Review for Nurse Witch Komugi R Collection
My first, kneejerk reaction was, “Why Nurse Witch Komugi?” It all began with the Soultaker anime series (which I haven’t seen), which spun off the original Nurse Witch Komugi OVA series, five episodes released around 2002-4, and which I reviewed in complete collection form in 2008. It was a magical girl comedy focusing on cosplay fanatics, but compared to the ribald but dull Cosplay Complex from around the same time, Nurse Witch Komugi was just plain dull. It didn’t strike me as the best candidate for a reboot fifteen-odd years later. Then again, would you rather they reboot something that failed the first time around to make a better attempt at it, or reboot something successful and balls it up? The timing of Nurse Witch Komugi R is pretty apt, as following Madoka Magica and Sailor Moon Crystal, the magical girl genre has seen something of a renaissance, while instead of cosplay, Komugi-R taps into the other popular anime genre of late, that of pop idols. Other than the title and the costume, Nurse Witch Komugi-R bears no resemblance to the original OVA series; even the characters are different.
Komugi Yoshida, Cocona Saionji, and Tsukasa Kisaragi, all have ambitions to be idols, to become famous for their singing and acting skills. Cocona and Tsukasa are making a success of it, balancing their school lives with roles in television and film, pop concerts and personal appearances, although while Komugi shares a talent agency with best friend Cocona, she has less luck, with most of her appearances limited to promoting the local shopping arcade, or guest starring as corpse of the week in the murder mysteries that Cocona and Tsukasa star in.
Then one day, a shower of shooting stars heralds the arrival of Usa-P, a mascot animal from another world who wants to recruit Komugi as a Cam-P girl, to collect the magical Fan-C cards that are revealed after monsters magicked up from inanimate objects are defeated. And suddenly there are a whole lot of monsters on the loose. Magical Nurse Komugi is born. Only Usa-P isn’t the only mascot to arrive. Tanu-P has met Cocona, and Neko-P has encountered Tsukasa, and all three are rivals. And as the story will have it, neither Magical Nurse Komugi, nor Magical Sister Tsukasa, nor Magical Maid Cocona actually recognise each other...
12 episodes of Nurse Witch Komugi-R are presented across three discs from MVM. The show is also available on Blu-ray.
1. Magical Nurse is Born!
2. A Stalker?! Cocona-chan’s Close Call!
3. Magical Sister is Born!
4. Nin-Ninjas at the Edo Mansion!
5. Trouble Rendezvous at the Study Session!
6. Life is for Nip Slips
7. Run Cocona! The Marathon of Love and Tears!
8. Yuuto Gets Nowhere with Love!
9. Goodbye, Komugi-chan
10. Tsukasa’s Miraculous White Day
11. Supernova Lilia, Sparking!
12. Who Takes on R
Nurse Witch Komugi-R gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer on these discs. The image is clear throughout, with strong consistent colours and good detail. There’s also no sign of compression, aliasing or other such digital artefacts. That’s probably because Nurse Witch Komugi is hardly the most challenging of animations. The character designs are appealing, if unimaginative, the world design is similarly simplistic, and the animation is limited to doing enough to tell the story but little more. It’s the kind of bright, primary colour animation that’s aimed at the pre-teen market. The only moments of flourish are applied to the pop-idol song concerts, where as is the norm these days, everything switches to flat-faced, 3D CGI to pull out those quirky and expressive dance moves.
This is a Japanese audio, subtitle only affair with the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track doing enough to get the show’s music and action sequences across well. The dialogue is clear throughout, while the songs are instantly peppy, and instantly forgettable. The subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos, but the Madman authoring means that they are locked during playback, even on this DVD release.
The discs have been re-authored by Madman Entertainment, which in this case merely means stripping out the trailers and locking the subtitles. You get static menus and jacket pictures on each disc (the jacket picture for disc 1 is corrupted), and a translated English credit scroll after each episode.
The sole extras on disc 1 comprise the textless credit sequences, one of each.
Nurse Witch Komugi-R is like taking a step back in time. Anime has been around a long time, and genres that were popular and beloved back in the eighties, nineties, and early 2000s tend to be revisited these days with a sense of reinvention, or subversion, or indeed just plain parody. The magical girl genre has seen all three in shows like Panty & Stocking, Madoka Magica, and Prisma Illya. Even the mother of all magical girl shows, Sailor Moon soon attracted an audience outside its target demographic of young schoolgirls, when it became clear that Japanese males of working age were tuning in. Nurse Witch Komugi-R on the other hand plays it mostly straight, with a surprising minimum of fan service, and just like one of those early magical girl shows, aimed at the young girl demographic. I haven’t such a show so honest and forthright since Fairy Musketeers.
Were it not for the Nip Slip episode, I’d give the show a U/PG rating, get it dubbed, and put it on Saturday morning TV, but you can’t get away from that slight moment of pandering to the older audiences. Perhaps the only sense of modernity to the show is the blending of the magical girl genre with the idol genre. A trio of mascot animals arrive looking to find lost Fan-C cards. These Fan-C cards transform whatever inanimate object they land on into comedy monsters. Those monsters need to be defeated to release the cards so that they can be collected. The only people who can defeat the monsters are Cam-P girls, or magical girls, so the first thing Usa-P, Tanu-P and Neko-P do is to recruit some magical girls. These turn out to be Komugi, Cocona, and Tsukasa, three girls who are working their way up the idol ranks.
Komugi’s the least successful so far, although she has big dreams. She’s often playing a corpse in the mystery shows that her friends Cocona and Tsukasa star in, and any concerts she performs are usually in her local shopping arcade, where her biggest (and probably only) fans reside and work. Cocona’s doing a lot better both as a pop idol and as an actress, while Tsukasa might be a little more popular, only fans appreciate her tomboy, masculine side, and like ‘shipping her and Cocona. All three separately become Magical Girls alongside their work as idols, and they spend their spare time hunting down monsters and collecting cards.
The card hunting doesn’t take up too much time in the show; it’s mostly a slice of life affair following the girls in their everyday lives, their friends and the odd moment of love. One moment of slight tension comes with Yuuto, an actor who works with Tsukasa but who happens to be Komugi’s childhood friend. Tsukasa has a crush on him, but is shy for one thing, and contractually committed to hiding her feminine side, while seeing Yuuto get along with Komugi so easily invokes just a little bit of envy.
Nurse Witch Komugi-R is much better than that old OVA series; about the only thing in common between the two is Cocona’s sadistic side appearing when she becomes Magical Maid (evil magical maid Koyori was just the same in the OVA), and mixing the magical girl genre with idols is a lot more effective than magical girls and cosplay. It’s entertaining, and it’s light-hearted fun, refreshingly light on the fan service and casual sauciness that you might have expected. Even the magical transformations are unexpectedly chaste. It doesn’t challenge the intellect, while its humour isn’t exactly sophisticated. In fact, the only problem might be that Nurse Witch Komugi-R is apparently targeted at a demographic younger than the average anime fan. Then again, you can always buy it for a younger sibling, get them indoctrinated early!