The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya achieved something wonderful with its deliberate swapping of chronological episodes and the order in which each serial was broadcasted. Once viewers pieced together the puzzle it was a joy to rewatch the series in the order it was meant to unfold.
Rental Magica has the same trick up its sleeve, but the fact that its episodes aren't necessarily following the flow of time only seems to serve as a fruitless gimmick in an attempt to hide the fact that there's really nothing inventive going on here at all, even if it is dressed up in a gorgeously-animated package.
The spotty series follows the exploits of one Iba Itsuki, the president of a fledgling mage-for-hire company known only as Astral. Having taken over from his now missing father, Itsuki is only reasonably competent with magic, but his status as a beginner is augmented by the mysterious "Glamsight" power, which in a few words seems like it might be on par with Geass, but is actually more like a powerful brand of foresight that benefits Astral quite well. Each episode finds the team solving a different magical dilemma, much like the student issues seen in Okami-san and Her Seven Companions, only with an unreasonable amount of brooding and angst.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Rental Magica is that the animation is so fabulous, you'd expect something good to come of the plot or at least the cast of characters, who are little more than harem tropes mixed and matched to give us the illusion of variety. With the plot relying on the episodic monster-of-the-day formula and not having the luxury of being a shonen epic, it's absolutely crucial to ensure each and every situation furthers the plot in some way, no matter how minor.
Instead, each situation is so painfully similar that it's a disappointment knowing each magical dilemma will be resolved in what seems like the same manner each and every episode: the problem is identified, a lengthy and borderline boring explanation of said issue and how it relates to the principles of magic, and the eventual showdown between Astral and the episode's antagonist. There are a few forced laughs along the way, most of which seem to stem from how one-dimensional the characters really are.
Itsuki is nothing like the most popular Itsuki you're probably envisioning (especially since I referenced the very same series earlier) and instead is a shy, can't-make-up-his-mind good guy with basically nothing to redeem himself. So bland you can taste it, he's the center of attention when it comes to the rest of Astral, with the tsundere twins Adilisia and Honami, the cat-lover Nekoyashiki (wholly creepy in many ways) and Mikan following up the rest as the token loli that needs a place to fit in somehow. None of the characters are particularly exciting, and it becomes endlessly irritating finding the same fights and the same attempts at humor breaking out throughout the 24-episode trudge through magic and tsundere beauties: Itsuki is mine! No, he's mine! Rental Magica tries a bit too hard to hide the fact that it's a drawn-out harem anime in disguise.
On the surface -- especially the way Itsuki's Glamsight eye looks on the cover and the way it seems to be portrayed in trailers and promotional artwork -- Rental Magica seems like a completely different adventure. In reality, it's glossy, slick animation covering up a plodding attempt at episodic spellcasting resolutions that never seems to pick up. Though it's 24 episodes it's a little long for a weekend watch if you attempt it -- it could have well accomplished what it set out to do in 13, and honestly I'd suggest watching only a few select episodes in chronological order should you still feel the need to stick it out. But this very same premise has been done before, and much better. Skip Rental Magica and head straight for a show like Kaze no Stigma or even Ghost Hound.
5.0 – Average. This one’s just “okay”. It has many flaws, and just couldn’t follow through on its intentions or had ones that were simply too narrow to warrant consideration. Some will still enjoy it, but should temper their expectations, or perhaps just opt to pass. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.
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