This is review number three hundred and fifty two. This anime is part of Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Mahou Sensou or Magical Warfare. It’s a twelve episode anime about a group of people with magic or something. I don’t really care. Let’s just get this over with.
- Guy meets girl
- Guy studies at magical academy
- Madhouse breaks my heart
- A messy second half
Taking the Pants Off
I’m just going to put it out there. Mahou Sensou is bad. It’s one of those shows that truly feel like a disaster, and there’s very little to actually salvage it. The puzzling part about all this is that Madhouse, who gave us consistent hard hitters, is the studio that basically made the worst anime of 2014. From watching too many sh*t for the past three years, you can easily tell when a studio did a bad job at adapting an anime. I do understand that light novels are some of the hardest materials to adapt, but it felt like Madhouse had no idea what the hell they were doing. They completely rushed the light novel, as some people claim 7 volumes are consumed in the 12 episode run, and it feels like they were forced to do this adaptation. They didn’t want to, but still they did it in the most half ass way. The anime is so bad that even the author of the light novel hated it. He has completely disowned the adaptation and even calls it a mistake. I feel for the guy because I actually think Mahou Sensou has something good to present. The author claims that he initially wanted to do a magical girl story, but it then took a life of its own. That’s pretty interesting. There’s something there, and I would love to see how his idea transformed into a story about magicians killing each other. It honestly feels thrilling, and I feel for the guy having his work basically mangled by a studio that doesn’t understand his vision. What the hell did you do, Madhouse? This isn’t up to your standards. This anime is Gonzo territory, and I didn’t expect to see the day Madhouse could be as bad as Gonzo. What kind of internal strife happened that Madhouse gave us possibly the worst anime of 2014? This kind of sh*t rarely happens, so it must’ve been a special kind of sh*t storm and Mahou Sensou took the brunt of it.
This anime is about a bunch of students suddenly becoming magicians when they were caught up in some trouble trying to protect this girl named Mui Aiba. She is trying to get her brother back, but he’s hanging with some bad people now. Takeshi Nanase, Kurumi Isoshima, and Kazumi Ida soon got roped into her situation. At the end of it, they became magicians. Something about being hit by a magical spell turns someone into a magician granted them powers. It wasn’t explained properly, but Mui decided to take responsibility for their change. The three are now asked to transfer to her magical school, and they must now train to become skilled magicians. They must better themselves mainly because they’re now part of this war between magicians. Their powers might come handy in the war, so they are also asked to enroll. Takeshi agreed and the others followed afterwards. The show now follows Takeshi’s journey into becoming a great magician.
For me, the general feeling I have with Mahou Sensou is basically the same as Tokyo Ravens. It’s a light novel show that balances some great action with some raw internal conflict that blows up into something amazing. I’ve experience it before, so I was generally excited with this anime. The premise sounds solid as well. It turns out that there are two worlds, and the secret world is where magicians gather. They split the world in half because they wanted normal people to not get caught up in their war and it’s a pretty bad war. The apocalyptic setting of the other world tells it all. The first two episodes pretty much gave us exposition. There’s a lot of it as well, but it only helps to make the show a lot more exciting. There are six types of magic users, and they all have different skills sets. This makes the characters diverse, because their magic matches their personality. The hot headed Kazumi has explosive magic where he tears sh*t up with his uncontrollable power. Kurumi, being the fan service damsel, has the healing magic where her breasts grow whenever she uses her powers and Takeshi, being the hero, has the melee type of magic where he gets to be awesome and brandish a sword when he fights. It’s pretty exciting, because we get to see these characters try to improve their powers and it looks cool in this magical school setting. The exposition got a bit overboard though when the magical world is revealed to have different factions, and magicians are asked to be part of one. It’s like a stupid version of the Divergence classes, but it works for the anime. Much like that YA novel, the groups all have different opinions and they have chosen different sides in the war. I think there are seven factions or so, but Wizard Brace and Ghost Trailer are prominently featured. They’re the ones going at it heavily in the war, and both sides spare no expense at making sure they win it all. In two episodes, we can basically grasp what the show is trying to accomplish. Takeshi and the gang will go to war, but then they’ll realize both sides are screwed up. They’ll have to decide which side to join though, but it’s expected to see one or two of them joining up with the antagonists. It’s a really exciting idea, because the world is immersive and the story feels engaging. My gut is telling me this show will be just as good as Tokyo Ravens, and I can’t wait to see the narrative unfold before me.
Things took a weird turn at episode three when a love triangle is setup. After all the magical warfare explained in the previous episodes, the show turned fluff and they did it in such an awkward way. They explained how Takeshi and Kurumi aren’t really a couple, and Takeshi might actually like Mui instead. This led Kurumi to pout in the entire episode. It’s a bit bad because we haven’t really gotten to know the characters enough to pull off a conflict between them. So far, we have a bland main character, a fan service chick, a loli chick and a rough guy. They haven’t been fleshed out yet. No character backstories, no personal monologues, no personal scenes shared between them, no expositional dialogue to flesh them out and no flashbacks for them to discuss. They’re flat characters, but they’re soon plunged into this stupid love triangle expecting the audience to care. Well, we don’t. Rather, we can’t. There’s nothing to go off on. There haven’t been a scene explaining how Takeshi likes Mui or Kurumi and Takeshi acting like a couple. The show just decided to erratically introduce this love triangle, and this is where the problem starts. I kid you not, the show goes downhill from here. When you thrust bland characters in important situations, then we’re going to have a problem.
This show has one big flaw to it. It’s on auto pilot storytelling. This is the kind of storytelling where the show just presents the important stuff in the story, but they don’t really do any legwork to make it better. It’s basically like making a checklist and showing us everything in that checklist. Autopilot storytelling is a lazy kind of storytelling, because it has no character development and it lacks build up for certain scenes. While some shows would build up suspense for the impending climax, autopilot storytelling just presents the climax with no excitement whatsoever. There it is. That happened, and then something else will happen next. Autopilot storytelling ruined this anime when the characters are trying to rescue Mui’s brother in the first half of the show. For no reason whatsoever, Takeshi decided to rescue the dude as well. You can chalk it up to the main character going with the flow, since it’s a trait most bland light novel characters have, but Takeshi is different. He explains that he is inspired by Mui, and so he wants to save her brother. This is a problem because the two have never shared a scene together by themselves. Before rescuing big brother, Takeshi just trained and stopped Kurumi from pouting. He had no scene where he is inspired by Mui, and this what autopilot storytelling is. He needed to say that because it’s important to the moment, but the autopilot story didn’t really build it up. I’d imagine Mui going on a cute monologue explaining how caring her brother is in front of Takeshi, and it also makes sense to create a contrast with the evil big brother they recently fought, but it didn’t really happen in the anime. The show only had a checklist, and any nuance build up to anything else didn’t matter. My gut failed me. This was supposed to be as good as Tokyo Ravens, but things turned mush at the end of the second half.
One of the most annoying things about the first half is the way it just throws out exposition that is important later on. When rescuing big brother, it was revealed that both sides has been brainwashing people so they can join their side of the war. It’s a shocking information, but the show just didn’t even presented it as such. It now implies that both sides are playing dirty to win this war, and they’re using people as chess pieces to achieve it. They didn’t explain anything. Instead, they just revealed a bunch of people from the first episode brainwashed to join Wizard Brace. The characters brainwashed would soon play an important role in the second half, but the anime didn’t really care. As part of the checklist, the brainwashed people would just appear since they’re part of the plan in saving big brother. The personal connections they made in their time in Wizard Brace mattered though, but the anime never really presented it. It features the morality of people crushed by the weight of the war, and it’s juicy exposition the show never bother to tell us. If this story is supposed to be a magical girl story, then I can imagine it being as messed up as Madoka. Maybe not as good as Madoka, but if it focuses on the toll of the war on the characters then there’s something really wonderful to talk about here. Autopilot storytelling destroys that potential as well though, so there you go.
Anyways, the first half ended pretty much as expected. The big brother is saved and everyone had a good part in the plan. Perhaps the most important thing glossed over in the story is the fight between the loli principal and one of Ghost Trailer’s main commanders. Momoka Shijou and Kippei Washizu had the best fight scene in the entire series, but they also exchanged dialogue about their past. Someone got killed, Momoka is angry and Kippei is trying to revive someone. The conversation is very vague, but it is actually the important setup for the second half. The show is so lazy to explore backstories and character motivations that it fails to mention that the loli principal and Kippei are actually part of that core group of asshats that started the very war that is punishing people now. Yes, the most compelling fact about the war is presented in the throw away fight scene at the end of the second half, and the anime didn’t give a damn about it. As a guy that loves exposition, I can’t let that slide. I can understand the author pouring countless hours to his work, and it’d certainly be like a slap in the face when it’s adapted into an abomination. If you think the first half is bad then prepare to have your soul crushed when you watch the second half. As a reviewer, I really only wanted to see the second half to say something positive about this show but this was a mistake. The second half is where all things went to hell, and any chance of the show being good is just outright shot clean in the head.
The story seems to have an external and internal plot point. The saving of big brother in the first half represents an external conflict that captures the war. The internal conflict focuses solely on Takeshi and his weird relationship with his little brother, Gekkou. Throughout the series, Takeshi has this strained relationship with him. It’s not properly told though, because the storytelling is just retarded. We do find out that Gekkou hates his brother, and he’s the sniveling kind of loser you want to punch in the face. The show fails to mention though that Gekkou hates his brother because Takeshi once tried to kill him. In a throw away moment in a bathroom scene, it is revealed that Takeshi tried to push Gekkou onto oncoming traffic. Takeshi has since felt guilty about that, and Gekkou wanted to ruin his life ever since. Gekkou injured his right leg and he can no longer walk properly. It looks like Takeshi has a chance to patch things up with little brother, because Gekkou is now attending the same magical school as Takeshi. Gekkou is ready to accept his brother’s apology, but the sniveling little gecko is actually scheming something bad. It’s so bad that it shakes the entire foundation of the war, and leaves everything in a sorry state. Yes, the war raged on by magicians is now about to be crapped on by a little brother vowing revenge on his big brother. It’s a gripping story but it’s something the anime can’t properly tell. Like someone checking things of a list, Gekkou just appears in one episode then betrays Takeshi in the next. There’s no time to let the fake Gekkou sink in, no time to let the betrayal build up into the shocker that it is, and no time for the brothers to actually play off each other validating their state of mind before and after the betrayal. How hard is it to tell a story? Who the hell is in charge of this anime? Madhouse, fire them now. Literally set them on fire and then terminate their jobs. Then set yourself on fire as well for letting your standards drop so f*cking low.
There are a lot of stupid things that happened in the second half. The light novel is rushed beyond belief here, and the show just wanted anything relevant to the story ticked off of its autopilot list. The one that bothered me the most is the relevance of this girl in the opening sequence. This girl:
She’s the first character featured in the OP. Her entire screen time in the anime? Less than five minutes. What the flying f*ck? It turns out that the girl is actually Takeshi’s sword. She’s an embodiment of that sword, and she appears before Takeshi trying to drain his mana. Takeshi handled the situation by naming the sword, and this established a relationship between them. I think the sword’s manifestation coincides with the tragic dream/predictions Takeshi is having. She sees them as well, and they were supposed to share this bond about the impending tragedy surrounding Takeshi’s life. The second half literally started with one of Takeshi’s friend dying, and I bet a lot of personal dialogue is exchanged with the sword. All of his fears and worries must be something he shares with the sword, and this makes the sword an important character now. Think of Saber and Shirou’s relationship in Fate Stay Night but less sexual. The sword appears as a cold character, but she shares a personal bond with Takeshi that might’ve warmed her up. This relationship is important, because of the best twists in the story, which the anime mangled, is that Gekkou soon took hold of the sword. The person that Takeshi confides in the most is now in the hands of his reptilian brother, and she might even be the tool that kills him. It’s beautiful despair told perfectly, but something the anime didn’t even bother to focus on. Literally, the checklist goes like this:
- Girl debuts
- Gekkou appears
- Kazuma wakes up
- Gekkou betrays Takeshi and kidnaps Kurumi
- The magical academy is destroyed
- The two worlds is combined
- Takeshi trains
- Takeshi tries to reclaim Kurumi and his sword
- His mother dies
Absolutely zero effort is given to the story. Look at that checklist, and you’ll notice another important moment shit on by the anime. Kazuma is the person that started the war, and the show explains how it is started. Apparently, Wizard Brace wanted only the elites to use magic so they did a purge of the world. Kazuma didn’t want to participate and he established Ghost Trailers to stop Wizard Brace’s plan. Yes, the faction Takeshi is aligned with is actually as dirty as the group they’re trying to kill. Kazuma only started the war because Wizard Brace is being an assh*ole about things. During the battle between the loli principal and Kippei, Kazuma’s name is mentioned. Loli principal just claimed that she was betrayed by Kippei and she’ll make sure “he” never wakes up. It turns out that she is referring to Kazuma. He went into a deep slumber for some time, and the war waned for a bit. There is at least an idea of peace now that Kazuma is no longer leading a bloody revolution with his faction. The anime fails to mention that his awakening would signal the start of another war. This is an important part of the story, because a lot of people died when Kazuma was at the helm of the war. The anime didn’t bother to mention the implications of his reintroduction to the story. It’s as big as Dio waking up from his eternal slumber, taking Jojo’s body, and then trying to conquer the world again. You should’ve at least shivered at the sight of Kazuma waking up, but no, the anime didn’t care. He woke up, I think, just seven minutes before the end of episode eight. There was no build up, no suspense and no form of storytelling to it whatsoever.
Look at that checklist again and notice that another incredible thing happened. The two worlds, split into two to save the real world from the apocalyptic destruction of the war, are brought together by Kazuma once again. He wants to f*ck this world so bad that he destroyed every semblance of peace that his absence established. I was crying foul when this important moment was just shoved to the side. This is the game changer of the anime. This moment symbolizes that there is no turning back now. This moment is the signal of Takeshi’s tragic dreams coming true one after the other. This is supposed to be as climactic as Kazuma waking up. It should’ve defined the story, but that doesn’t happen. As soon as the world is brought together, the impact of it wasn’t featured. I think the moment lasted three minutes in episode ten and the rest of it features Takeshi just training. Yes, even though he’s been training in the magical academy since the first half, the most defining moment of the story pales in comparison to him training some more. You should understand by this point why the author considers the anime a mistake. Even a casual audience would’ve cried foul at such a stupid turn of event. Really? The whole world just got turned inside out and it’s more important focus on Takeshi’s training. They didn’t even follow up on how the world merger affected everything. Nope, everything stopped because Takeshi needs to train.
It just goes downhill from there. The crapfest is even topped off by episode eleven featuring a fight at a castle, but episode twelve opened with Takeshi and Gekkou fighting in front of their house. It’s like the show skipped three episodes in between 11 and 12. I guess I would call the ending a curious one rather than a bad one. It featured a blow off fight between the brother, Takeshi’s prophecies coming true and a plot twist about time travel. It’s interesting enough to want another season only to see the plot twists progress. Before I can finish that thought though, I am reminded of the lack of effort that brought me to the last episode. For the love of gawd, Madhouse should be ashamed of themselves. They even setup a weird cliffhanger at the end. Why? They’ve been rushing for the show to end only to stop at a pivotal moment in the story? It’s weird, and it’s also horribly bad. This show has no redeeming value to it, and I really tried hard to make something up. Unfortunately, even I can’t find something good about this show. The potential of the light novel just feels sad considering Madhouse just mangled it beyond recognition. If I have to recommend something though then I suggest you try the light novel. A manga is apparently being made following the light novel closely and people already like it better than the anime. As a sign of respect to the author, please, read the manga instead. This show needs to be buried and forgotten forever.
The characters are all bland and uninteresting. Even in a world of magicians and double crossers, the characters are painfully bland. Takeshi is just the main character and the show never really explains why. Kurumi is just the fan service girl and Mui is just the loli type. They never grow out of their stereotype and it makes the story even harder to watch. If you aren’t invested in seeing Mui in a bikini then why even bother with this stupid crap? In the love triangle, they just acted like spoiled children having kindergarten crushes on each other. I wanted to like Kazumi, since he’s outside of the story just being a badass, but they show even had time to ruin him. He barely got any moments in the second half and he’s soon reduced into a background character for the rest of the anime. He can explode at will, damn it. The worst part is that they gave him a loli sister. Perhaps one of the most unnecessary decisions for the second half is to shove more minor characters in the rushed story. Kazumi’s loli sister, Mui’s big brother’s girlfriend, Takeshi’s mother and all those flashback characters felt like absolute clutter in the anime. They weren’t needed, but the checklist wanted them to exist. The loli sister is there because she is supposed to be kidnapped along with Kurumi. The girlfriend is there because Takeshi would wind up in another faction’s place where the girlfriend is affiliated with. The mother is there to train Takeshi, and the flashback characters are needed to tell the start of the war. All of them have a more important role in the story, of course, but the anime merely treated them as something that needed to be checked off their list. Alright, the mother is finally introduced. Let’s skip the training and just show her dying in the next scene. Yes, this anime will be a hit!
I do like the antagonists though. They are as bland as the other characters, but the main idea that they’re bad kinda gave them more reason to exist. Gekkou can get under your skin, and you can only imagine how much of a sniveling gecko he truly is if the show properly fleshed him out. He blames everything on Takeshi, and he would do his absolute damnest to ruin his brother’s life. He’s so self-entitled that it gets to you, and that’s the sign of a good villain. Sadly, an effective villain is created when a compelling hero is battling him. Takeshi is a piece of white sh*t so Gekkou is brought down with him. Gekkou’s self-entitled non-apologetic arrogant personality isn’t really properly executed because he just didn’t gel with his brother. He came off more as annoying than anything else. It’s a shame because Gekkou clearly deserves better. The same goes for Kippei. This guy is a troll, and he does gel better with the loli principal. Unfortunately, he is misused in this anime. His trollish behavior plays off loli principal’s serious personality but he is soon shoved to the side. Gekkou and Kazuma took most of the spotlight in the second half, and it’s a shame. His small moment with Takeshi before Kazuma woke up is probably one of my favorite moments in the show. He was beaten in the first half, even considered dead, but the cockroach just came back ready to troll once more. Gawd, what a waste of a great character.
Madhouse, what have you done? Seriously, what the hell have you done? How could you let this happen? I honestly love Madhouse. In a sea of constant changing landscapes, you can always expect Madhouse to be the one consistent studio giving us dark and gritty stuff. I worshipped their version of Death Note, claimed Mouryou no Hako a masterpiece and loved the hell out of Chihayafuru. Sure, you did give us Mahouka but I forgave you for that. So, what the hell? To be fair, Madhouse has their fair share of clunkers like Photokano and Sunday without God, but they still have an ounce of effort put within them that is worthy of Madhouse’s standards. After all, Madhouse gave us all of Satoshi Kon’s movie, Mamoru Hosada’s works, CLAMP’s popular manga titles, and recently, One Punch Man. They’re a titan of consistent hits. So, I ask again, what the hell? This isn’t like them. It’s like the author crossed the wrong people at Madhouse and they have since vowed to turn his work into sh*t. If Nickelodeon can betray Avatar 2 and vow to keep it off TV for good, then I’m sure something as petty as intentionally ruining an adaptation isn’t a far reach. They must’ve felt justified to do that. I can’t quite find proof of it, but it’s something I would like to believe in since they even ruined their own image producing this horrible anime. Yuzo Sato spent his entire career storyboarding some odd shows. I can’t quite tell if they’re good since I haven’t heard about most of them. He did direct Gokusen though, and it’s probably the rare time I consider the live action better than the anime. He clearly doesn’t have the talent to do a light novel adaptation, but the poor bastard still tried. I hope he’s ashamed that this anime turned out as bad as it is. The series composition is handled by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu and he’s pretty talented. He gave us Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, a ton of less-than-five-minute shows and Gochuumon Usagi desu ka. Sadly, even he can’t do anything about this sad adaptation. Why did they rush the adaptation so much? I think they planned a twenty four episode show, but Madhouse cut it in half and they didn’t have time to change the script. I’m just speculating here. The important thing is that this anime sucked, and I hope Madhouse would never break my heart like this ever again.
Sight and Sound
The animation is where the show truly sucked. It didn’t feel like Madhouse, because they just don’t do low quality stuff like this. It’s like there is no effort as well. The animation is inconsistent, and it just looks amateurish. I’d expect TMS Entertainment or Gonzo to f*ck up the animation this badly, but not Madhouse. The facial expressions are awkward, the background characters look creepy and there are no details for wide shots. There is a long scene where characters just talk and the background character just stood there not moving. It looked bad. It’s as bad as the background characters in Baby Steps, to be honest except Baby Steps did improve the animation in certain moments. For Mahou Sensou, even the fight scenes are bad. There are no good pacing, the effects are bland and the movements are pretty lackluster. I considered No Game No Life pretty bad, but it had the proper animation to be considered good. That’s Madhouse in a nutshell. Even if you don’t like the story, the animation can at least bring it up to “OK” instead of just “bad”. This anime is really the only show I’d consider bad across the board from Madhouse. It just isn’t polished enough, and they just didn’t give enough care for the animation. Hell, even the fan service looked bad. When you can make boobs look bad, then you truly failed as an animation studio. My personal pet peeve is the lack of faces during establishing shots. If you can’t even bother to put a face on your characters then opt to not do shots where their faces would be obstructed. I did notice certain short cut scenes to avoid complex animation, and I thought they should’ve done more of that. If they can’t pull it off, then it’s really no big deal. It’s a bad show with bad animation. The sentiment is already delivered quite perfectly.
Character design is bland. Lunalia’s design isn’t really that remarkable. For the light novel, it works because it gives a definite face to the incredible characters that appear in the story. For the anime, with the washed out color palette, it just looks bad. I want to like Kurumi’s design, but the show really didn’t even put effort in making the characters look decent. The flashy potential of the male characters are presented awkwardly and the fan service body of the girls just looks pitiful. The anime has a lot of loli characters and even they looked bad. The design just didn’t capture the beauty of a loli character. It’s all in the nuances of the design, and the anime lacked it. Lunalia’s design had the bright color palette and suggestive poses to make it work, but the anime didn’t really capture that. It’s not a sense of they can’t capture it. It feels more like they don’t want to, because they hated doing this adaptation. The magical effects and summon monsters, like the awesome dragon, even looked badly in the anime. As I said before, the show has no redeeming value and this includes the visuals.
The anime’s OP is “Senkou no Prisoner” by Yuuka Nanri. It’s a pretty decent song, but it sounds really generic to me. It just feels a bit bland, to be honest. The lyrics are also a bit all over the place. It claims humans are forgetful, and then shifts into something more positive like believing in yourself. Maybe the translation got scrambled, but I seriously don’t find this song special. The OP sequence also didn’t look impressive. Most anime disguise a show by putting high quality animation in the OP, but even this show didn’t bother. The awkward animation is front and center in the OP, and it has the same rushed feeling as the anime as well. It perfectly captures the awfulness of the anime, so I guess that’s a plus. Yay?
The anime’s ED is “Born to be” by nano. Ok, damn it, this song is amazing. A positive for the anime? No, not really. But it’s still an awesome song. It’s a wonderful song about being yourself and fighting for what you believe in. It even starts with an energetic English rap, and I like it a lot. The combination of the rhythm and the lyrics makes for a really fun song to listen to. The ED sequence isn’t that great though. It features Mui being flashy, but the lackluster animation still prevails sucking out the charm that the ED sequence could’ve had. I’ll keep the song in my playlist though, because I love listening to it and also, to never forget the anime experience I had with this one.
2/10 “This show is like the bastard child Madhouse doesn’t want to be involved with.”
I truly feel for the author having his work basically thrashed and peed on by Madhouse. They handled this adaptation and they clearly didn’t care. If there’s one slightly good thing about this anime, it’s the fact that the light novel sounds thrilling and blooming with wonderful exposition. The events of the original source sound amazing and I would recommend that instead. As I said before, a manga is out and it follows the LN more faithfully. Check that out instead. As for this anime, let’s not acknowledge its existence ever again. I do not recommend this, even to my most hated enemy.