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No Rage is Too Harsh for RENTAL MAGICA - - DVD / Blu-Ray Review

What happens when you take a bunch of overused anime tropes and shove them into one poorly-crafted package? You get this steaming pile of crap.

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...

  1. The plucky, inept, passes-out-for-no-reason, well-meaning dunce with a secret power.
  2. The strong female who loves the dunce despite his many flaws (and her obvious frustration with them).
  3. The child-prodigy-ditz who has a great deal of affection for the dunce.
  4. The always-smiling, knows-more-than-most guy whose eyes never open.
  5. 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...

All your favorite anime stereotypes in one awful package.
All your favorite anime stereotypes in one awful package.

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.

It wouldn't be an awful, trope-ridden show without some hyper-sexualized high school girls fighting over a complete dunce.
It wouldn't be an awful, trope-ridden show without some hyper-sexualized high school girls fighting over a complete dunce.

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.

The adventures of Team Suck!
The adventures of Team Suck!

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.

Ugh.

Dust your Way-Back Machine, Kids. Today, we're traveling all the way back to a time when anime DVD's were both poorly produced AND manufactured to rip you off!
Dust your Way-Back Machine, Kids. Today, we're traveling all the way back to a time when anime DVD's were both poorly produced AND manufactured to rip you off!

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.

buhssuhton Jan. 30, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.

including Rental Magica, there are so many show with amazing premises but ended up having horrible story/character because generic harem formula. It's really sad

Marshal Victoryon Jan. 30, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.

Yeah i started watching this last fall. I may buy the box set just to watch in order. The bordcast order is out of wack throws of what chance to like the show right off.Also this is well beyond the creators control. Networks will an always have killed off shows doing this. Some program manager doesnt like the show an or wants this episode becuase it ties in with something in the news.

ComicMan24on Jan. 31, 2013 at 1:39 a.m.

Out of all the reviews I have read here, this must be the first time where I see any of you talking so bad about a show. Usually you try to find at least a redeeming quality or two. This must be really bad.

NickyCharismaon Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:59 a.m.
So what you're saying is... that you liked it? (end sarcasm) But seriously, it sounds like another case of creation via committee and lazy execution. Maybe "safe" would be a better word.
NickTapalansky staff on Jan. 31, 2013 at 9:35 a.m.

@buhssuht: Ugh, yeah. It's a shame, too. There really was potential in this premise! Ah well...

@Marshal Victory: The thing that threw me off here about the "broadcast order" option was that it was an included feature on the DVD. I don't think I've ever seen that on a release where the series order wasn't intentionally different from the episode chronology for story reasons. I mean, honestly, why include it as an option if it was a network screw up?? It makes no sense!

@ComicMan24: Believe me, I wish there was anything redeeming about this show. The only satisfying part was when I was able to take the DVD out of my Playstation.

@NickyCharisma: Haha! Yes, this was truly the watermark of quality anime. I'm not sure if it was committee, trying to cram in too much from the source material, or if the "light novels" themselves were equally as vapid. Either way, UGH!

ComicMan24on Jan. 31, 2013 at 9:49 a.m.

@NickTapalansky:

The only satisfying part was when I was able to take the DVD out of my Playstation.

lol Don't think I have ever felt like this that about any anime. Well maybe Gantz and Demon King Daimao but still not sure it was bad lol

katmicon Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.

All these magical anime shows these all seem the same.

Kino88on Jan. 31, 2013 at 4 p.m.

stereotype number 4 is my personal favorite!, Lol you know you've watched too much of this stuff when you scroll through a list like that and are totally familiar with all of them,

hahahahaaahaaahahah!

Marshal Victoryon Jan. 31, 2013 at 9:34 p.m.

@NickTapalansky: Well it could have been on purpose by some one at the network.The leviathan that is entertainment it doessnt take much to screw things up.Honestly the show as broadcast should have been a option in features an with explination.. an then i wonder why some one would want to watch it that way.

Heres a example of a series done that way http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHAOS_(TV_series) for what ever reason cbs paid big to get this from fox ( it had real potential their ) an then filmed part of it but aired the episodes out of order. Way out of order.The people who created the show had no idea why this was done.It killed it made it real hard to follow an it was a prety decent show.Keep in mind to this series was pushed on superbowl advertisment to. So showing the episodes out of order had to be on purpose by some one. Even the actors didnt know why http://twitter.com/FreddyRdriguez/status/83740957744439296

NickTapalansky staff on Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:18 a.m.

@Marshal Victory: Right, that's what I was saying. This happens more often than I'm sure showrunners and writers would like, thanks to network screw-ups, be they intentional on somebody's part or not. But, for instance, on the DVD release of FIREFLY you don't have the option to watch the show in "Screwed Up For No Reason" order. Ditto for VENTURE BROS., whose first season aired totally out of order (not that it mattered much that season, but still).

My point is that, unless there was a REASON that the episodes were aired out of chronological order, i.e. the show was purposefully written to bounce back and forth, there is no point in offering this option on a DVD release, especially for a series that was never even broadcast domestically!

Here's a series that appears to do the same thing, but with full awareness of doing so (and even it released the DVDs in chronological order only!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Melancholy_of_Haruhi_Suzumiya_%28anime%29#Anime

It also sounds infinitely more interesting than RENTAL MAGICA.

Marshal Victoryon Feb. 1, 2013 at 8 a.m.

@NickTapalansky: The venture brothers deal i did not know. Im a big fan of the show but only watch it on adult swim an dvd.

http://www.animevice.com/night-raid-1931/11-5779/

is another that either was brodcast out of order or sites that stream it get it out of order for some reason.Could be 3 episodes were only on the dvd release an shoe horned into the time line oddly.Intresting google ( or use 'ask" ) the phrase broadcast out of order. Kinda a long list of tv thats done that way to this day.An networks wonder why they dont have the rateings or as many hit shows any more? sheesh.

Lurkeroon Feb. 4, 2013 at 5:49 a.m.

If you already stopped the disc and donated it to your garbage can, we’re on the same page.

This review was worth clicking on because of that line. I am going to steal that one.

And yes, anime tends to be unenjoyable because the writers heavily rely on established tropes that will likely gather an established type of audience. Not much creativity involved. Copy-paste tropes, throw in enough fanservice, and publish.

NickTapalansky staff on Feb. 5, 2013 at 7:25 a.m.

@Lurkero: Haha! I donate what little wit I have freely.

You know, I can't remember if it was an OTAKU COMING HOME that I wrote or that did, but at some point in the comments the discussion came up that, back in the day, less was more as far as domestic selection. While a lot of great shows/books were relegated to fansub/scanlations, it was also easier to suss out the good stuff that was localized because the pool was smaller. Not to say that bad things didn't wind up on store shelves, but they were easier to avoid - or, perhaps, not so necessarily avoided because we, the domestic audience, weren't inundated with those tropes yet to begin with.

Now, with almost everything eventually making its way to global audiences, be it by gradual localization or same-day subbed streaming, we're getting a clearer picture of what the world of anime looks like in Japan. And, honestly, it turns out it's no different from Hollywood: recycled tropes shot out in sparking bursts to quickly distract, attract, and draw in revenue without lasting substance. The shows and films that actually are special are truly few and far between, with most being acceptable, somewhat enjoyable, moderately tolerable, and so on.

Anime, as it turns out, was no holy bastion of moving pictures, or the work of a more thoughtful and high-minded storytelling culture. It was just a mirror of our own entertainment industry that reflected a culturally different perspective on the same approach.

From the perspective of someone who discovered anime in the early 90's, and found it to be a view-changing alternative to domestic films and serial animation, it was sort of a bummer to eventually realize this when I returned to the material and found such a drastically changed landscape from when I'd left. But like anything, the difficulty does make finding something rewarding that much more satisfying.

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