Graphic Arts As Literature


It’s mystical, it’s magical,
it’s ‘Magical Project S’!

By Jason S. Yadao

Anime fans had a bounty of choices in 2002. According to, 500 new anime DVDs showed up on U.S. store shelves last year. Choosing the best ones was a daunting task.

One of the better series last year -- not to mention one of the quietest releases -- was "Magical Project S." The entire series of 26 episodes made it to stores in two two-DVD sets on the same day -- quite an accomplishment when you consider that most series take about a year to be published, from the first to the last volume.

"Magical Project S" is what's often referred to as mahou shoujo, or "magical girl," anime. This genre often features a typical teenage or preteen girl who gains the ability to transform into a typical girl with a really cool costume. She also gets a special power that comes in handy for defeating the Monster of the Week, sent courtesy of the Evil Forces Bent on Global Domination. (Think "Kikaida," except with characters with saucer-shaped eyes and pastel hair.)

Most of these series -- "Sailor Moon" being the most notable example -- play the concept as dramatically as possible. "Magical Project S" has no such pretentions, instead choosing to skewer the genre every chance it gets.

The story is set between Earth and the magical realm of Juraihelm, linked through the morality scales of Gemini. One year has passed since the previous queen of Juraihelm died, and it is time to pick her successor.

One candidate, Ramia, makes an in-depth presentation to the selection council, using charts and graphs and carefully outlining her proposals for making the kingdom a better place. Another candidate, Tsunami, offers ... to plant more flowers.

Naturally, Tsunami wins.

To become queen, she must pick a champion to restore Gemini's balance toward the forces of good. Tsunami chooses Sasami Kawai, an extraordinarily cheerful girl with a suave, dashing father and a sweet, loving mother. And so, Tsunami sends a talking cat/rabbit named Ryo-Ohki to act as her mentor, along with a magical baton.

With the magical incantation "Pretty Mutation Magical Recall," Sasami transforms into Pretty Sammy, champion of all things cute and cuddly. Her first reaction is to promptly return the baton, saying that the costume makes her look stupid and that "if anyone finds out about this, I'll be the laugh of the town."

"There's nothing to worry about," Tsunami responds, "because you'll be Pretty Sammy."

This calls attention to another rule of mahou shoujo: No other character will recognize the magical girl even though she looks exactly the same but with a fancy costume. In one funny sequence, one of Sasami's classmates, Konoha, gets hold of her magical baton and transforms into Magical Girl Connie to woo a boy who normally wouldn't care about her. Unfortunately, he falls in love with only Connie. She even transforms in front of him from Konoha to Connie and back to Konoha ... and he still loves only Connie.

For every force of good, there has to be a force of evil. For that, the scorned Ramia turns to Misao Amano, Sasami's close friend who is excessively shy and barely speaks above a whisper. Under a hypnotic spell, Misao transforms into Pixy Misa, a bold, brash girl with a tendency to throw in Japanese-flavored English words at least once in every sentence.

Plus, her hair goes from black to yellow. So you know she's evil.

One fault that most mahou shoujo have is that each episode's plot, save for a few twists, plays out almost exactly the same: Magical girl lives her life, evil attacks, girl transforms and blows away evil, valuable life lesson is learned, end credits roll.

In this show, however, much of the fun comes from seeing just how far the show's creators went out of their way to make their Evil Monsters of the Week, the "Love-Love Monsters," as hilariously pathetic as possible. Some of the more notable examples include:

>> CD Girl, who throws CDs as lethal projectiles ... but ends up throwing only a few before announcing that she's "all sold out." To reload, she has to run around to pick up all the CDs.

>> Karaoke Girl, a walking karaoke machine that paralyzes her victims with her awful singing.

>> Chemistry Girl, a large flask with eyes and arms ... but no legs, which makes it a bit difficult to dodge Pretty Sammy's attack.

"Magical Project S" DVD publisher Pioneer went all out with the extras on this release. Both volumes contain installments of "Magical Girl Pretty Sammy Bonus Theater" -- humorous five-minute shorts -- and art galleries.

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