Ureshiko Asaba, 26 years old, married. Few people know the fact that she is a magical girl named "Agnes", and she is actually the guardian of the town where she lives. One day she meets Sayaka Kurenai, aka "Cruje", another magical girl appointed by the magic realm as the legitimate sucessor to her position, but Agnes is reluctant in letting her assume because she knows that Cruje has orders to erase the whole place, including its human inhabitants with the purpose of creating a new one. To complicate matters, Ureshiko must deal with the growing distance between her and her husband, Tamotsu, her crescent feelings for Tatsumi Kagura, a young man who is now living as a tenant in her home, and the fact that in the moment she ever kisses a common human, she would lose her powers forever.
The more Magical Girl shows I watch, the more the phrase "Don't judge a book by it's cover" rings true. In this case that is true yet again, as I honestly expected this to be some tasteless fanservice affair, and almost dropped it during the first episode because of the fanservice. Surprisingly enough that drops off the face of the Earth after the first episode, in order to pave the way for a rich story with memorable, lovable characters.
=== Story ===
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo: Bewitched Agnes is the story of Tatsumi Kagura, a young man living in a town known as "Wonderland". Contrary to it's
name it seems to be nothing more than an ordinary, sleepy little town.
In reality, Tatsumi's world is the product of a magical world known only as "Realm". Realm appoints a magical girl to manage this town and protect it. This manager has the authority to reshape the entire Wonderland if they please. This causes a problem for the current manager, Ureshiko Asabe, also known as Agnes Bell. This town is quite precious to her, but she's become too old to maintain the position of manager, and is supposed to hand the position over to a new Magical Girl, who would surely spell the end of the current Wonderland and it's inhabitants.
Exacerbating Ureshiko's unwillingness to relinquish her position is the budding feelings between herself and Tatsumi, which becomes further complicated thanks to the fact that Ureshiko is already married... and quite unhappily so.
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo is at it's core a romance story, and with any good romance story, emotional drama is needed to make the end result worth it. One of the best things about this show is that no side of the conflict feels completely right or wrong. As Ureshiko and Sayaka butt heads we can feel for both of their situations and it's clear that both of them have very understandable passions, but passion often leads to stubbornness and a refusal to accept new ideas.
=== Art ===
The animation style of Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo is good for it's time. The scenery of our humble town is always pretty and conveys the feeling of a peaceful town where most long time residents are happy with their ordinary lives. The character designs all suit the characters well. Most notably our lead male, Tatsumi boasts a rather messy hairstyle which clues us into his personality, passionate, yet naive young man.
The animation loses some points mainly in part to scenes where bright magical effects make it almost impossible to see the characters and what is transpiring between them, as well as scenes of animation laziness where a character essentially warps from one part of the room to another, in order to save time and animation having him go about his business in that room.
=== Sound ===
The sound department is where this show suffers most. J.C. Staff is no stranger to criticism, and in this case, the biggest criticism is that the background music is often too loud, so much that it's difficult to hear what the characters are saying. The music itself usually sounds of the peaceful wind instrument variety, but it's hard to feel relaxed when the sound is blaring into your ears.
The voice work is pretty top notch, with each voice suiting their character. I personally wasn't too fond of Ureshiko's breathy, ditzy voice, but it suits her character quite a bit, especially since she shares her voice with another well known Yamato Nadeshiko type character, Belldandy.
=== Character ===
The characters are where the show shines brightest. Though some such as Ureshiko herself come off as generic, (in her case the typical naive clumsy older woman) there is a layer of depth to them makes them endearing to even a detractor of this type of character, such as this reviewer. As we learn just why Ureshiko acts the way she does, it's difficult not to sympathize with her, particularly why her relationship with her husband is so strained, and her unwillingness to give up the current Wonderland.
The character of Sayaka Kurenai is another of great interest. Sayaka transforms into Cruje Gapp, a Magical Girl who won the right to be the next manager of Wonderland. Much of Sayaka's development comes from how her perception of Wonderland changes throughout the series, which we see in her interactions with her classmates and Tatsumi. It's hard not to support Sayaka just as much (if not more) than Ureshiko as we see the world from both of their sides, and how these sides clash.
=== Enjoyment ===
What began with an appalling first episode that nearly made me drop the show, blossomed into a rewarding experience. It proved that the story of a 20-something year old Magical Girl wearing a skintight costume could really be something more than shameless fanservice. The pace of the story never feels like it's doing too much at once, or it takes too long to get to the point. Every episode brings new developments into the mix while elaborating on the old. Even the seemingly mundane conversations between Ureshiko and her friends carry weight that makes the viewer feel for Ureshiko's desire to keep Wonderland as it is.
=== Overall ===
Overall, Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo has it's faults, as do many J.C. Staff shows, but if you can overlook a bit of fanservice and an obnoxious soundtrack, you'll find yourself captivated by a rich, rewarding story with meaningful drama and compelling romance, all of which is brought to us by a diverse and endearing cast.
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo was one of the big surprises of the 2005 summer season. When I first heard of the show, it first reminded me of the 1960’s U.S. Television Series, Bewitched. But I'm happy to say that it turned out to be a very different type of show. I am not a fan of magical girl anime, but I really enjoyed this one. It was nice to see a show that was as character driven as much as it was. Personally, I did not find the fan-service offensive but it was repetitive. Other than a couple of places where stock footage was used
with out checking for continuity, I have no complaints.
The quality of the Seiyuu cast in this show is outstanding. Inoue Kikuko, who best known for the voice of Mizuho from Onegai Teacher & Belldandy from AA! Megami Sama has just the right voice for the lead female character, Asaha Ureshiko. Kishio Daisuke, who has voiced such characters as Chitose from Happy Lesson and Suginami in Da Capo, does a great job as Kagura Tatsumi, the main male character.
This is one that I will recommend it to anybody, even if they don't really care for magical girl anime that much. Overall very good production from JC Staff and excellent Seiyuu performances makes this a definite buy when it comes out on R1 disks
Tatsumi Kagura is a young college student who had a promising career as a professional athlete ahead of him... up until he injured himself, and had to leave school. He gets a job working at a publishing company in a boring city called Wonderland, and finds a new home at a nearby boarding house. It’s here that he meets Ureshiko Asaba, the granddaughter of the house’s manager. She’s older than he is, but she’s kind and gentle, and he soon begins to fall for her. But little does he know what kind of tightly guarded secrets are standing between them.
For you see, Ureshiko is really
Agnes Bell, a magical girl from another world, and the reason she can never return his feelings is because it would only take a single kiss to rob her of all of her magic powers, for the rest of her life.
Now, on the surface, this may seem like yet another schmaltzy little fanservice-fest, a borderline harem with the barest ghint of a will-theyp-won’t-they plot to hold some semblance of a story together, and that the magical girl element is only there to justify a bunch of highly sexualized transformation sequences. But the truth is, this well runs surprisingly deep.
For starters, Ureshiko is 26 years old, at least ten years older than your typical magical girl, which makes the transformation sequences significantly less creepy than they could have been. Directly related to this is the fact that a much younger, more traditionally aged magical girl has come to Ureshiko’s territory to force her into retirement and assume her position. And for some reason, this girl has little to no regard for the safety of non-magical people.
Oh, and that kiss thing? It isn’t just some silly little tension builder. There are actual consequences to it. See, the other thing about Ureshiko that prevents her from loving Kagura is the fact that she’s still married to another man, to whom her marriage actually crumbled due to her inability to kiss him. They’re separated, but not divorced properly, and yes, he’s involved with another woman.
Yeah. Didn’t expect THAT out of your harem romp, did you?
Okusama had a moderate animation budget, but it was managed extremely well... Still frames are used sparingly, where they mostly won’t be noticed, so that the bulk of the budget could be dumped into some amazing action scenes and hilarious motion cycles. It’s fluid and graceful when it needs to be, but never goes too far overboard, placing every single yen where it belongs.
The artwork is just that... It’s art. The backgrounds are highly detailed, to the point that every single landscape... Even those that are only on screen for seconds at a time... Appears to have taken hours to complete. The blend of colors is elegant and precise, giving an impression of almost gritty realism to it. The character designs are also colorful, attractive, and well thought out. In short, this anime looks really pretty.
I’m afraid I can’t talk about the dub, because after nine years, there still isn’t an English dub to speak of. The subs sounded great, though my American ears aren’t entirely reliable. I can tell you, if nothing else, that the seiyou for Ureshiko and her estranged husband give performances that were nothing short of perfect. Everything else sounded like typical anime voicings, so I guess no comment is a good comment.
But as pretty as it may be, no anime can stand on it’s own without good writing... Well, except for Angel Beats, but that’s another review. Anyway, when it comes to Okusama’s writing, the first thing about it that really strikes me is how mature it is. I don’t mean mature as in ‘tons of adult content,’ I mean mature as in... Mature. The characters are mostly adults, dealing with complex problems that a lot of similar anime wouldn’t even consider as possible topics. They grow and develop in ways that don’t become evident to the viewer until after the fact, and yes, all of our noteworthy characters have gone through some very distinct changes by the end of it’s thirteen episode run. There’s no true villain to this story, just opposing viewpoints that clash endlessly with no true compromise in sight. nobody is completely right, nobody is completely wrong, and as you learn more about the situation brewing between them, you’ll find yourself constantly shifting between sides. The romance is also handled really well, developed at a steady pace, with just enough reasonable doubt to make the end result feel a lot less predictable than it should have felt.
I don’t want to give away any serious spoilers, but the plot evolves and develops just as gradually as the characters do Every single twist is delivered naturally, without a hint of exposition, and as each layer is peeled, it’ll reveal just enough information about what’s going on to leave you hungry for the next one. Although this could also be considered Okusama’s biggest downfall, as several really important questions are dangled in front of us for a really cruel amount of time without ever being answered.
Okusama carries a very strong theme about growing up, and how difficult it can be to leave your former self behind in the process. This is explored not only through the perspective of the individual giving up her old responsibilities to a younger generation, but also from the perspective of that younger generation, as she takes on the pressure of the older generation’s responsibilities, leaving behind all sense of ego as she does so. It teaches that time doesn’t wait for anyone, and that as long as both generations can trust and respect each other, they may just be able to live together in harmony.
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo... Or the literal translation, Madam is a Magical Girl; Bewitched Agnes, is a very obscure anime series from 2005. It’s never been licensed for an English distribution, so I unfortunately cannot recommend watching it in any kind of legal way. It took me a long time to find a sub that wasn’t in French, and it wasn’t even a very well translated one. You can find it at Anime1.com, and trust me, if there was a legal way to watch it, I’d be recommending that instead. You can also buy the Malaysian bootleg off of Ebay, but the quality of those things are always a gamble.
Bewitched Agnes... Which is the name I’ve come to assign to it... Is a very mature, well written show that offers a surprisingly gripping experience. It falls apart towards the end, starting with a somewhat insulting deus-ex-machina event, and slowly losing all sense of the dark, pyschologically complex reveals that it could have easily reached. It’s a fun ride, but we never learn anything substantial about the magical world, or about Wonderland’s relationship to it, or how this bizarre system came to be in the first place. And that’s a pretty big blight on an otherwise perfect series. Some people won’t mind this, but for me, it drops the show down by about two points to an overall score of 8/10.