#1 Magic as an afterschool club
Sae Sawanoguchi is a member of her school’s Magic User’s Club. It’s a small group literally stuffed away in another club’s storage room, but don’t let that fool you. These 5 kids are actual magicians, who can do far more than just party tricks. Maybe they could even save the world.
The premise of an afterschool club discovering the arcane arts is one that I found to be very charming. We have seen occult clubs in other anime & manga before, but usually as a bit of a joke. A bunch of weirdos playing at mysticism. These kids are the real deal and it’s fun seeing what kind of adventures sprout from their club activities.
One episode has a member of the club sow chaos as her hiccups keep causing spells to go off. Another has them try to help the town by shrinking down a giant tree, only for it to come alive and begin wandering around. These storylines perfectly nail the kind of mood I was hoping for. Fun adventures that capture the fantastical feel of magic, with a healthy dose of comedy on top.
#2 Wonderful artstyle
I was very surprised when I looked up more info on the show after watching a few episodes and found out that it was made in 1996. Magic User’s Club has a very pleasant artstyle to it and visually it has held up incredibly well. I figured it was made in the mid-2000s.
Regardless of when it was made, this anime is still very watchable for a modern audience. It’s nice, it’s vibrant, and the character design is fantastic. Though those designs and its visual gags may betray the series’ age somewhat.
#3 Enigmatic villains
For all its goofy fun, Magic User’s Club does have impressive stakes to it. The story was primarily written by Chiaki J Konoka, after all. I have being harsh about his work in the past, but the man can write some phenomenal storylines when he tries. Magic User’s Club being evidence of that.
The OVA that predates the TV series revolves around an alien device that lands on Earth. It’s an enormous, cylindrical vessel of unknown purpose and properties, which announces to the world that it is there to conquer the planet. However, it doesn’t actually do anything. It defends itself and has its probes survey humanity, but that’s it. Adults quickly come to accept the aliens as just being there and don’t want to actually do anything about it. Thus the Magic User’s Club takes it upon themselves to investigate the alien threat. This quickly escalates as the aliens become interested in magic instead and seek to capture it for themselves.
After the events of the OVA, the TV series goes in a different direction altogether. One that plays right to Konoka’s strengths. As Sae and her friends keep getting better at magic, strange events begin to unfold around them. Time becomes distorted, dreams and reality sporadically overlap, and people turn up in impossible places. Something scary is happening to the members of the club and the only clue is that it relates to their own powers.
Both storylines are fantastic. They have strong mysteries at their core and a real danger that only the Magic User’s Club can deal with.
#4 Characters that break the mold
Speaking of the club, its individual members are fun, memorable characters. They seem to fit familiar archetypes on the surface, but with enough nuance and development to stand out from the crowd.
I was most fond of the club’s president, Takeo Takakura. He is a bit of a geek with a perverted streak, making him feel like a derivative of the typical otaku horndog. However, he has a real passion for learning and teaching magic. He is incredibly smart, having discovered magic on his own and reverse-engineered how it all worked without outside help. He has strong principles, centered on using magic responsibly and safely. Principles that he does his best to have the younger members understand, even as they’d really like to use magic for convenience and amusement.
His tendency to lose himself in perverted daydreams is very goofy, but he never acts on them because he feels responsible for the girls. They’re his students, not his harem. However, this and a life time of bullying has made him very awkward when it comes to women in general. The only reason that his club is stuck in a storage room is because Takeo loses his spine whenever he has to stand up against the female club president next door. It’s frustrating to watch, but very understandable. And watching him grow more confident over the course of the story is satisfying as a result.
All the other characters have similar amounts of depth to them and I ended up liking everyone in the main cast. Even the ones whose archetypes I usually can’t stand.
#5 Comedic tone
In spite of the often-serious threat that the Magic User’s Club faces, there is ample room for comedy across the series. There is a lot of variety to the humor here, but it always seemed to stick the landing. Even when similar jokes in other anime fell completely flat for me.
Banter between the main characters forms the foundation for much of this comedy. The cast has great synergy with each other, again benefiting from the well-defined personalities I mentioned earlier. The dialogue is witty and frequently had me smiling at the casts’ antics.
Any scene with Akane in it would usually be a hit for this reason. She is overly casual and shows little respect towards her upperclassmen, who frequently try to reprimand her as a result. This doesn’t faze her in the slightest, so it’s better to just go along with her flow than to risk getting even more frustrated.
Building on these strong dynamics, there are a lot of angles to the comedy. There are raunchy jokes, slapstick, running gags, fanservice, you name it. Comedy is always going to be subjective, but I sure had a lot of fun with this anime.
More like this…
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Witch Craft Works: A magical society hidden in plain sight at a school.