On the last day of the school year, 14-year-old Ichika Tachibana comes across an old, busted mirror in an unused campus building. When Manatsu, a mysterious girl from inside the mirror, steps out and offers her friendship for the summer, she also offers Ichika magical powers. Now, Manatsu must help Ichika unlock the powers of the 12 Djinn in order to complete her magic training... but perhaps this is something that will prove too difficult a task. Some offers may appear to be too good to be true and this one just may turn out to do more harm than good.
I'm not really a fan of the Mahou Shoujo genre of anime (and I've watched enough of the type to know this), however I will freely admit that there are some hidden gems in in a genre that is mainly aimed at teenage girls.
Generally the mahou shoujo genre has severe failings in terms of story and character development that more mature anime fans find unappealing. I blame Sailor Moon for this as, even though it enjoyed huge success, it could be thought of as being too successful in that many of the mahou shoujo type shows that followed took their lead from it. This
meant shortcomings in character development, story, etc (Tokyo Mew Mew springs to mind as a prime example - it's almost a carbon copy of Sailor Moon).
Thankfully, that trend is gradually changing, as more modern anime of this type (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S and Mai Otome for example), have broken with the traditional methods and have started depicting their characters in a much more realistic fashion, whilst the stories have started adopting darker, more mature, themes.
Imagine my surprise then, when I started watching Uta Kata. At first I expected this to be a steretypical mahou shoujo anime, but I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out not to be the case.
Uta Kata literally means "Poem Fragment" (Uta = Poem, Kata = Fragment), however, if it is pronounced Utakata, then it's meaning is changed to "Bubble". Both titles are actually very relevant to the anime itself.
The story is about 14 year old Tachibana Ichika and her encounter, and subsequent friendship during her summer break, with the mysterious Kuroki Manatsu, a girl who apears to Ichika from inside a mirror. Manatsu teaches Ichika about the the power of 12 Djinn, and at first, everything seems to be hunky-dory. The story takes a much darker turn later on in the anime though.
As Ichika continues to unlock each of the 12 Djinn, she begins to notice differences in herself, which gradually become more and more extreme (at one point she tries to kill someone, and at another she summons a bunch of ghosts - see what I mean about a darker turn). These differences take their toll on her mentally and physically as well - something that many mahou shoujo anime blithely ignore.
The story is very well written, and Ichika's inner monologue adds a nice perspective for the viewer - almost like a diary of sorts. The portrayal of Ichika's gradual breakdown is very well done, and not something I expected to see in a mahou shoujo anime. What is also very well done is the way the writers have addressed the issue of power. In many mahou shoujo anime (much to my annoyance), the creators seem happy to give a young girl phenomenal power, with no downsides apart from a crappy social life. In Uta Kata however, Ichika faces a completely different challenge with her power, which is the main driver for her gradual deterioration.
The characters are depicted nicely overall, but my main gripe was with the character transformations. For some reason the creators went down the whole naked transformation route in a show that didn't need anything of the sort. The upside however, is that these transformations happen quite fast, and get faster as the show progresses (another difference from the typical mahou shoujo genre where character transformations take almost as long as it does for Goku to power up). The last transformation happens in the blink of an eye, so it isn't really anything to worry about.
The colour palette used in the show gives it a nice cheery feel, which belies the darker turns the show will take.
The sound is overall well done. The music used in the show is generally appropriate, and the opening theme is very catchy. The sound effects are well used, and generally quite good.
The show really sets itself apart from the typical mahou shoujo genre with it's characters. These aren't ditzy teenage girls who are worried about boys, school, and saving the world (I'm looking at you Sailor Moon and Tokyo Mew Mew). These girls are much more realistic. Each of their personalities is very different, and each has a reason for being part of the show. Ichika is an exceptionally well realised character, especially in the later stages of the show. Her gradual mental and physical breakdown is very well depicted and a lot more realistic than quite a few animes I could name.
I found this anime to be a little slow to start, but once it got going it really started to shine. The fact that all of the action takes place over one summer break means this is a short series, but the effort that has been put into it is undeniable.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and the Special made a very nice addendum to the main show itself, giving the show a much stronger sense of closure than it previously had.
I would recommend this show to any fan of the mahou shoujo genre as an example of how it should be done (if it's supposed to be a serious anime that is). I would most especially recommend this show to everyone else as as it is a singular example in terms of story, character development, plot, etc, of the mahou shoujo genre as it could have been.
This review comes from a guy who really hasn't watched any Mahou Shoujo anime other than Puni Puni Poemi, which by most would be placed in "Comedy/Parody" anyway. So you could say I have no idea what makes a Mahou Shoujo anime good.
At least I didn't find anything that I really liked with Uta Kata.
Story - The story is neither bad nor good. It's merely a tale of summer break miracles , friendship and love (enjoyment is sold separately). While it's not the worst crap someone has ever produced, it mainly feels like a smoothed-out, over-produced generic mass of magic teenage despair. Just reading the
synopsis made me feel a bit uncomfortable with it.
The main's, Ichika's, issues with love and friendship feel exaggeratedly serious and makes it all seem like the world is nearing its end, but soon resolves a few episodes later just to make you think "Why all the fuss?".
When I think about it, many series that I like are like this, but I don't know why I notice it so clearly in this one.
The ending is about the only thing that is touching.
Too bad that it really needed much smoother character development to support it.
Art - Quite smooth actually. The girls are cute, the guys are stiff and hansome and colored in a palette mainly composed of grey, green, purple and blue with a splat of brown. In some episodes it varies though. I once mistook one of the guys for a giraffe due to his long neck, but now afterwards I think this was meant to make him even more stiff and handsome. Oh well..
Animation-wise Uta Kata is quite good. Nothing impressive but it fills its purpose.
The backgrounds are well-made pieces of art, and sometimes I actually considered having a screenshot put up in my room with a neat frame or something. It doesn't beat Mushishi on this point, but hey, what does?
Sound - The soundtracks are all standard Mahou Shoujo I guess, since this is basically what I remember from Puni Puni Poemi. The dramatic music starts really suddenly and sometimes even too soon for the right emotional impact. It's strange rather than bad.
No music besides the ED is really memorable in this one, sadly.
The voice acting is quite good, but I frequently got tricked by the sometimes strange and unnatural dialogue.
Character - Weak girls with a weakwilled facade has never really appealed to me. And yeah, it seemed to me like all the girls in the series were copies of each other besides this one girl who was particularly slutty (can't remember her generic name though).
Watching this bunch of stiff guys and girls really reminded me of animal channel. And I really don't like animal channel. Animal channel get's 4/10, and so does the characters in Uta Kata. They don't develop much. Mainly they just change their mind about certain stuff, not that deep if you ask me.
I'm quite bugged with the fact that the main sometimes (not that often) felt like a mere plot-device.
Enjoyment - I'm a sucker of drama and romance anime. But thanks to the stiff characters strange mood changes and due to the sudden music changes without ramps nothing really got to me emotionally. And even though this is supposed to be a summer break miracle story they actually had whole episodes dedicated to slice of life events like going to the beach going apeshit over some lost watch.
Some wasted episodes in such a short anime if you ask me.
Well, it shaped up at the end but still failed to deliver enough for me to chew on.
Oh, and then there were very obvious panty flashes every now and then..
Though the art was good, it all felt unecessary, and once again, too obvious.
Not really something I enjoyed.
Overall - I wouldn't really recommend this series to anyone who wants to see "some good anime". But if you're into Mahou Shoujo, smooth art and odd fan service then maybe this could satisfy some of your needs. Similar to me, who will watch anything with romance, some people might want to watch anything with Mahou Shoujo, erotic transformations and cute girls galore.
I give this piece of overcooked pancakes 6 out of 10 tosters.
Not goodl, but not horrible.
Like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, first appearances can be deceiving when you watch Uta Kata. What starts off as a slice-of-life/ mahou shoujo title with hints of dark elements to come becomes increasingly dark and serious as it dabbles into coming-of-age and life-threatening dilemmas that our female lead Ichika comes to face and some focus on touchy issues like eating disorders and child abuse. The series takes its time with building up its plot dropping hints that those close to Ichika have some form of connection to the trials she is facing, some of whom aren't as they would seem on the surface, and more
details on those trials eventually come to light as the series progresses. Being a coming-of-age title, Ichika's abilities to call upon the power of the djinn expose her to the joys and pains of adulthood as she becomes exposed more to their power and finds herself increasingly losing control of her power to control them and coming to doubt herself in the process. Outside of Ichika, other characters get a good amount of focus on this series as they have their roles to fulfill in further pushing Ichika's developments or revealing what connection they have to the trials she undergoes. There are elements of fan service in this series with panty shots, clothes changing scenes and Ichika and Manatsu's transformation scenes. Fortunately, these aren't really intrusive to Uta Kata's plot as they just breeze by throughout the series and only more conservative-thinking viewers may take offense to such moments.
That isn't to say the show's all perfect though. There are elements to the trials faced by Ichika that are left unclear such as why she was chosen to undergo them and who Saya was reporting to. Also, the show's slow buildup may turn off some fans as the lighter elements to its storytelling that Uta Kata starts off with may lead folks to think it's just another typical mahou shoujo title catered to the otaku crowd.
In terms of visuals, Uta Kata employs a standard visual style with the design of its characters that doesn't do much to stick out, yet is decent in details and sports bright vivid colors. Scenery shots are pleasant on the eyes and while animation isn't a prominent element to the series, there were no choppy moments or noticeable shortcuts I noticed. The soundtrack consists mostly of beautiful yet haunting tracks that do rather well at accompanying both light and serious moments that occur throughout Uta Kata's run, especially when its more serious second half comes about.
While having some issues, Uta Kata's still a worthwhile mahou shoujo title to look into as it breaks the typical mold of the genre with its more serious later episodes leading to Ichika's coming-of-age dilemmas and realizing the reality of her situation with the djinn.
Overall Grade: 8
Story / Pacing: 8
Art / Animation: 7
Sound / Music / Voice Actors: 7
MIGHT INCLUDE MINOR SPOILER
"Do you want to accept this child, no matter what?"
This anime is criminally underrated and it feels like no one knows about it. I only got to know it through another user I know, who loves magical girls and coming of age-anime too and she recommended it to me. Then I looked here for Madoka Magica recs and found Uta Kata, decribed as a darker take on the magical girl-genre.
Sadly, this wasn't released in Europe either, like many other anime unfortunately had
ART & MUSIC
The art is drawn in the typical style of the mid 2000s magical girls, although it looks very pleasing and beautiful. Normally styles with big eyed girls really aren't my cup of tea, but here it's not too exeggerated. I actually like Manatsu's character design very much. Ichika and the other designs are good too.
I like the color, it's fitting and colorful, but not too shiny.
The opening is really beautiful and sounds good. The sound is catchy. The ending is the same and both have pretty good visuals. Although I can't remember other OSTs, to be honest.
PLOT & CHARACTERS
The plot takes a while to develop, but the anime is only 12 episodes long, so you don't need a lot of patience to deal with the slow pacing. If you like slow pacing... good! Personally I really like the slow, but very well-included build up for the main plot.
You will understand soon what the djinns and the development of her device and her personality stand for.
I heard some people think, the episodic stories are boring, because they are not epic and exciting enough, although I thought that the stories felt very realistic. If you look at them from a more realistic viewpoint and put yourself in Ichika's shoes, you will recognize that, for example, losing your father's expensive watch is some kind of a "daily catastrophe", especially if you are 14 year old girl.
Ichika feels very believable and acts like you would expect from a girl of her age and personality type. Although I never considered that the main and side characters in Uta Kata could become some of my favorites, I still cheered for them and found them believable and likeable.
Also, Ichika's parents are great people and very good parents. Maybe they come off as a little bit too good. It doesn't matter, since they fulfill their part to transport the messages of the anime.
"Do you want to accept this child, no matter what?", they were asked, before Ichika had been born, and then their daughter goes through a rough time in her puberty. So, I actually like this analogy there.
I think some minor characters and the villain were under developed and they contributed more to the message of the anime, but they didn't appear too much like real people to me.
I like that the plot slowly develops in a darker direction and includes pretty symbolism, which shows itself more clearly towards the end.
In the end (I don't want to spoiler so much), it's an absolutely lovely magical girl anime about slowly growing up to a teenager, change yourself due the process and discover some darker sides of yourself and it's a story about parents supporting their child. Also, the anime has overall a lit message about self-care and self-love, which is shown in a beautiful way.
The one thing I actually don't like is the misplaced fanservice in some scenes. It's not so much that it becomes unwatchable, but the girls are 14 and it's absolutely unnecessary in an otherwise lovely coming of age-anime.
The other thing is that the fantasy part with the djinns also feel a little bit under developed and out of place sometimes.
The ending is very metaphorical and I recommend you to watch the OVA sequel to get a satisfying conclusion.
In the middle part (or before that), you will also understand what the title means.
Uta Kata is very beautiful coming of age anime in a magical girl setting. The anime is pretty much underrated.