Arusu believes in magic. With all her heart, she believes that magic is possible and that it can be used for good deeds and fun games. But suddenly, she finds herself transported into another world, ruled by a mysterious elite of witches—and these witches don't seem to be in it for the fun. They're hard at work capturing sprites, the native magical beings of the world, and forcing them into slavery. Once Arusu realizes that her new surroundings aren't just a dream, she sets out to change things.
Brilliantly rendered with unique style and brimming with boundless imagination, Mahou Shoujo Tai Arisu (Magical Girl Squad Alice for the non-weeaboo among us), is a charming anime about a girl who loves magic, who falls into a realm where it is a tool of oppression and warfare. An adventure in the truest sense of the word: a journey to strange new land, and an exploration of the human heart, through challenge and trial. The show is fun to the very core, and its fictional landscape is well-realised in all its peculiar glory, but it also has some very strong dramatic moments, and some dark/mature themes,
which is what ultimately makes it so compelling. Its quirky characters befit the experimental feel of the show in general, especially the protagonist, Alice, who is simply an absolute joy to watch in any scene she’s in. The series is 40 episodes long, but each episode is only half-length, so it actually ends up being a shorter series that usual. However, with the way the show is paced, it covers a lot more than pretty much any 26 episode series can manage. In fact, at first the ridiculous speed at which the show moves forward may seem jarring (especially, perhaps, if you’re not too quick with subtitles). There is almost constant dialogue, and the scenes move rapidly from one to the next, so you really have to be paying attention. However, I soon got used to it, and loved the way in which it didn’t waste time.
Produced with a childishly colourful simplicity, but also with an ever-present artistic flare, the show almost always looks stunning. The actual detail in the cel animation is very low, but, as is the case with the lack of consistency in Noein’s animation, it just doesn’t matter, in fact I prefer the way this show looks to countless other anime irregardless of their detail. The use of colour and an innovative stylised approach make the show look fantastic, and is just one of the things that make it stand out from the crowd as a unique viewing experience. Probably the best thing about the way the show looks, though, is the directing, which, without any doubt, is some of the best I’ve seen in any anime. Why this ‘mahou shoujo’ (albeit unconventional) is deserving of such fantastic direction is beyond me, but it has it in spades. Being very fast-paced, the show has a lot of editing to deal with, and I suppose that some of the interesting techniques evolved from that. But thanks to this factor, almost every scene looks remarkable, and the effort that went in to the show’s design really pulls through. Also, I think some of the sense of freedom the show uses as a theme seeped into the minds of the producers, because conventional is thrown out the window in favour of experimental - which, fortunately, works. My only criticism is that there are a few (2 or 3) episodes where the animation is poorly done. The music is also fantastic, especially the theme music (which is also the OP) - I just love it.
The show is relentlessly energetic, propelled forward by Alice’s uncompromising ideals, stubborn bravery, and love for fun and freedom. For me, she represents the epitome of the goodness of human beings; she is comprised of every emotional quality I value in other people and myself. I think almost all of my appreciation for the show comes from my love of her character, and the way she behaves. Her belief in magic, and her faith in herself is oftentimes inspiring. Her big heart and childish innocence lend the show a strong emotional potency, from the moments of playful laughter, to those of great sadness, Alice’s character attached me to the show’s emotional context. Very rarely can a character do this, and I think it’s because she was so well-written: despite her larger-than-life attitude, she felt very believable due to the fact that despite her actions always being admirable, they were not always right. The other factor that contributed to her greatness was Alice’s seiyuu, who I don’t think I’ve heard until I watched this anime. That’s a shame, because the way she voiced Alice her was just spot-on, and her voice itself is so full of life and sincerity that she became her character in a way that many seiyuus don’t manage. Needless to say, she’s now one of my all-time favourite voice actresses.
The thing that ultimately sells the show and made it such a memorable experience for me is that it tells a story with heart; every moment of the show radiates with an aura of originality, and one can see that it wasn’t produced just to sell - it’s not trying to appeal to its audience through generic moe or pointless mecha, it’s trying to tell a story. It’s the sort of impression one gets from reading a good book, but one I rarely get from watching anime, and in a sense, that is why this show appealed to me so much; beyond its actual quality it speaks to my inner love for fiction as a product of passionate creativity. To sum up the series, I’ll say that it is the best mahou shoujo (if you care to call it that) series I’ve ever seen. It is dark and dramatic at times, has a thoroughly compelling plot, memorable characters, an exciting plot, and is always great fun to watch. I’m positive that most people won’t agree with me on this, and even I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed the series - if you only like shounen or fanservice: stay away, otherwise, give it a try!
This is truly an anime for children and young teens and, perhaps, a little more so for girls. Like every good children's artwork, it also holds appeal for a much larger (and older) audience. Unlike others series aimed at the same public, there is nothing done here to satisfy male-chauvinist fantasies and that is a very welcome change. Everything in this anime breathes honesty. The only flaws are, perhaps, a little over-ambitiousness and, sometimes, a slight lack of clarity. Alll this being said, "Young Witch Squad Alice" remains, in my opinion, an absolute must-see anime and I shall try, in this review, to explain
why I came to this conclusion.
The story has a plot somewhat inspired by Lewis Carrol's book (hence the name of the main character, no doubt) but does not have the same dream-like absurdity or disjointedness. Like Carrol's Alice, our young heroine falls down to a another (dream) world in which everything is very symbolical. In it, magic and the people who wield it are means of expressing very diverse messages all connected to the hopes and doubts of the young Alice. There are many themes treated including identity, individual freedom, love, ambition, knowledge, etc... Each of these themes is addressed with care and all characters and places introduced serve a clear purpose to that effect.
One scene is a perfect example of the whole atmosphere of the show. A little after Alice's arrival, she is brought before the Grand Mistress of the witches along with the two witches who had her in their custody and then let her out of her cage ( namely Sheila and Eve), resulting in the escape of a great number of fairies. The two young girls are punished for the escape of the fairies and a "curse of eternal youth" is cast upon them until they retrieve the lost creatures! There are so many adults who fear old age and decrepitude that they forget that children want to grow up and that staying a child forever is a nightmare to them. The show reminds us how unhealthy it is to want to remain a child but does so in a very creative way, without being insulting.
The story spans over a wide array of themes but also places and times and though it encompasses a whole imaginary world it remains very personal. Indeedl, everything rotates around Alice, her absent father, her gloomy view of the real world and the ways she seeks to deal with her doubts and fears. Despite its great ambition, the show often has a very light and enjoyable tone. Even during the more dramatic episodes, there is measure, and though there might be darkness there is no glorification of despair. Some of the finer messages put forth might prove harder to read for a young audience (for instance the "mirror" half brother) but will certainly please an older one.
Like the story, all the characters in this anime are very symbolical and none of them are truly good or truly evil. There are very few characters one cannot sympathize with, to a certain extent, and the design behind each of these was well researched and executed.
The main character is an energetic and fun loving girl with a lot of maturity but also a great sense of justice which results in slightly rowdy or rebellious behaviour. She is also very creative and her imagination is a tool she uses to deal with the harsh aspects of her life.
Sheila and Eve are the other two members of the squad. Sheila is at first a very law abiding student, eager to earn respect and frowning upon deviation from set courses, even if they seem unfair. Her character evolves for the better as the show progresses and does so in a rather realistic way. Eve is generous and loving but also somewhat weak-willed and cowardly and those traits will factor greatly in the evolution of her character. It sometimes seems as if these two characters reflect two aspects of Alice's personality.
The remaining cast could be talked about in detail but I will leave you the pleasure of discovering them!
Very original to say the least, the art might seem a little odd at first but, in my opinion, fits the world of Alice perfectly. Many of the charaters, creatures, places and vehicles are a pleasure to the eye. The originality of the design is yet another indication of the great effort spent in making this show. The animaton and art seemed very good to me though perhaps not to the point of inspiring awe.
A very strong point here. The score (and even the ending song) fit the world of Alice perfectly. The music is not incredibly original butI have rarely ever heard anything so well adapted to a show.
I greatly enjoyed this show and would recommend it to just about anyone.
Remember that a score of 8/10 means very good. I could probably have given it 9/10 if I just followed my feelings. I truly hope this anime will gain a larger audience in the future so that the anime industry will be inspired to create more such shows.
I see what they were trying to do; that's why it pains me even more to give it such a bad grade.
The Good things:
The concept was great: a human girl who wants to be a witch falls into the witch realm, and finds it different then what she was dreaming of.
In theory a great start, yeah? I'll tell you where it went wrong at "the bad things".
The art, holy-moly the art was fantastic. It was refreshing, almost realistic, but not off-putting. It seemed to have come directly from a colorful web-comic like W.I.T.C.H. (but with even better art). There are so many
wonderful designs for objects solely used by witches (the dog-chest, the dragon-house etc.).
The only thing that was off-putting were the facial-expressions sometimes. They picked the weirdest times to show off their skills in the "dramatically-disturbed look" department. (you know the one, big eyes, forehead-zoom in that looks really creepy).
Voice acting: The voices showed off the character's personalities well (tbh, I wouldn't be able to pull of Arusu's up-beat character for so long even If I had the training).
The only voice-actor that left me wondering was the one of Lennon (Renon), whose gender was supposed to be ambiguous, but the voice left little to the imagination.
The mediocre things:
Characters: Don't get me wrong I like them, archetype and all, but their personalities were either too consistent or all over the place. A change of one's mind could take up a few minutes before they'd be back to their old personality again. Their motivations are also vague.
(Does Arusu want to go back to the human realm, or does she want to stay? Who knows, not her).
Sound: I didn't hear anything special in it. The Opening was just a less than epic instrumental and the ending, though soothing enough to make you fall asleep, didn't really stick with me. The rest of the OST didn't stand out to me and was sometimes a little creepy- though that did fit the situation sometimes.
The bad things:
With the plot I mean the following: Structure, pacing, possible potholes and other plot bunnies that never came to fruition.
Man oh man, from the beginning I could tell the pacing was off, and it irked me bad. The beginning wasn't a beginning but a flash-forward, just like many of the scenes to follow were either badly timed flash-forwards or flashbacks. Take this and put it into a structure that already had no clue where it was going, and you have a mess.
The storyline started off simple enough; one objective, and a punishment if it wasn't done. But the objective was not only undoable, but also unfair and mathematically (or evolutionary, depending on how you look at the fairy crisis), nonsense. [You want to tell Me, there's only one fairy of every species in that entire world? Makes no sense at all.]
There were many things that, in the end, didn't get resolved (or I had to guess at, like the timeline of the Witch realm and the human realm: a complete mess). Facts were almost always presented late, or kept as guesswork.
Some questions I have that contains spoilers- read at own risk:
[Why is there such animosity between witches and warlocks? When was the human realm and witch realm divided, and how? How did daddy dearest have two children in different timelines (which doesn't add up), How did a child survive alone in that dimensional sea? ] /End of spoilers.
It's such a shame it turned out this way. If the story-boarders had just paid a little more attention to the structure and maybe a little less time on quests that didn't make it through anyway, I might've actually given this a way higher grade.
If you just like to watch something when you're bored, this show is not a bad way to kill time, but don't expect too much, or you might get dizzy.
Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu is one of those animes where the storyline can, for the most part keep you intriged and wanting the next episode, as each small episode ends in a cliff hanger for the most part. The story overall in itself is genius, and except for a few things is very likable. So, what isn't likable about the storyline?
The thing about Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu is that it likes to slam the reader over the head with 'ideas'. For example, there are messages that become apparent in some of the episodes. One is that we depend to much on technollogy. The other
is that evoulution is true, which might upset people who either refuse to believe it, or hate it when it isn't treated like a theory.
And the overall theme is peace instead of violence. The problem with this message, is human nature itself has always had to have a balance of these two. Of course, this is a story where there needs to be a happy ending, so this in a way works.
The art in here is experimental in the style. There is a lot of detail in their, but in the same time, not a lot. For example, there is detail put into the intricate designs of the costumes and clothing, but the hair and other things lack texture, and it isn't blocked in, not to mention that shadow for visual depth is lacking, giving the anime a kind of haunted look.
And some of the techniques don't quite fit. For example, when the characters cry, their tears become really sparkly and look more three dimentional shadow wise then anything else. Other times, one is given a wierd effect as they distort things visualy.
Also, flash back are flash backs, flashing in and out for a few seconds. While this fits with the mood and theme of the anime, it should be warned here... if you run the chance of having siezures, you may not want to watch this anime, even if you might find it delightful.
The sound was haunting, action packed, and fit the moods as they came and went. The score was beutiful and is one of the highlights of this anime.
Part of the enjoyment of the characters is that, if it isn't am unnamed character, they are given lots of attention to detail on the designs of the characters. The second part of the enjoyment is the depth behind hte characters. Each has a very distinct personality, which actually helps the storyline along, and to go into depth about the characters would spoil the actual story.
While I rather enjoyied this, there was a point where I had to put down the anime. The main reason is, I got annoyied at the time with Alice's overly positive attitude at that time. However, I met characters that I really liked later on, others that I knew I was meant to hate.
This isn't going to be for everyone. Some will take one look at the art style and choke. Others will get fed up with Alice's attitude of positiveness, while others will not like things bashed over their head. But it is at least worth watching for a bit to from ones own opinion...