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Modern Magic Made Simple Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

The magic may be simple, but even that doesn’t really mean it’s easy or you can do anything you want.

What They Say:
Life hasn’t been fair to Koyomi Morishita. Even though she’s in high school, she’s so short that everyone assumes she’s still in grade school. The boys and girls in her school tease her mercilessly, and she’s not exactly graceful either. On the other hand, she’s still better off than Yumiko, who has a magician trying to kill her… or at least, Koyomi was until their paths crossed!

Fortunately, salvation arrives in the form of master mage and graduate student Misa Anehara, who agrees to take Koyomi under her wing in learning the new style of magic, which breaks enchantment down into sequences of code. That’ll be quite a task, given that so far Koyomi’s talent seems to consist of making washbasins randomly fall out of the sky. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be magic, would it?

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release pretty basic as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that has a good mix of action and dialogue to it where both sides play out well. It’s not an expansive or really immersive show with what it wants to do but it uses the forward soundstage well to give it a clean and sharp feeling. Dialogue is well place when needed and the action ramps things up to quite a good degree with both the action effects and the various magical elements that are brought into it. The cast is pretty small here overall so there’s not a lot of variety tot he voices and what they do but it’s well handled across the board. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in the summer of 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across two discs with the OVA and five episodes on the first disc and seven episodes on the second. The series has a lot of bright, clean colors to it and the transfer captures studio Nomad’s animation really well. While the show may not have distinctive character designs or backgrounds, it has a very good look to it that’s really appealing here. It has a vibrancy to it that draws you in and it utilizes the computer code aspect in a great way to make it engaging to watch. It’s a solid looking transfer overall that lets the shows quality shine through.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard single sized keepcase with a hinge insde in order to hold both discs. The front cover goes with a fairly standard cast shot of the main group of women in the outfits we usually see them in. They’ve got a mix of expressions to them with a bit of humor and seriousness in there and they’re all wrapped around by the binary source code magic symbols. Add in a pretty good background that has a bit of a circuit board look to it that’s done faintly and in soft colors and it keeps the attention on the characters and the source code itself. The logo is kept simple like the title and looks good though I wish they kept the original series name somewhere on the front cover. The back cover is much brighter overall with a soft white and blue background that has a rather detailed summary about the show. The episode count is clearly listed and we get some good shots from the show and character artwork that’s definitely of the cute variety. Add in the usual elements with the production credits and the technical grid and you’ve got a solid looking design here that makes the show easy to figure out and entice with. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this release are rather standard but it utilizes the colors and artwork well to provide for a good looking piece. The menus are split down the middle almost with the left side featuing cast artwork that’s different with each volume while the right has the episode numbers and titles with some cute code next to it. The two sides are split with a curved strip of ride which plays well to the blues and whites along the right side. It has a bright, upbeat and pretty look to it all that defintiely sets the mood right. Submenus are quick and easy to load, what few of them there are, since there aren’t any language submenus.

The only extras included on this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahō that’s currently ongoing in Japan as written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Modern Magic Made Simple is a twelve episode series and OVA that takes a fun look at how magic can be reworked into the modern day. The show actually does things fairly right here when it comes to the OVA department as well as it precedes the TV series itself and just adds to the overall feel of the show rather than something that fits somewhere in the middle of the series but is viewed after the fact. It’s a good progression for story rather than just an odd piece that doesn’t fit in the flow of things.

The series takes place in the present day and focuses largely on Koyomi, a highschool freshman who has some aptitude for magic but not the actual application of it. What we come to understand is that magic is handled in two different ways. One is the classical form of it in which there are incantations and other verbal methods for invoking the magic. That’s how it was done for ages and there’s a real artform and appreciation from those that work that route. The other is modern form in which magic is understood in how it’s in the fabric of everything and that “source code” can be manipulated. Things are done through the code and in computers to write up spells that can be used but understanding the code and applying it can also simply be done by the person. Koyomi is of the modern style but she’s not exactly all that good at it as all she can do is make washbasins. Some pretty neat ones at times, but still that’s all it is.

Within this world, most people don’t know or see magic or understand it, but there are those with some history with it. And that history comes in the form of families, though they’re not used to a great extent here. What we do have is that Anehara family with Misa being the one of this generation who excels at magic and runs a pretty good business with it. Her residence used to be a large restaurant that was well known quite some time ago and it’s also a bit of a school now though she only teaches Koyomi since she knows there’s a lot of potential in there with here and the two made a good team. Misa does come with a brother, Soshiro, who is rather amusing in that he doesn’t see magic at all and thinks it’s just crazy talk, which is even harder to rationalize when he has washbasins dropping everywhere. And while it is a gag for awhile, it also has a really good explanation later in the series that made me grin quiet a bit.

The one that shakes up events most of the time though is Yumiko, a young woman with a foreign background to her that has her set apart in Japan. She’s the one that as a child was very determined to be a magic user as she understood that she was one of the rare ones that could grasp it. And her origins introduced her to the Classical form of magic first and foremost which she took after. Yumiko brings in the catalyst for the series as well as she has a staff that contains an immense amount of knowledge and power that others, in “ghostscript” form, are looking to acquire from her in order to reshape the world as one that has more awareness of magic. Because of her possession of this, there’s a decent storyline that takes shape over the course of it that lets everyone work together at different stages to understand with what’s coming after them.

The early part of the series is rather confusing at times depending on how closely you’re paying attention. It uses a bit of magic for time travel, but it’s not exactly clear when things jump back and forth a bit since it starts with a jump to the past without cluing us in. It’s rather neatly done when you put it all together though as you get a look at the evolution of some of the characters, notably with Yumiko, but you also get a better appreciation for Koyomi because she does a pretty good job at keeping her own counsel during the time trip. But even as we do get to see Koyomi better through this, and it reflects well back in the present, it’s Yumiko that makes out the best as we get the most understanding of her and her situation. Hardly anyone else has any family mentions here, even Misa’s own brother is but a bit player, but Yumiko is the one that feels like she comes from some place.

Modern Magic Made Simple does keep to a straightforward visual design so it’s not a series that looks radically different or does anything to stand out in a big way. The character designs are appealing though and the use of magic is rather well handled with the way they visualize the source code itself. The cast themselves do have a pretty good look to them and the way they handle the ghostscript characters, essentially ghosts given a different origin of sorts, adds a good bit of flavor to things. The show does feature a good bit of action as well but it’s not one that generally uses it in a very big way, though it doesn’t shy from making a scene strong and important.

In Summary:
Modern Magic Made Simple wasn’t the smoothest of series to get into with the way it moves back and forth without it being clear why it’s doing so, but once it found its groove it got into it well even if it didn’t do anything big for a lot of it. The show avoids doing the silly subplot and filler type that tends to populate these kinds of shows as it instead works the larger plot in smaller doses and in pieces woven into everything else. It’s a slow build with some interesting bursts along the way. It’s the type of series you’d almost call uneven if you didn’t realize what it is that it’s trying to do. This show would have likely frustrated a bit in weekly form, but watching it over the course of a day made for a good bit of fun even if it didn’t do much to really flesh out the cast much.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 20th, 2011
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 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.

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