I don’t plan to waste your time (the way mine was wasted on this show), so let’s just cut to the chase. Your cast here consists of...
- The plucky, inept, passes-out-for-no-reason, well-meaning dunce with a secret power.
- The strong female who loves the dunce despite his many flaws (and her obvious frustration with them).
- The child-prodigy-ditz who has a great deal of affection for the dunce.
- The always-smiling, knows-more-than-most guy whose eyes never open.
- The girl from a rival squad who is in direct competition with the lead girl for both recognition and the dunce's affection.
If you already stopped the disc and donated it to your garbage can, we’re on the same page. If not, I’ll be happy to tell you more...
The show follows the aforementioned dunce as he blunders his way through leading his father’s company, Astral. The outfit specializes in magical mysteries, like missing persons and spells gone wrong, and it competes for high-end contracts doled out by the creatively-named “Association." Astral also gets walk-in cases that they can choose to accept or refuse (in my experience, they always accept them despite having awful, forced internal debates of the inherent dangers therein).
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Maybe a bit predictable, but certainly not offensive.
Wrong. RENTAL MAGICA is like a bad cosplay combination of much better shows. It wants to go the anthology route of COWBOY BEBOP, with the team-based magic police of WITCH HUNTER ROBIN and the comedic harem-meets-over-the-top-kooky of ROSARIO + VAMPIRE (minus the overt sexual presentation/themes). You can also sub in something like AH! MY GODDESS or BAKA AND TEST for ROSARIO and come away with the same impression.
Tropes, in and of themselves, don’t bother me. I'm a fiction writer by trade, and I respect them as much as I fear them. They are the basic building blocks we use to create worlds that people can instantly recognize and yet still want to explore and how a cast is made instantly endearing to a reader/viewer. Thing is, they're only supposed to be a starting point for a writer/creator. Being aware of tropes means using what works as a foundation and then bucking the rest to try to offer, if not something wholly original, then something that presents a different or unexpected perspective on them.
RENTAL MAGICA not only failed to do this (following to a fault the blueprint created by much better predecessors), but it also fell flat on its face by trying to pile on even more tropes as a substitute for innovation in just a few. Disappointing, because this could have been a fun or exciting show with just a few tweaks to the formula and presentation.
Speaking of presentation, the DVD sets offer the option of watching the series in “Broadcast” or “Chronological” order. I opted for “Broadcast,” presuming it was how the creators wanted you to watch the show, but I can’t see any reason why you’d want to do the same. Blatant and inexplicable contradictions between events - - and characters who, for instance, knew each other in an early episode while meeting for the first time in a later one - - permeate the series in this configuration. There is no reasonable explanation for these lapses that I could find.
Also, this might the first time in nearly 20 years of anime watching where I've said “Huh. I miss the days when Saban would edit episodes together, like they used to with SAILOR MOON and DRAGON BALL Z.”
The first two episodes were absolutely atrocious, each racing to pack as much bullshit as possible within the confines of their 24-minute run-times. One was more of an origin story (the second), while the other offered two cases meant to introduce us to the world and its awful cast of assholes. Neither succeeded and, in fact, the second went out of its way to ruin any drama or tension by piling on flashbacks to tell us it is time to care without giving us a reason to be interested in the first place.
Now, if you’d trimmed the fat and popped these two eps together, you might have had something passable. Separately? Dog shit.
Maybe the light novels they’re based on offer more space for the characters to be less stereotypical and for the individual cases to grow into something worth investing in. Unfortunately, the TV series is buried beneath horrible music, mundane designs and, worst of all, absolutely embarrassing storytelling. Avoid this show.
Avoid this show.
Avoid this show.
SOME CHOICE WORDS ON THE BOX SETS...
I’m really not impressed with what’s on show with these boxes. Complaints range from the nitpicks to the downright offensive, but I’ll lay them all out for you, in case you're still thinking of owning this turd...
- The cases are those awful jobs with the giant, plastic cylinders holding the discs in place. You know, the ones that give you the option to shatter your DVD when you try to pull them out or just never watch them? Yeah. Those. Seriously, who ever thought this was a good way to store media?
- Bare bones release means you get next to nothing on here - - no surround sound audio tracks, minimal special features by way of clean openings/closings, character bios, and trailers. You’d think with all this leftover space they could have fit more episodes per DVD. Which leads to...
- The series is being sold as two “liteboxes” which are presented as bargain versions in comparison to the original releases (which are priced $10 higher and include a book of character and world information). These are not a bargain and, in fact, would seem to be an intentional rip-off. 12 episodes on four discs (or 24 on eight) breaks down to three episodes per disc. That’s appalling with today’s compression standards.
- Continuing the last point: the series should have been offered in a single “litebox” set of the entire series on five discs rather than gouging those foolish enough to buy into the series. This is a practice from the bad old days of ADV, Manga Entertainment and even old FUNimation releases and it pisses me off to no end.
- No English dub to be found, which to me says that those who localized knew it wasn’t worth their time or investment to write and record one for such a terrible show.
- I have no tolerance for typos in professional subtitles. You will find some here.
So there you have it. This show is terrible and the release is insulting and overpriced. There’s absolutely nothing for you here. Go watch one of the shows that does this stuff well and spend your money on products that don’t actively try to take advantage of your wallet.
Nick Tapalansky is an author of comics and other things, some of them nominated for awards and stuff. Read some comics for free at http://www.NickTapalansky.com/blog and find him on Twitter as @NickTapalansky.