What They Say:
Arusu, a young girl who believes in magic with all her heart, finds her dreams have come true when she’s thrust into a magical world that is nothing like she imagined. While wonders surround her at every step, from fairies of all shapes and sizes to fantastic magic spells to whimsical modes of transportation, she can’t help but disapprove of how magic is used in the Witch Realm and where it comes from. Thrown together by certain circumstances with two young witches named Sheila and Eva, Arusu quickly learns magic despite being a normal human and stirs things up everywhere she goes, challenging the status quo. Between rival witches, a mysterious pirate, and invading forces, can the trio fulfill their individual hopes and dreams?
Arusu’s strongest belief is that magic is meant to make people happy, and absolutely no one will be unhappy after discovering the magic of Tweeny Witches.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese and English language tracks where we get both 2.0 and 5.1 mixes for it. The different tracks show up well, and the dialogue does not suffer from dropout. I love the moody soundtrack, in particular, the opening piece. It really adds some nice dramatic tension. My only real issue with the audio is that there is really little difference between the 5.1 and 2.0 setups. The additional channels in the 5.1 option lend to a little richer sound, but the mix is virtually the same. It is a bit of a shame since a true 5.1 mix could have been really nice for this series.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Much of the styling of this series reminds me of some of the darker Western animated features of the 70s and 80s such as the Lord of the Rings animated feature or the Secret of Nimh. The coloring tends to lean on dull shades, but often the backgrounds have a quirky style similar to modern fantasy cartoon art. It is definitely an odd style, but it is one that worked really well for me. I loved every aspect of the art direction. I even did not mind the abundance of CG, which is usually a sticking point for me. The problem is with the transfer. There were some noticeable gradients and aliasing throughout. They may be hidden on lesser setups, but I found it a bit distracting at times. It is a shame because I otherwise wanted to love the video.
I love the packaging for this collection. Funimation has created a pretty sturdy artbox to contain the original four releases. The box is in the shape of the True Book of Spells that is the focal point for much of the series. Though just cardboard, it is made to look like an old leather-bound book, and it even comes with a ribbon “bookmark. The ribbon is important because the box does not actually open like a book, but rather the top pops off. The ribbon acts as a sort of handle to ease the popping off. My only complaint with the box is that the four Amaray cases are awful tight inside. It is a good thing the box is so sturdy because I have to beat the hell out of it to get the cases to slide out. Still, it seems it will hold up over time.
The Amaray cases themselves feature various images of the main characters and stick to the coloring scheme of the series. That is to say that they are dark and tend to duller colors. Like the design of the show, I like the design of the cases. They fit well with the style of the series.
Again, I also really like the design of the menus. A picture of one of the characters is off to the side while a series of cages, similar to the fairy cages, swing from the top of the screen. Each of the selections is attached to one of the fairy cages, and they are written in a “magical” font. It fits really well with what you would expect for a show about witches.
There are quite a few extras spread over the four volumes. There are the usual clean openings and closings, a couple of promotional pieces, and a nice short reel of production art. There are also quite a few interviews with various production people and voice actresses. These make up the bulk of the extras, but there is a lot of good stuff hidden in them. It should be noted that each volume is spread over two discs, so there are actually eight discs in this series. The extras are all on the second discs of each volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tweeny Witches is a fun, dark fantasy story, and this collection contains the entire TV series, along with the series of OVAs called Tweeny Witches: The Adventures. The setup and the action are such that, even with the dark elements, people young and old can find something to enjoy in it. I can definitely see this as a series that parents might like to watch with their kids.
From the time she was little, Arusu has believed in magic. Her father left when she was still a little girl, but before he left, he gave her a book of spells and told her that as long as she believed, she would one day be able to use magic. And if she does, then she should use her magic to make people happy, as that is the true purpose of magic.
Since then, she has carried the book with her. She has learned human “magic,” the sleight-of-hand stuff that any street performer uses, but she continues to believe. In fact, no matter how bad things ever get, she can never shake her belief in magic, nor her belief in helping people. This strong will becomes important later on.
One day, in a dispute with a classmate, she falls off the roof of her school trying to save the book. But before she hits the ground, she finds herself magically transported into a forest. She spies a strange creature that is being hunted and tries to help it. For this reason, she is arrested. During questioning, she discovers that she has ended up in the magical realm, and is now the subject of the Witches’ Society. The creature she tried to help was a fairy, and witches hunt fairies because their spells require various fairy parts. And for the first time in history, the witches have finally found samples of all 100 types of fairy. Feeling this is a miscarriage of justice, Arusu quickly works out a plan to release all the fairies back into the wild.
As you might expect, Arusu’s actions do not go over well with the Witch elders. Arusu is placed in the charge of the Disciplinary Coordinator, Sheila, and her friend, Eva, and is charged with replacing all of the escaped fairies. Arusu has no plan in doing so, and instead hinders Sheila’s attempts to capture fairies.
But Arusu just wants to help everybody. She soon shows Sheila that if they just work with the fairies, they can get their spell components just as easily. When Sheila runs into trouble with a special hunting squad, Arusu convinces a fairy to help out. Unfortunately, the price for his help is the loss of her most prized possession: the book. But Arusu ultimately does not sweat it. In fact, she does not sweat much. Now she is able to perform real magic, and she is getting to help plenty of people.
But not long after arriving, a war breaks out between the Witches and the Warlocks. They learn the truth that the magical realm is slowly falling apart, and it is believed by the Warlocks that only the ultimate dark magic can help them. And for that, they need the True Book of Spells. Unfortunately, the book had vanished from the Witches Realm ten years earlier. The other problem is that the ultimate dark magic works by destroying the world and replacing it with a new one. The three girls learn about the legendary light magic that can save the world by fixing it. Now they need to learn the magic of light before the warlocks can find the book and execute their own plans.
Tweeny Witches: The Adventures are a series of six OVAs that act as separate stories from the main TV series. They are fun in their own way, and add some nice depth to the magical world as we get to spend more time with characters that saw little screen time during the main story. In particular, I enjoyed the episode about a journey the Grand Master of Witches was forced to undertake while she was younger. There was some nice drama and tension in that one, though the first OVA where the three girls accidentally turned themselves into fish was very amusing too.
Tweeny Witches is a really fun series. It does a really good job of mixing slapstick comedy with some tender moments and darker fantasy elements. The story is strong, and the characters are well developed. I loved the dynamic with the three main characters. Sheila is a sullen girl, who tends to follow orders to a ‘T,’ and hates to do things that go against the norms. Eva is a younger girl who struggles with her magic, but is very susceptible to the power of positive thinking.
That positive thinking comes from Arusu. She may just be the most positive character I have ever seen in a story as nothing can ever shake her from her belief in righteousness and the fact that magic should only be used to make people happy. She accomplishes a tremendous amount just because she refuses to accept that her beliefs are wrong. She may as well just approach problems by saying, “I know! I gotta believe!”
But despite all her positivity and bubbliness, Tweeny Witches is still fairly dark. The story is about the potential end of the world, and the treatment of the fairies at the hands of both the witches and the warlocks is none too pleasant. It actually adds a nice foil to the actions of Arusu, as it makes her struggle all the more dramatic. But again, no matter how bad things get, she is positive that she can solve things in a way that everybody gets a happily ever after.
Although Tweeny Witches has a rating of 13 and Up, I really think that kids would really dig it. The characters are identifiable, the world is full of stylish magical oddities, and despite the seriousness of the plot, there is still an overall sense of childlike wonderment that pervades the proceedings, mostly thanks to Arusu. Maybe it is not right for a five-year-old, but I would think this would be right in the wheelhouse of eight to ten-year-olds.
It fits in well with some of the recent trends in children’s/juvenile literature and movies. In terms of style and content, it reminds me of some of Neil Gaiman’s works, such as Coraline or The Graveyard Book, and going further back I can definitely see some Secret of Nimh and even the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon creeping in there. It is dark and deals with some subjects—such as death—that most juvenile literature has shied away from in the last twenty years, but is slowly coming back to. If this were the 1980s, Tweeny Witches would have made a great Saturday morning cartoon.
Take a little bit of Harry Potter, mix in some Don Bluth, add a dash of Ralph Bakshi, and you end up with Tweeny Witches. An odd, but fun, combination. Although there are quite a few dark elements, I think it would make a fun title for both kids and adults. It certainly fits with recent attempts by children’s authors to reintroduce dark themes into children’s stories, and I think it is something that parents could get into with their children. While it certainly is not a title that will interest everybody, if you have any interest in fantasy, you should check it out. Recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Keiichiro Miyoshi (Sound Director, 9 min. 39sec.), Interview with Tamiya Terashima (Music, 8 min. 13 sec.), Character and story concept, Round Table discussion.
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System