[Ascaloth] Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~, Episode 01

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ is the second anime adaptation of the Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto franchise, after the first Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto which aired back in 2003. While the first series, animated by J.C. Staff, was based on the original manga by author Yamada Norie and illustrator Yoshizumi Kumichi, Natsu no Sora is based on the third manga in the franchise by the same author and illustrator, and is being animated by HAL Film Maker, known for such slice-of-life gems as Aria and Sketchbook ~full colors~, directed by Kobayashi Osamu (BECK, Paradise Kiss).

This is precisely my kind of thing, so I will be covering this series for Summer 2008. Of course, circumstances dictate that I will be unable to provide as quick of a coverage as those who do not have to face the restrictions I’m bound by, such as the likes of Thy Trapness. *cue orz mode*

In any case, please bear with the fact that my Natsu no Sora articles are going to be somewhat later than most others. Well then, let’s move on.

The Mahou Tsukai manga series depict a world where magic exists, but is otherwise mostly familiar with the world that we know. In the Tokyo of this world, there is a Bureau of Magic which oversees all Mages, and these Mages may not perform any magic unless requested by a client. The first series was based around trainee Mage Kikuchi Yume, and her experiences while undergoing her training in Tokyo. This time, the main character is Suzuki Sora, who is about to leave her hometown of Biei for Tokyo to become a trainee Mage at the Hara Office of Magic.

It cannot be denied, the backgrounds are gorgeous. As might be expected from a change in animation studios, HAL Film Maker’s rendition of the Mahou Tsukai world looks nothing like the one done by J.C. Staff 5 years back. The scenery looks almost life-like, and in fact much speculation abounds about these scenes being actual live-action shots.

Of course, unfortunately this means that the amateurish, ’90s-looking animation used on the characters and moving objects contrasts heavily with the finely-detailed backgrounds. Apart from being evidence to bolster the popular opinion that HAL’s Mahou Tsukai is a rotoscope or Photoshop job, the contrast can be rather jarring, and might take some getting used to.

Personally for me, I quickly learned to overlook the visual incongruencies which were presented; half of that is because Sora is just such a wonderful character. Incredibly cute in a very real manner, spontaneous and cheery, Sora presents an immediate contrast to her relatively subdued predecessor Yume from the first Mahou Tsukai series, and already I’m liking her a lot more than I did Yume. Considering that I didn’t exactly dislike Yume to begin with, that says a lot about the kind of appeal Sora has for me.

So cute the shotas can’t help but look at her.

Moreover, I don’t care what other people say; Sora’s cuteness felt to me distinct from that of the moe variety. It feels like she’s not just cute for the sake of being cute, but that she’s just naturally so. It’s the appeal of the wholesome girl-next-door, the characteristic trait of a girl from the countryside, the type of girl which just cannot be found in a city environment.

And the fact that she’s a slob at the dinner table and isn’t ashamed to be? Somehow, it just increases her appeal for some unknown reason. To put it simply, Sora is the kind of girl in whose company one can feel entirely at ease in.

It’s interesting how they presented Sora’s mother as well as her friend Michiru, and both of them had a big part in this episode, but we know they’ll be gone by the next episode. The first Mahou Tsukai series started off with Yume arriving in Tokyo from the get-go, and apart from allusions by supporting characters along with the occasional flashbacks and phone calls, not much is known about Yume’s life before her stint as a trainee Mage. The first episode of Natsu no Sora though gives a peek into the life of Sora in her hometown, just before she leaves for Tokyo for her stint.

Also, whenever Yume performed magic in the first Mahou Tsukai series, J.C. Staff made it look somewhat like a mahou shoujo henshin sequence, although that is only after she acquired her Mage Ring. Here, Sora simply summons light out of nowhere and channels it in a relatively no-frills manner. I wonder if Sora will also acquire a Mage Ring when she gets registered as a trainee Mage, and once she does, whether the magic she performs will also have a touch of henshin to it.

This is the kind of magic that Mages in the Mahou Tsukai world perform. There’s no Nanoha-like stuff in here, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look somewhere else.

How to make a bath scene NOT a fanservice sequence.

And with that, the little peek at Sora’s life pre-training comes to an end, as Sora bids farewell to her mother before setting off. The first episode felt like a prologue more than it did the start of a story, and perhaps that was exactly what it was for, to show what Sora is like as a character before thrusting her into her own adventure. Next week should be the true start of the story, as Sora begins a new phase of her life as a trainee Mage.

Next destination, Tokyo. Ascaloth, out.

6 Responses to “[Ascaloth] Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~, Episode 01”

  • Loved your review — especially since I pretty well agree with it. I did get used to the discrepancy between the animation and the backgrounds, at least in episode one. And I’m interested to hear Hanazawa Kana in a not-so-moe role with a not-so-moe voice. About the only thing I disagree with is that I liked Yume in Someday’s Dreamers quite a lot. As I expect to like Sora.

  • What HAL Film Maker seem to do well (at least with ARIA and Sketchbook) is what I like to call “natural moe”, where the characters are genuinely cute, but haven’t been so obviously designed to appeal to a fetish. It’s the type of moe that isn’t forced down your throat, which is unfortunately the case with a lot of so-called moe series (particularly shows with pseudo-lolis), so it’s a lot easier to find these characters cute just because of their personality, and not because of that prodding feeling against your shoulder coming from the show’s producers as they poke you with a stick and utter “you should find this cute, what is wrong with you”.

  • The backgrounds are strikingly distinct!
    i like.

  • I don’t like the art style because it looks nothing like Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto. The backgrounds photoshopped from real photographs scream laziness. Also, I would’ve preferred an anime version of Taiyou to Kaze no Sakamichi instead.

    I guess the series looks okay on its own, but I can’t help but compare it to the source material.

  • Hey do you really think the backgrounds are photoshopped from real photographs? Heck if it can look that awesome from a lazy proccess of photoshopping I wish more studios would do it haha.

  • I too, cannot help but compare, but I still like this series. The first episode wasn’t enough to totally WOW me, but I’m sticking with for now. :3

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