Sep 16, 2007
Washi (All reviews)
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!