Review: "Rental Magica" - Abracadabra, It's An Enjoyable Show!
Itsuki “Itski” Iba is no one’s idea of a corporate leader. He’s a bit on the reserved side, not very physically imposing and he’s always getting overruled by his subordinates. And yet, he’s the one tasked with running his late father’s Magic business, Astral. No, not the David Copperfield kind of “magic”, but real honest to ‘insert deity here’ Magic of mages and demons and all that fun stuff. Several other companies are going in for the kill to take over Astral and obtain the various secrets and talents that Astral possess, chief among them Itsuki’s child hood friend Honami Ambler, who just happens to be an expert at almost-forgotten forms of Celtic magic. Yep, she’s a witch, right down to a pointy hat and a broom.
Chief among the pursuers for Astral is Goetia, one of the oldest and most powerful mage companies also being run by a new CEO, Adelicia Mathers: inheritor of not only Goetia but also a very power line of Solomoniac demons and a childhood friend of Honami from their school days in England. Additionally, both Adelicia and Honami have more than a little bit of a thing for Itski. And because Itski’s life just isn’t complicated enough already, he’s not actually a mage himself, so he’s constantly having to prove to the Association that governs all mage activities that he’s capable of actually running his company even when he can’t do any magic himself.
Oh, and Itski also just happens to have a contaminated “Glam Sight” embedded in one of his eyes, which despite it’s name is not something stolen from David Bowie, but rather an innate ability to see the inner workings of all magic. While that sounds completely awesome, Itski unfortunately had the bad luck to have a run-in with a evil magical entity in his childhood that left his Glam Sight contaminated by said evil thing, making the use of it exceptionally painful for him. And as things are wont to happen, Honami was with him when the eye was contaminated, leaving her feeling very guilty about it.
With all of that added up, plus the various connections that Astral’s other employees have to other problems it sounds like “Rental Magica” should be a rock ‘em sock’em non-stop action adventure. Well, that’s not the case. In face most of the action-y parts are kind of boring. For a show centered magic most of the fights are actually rather prosaic and somewhat uninspired. Things do get a bit wild from time to time, mostly when Honami starts flying around her broom, but there’s nothing to really blow you away in the fights. Nor is the general visualization of the magic, or magical contamination as it is usually manifested, particularly noteworthy, but I suppose it gets the job done.
The real hook is the characters themselves. Itsuki, Honami and Alicia form a core that ends up being way more interesting that it looks like they would be from the outset. Each one does something that way more unusual than it should be: they grow. They don’t just “change”, they actually grow and mature as people, taking in the experiences the show throws at them and becoming more interesting and deep as a result. The rest of the Astral cast — including Shinto specialist Mikan Katsuragi, Onmyoudou practitioner Ren Nekoyashiki, and ghost (no really, she’s a ghost) Manami Kuroha — fill out their requisite roles quite nicely, but they never take much away from the central cast members. The various villains do a passable job of motivating the plot, but you can’t say any of them really rise above the level of plot contrivance.
The release itself is interesting. Nozomi chose not to put a English language track on this one, so you obviously only get the Japanese track. The show is also presented across 8 discs in 2 packages in both chronological order and broadcast order. I chose to go with chronological order for this viewing, but you have to be really careful which one you select when you pop in a disc to make sure you don’t accidentally watch the same episode twice or get way out of order. Extras are pretty flimsy, just some commercials and character bio sheets. I also wish I could say the show was well paced, but about 6 episodes could have been cut out without having any real effect on the progression of the show what so ever, and it does get a bit overly silly at times. All in all though, it’s a solid show. Now if anyone did rentals anymore I’d make the obvious pun, so I suppose I’ll have to settle for saying it’s worth a watch.