What’s the Story?
Activate the standardised Magical Girl Anime plot generator! Main character: Komugi, a fourteen year old girl. Quirks: Clumsy yet always energetic! Does she meet some kind of magical talking animal: Of course! What must she collect/fight: cards that turn into monsters. Rivals: Kind of, we have the Magical Maid and the Magical Sister. Ok, what else is there? Transformation sequences, hijinks and maybe a song during the big fight sequences. Check, check and check. Well I think we’ve got all the ingredients here. Wait; something extra’s gotten into the machine!
Ok, I’ve gone on about Magical Girl anime before. Thanks to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon the genre will always have a place in my nostalgia-encrusted heart, but outside of Madoka Magica there hasn’t been one that’s really captured my heart since. I’ve tried to watch a few, but I either end up getting bored or just feeling too old for it. I started to think that perhaps it was time to give up on the genre, to leave it to my nostalgia and move on; then I started watching this anime. Don’t get me wrong this is hardly the greatest anime in existence, if I was being completely critical I think I’d struggle to call it truly good, maybe nice, nice would be a good descriptor. It doesn’t redefine its genre or bring that much new to the table, yet every single episode of this anime leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The best way I can think of to describe this anime is as joy personified.
Now, as may be apparent from the ‘What’s the Story?’ section above, the bare bones plot of this anime is actually pretty standard for a Magical Girl anime. Komugi is an energetic, if a little weird, 14 year old girl who works as an idol in her spare time. Then she happens across a talking, floating rabbit who conscripts Komugi into becoming the Magical Nurse and collecting these strange cards that turn random objects into monster (and boy are some of the monsters random).
This is where the anime’s sense of humour starts to shine through, it manages to balance playing most of the story beats fairly straight while also making fun of them at the same time. Every attack has a ridiculous name, each transformation is accompanied by a high speed explanation of exactly what is going on with a nice little reminder that the transformation only takes 0.20 seconds in real time, and there’s the little comments about strange some of this stuff is. None of this is laugh out loud funny and it’s hardly pointing out stuff that hasn’t been pointed out a hundred times before, but it still make me smile.
When it all comes down to it though, neither the Magical Girl element or the parody elements matter all that much in the end because the heart of this series lies somewhere else, in the characters. Now technically a Magical Girl anime should be about Magical Girls, but most of the time that stuff just feels like an excuse to let the writers and animators get weird and have a quick-little fight sequence at the end of the episode. You could strip the Magical Girl stuff out of this anime and it would still be as good.
What caught my attention with this anime and kept me coming back week after week was the characters and the trials of their personal lives. Now the characters are hardly ground-breaking, Komugi’s the energetic idiot always oversleeping, falling over and eating weird stuff. Kokona is the perfect student, always working hard and being nice to everyone. Tsukasa is the tomboy and older sister to everyone around her. They have enough charm and warmth to them though that you just can’t help rooting for them.
Now this anime is hardly the height of dramatic story-telling, but I couldn’t help but cheer as each of our main characters worked to overcome their own personal struggles. For Komugi it’s dealing with the fact that she’s still swimming around the bottom of the barrel of the idol world. Most of her concerts are small scale affairs outside drug stores and her roles on TV are mainly as corpses, and it’s not through lack of trying that she’s yet to have her big breakthrough. She gives everything a 100%, she just has a tendency to mess things up and even when everything goes her way it never quite works out the way she wants. Slowly but surely though we see Komugi get more and more exposure, and while she’s still not as big a star as Kokona and Tsukasa, she’s definitely on her way.
Kokona is probably the character to get the least development, which are a shame because there’s a fair bit to be explored. We’ve got the rather dark dominatrix side that takes over our sweet Kokona when she becomes the Magical Maid, which hints at a fair bit of repression on her part. There’s her parents telling her that if she’s going to be something then she has to be the best which gets swept under the rug about halfway through the series. There’s also a plot where she tries to find a gimmick for herself because she’s afraid of becoming overlooked (funny how that’s kind of true for her character), but in the end figuring out that her ‘thing’ is to just be herself and keep working hard.
Finally we come to Tsukasa, who absorbs pretty much most of the spotlight due to just how tragic her story is. Tsukasa’s idol persona is that of a tomboy, which is at odds with her real personality of a girly girl who loves stuffed animals and sweets. Tsukasa can’t let her real self show though, because she’s afraid it will upset her fans and this gets in the way of her admitting her feelings for the boy she works with, Yuto. I felt really sorry for Tsukasa as she struggled between her personal and professional selves, and it was both funny and heart-warming as she eventually let Komugi and Kokona into her private life.
In the end Nurse Witch Komugi R is hardly a great anime, the Magical Girl aspects of the story feel like an afterthought and the parody stuff is fun but never quite makes it to hilarious. The animation is standard, though the fluidity of the 3D during the idol dances sequences is impressive. This anime does feel special to me though. I’ve grown to love these characters as they tackle the trials of being an idol in their unique ways. I enjoyed watching their journey and every episode left me smiling. Like I said at the beginning, this anime is joy personified.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.