When some great talents get together it can be pretty amazing. Sometimes it can just be hugely weird.
What They Say:
Becoming a Magical Girl isn’t easy, but Padudu thinks she has most of the bases covered. She even has a magical pet and a magical cloak! Granted, her pet’s a talking fish that she wears as the cloak (and occasionally snacks on,) but now all she SHOULD have to do is wander the countryside, fight in official Magical Battles and collect enough Hanamaru stamps to become an official Magical Girl. But life isn’t always that simple, and when Padudu accidentally breaks a law, she ends up on the run and traveling with some really odd companions: There’s MyuMyu, who wears a pair of cats as a bikini, Pipin, who dresses like a rabbit and wears HER magical pet bunny as a back pack, and the nefarious criminal Nonononn, who also wanted to be a Magical Girl, and has both a Hammerhead Shark and mysterious ties to the Queen (who’s nowhere near as nice as her PR would have you believe.) So what happens when the strangest set of strangers ever set forth in an even stranger land? The one thing you can count on is that it’s going to get REALLY weird in MAGICAL PLAY!
The audio presentation for this OVA series is done with the origina. Japanese language in stereo encoded at 224kbps while the English mix gets a 5.1 encoding at 448kbps. The show is what you’d expect from an early net animation series in that it’s mostly a full mix with a few areas where it works the channels separately, but it’s not one that does anything outlandish or comes across in a big way. Dialogue is well placed when needed but mostly it’s center channel focused. Overall it’s a good mix with only a few areas standing out during the episodes but the dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2001, the OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This show uses a variety of different animation techniques and shows off just how much detail can be visible in some scenes while others just feel softer and without enough focus at times. One of the biggest aspects of this show is just how bright and varied many of the colors are, going from backgrounds that are done in a storybook mode to the full 3D animation backgrounds and everything in between. There’s some aliasing going on in various scenes, often occurring during panning sequences, but they’re not terribly distracting. Cross coloration is thankfully absent for the most part as well. With such large blocks of color throughout it all stays nice and solid with a smooth feel to it.
Done up in a standard single keepcase with a hinge inside, the front cover is a good mix of dark and bright as we get out lead in the foreground while the supporting cast is behind them in the shadows which looks a lot more modern and current than the show actually is. The back cover provides a few shots that do a better job of giving you an idea of what the show is like. The layout is good with a couple of explanatory paragraphs and a listing of the discs extras. The usual production credits are included above the useful technical grid which covers everything cleanly and clearly. With a white background here and a good shot of our lead along the right, it’s a more engaging design than the front cover. I also have to love that it includes a plug for our review of it from our original site.
There are some good extras included in this release. The opening and ending sequences are done in textless form and the character art gallery is done rather well. In addition to showing character art, they do bits of the story along side the pieces to help flesh things out a bit more, all set to the closing theme song to the show. The voice actor commentary is… different. It’s done by a trio of voice actors and two of them aren’t even in the show, so this is more of just a comedy session for the actors as they watch the show (apparently for the first time) and try to understand what’s going on. And they start with the fourth episode no less.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally done as a series of early original net animation pieces back in late 2001, Magical Play was compiled for its home video release in Japan as four OVAs that clock in around thirty minutes each. While the net animation was playing, a 3DCG version was released as well, which is included on the second disc here. The show is definitely an unusual one in a lot of ways and it’s a show that looks and feels kiddy in nature but a lot of it isn’t aimed for kids, enough so that they gave this a 15+ rating originally and a TV-14 rating now for dialogue. Magical Play also stands out in the way it uses a variety of animation techniques to tell its story. Or rather, stories.
The basic concept is pretty simple. A young girl named Padudu from Sea Heaven has come to Sweetland so that she can go on the training journey to become a magical girl so she can eventually go to Earth and fulfill her dreams. Along the way she ends up with some friends, enemies and a number of trials to go through in order to achieve her goal. Sweetland is a place where things are just so completely different in some regards that it takes on fairy tale status. For example, Padudu arrives wearing an oversized fish on her body with her head visible through its mouth. The fish has a name, Uokichi, and is probably one of the comedic highlights of the show. Padudu uses him in her quest as both a shield and sustenance. Whenever she’s hungry, she just rips a part of his flesh out from the inside and eats it, much to his wails and moans (his only kind of dialogue).
Padudu has to acquire hanamaru through the various official tournaments that are held throughout Sweetland. When she has enough and completes the journey, she can go up for magical girl status. Private magical battles are strictly forbidden though, which Padudu finds out after she accidentally acquires her first hanamaru at the expense of the actual winner and the two end up in a fight, only for it to be broken up by the local police girls Ketchup and Mustard. Through this fight, Padudu makes a lifelong rival in the form of Pipin, a young woman with a rabbit on her back who is intent on being a magical girl as well. She does make a friend named Myumyu though, another girl on a journey to be a magical girl but one who wants to control the entire world. Myumyu is great as her costume is made up of two cats that stretch around her body with their heads cover her breasts. It’s amusing watching them eat or just get interested in something else, such as Uokichi.
Each of the episodes of the first four OVAs run just over thirty minutes long so there’s a fair amount of content on the first disc with that. Within the episodes there are multiple shorter stories, some of which don’t directly connect to the one that follows it. They go through the motions of Padudu, Myumyu and Pipin going through their journey, sometimes as friends sometimes with Pipin trying to stop them, and dealing with whatever is thrown their way, especially in the challenges. One of the more amusing challenges has them being placed virtually on Earth as a human girl with magical girl powers and having to deal with the situations that come up by answering properly. Do you take advantage of your powers or just suffer through life?
On the flip side of things, one of the people that Padudu befriends, a powerful magical girl named Nonononn, is the subject of a hunt by the Queen of Sweetland, Purilin. The two once traveled together as partners on their journey to become magical girls but a rift developed between them and caused a fallout. So Purilin sends her lackey, a boy named Zucchini (and really the only main male character of the show) to get information about them and stop them since Nonononn befriended the trio. Unfortunately for Zucchini, he’s in lust with Myumyu and her obvious cleavage which leads him to massive body-hurling blood spurts.
What’s interesting about the show in terms of its visuals is the mix of animation techniques. There’s a number of scenes where it doesn’t mesh all that well but it’s outweighed by the scenes where it does look good. For example, the fourth episode has the characters going to a place where they’re literally 2D and they look like pieces of paper that you can rotate around while everyone else is fully 3D and it’s used as a gag for that world. Some other areas in the episodes have the characters being more 3D realized than normal and they look a bit out of place, such as when they run towards the camera, but the bulk of the show is intriguing in the mix of styles.
The second disc has one episode on it that was produced alongside the net animation and it’s a condensed and darker version of Padudu’s arrival in Sweetland and how she meets the different characters and gets along in the world. This episode is fully in 3D and for it being three years old is fascinating. A good half of it probably looks bad in different ways, but there are a lot of scenes that just look fantastic, such as when Uokichi is first rescued from the river and Padudu pops out from her. The mouths tend to be the weakest part though since they’re more cartoony than anything else in the show and the lip flap match-ups make things more awkward.
Much like my first experience with this show, it’s an unusual show and one that plays to the short-form style that’s gotten a bit more attention here in the last couple of years. I can see this almost working better in much smaller doses as a marathon session just has way too much weird to it. The sheer strangeness of the setting at times, at least initially, will probably turn some people off and it took us a fair bit to get into it enough that we were laugh at what was going on and actually liking the characters. With this being all there is, it’s at least a good self-contained collection and something that’s a minimal commitment. And with the team behind it and being one of the early net animation shows, it’s certainly worth checking out, though it wouldn’t be one of the first shows I’d have thought Sentai Filmworks would have rescued out of the sea of titles whose licenses have expired.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, 3D Magical Play, Character Gallery, Commentaries, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.