.
Maburaho Vol. 1: Bewitched and Bewildered follows the misadventures of the luckiest and least deserving Japanese teen to come along in awhile, Kazuki, making even Neon Genesis Evangelion's Shinji look studly by comparison. Kazuki studies at the prestigious Aoi academy, which is a special school for powerful magic users. See, in Kazuki's world, everyone has the potential for magic, they just need to realize it. Once they do that, their ability can be measured with most average magicians able to cast thousands of spells before using up their power and turning to ash. Kazuki, even though he comes from a long line of magic users, can only tap into his magic potential eight times before he dies. Still, it's not his ability, but his genes that just about every girl on Aoi's campus wants, and three in particular will stop at nothing to get them.
The four episodes on this first volume detail Kazuki's discovery of his magical ancestry and the beginnings of the various rivalries for Kazuki's affection and more importantly his DNA. The three main competitors are Yuna, a pink haired angel from Kazuki's past who calls herself his wife and proceeds to move into his dorm room, Rin, a stoic warrior who can't decide to kiss or kill Kazuki, as their predestined future is bringing her down, and finally the blonde bombshell Kuriko, who wishes to maintain her wealthy family's social standing by bearing the most powerful magic user ever. Rather than step up to the plate with any of these young women, he instead chooses to a never ending stream of pity parties and lament how girls only want him for his genes. Loser!
The episodes included on this disc are:
Episode 101: "They Came...": Kazuki Shikimori is enrolled at the prestigious Aoi academy for first rate magic users, but he can only cast a spell 8 times. When his prestigious magical lineage is revealed, the women of the school fall all over him to get at his precious "genes," but this also pits the boys of the school against him since the girls only have eyes for Kazuki. Yuna, Rin and Kuriko in particular take a keen interest in him, and try to make him theirs.
Episode 102: "It Fell...": Kazuki is ostracized by his fellow classmates for the sudden attraction all of the school girls have towards him, and he is specifically ordered to stay away from Yuna, whom he promised to marry when they were very young. Through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, Yuna decides to leave, unless Kazuki can convince her otherwise.
Episode 103: "It Appeared...": Kazuki and Yuna are haunted by the ancient ghost of a young girl. They soon realize that the only thing that will put her spirit to rest lies in an old mansion owned by Kuriko's wealthy family. When they ask her to allow the ghost entrance into the mansion, Kuriko proceeds to make everyone's live very difficult.
Episode 104: "I Saw It...": Strange noises plague the Aoi campus and Kazuki is having terrible dreams of a creature known as a behemoth. Kuriko accuses one of the academy's professors, only to discover the truth. Will Kazuki's magic be enough to save the day?
Picture: This DVD is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen presentation. As the series is still fairly recent, episodes ran from 2003-2004, the quality is quite good with crisp, clear images and lots of bright colors.
Audio: There is an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Dub track and a Japanese 2.0 channel Dolby Digital Stereo Original language track with optional English subtitles. Lately, I have gotten into the habit of watching Anime shows with the English dub (sacrilegious, I know) and the English subtitles on. For some reason, I feel like I have been getting more out of shows this way. Yeah, the dub is kinda crappy, they're always crappy, but the soundtrack is a real highlight of this series. The Japanese 2.0 track sounds good, but the music is much better in 5.1, with or without the dubbing.
Extras: Maburaho Vol. 1: Bewitched and Bewildered comes with a nice assortment of Extra features, including the Art of Maburaho, original Japanese promos, clean opening and closing credits, "The Magic Times" Aoi Academy Newspaper Insert, a very interesting interview with translator Richard Kim and some additional ADV previews.
Conclusion: One of my biggest complaints about Anime series when they're released over here is the cost to episode ratio. I mean, Maburaho is a 24 episode series, but at the rate of 4 episodes a disc, it will cost $180 to own the whole series, that is at least until they put it out in an "Essential" set or a "Complete" boxed set. These first four episodes weren't bad, but for a show where the premise is that a very powerful character can only use his abilities eight times before he dies, he has already used his powers 3 times before the end of the first disc. This doesn't give me much hope for the rest of the series, unless there's a really big, compelling twist to the whole thing? For those who'd like to try out Maburaho Vol. 1: Bewitched and Bewildered, Rent it.