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Magic of Stella Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

It’s game on time for these cute girls!

What They Say:
Tamaki’s really excited about going to high school, but she’s not sure what kind of club she wants to join… until she meets three girls who are making their own computer games! Remembering how she loved making board games when she was little, Tamaki takes the plunge and joins the group as their new artist.

Now she, programmer Shiina, writer Ayame and composer Kayo are in a frantic race to finish their game in time to show at the big “doujin” conventions. Meeting their deadlines won’t be easy, especially since Tamaki has to learn on the job and Aya keeps getting distracted writing steamy love scenes. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and with the help of a bunch of talented friends, they just might be able to make it in time!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. No English language dub was produced for this release. The series is one that’s largely dialogue based with some nice incidental elements here and there with minor “action” and wackiness occupying a lot of that. The score for the series helps to give the show a little more oomph when it comes to the audio side of it but it’s mostly a dialogue-driven series with everyone talking to each other, so it’s mostly center channel based. The bigger moments with some of the abilities and things they get into ratchets it up just a touch but it’s one of those more relaxed series overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2016, 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 episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Silver Link, the show has a solid design and look about it that has a lot of detail and fluidity, but works a simpler approach in a way since it’s a dialogue based series. There are some busy sequences and plenty of silliness that keeps it active, but it can get away with a lot of good looking backgrounds because it’s not a high-motion series by designs. The encoding captures the feel of this just right as it’s one that feels more film-like than a lot of anime tends to. I really like the visual design for this series and the encoding brings it to life wonderfully.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs held against the interior walls. The front cover goes for a full cast shot of the main girls together with some really nice background elements set against the white backdrop that lets the colors come through more in them. The logo is kept simple with the cute colors mixed together nicely along the top and they came up with a creative way to present the episode count and completeness of it within the artwork. The back cover carries over the birthday cake kind of color design to it nicely with shots from the show taking up a lot more real estate than usual, to the advantage of the show. The premise is a bit smaller than I’d care for in font size but it covers the basics clear enough so you know what the show is about. Extras are clearly listed while the remainder breaks down the production information and technical information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design brings in most of the elements from the packaging pretty nicely, though it’s a bit brighter and clearer here than in print form. Both discs feature some nice character combinations that shows off some good detail and I like the use of the greens in the menu and some of the soft purples that makes up the backgrounds in the character artwork.. The navigation takes up about a third of the screen space with episodes broken out by episode number and very lengthy episode titles. Submenus load quickly and are easy to get around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.

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

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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four-panel manga of the same name, Magic of Stella is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the fall 2016 season. The manga comes from Cloba.U as serialized in Manga Time Kirara Max and began in 2012 with six volumes to its name as of this writing, continuing on after the anime adaptation ended. Four-panel manga into anime can be a mixed bag depending on the source and overall approach and I think they took the right one here. Silver Link animated it as a standard kind of show that sometimes mixes a few more stories into the mix than some other series, but essentially gives us a good slice of life cute girls doing cute things show to immerse ourselves into.

The focus through which we see things is first-year high school student Tamaki Honda as she’s excited about what it is she’ll discover there. The build up of a high school life is fairly common as there’s plenty of things that are different from previous levels, never mind all of the differences when it comes to school work. For Tamaki, however, the big draw for her is finding the right club/activity to join and building that new circle of friends that will be carried forward for years. While we see a few different things explored initially the real focus is on the SNS Club that she joins, which is essentially a dojin game group. Tamaki’s ability as an artist makes her an ideal candidate and someone that the group can use to move forward with their game.

The group that Tamaki falls into is pretty familiar and it’s all designed around complementing characters that help each other and build each other up in small ways, while reinforcing friendship and the enjoyment of the game itself. The president of the club is Shiina, who is the quiet type that handles the programming, and we get Ayame, who does the writing and has a pen name because of some of her more adult stories she’s written elsewhere. Add in Kayo as the composer and you have a good group. We also get some time spent with Tamaki’s long time friend Yumine who is in the Illustration Club and that helps to connect us to a couple of other characters, allowing for some crossover with other clubs. We also get a former member that returns to cause a little trouble in Teru as she enjoys simply wearing the old school uniform and the familiarity of the club.

While this is a pretty episodic series when you get down to it there are some minor arcs that play out throughout the run. Some of it involves the game itself, as we get a look at it early on, and how they have the various Comiket and so forth to prepare for it with new games discussed toward the end of the season. These are fun moments when taken in isolation amid other events but I’ve also seen so many game making shows – just in the last year or two – that there’s not too much to really set it apart here. WE get a bit of time early on seeing some of it come to life, which is amusing, but that’s not a regular piece of it. It also has the usual problem of even no matter how intense they make it look to actually deal with creating again, it always looks simple and not requiring a lot of effort. Well, there’s definitely effort in the artwork and all but the presentation of the process doesn’t showcase the hours slaving over screens to get it done and all the physical exhaustion of it.

The show also avoids including anything in the form of boys in the run, which isn’t a surprise as the guys that often watch these shows don’t want to imagine any competition. But it makes for some less than engaging installments because we don’t get the variety that comes from it. I don’t mind skipping out on another high school romance show though so it’s only a partial complaint. The closest we get to some of the shenanigans that often comes from boys is with Teru when she starts popping up in the second half of the season as she causes plenty of trouble. It’s cute and simple and I like her energy since it’s different than what the others in the club are like because most of them are pretty laid back overall. Which is the best way to really describe the series as a whole as it’s just mellow, non-threatening, and cute. Even the brief time during the last episode with the trip to the beach after Comiket is incredibly tame.

In Summary:
While the set doesn’t contain the OVAs, making it a bit less than complete, Magic of Stella is a cute little show. That’s really what it comes down to. This particular subset of anime can be really strong with some projects while others are a bit more middle of the road. The focus on Tamaki and the dojin game club works nicely while not leaning heavily into the gaming side or doing much to challenge the viewer. It’s comfort anime when you get down to it and it executes that well with Sentai Filmworks putting together a solid release outside of it not, unsurprisingly, getting a dub. It wasn’t wholly my cup of tea but it was enjoyable more than not and has its own kind of little charm.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 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-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 3rd, 2018
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.


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