May 3, 2021
13 of 13 episodes seen
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Magia Record as a series is, in a word, disappointing. It explores many interesting ideas, and the animation and music live up to the original Madoka, but a jarring story and uninteresting characters undermine it.
Judged on its own merits, it's a mediocre work. Judged against the high standard of Madoka Magica, it falls horrendously short.
Art and Sound: 10/10 and 8/10
They are, in a word, amazing. Every fight scene is beautifully animated and exciting visually and musically. Both the background art and music throughout Kamihama also does a good job bringing the city to life and making it feel as eerie as it's supposed to. The
character designs are cute, and the magical girl transformation scenes are well animated. There's really not anything to criticize.
The characters are largely bland.
As a protagonist, Iroha is essentially just a bland moe archetype - cute, ditzy, and nice. Her only real distinguishing characteristic is her drive to find her sister - which has little connection to anything that happens in the anime, at least in this season, leaving her as little more than that archetype.
The other characters largely suffer from a lack of screentime spent on developing them, leaving them as little more than 1-dimensional character archetypes. They simply introduce far too many characters to properly develop them in a mere 13 episodes. Of course, the mobile game does give the characters a lot more development – but this is a review of the anime, so I have no choice but to ignore all of that in this review.
The Wings of Magius, the story's antagonists, are where the character writing is at its worst - they are portrayed as incredibly one-dimensionally evil, frequently making decisions For the Evulz rather than for any actual reason. What makes it all the more jarring is that they're all young girls - it's really hard to believe all these young girls, some of them who look like they might be in elementary school, would act so cartoonishly evil.
The story follows a fairly episodic formula: In each episode, the cast investigates the latest mystery in the city of Kamihama, culminating in them stumbling into a fight scene. The episodic conflicts are, on their own, often entertaining and interesting.
But Magia Record aspires to be a story-driven anime, rather than just an episodic one, and the overarching story is where it falls apart. The story sets itself up as a mystery – why is the city of Kamihama so weird and full of such eldritch, mysterious, and often dangerous magical phenomena? This setup is excellently done, and made me excited to find out the mysteries of Kamihama... But the payoff is undermined.
Because as far as the story is concerned, none of that matters. Instead of focusing on the many mysteries of Kamihama, or how the main characters react to uncovering the truth, Magia Record papers over all of that interesting world building and treats it as unimportant. After the introduction, the overall story instead focuses almost exclusively on fighting the Wings of Magius, with the protagonists fighting them solely because of how cartoonishly Evil the Magius are or in self-defense instead of for any more complex or character-driven reasons. In short, the mysteries driving the story don't have a satisfying resolution because the resolution doesn't really matter, as none of the characters seem to care very much about the truth anyway. The only thing that matters to the story is that the Magius are Evil with a capital E and must be stopped.
This becomes all the more jarring if you're watching this series after watching the original Madoka Magica, which does explore in great detail why the Wings of Magius might be doing what they're doing, in a way that Magia Record itself does its best to gloss over, and undermines the strict good vs evil framing of Magia Record. The fact that characters from the original Madoka appear in Magia Record only serves to reinforce this problem, making it impossible to judge Magia Record in isolation.
In short, the story simply is not satisfying as the strict Good Vs Evil conflict it's framed as, and it certainly doesn't provide a satisfying resolution to all of Kamihama's many mysteries. The story only holds up if you don't think about it too hard – but the whole point of a mystery story is to make the audience think about it.
The show is indeed enjoyable, despite its flaws. The fight scenes were genuinely fun to watch, and the character interactions are cute, if formulaic. If you're the sort of person who can turn your brain off and just enjoy without thinking about an anime, it will keep you entertained.
The anime does have many redeeming qualities, but the story and characters being so poorly written and bland undermines everything else. Unless you're watching purely for SHAFT's wonderful animation, I wouldn't recommend it, and if you're a fan of the original Madoka anime I'd recommend it even less.
Feb 13, 2011
233 of 233 chapters read
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Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE begins very simply. A princess's memories have been stolen by a vilian, the band of adventurers gathered, and the journey begun. Crossing the dimensions, they pick up one feather after another against long odds through determination and teamwork. Meanwhile the vaguely evil villain smiles slyly from the safely contemplating his vaguely evil plans. A generic shounen plotline, essentially.
Then it happens. Everything changes, as you find out everything you thought was true was a lie. Our team of heroes will never be the same again. Betrayals, deaths, and unimaginable horrors await. New heroes appear and the storyline changes course again and again.
The future is forseen and changed. Incredible feats of heroism are performed. Dark pasts are revealed, the true motivations for earlier actions uncovered.
The plans of countless chessmasters collide in this story that is guaranteed to make your jaw drop again and again. Each plot twist is bigger than the last. Minor pieces of conversation way back in the early volumes come back to haunt the reader, as they are revealed again and again to be foreshadowing. Everyone has hidden motives, and everytime you think the story is at its end someone reveals a contingency plan.
Such a plot is not for everyone. CLAMP assumes that the reader is a genius even in the earlier plot twists, and this just gets worse in the later twists where not even a genius has any hope of fully understanding everything on their first read. If you don't like loose ends or complex plots that require intense thought to understand, stay away.
Also, note that the story ties in with xxxHolic. It is not necessary to read xxxHolic concurrently to enjoy Tsubasa – I only read xxxHolic afterword. That said, I highly recommend reading both, as reading xxxHolic will help you wrap your head around Tsubasa's incredibly complicated plotline.
Amazing, as one expects from CLAMP. The backgrounds are incredibly rich in detail, the action sequences stunning, and the spell effects beautiful. At times, though, it is difficult to tell exactly what's going on in a battle. CLAMP tends to go overboard with the spellcasting effects, causing you to lose track of who cast which spell at who and what the heck the magicless ninja is doing.
CLAMP is very good at incorporating emotions throughout their work, especially after the story takes a darker turn. When they want you to be depressed, you will be depressed. The character designs are of particular note. Whether it be pure determination, unimaginable horror, triumphant evil, or hidden motives, the facial expressions carry incredible depth throughout the story.
A warning: If you don't know, CLAMP's character designs to not reflect normal human body proportions. If you can't stand such artwork, stay away.
Understanding everything is not necessary to enjoy this work. The level of suspense that underlies the story will keep you on the edge of your seat. Each action sequence is more epic than the last, each spell battle more beautiful, each jaw-dropping twist more surprising.
Even an amazing plot is nothing without good characters, and Tsubasa delivers in that department as well.
The characters start out fairly generic: Kurogane, the badass mentor; Syaoran, the generic shounen protagonist; Sakura, the damsel in distress; the Smart Guy, Fai; the vaguely evil villain, Fei Wong. They do not stay that way.
As hidden motives are revealed and betrayals occur, each character undergoes intense development. Having grown to like them in their original forms, your heart will break as they go through hell and back – and then go through hell again for good measure.
But what truly makes for greatness are the relationships between the characters. The romance between Syaoran and Sakura is superb, and the same is true for the close friendship/romance between Kurogane and Fai.
Ultimately, unlike so many other shounen stories, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles is greater than just one person, or even one team. No one person, no matter how badass, can hope to stop Fei Wong or his minions. Only by working together, with each other and with the people met on their journey, do they have any hope of achieving anything. Everyone does their part – even Sakura proves useful on several occasions. That teamwork is essential throughout the story.
CLAMP fans will be pleased by the crossovers with other CLAMP works, as you'll get to see alternate dimension versions of all your favorite characters.
Overall: 10/10, but not for everyone.
If you love complex, epic fantasies of immense scale with dark tones, read it. You won't be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you want a simple, light-hearted shounen storyline, don't touch this with a fifty-foot pole. Even Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note are simple and light-hearted compared to this series.