UltraManiac, Vol. 1: Magical Girl (2003) – DVD Review
Based upon the manga by Wataru Yoshimizu Directed by Shin-ichi Misaki
Clean opening animation
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
Released by: Geneon Region: 1 Rating: 7+ Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Get it if you like harmless shoujo.
Witchcraft has entered the digital age. Ultra Maniac introduces pretty Ayu Tateishi, the cool girl of her junior high and a tennis star, who has a new friend, strange Nina Sakura, who happens to be a student witch visiting Japan from her home in the Magic Kingdom. Hijinks ensue when Nina, aided by her handheld digital spell encyclopedia/tutor tries to use her magic to improve Ayu’s quality of life, such as creating a spell to make Ayu’s crush, Kaiji, fall in love with her. Alas, the wrong boy eats the spell chocolate, and Ayu is left to deal with the fallout. Nina is staying with a host family, along with her cat Ryo, who can take the form of a young boy. Their home also plays host to occasional visitors from the Kingdom of Magic, and this, in combination with Mama and Papa’s goofiness, leads to several humorous situations. In addition, a childhood friend of Nina from the Magic Kingdom appears and gives Nina’s grandfather, who watches his grand-daughter’s progress on a magic screen, even more to worry about.
The characters are pretty interesting, a little bit more than the usual anime fare. Yuta is hip to the human world and more powerful than Nina. It isn’t clear why he can do magic in human clothes while Nina needs the usual magical girl transformation sequence, unless it’s just because he’s much better than she is. Nina has a pure heart, of course, but her struggles to master her magic give her depth, and her sense of responsibility makes her more than a sheep. Ayu is a typical middle school girl, but her friendship with and admiration for her goofy friend Nina makes her less irritating than she could be, and her amusing response to her first kiss under extreme circumstances makes her utterly realistic.
The DVD comes with a small comic that details the origin of the manga and how Ayu and Nina meet. It might be good to read that before watching the DVD, as the DVD does not cover this information in any of the first episodes, which can leave viewers a bit discombobulated. Having not read the manga, I cannot comment upon how closely the anime currently parallels the manga. The only other special feature is a clean opening.
The sound is very nicely don: crisp and clear, with enjoyable voice acting. The young voice of Nina may seem oddly immature at first, but she is such an innocent that she should sound younger than her age would appear to indicate. The English voice for Yuta skillfully gives his character a great deal of personality, even in the short time he appears. The visuals are simply lovely; the backgrounds and character designs are stunning and great to watch. Facial expressions are typical for comedies, showing a lot of amusement in the mere rise of an eyebrow.
Fans of Marmalade Boy, also by creator Wataru Yoshimizu, will love this one. The series are rather different from each other, but their sweetness, wit, and humor will appeal. If you enjoy light romance, humor, and magic, you will appreciate Ultra Maniac.