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Magical Play - The Complete Collection
The show is not like any other that I've seen in recent years, in that it really doesn't follow a plot, the "rules" of the universe the characters occupy seem quite flexible, and the style of the anime itself looked almost experimental much of the time. If this intrigues you, it should since it could conceivably entertain a wide audience with some of the weirdest happenings taking place in anime I've seen in a long time (and I've seen a lot of anime). I'm glad to report that the two disc DVD collection is indeed the complete series and all the supplemental material I could find when researching this title on Japanese websites (admittedly, I don't speak much Japanese but I'm pretty good at figuring stuff out). Here's a brief look at the show with few spoilers to mar your enjoyment if you decide to take a chance on a funny, nearly insane, anime show brought to us by the folks at ADV Films:
The lead character is a young girl named Padudu. Her big wish in life is to become a Magical Girl. A Magical Girl is a young female possessing special powers to alter the universe in various ways, some of which were discussed but most of which are left to the imagination. To become a true magical girl though requires fighting in a series of staged battles with other like-minded young ladies, all of whom have similar desires. By fighting with others, she gains a special substance called Hanamaru, something best described as mana/magical juice/or stroke, depending on your sensibilities. Padudu's desire is to make the cut and move on to Earth, leaving her home world of Sea Heaven behind her. Aiding in her quest is her "partner", Uokichi, a magical fish that she actually wears as an outfit. He shields her from energy blasts and the elements and even provides her with a meal if she gets hungry, although he whines about it since it hurts him to have handfuls of his flesh ripped off for her dinner.
In her quest to achieve her goals, she comes across many strange places with many weird customs, starting off on the wrong foot almost immediately by breaking a law in a town. The cops chase her and she ends up on the lam befriending a number of others along the way. The battles she engages in are colorful and twisted, lending something interesting to what could have been a dry and goofy show. Thankfully, the replay value of the episodes was very high and I learned something with each viewing, something I can't say of most anime I review these days. Further, the morals of the stories are generally positive and show Padudu's growth over time, making me wish the series lasted longer back when it came out.
In all, there were five episodes; one in a rudimentary form of 3-D that looked pretty cool, and the audio commentary showed the cast to be having just as much fun after the show was over as they apparently did while making it. This will be one you either love or hate with little middle ground but I enjoyed it enough to give it a Recommended to most fans of the genre. If you don't like anime based on magical battles or quests, or simply don't like the characters being younger gals fighting against the odds, it might not be for you but I'm jaded beyond belief and found it to be well worth my time and money. Check it out if you get the chance!
Picture: The picture was presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The transfer looked good and the only problem I saw with this very colorful show was some minor pattern noise during a few sequences. The colors were accurate and the overall impression I got from the show was that it was made with a lot of care during a time when that wasn't the norm in Japan (due to economic hardships).
Sound: The audio came with a choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital English surround dub or the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track with optional English subtitles. I'm not a language snob like so many other reviewers these days and found each track to have plenty of value for me. During some of the fights, there was a lot of sound presence going on (you could tell where the sounds were coming from as they corresponded with movements on the screen), but otherwise it was just a clean set of tracks with decent voice acting. It wasn't the best I've heard but it was very good nonetheless.
Extras: Considering the five episodes to be the main body of the set, the extras included an audio commentary that I enjoyed a whole lot, some trailers and a character gallery to go with the usual clean opening and closing sequence. There was also a paper booklet that detailed a bit of information about the show and a double sided DVD cover with pretty art work. The commentary amused me no end since it appeared to be a handful of voice actors trying to make sense of the show as they seemed to be watching it for the first time. Only one of them admitted to being in the show and the others gave me the impression that they were hanging out at the ADV Films' studio and did the commentary on a dare. That made it far fresher than the usual commentary and I hope the company explores this style in the future, particularly for stuff as outlandish as this series.
Final Thoughts: If you're looking for something different than you're used to, something that combines a host of different technical techniques, and something way off the beaten path, you've come to the right place. I appreciate that ADV Films takes on these one shot sets where there isn't a large audience already built in; making it a risk that few other companies seem willing to take these days. Risk taking aside, the entertainment value was a notch about the pack here and while it was rated as a 15+, I didn't see anything I'd worry about a younger fan checking out either. For a fun show with few constraints, Magical Play was great!
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime article!