OP: 「閃光のPRISONER」 (Senkou no Prisoner) by 南里 侑香 (Nanri Yuuka)
「真夏の魔法少女」 (Manatsu no Mahou Shoujo)
“Midsummer Magical Girl”
After watching this first episode, I must say that Mahou Sensou’s introduction leaves much to be desired. There is potential here—the first and last few minutes demonstrate this—but when a majority of the episode ends up lacking in one way or another, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle in terms of overall impressions.
Indeed, the episode does start off on the right note. The premise previously stated that our main character possesses a dark past of some sort, and the wordless exchange we see between Nanase Takeshi and the rest of his family manages to capture that vibe quite well. We see right off the bat that things aren’t right between him and his family and the subsequent dialogue supports this notion as well. There’s an air of mystery that engages you off the bat and Aiba Mui just falling out of a door put a slightly freaky twist on the generic “boy meets girl” moment we usually get in introductory episodes like these. Sadly however, subsequent developments end up hampered by a variety of issues.
First and foremost, the was animation was a hit and miss. I’m not sure if it’s just because of the style they decided to go with here, but there were a fair amount of scenes throughout that ended up looking bland (or outright terrible), which is something that doesn’t bode too well for an action/fantasy series such as this. To top things off, the action itself didn’t do much in terms of engagement either. The group of bad guys that end up chasing Aiba Mui to the “Living World” were underwhelming power-wise, and ended up being walk-overs instead of the “badasses” they seemed like they should’ve been. This is explained in part by the fact that they can’t use magic unless they’re in the alternate “Magical World,” and it’s compounded by the fact that Takeshi ends up receiving abilities of his own… but this doesn’t change the fact that it’s anticlimactic when two of the three bad guys essentially beat themselves and the third one ends up being defeated by a mere beam of light.
It also takes a bit of disbelief to get over the fact that a kendo sword is capable of fending off a steel one, and while it possibly could be explained by “magic,” it would be one of many things with convenient explanations here in this first episode. Exposure to magic just so happens to turn normal humans into magicians, usage of magic in the “Living World” just so happens to cause you to lose all your magic (if you’re fighting other magicians*), it just so happens that Aiba Mui’s original gunshot doesn’t trigger this effect because Takashi wasn’t a magician yet at the time—the list goes on. That said, these aren’t big issues in the long run—I can accept these explanations because they do make logical sense—but it feels like the explanations aren’t so much here to establish Mahou Sensou’s world as it was the other way around. That is, it feels more so that the world was created based around the sequence of events written for this introduction, rather than the other way around. It’s just too convenient, and that’s what ends up irking me about the whole thing—especially the bit where the enemies actually state themselves that they should not use magic, yet end up using it anyway. Not only that, but this contradictory choice end ups up causing them to self-destruct AND gives the rest of our main cast magical powers. It’s not great writing, and many of the developments (and characters) end up noticeably generic as well.
With that said, I do have to note that again, there is potential here. I know I’ve spent a vast majority of this post pointing out things I perceived as flaws, but I do know that at least a portion of the qualms I had were subjective nit-pickings that not everyone will feel, and there were a few bits the show did do well. As such, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch this show. It just means that one shouldn’t read too much into this first episode. At the same time, one should also be sure to temper one’s expectations here with this show, because it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be getting a masterpiece. It could however, end up being another kind of Strike the Blood or Tokyo Ravens, which wouldn’t be bad at all. Both are solid series with generic elements that do a good job within its given medium, and it’s possible that Mahou Sensou ends up that way as well. It just has a bit more of an uphill climb than the other two had. Oh yeah, did I ever mention how much I love nano OP/ED themes?
ED: 「Born to be」 by nano