What They Say:
When the laws of magic are broken, it’s the duty of the Police Department’s deadly Section 1 to enforce them. But, since even craven maven mages and nefarious necromancers have the right to a fair trial, the job of defending them belongs to the Benmashi, the Wizard Barristers!
It’s a tricky profession, requiring both arcane ability and a judicious sense of jurisprudence, and at just seventeen, Cecil Sudo is the youngest Benmashi that Butterfly Law has ever employed. That means a lot of late nights burning the midnight brimstone, summoning up summaries, parsing phrases with paranormal paralegals and cutting deals with opposing counsels from hell.
And when a young Benmashi starts to discover that her own charm may be more magically-based than she realized, there’ll be a hex-tra incentive to work wonders outside the courtroom as well! Every trial is a witch trial as the most enchantingly Adept Attorney ever becomes a Master of the Art of Defensive Spells in Wizard Barristers!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Both tracks work a very good approach overall where it has a solid mix of action and dialogue pieces. The action side has a few moments in each episode, often with a big one early on and another towards the end, and with the use of the bigger magics that we see where elements are ripped from the surrounding areas, these tend to play well with a fuller and more interesting design to them. The impact also works well with some of the action elements with the creations fighting and slamming into each other. Dialogue is fairly straightforward with a couple of areas that step up a bit, but for the most part, it’s the kind of design that works solidly because it’s not terribly noticeable, serving the material design itself. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Arms, the show as a bright, colorful, and very detailed look to it that just pops off the screen wonderfully. Shows from Yasumoi Umetsu tend to be distinctive in character design and color so they stand out a lot, which it does here and it’s very well captured. There’s some great fluidity to it and the color choices are bold and striking as they’re brought to life. The CG side with the magics tends to be a bit less fully meshed in some ways but it also serves as that otherworldly/magical aspect in that you don’t expect it to blend either. Character animation with it definitely works well, though. The series looks great here with no real problems to be had and simply great looking color design that’s visually striking most of the time.
The packaging for this release works one of the familiar promotional images for the series that I like but am also frustrated by. Covers that work to flip characters upside always just feel a bit awkward to me, somewhat unnatural, and this one is no exception. The visual of Cecil is certainly appealing as she does her flip and uses her magic, giving off some good looking crackling electricity, and the detailed city background adds some great grounding and realism to it in order to connect the two. The logo along the bottom is a solid one that stands out but doesn’t dominate, which is always appealing. The back cover works a standard slotted approach with taglines along the top and a good sized chunk of text covering the premise – which you can see above in the What They Say section to see how much they put in there. The slots are broken up by shots from the show while the left has a cute image of Cecil standing with Nanagenie leaning against her. The discs extras are clearly listed as well while the remainder fleshes out the production and technical information in a clean and easy to read even against a soft pink background. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works an appealing approach as the two discs use different pieces of static artwork. They got for various detailed settings for Cecil to be in to make the world feel fully realized while letting her essentially wear clothes that she never wears in the show. They’re just simple spring outfits but it has such a great pop of color and detail that it catches the eye well along with the smile of the character set against all the other details. The navigation is kept to the left both for the main menu and as the pop-up and it uses some great blues and purples as it breaks down the episodes by numbers and titles. It’s all very smooth and easy to work with both in selection and language setup.
The only extras we had with this release were the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the web previews for episodes.
With a pretty lengthy career behind him, albeit with some big gap years, Yasuomi Umetsu is one of those directors that I actually pay attention to when it comes to anime properties. A lot of directors just work on adaptations and rarely work their own material while some just dig into the same thing over and over again. Umetsu’s certainly known for the more fanservice oriented aspects of his characters and their designs, but the draw for me has been the combination of that with the inventiveness of the direction itself. Working with Michiko Itou on this series, Wizard Barristers is a rather fun little twelve episode romp that takes us into some interesting places even as it works a familiar pattern. It’s a series where both journey and ending are familiar yet still worth the ride as a whole.
The series centers around seventeen-year-old Cecil Sudou, a young woman of Japanese-Canadian descent who has become the youngest Wizard Barrister in history. This world has magic in it and it’s treated like mutant powers in a way where it becomes realized during puberty, you have to register with the governments around the world that you’re a wizard, and it’s prohibited from use through some elaborate legislation that looks to be universal. So, if there’s anything the world can agree on it’s not letting powerful people operate uncontrolled. The interesting and disturbing part to all of this is that actions involving magic are brought to the Magic Court where the defendants are allowed a defense under the purview of an all-powerful judge. None of them are wizards themselves and often the punishments for the use of magic is being sent to a facility where you await your turn for execution. These executions can take years to happen, but there’s such a simple and seemingly quick system in place for the actual court side of it that it feels very lopsided. A lot of this comes from the view by many people that Wizards aren’t that at all – people. They’re something else and almost like animals that when they go astray must be put down immediately.
Cecil has become a wizard barrister in order to get a retrial for her mother, who was accused of murdering a police officer six years prior in defense of Cecil. There’s a host of small complications that comes from this which are introduced early on and then kind of shuttled to the background for most of the series. We’re given that as her reason for being as intense as she is, in a cute comical seventeen year old way, and it largely works since she has to go through the motions of joining a firm called Butterfly Law Firm and going up the ranks before she can really take it back to trial, hopefully with new evidence. The material with her mother gets revisited towards the end as the truth of that time comes out, something that’s brought out in small doses along the way so that it works as a solid series of reveals. It’s a standard mystery piece with some larger trappings to it that the series doesn’t have the time to wholly invest in, but it’s layered well enough so that it makes sense as the Big Bad is finally revealed and all the motivations and actions connect and make sense. It’s a piece that could, admittedly, make for a pretty solid and engaging two-hour film that here just gets “padded” out with more character material to make it and the world more fully realized.
As you can expect from a series like this we get a decent cast of supporting characters who in the end are all about getting Cecil’s journey to where it needs to be. The members of the Butterfly Law Firm are certainly familiar types, from the gruff and only male member (with hilarious Umetsu-designed hair) partner named Seseri to the serious senior barrister with Ageha and partner that’s trying to make sure it all works together. Cecil gets to come on board at the same time as Hotaru, someone who is a bit older and far more serious and just a bit resentful of Cecil and her ways to some degree, and her time is made a bit worse by Sasori, the man-crazy sexual one here that’s all about being dirty. There’s also the curious Tento, a paralegal at the place who from the get go just feels off – and rightly so.
A decent chunk of the show is largely focused on some initial cases that are standalone episodes that highlight how the world works both in magic and legal. We also get to see another firm here with Shark Knight Law Firm as a pair of players in it interact with the cast in different ways, as well as some of the police in the form of Inspector Quinn Erari, someone with a real dislike of wizards, and her younger partner Shizumu Ekuso – son of one of the main Magic Court judges. There are a lot of complications that comes from all of this but it builds well to establish the world and add more color to it all. The only downside is that some serve as little more than to hold up a mirror to certain aspects of the world, such as Quinn’s dislike of wizards that many people feel, and in the end only provide small moments of being key players. They’re not well realized, but it’s what you expect from a twelve episode series. The potential for something deeper and richer is here but it’s constrained by the running time of the work as a whole.
What the show ends up doing overall, however, is having a good bit of fun. The main cast operates well and it’s easy to get into them and Cecil in a positive way. Mind you, these are not fully realized characters as we don’t see anything outside of their business life side. But that also means thankfully that we avoid hot spring trips and other usual fluff pieces, so it’s a trade-off to be sure. But as most of us know, we only know most people through their professional lives so it works to bring us a good look at them and their personalities during all of it. The series works a pretty good forward energy and that helps to make it a lot more engaging and fun, especially thanks to some fantastic animation. There are a lot of neat things with the magic – even if they do go with whole magical mecha thing that I just abhor – and the visual design for the magic is just striking and very well done. But the character animation and backgrounds are both quite strong as well and the end result is something that just clicks really well and helps to smooth over some of the rough edges of the story.
As a side note, the show does take an episode where Cecil goes home to visit her father, who has obviously been separated from her mother. In a welcome twist, he’s in Canada and she goes there to visit him with Hotaru. The fun part for me is that the plane trip takes them from Tokyo to Boston first and we see rarely used anime landmarks like the tower at Logan, which was nicely done. The reference pictures they used were great and I swear I can even pick out which part of the Red Line they used for the MBTA sequence. Small details like that are just captured well and it made me hopeful that they captured other areas well. The trip to Canada itself was done by car and this has its own little adventure along the way, but the Boston sequence done in brief was a wonderful little delight.
Wizard Barristers turned out to be a whole lot more fun than I expected. There was little chatter about the show overall when it first debuted and it kind of sunk from memory outside of the main visuals for it. With a solid dub here and a great looking presentation in high definition for the audio and visual aspects of it, the show definitely should please any fan. There may not be a lot of extras but I don’t believe that there were many out of Japan either. The series works the interesting angle of laws of man when dealing with men and women of magic and it delves into a rather fun big event towards the end with some quick reveals and twists and a final episode that’s just essentially a single court battle with only a bit of magic. While Wizard Barristers won’t set anyone on fire, I definitely came away from it at the end kind of hopeful that we might get a continuation because it’s an interesting world and some fun characters and concepts.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Web Previews
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.