Character Designs by Kiyohiko Azuma
Directed by Hiroki Hayashi
Music by Seikou Nagaoka
Script by Hideyuki Kurata
- Voice actor commentary
- Clean opening and closing animation
- Annotated character gallery
- Additional 3-D episode
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Cats worn as support garments
- Eating of allies
- Betrayals of friendship galore
- Horny henchman ogling likely underage heroines
- Dark comedy
Released by: ADV
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent it first. You could love it or hate it.
Okay, Magical Play is a hard series to categorize, much less explain. Basically, it concerns Padudu, who has arrived in Sweetland from her home in Sea Heaven, wearing Uokichi, her edible giant fish cloak. Her dream is to become a Magical Girl, and to do that, she must fight in and around Sweetland, earning a Hanamaru for each victory. When she has enough Hanamaru, she can travel to Earth, where fame and lucrative merchandising agreements await her.
On the way, she meets several other would-be Magical Girls. First we meet Pipin, the designated rival for Padudo. Pipin’s requisite costume is a sort of take on Playboy Bunny, complete with bunny ears, little fluffy tale, and carrot fetish. Myumyu wears two cats as her only costume, which of course leaves plenty of room for lots of hilarity when the cats want to, say, eat, leaving Myumyu’s jubblies hilariously bare. Queen Perilun is a former victor of the Magical Girl contests, and her personality leaves rather a lot to be desired. She betrayed her supposed friend, Nonononn, who is now an outlaw and warns Padudu about the dark side of becoming a Magical Girl. Mustard and Ketchup are Sweetland’s two best police officers (think Mihoshi and Kiyone of Tenchi fame), and Zucchini is the show’s token male, who is basically the Queen’s cabana boy and henchtoy, though he has his own designs on Myumyu’s pussies.
Clearly, the show is meant to be a kind of adult/older fan parody of Magical Girl shows, complete with goofy costumes, an idiotic naÃ¯ve heroine, and requisite battles with villains. It has a great deal of potential for humor, but the show’s ambiguity leaves it a bit nowhere. To really appreciate the parody aspects, you have to have watched your fill of idiotic magical girls prancing about in stupid outfits (which doesn’t take long), but many American anime fans have not yet learned to hate this genre, and you have to hate it to want to see it skewered as it is in Magical Play. The humor also often depends upon finding amusement in the betrayal (or eating) of friends or allies, but whereas in Excel Saga it has a light enough touch to be funny (and no one every really suffers or gets hurt, as befits a comedy), in Magical Play, it’s just mean and flat.
The show looks great at least, due to the character designs of Kiyohiko Azuma. Too bad it’s like watching Chiyo-chan of Azumanga Daioh go very, very wrong. The sound is also quite good, and both languages have talented casts who ham up their parts properly. Voice hijinks and over-emoting that wouldn’t work in a more serious show are called for here.
The special features list includes a special 3-D episode, that is basically a retelling of Padudu’s arrival in Sweetland. There’s also a very nice character gallery, complete with some show references to place them, and a clean opening and closing. The voice actor commentary on the fourth episode, as befits the show, is unusual: instead of actors from the show, two of the three commentators haven’t even seen the show before and are basically trying to understand it as they go along. They’re almost funnier than the show itself, but not what you might call useful or insightful, and a show like this really could stand some insight.
In essence, this series is the sort that people will either love or hate, and you really just have to see it for yourself to be sure. If it sounds like it might appeal to you, then rent it and give it a shot. It had a lot of potential, especially via Azuma’s fantastic artwork, but it just doesn’t pull it off. It may look like a children’s show, but the 15+ rating is there for a reason. If you liked Excel Saga, then you might like this, but beware that it has less camp and more viciousness, though it doesn’t seem to be going for “vicious” so much as “funny.” I truly wanted this to be better than it is, but it just doesn’t entirely succeed.