Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: Nozomi Entertainment/RightStuf
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 525 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
My demonic eye sees an anime series that’s actually lots of fun.
There’s hardly ever a dull moment in Part One of Rental Magica and, while I’ve seen this type done before and characters that seem to have been ripped from other anime series, this series seems to know its target audience and attempts to make it a fun ride even for those who know the territory well. And this is what I love about Rental Magica, it’s a fun romp with romance, magic, supernatural elements and a good old-fashioned rivalry smack down … and this is just Part One.
First thing you’ll notice is that the four disc DVD box set (which also includes an awesome book) comes with the option of watching the series in its original televised broadcast order or you can watch the series in chronological order so the events of the episodes make more sense. For example, if you watched the broadcast order, you won’t know who that blonde mage riding a summoned demon in the first episode but if you watched the episodes in its chronological order you will know who she is when Episode 1 plays.
Rental Magica is the story of a Magical Recruitment Agency known as Astral that basically rents out mages to those who need their services (hence the title) and this particular agency is under new management. You see, High school student Itsuki Iba inherited Astral from is father after the older Iba went missing. Entrusted with the agency, Itsuki does his best to keep the company afloat. Thankfully, he has help from his childhood friend, Honami, who happens to be a Celtic witch. There’s also the cute Mikan, whose priestess magic is still at the amateur level but still strong enough for a girl her age. Finally, there’s the cat-loving Ren who has the ability to summon shinigami and Minami, a girl with a secret we won’t reveal here.
While he may appear helpless and weak, Itsuki has a secret weapon hiding behind his eye patch. You see, a childhood encounter with a dark supernatural presence has given him a demonic eye that possesses the power to give the young man strength and the ability to see a weakness in any entity. The problem is that using it might lead to some very negative consequences. Still, Itsuki tries his best not to get in the way of his fellow Astral employees and gains not only their respect but they even love him.
In the course of doing their job, Astral must deal with the competition with a major one – run but an attractive English blonde named Adelicia – that tries to get all of Astral’s job contracts. Adelicia starts off as a cold young magic user but very quickly comes to like Itsuki to the point that she actually develops something of a crush on him … to Honami’s annoyance. Part of the fun of the series is watching Adelicia and Honami compete over Itsuki since both girls like him.
The episodes follow Itsuki and Astral taking on various jobs that include helping a priestess help her possessed brother and in another they’re helping a girl whose grandfather might have been spirited away. The group even accepts a job returning a doll to a family shrine only to trap Itsuki and Minami in another dimension where a fisherman from the past is trapped and hungry mermaids await to devour them.
Still, the best episodes are those that find Itsuki go from insecure President of the agency to a President who will stand alongside his friends and keep the agency running. The series also fleshes out the characters by way of flashback story arcs that have us understanding Itsuki and Honami’s relationship as well as her relationship with Adelicia. We get a look back into how Itsuki met Minami after he broke his leg during one assignment and the secret behind this girl is revealed. It isn’t until we finally get to know the cast of characters that the story really gets going and finds Astral going up against a man very familiar with the agency. He even sends a Homunculus to do his dirty work.
The series never really gets too technical or serious for very long and much of the humor is good enough to keep the tone lively and enjoyable. It’s a real hoot to see Adelicia and Honami’s competition in one episode turn a mini vacation into a nightmare. There’s even a Christmas episode and, yes, a trip to the beach and a hot springs.
Part One of Rental Magica might seem like a by-the-numbers anime story that we’ve all seen before and even the genre and characters will feel familiar to those who know the genre well. That said, Rental Magica is still good fun that rarely fails in entertaining you and there are moments that will have you glad you picked this box set up anyway. It’s hard to dismiss a series like this since the characters are likeable and many of the situations featured in the episodes are charming enough to leave you smiling. It’s a good series that isn’t afraid to have some fun.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Inheriting his father’s Mage-for-hire agency called Astral, young Itsuki Iba takes on various jobs of the supernatural variety with his youthful crew of talented magic users. As Itsuki tries to keep the company afloat, he leads his youthful employees through a number of jobs that involve everything from a Basilisk to man-eating mermaids.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation isn’t anything to write home about but the action is particularly striking and the characters are as diverse as the supernatural threatens seen in each episode. Nozomi Entertainment does a brilliant job bringing us a crisp and colorful episodes on four DVDs.
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
There are no English dub voices but who cares when the Japanese voice cast handles their characters with enough energy to make the dialogue work. The score by Takanori Eguchi and Jun Ichikawa is excellent and opening theme song is great but we are very partial to the closing song, “Aruiteiko” sung by Jungo Yoshida.
Never mind the trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs, there’s a fun Character Bio feature but the best stuff you’ll find on the 128-soft cover book that contains an episode guide, character facts, interviews and chapters covering the supernatural and magical elements featured in each episode. This is definitely worth the read. Another great extra is the fact that you can watch the series in the TV broadcast or chronological order.
An entertaining and enjoyable anime series, Rental Magica doesn’t offer anything new but it still remains to be a blast to watch either way and the characters won’t fail to grow on you. Part One delivers enough good episodes to make us excited about Part Two. This series is certainly worth checking out if you’re looking for a fun yet familiar anime series.
Review copy provided by Nozomi Entertainment/RightStuf