Welcome back, Friends, to magical girl month. We’ve looked at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Magic Knight Rayearth. This week we’re going to look at a magical girl series based on a pachinko game. This is Umi Monogatari: Anata ga Ite Kureta Koto, a series written by Tsukiji Toshihiko and brought to us by Zexcs, the same studio that brought us Cheesesteak Suppository also called Aku no Hana, but I don’t like to dignify that pile of excrement with the literary reference. Let’s take a look at Umi Monogatari and hope that it’s better than the one other work of theirs I’ve reviewed.
A couple of mermaids, mermaids in this look just like humans but with pointy ears, find a ring floating down from the surface world, which they will refer to as the sky. Marin decides that they need to return it, so she takes a magic bracelet that allows mermaids to breathe in air and heads to the surface. Her little sister, Urin, accompanies her because Urin doesn’t trust the people in the sky. They find out that the ring belonged to a girl named Kanon, who threw it away because she’d just broken up with her boyfriend, who gave it to her. Kanon gets annoyed and throws the ring away again, this time into the forest. While searching for it, Marin and Urin split up and Urin opens a strange casket-like box, not realising that an evil entity named Sedna. Wait… their villain is named after the Inuit Goddess of the sea and marine life? That seems like a strange choice to name your villain after. A stone turtle statue then comes to life and tells Marin that she’s the priestess of the sea and she has to find the priestess of the sky so that they can reseal Sedna and save the world. Fortunately, Kanon is the sky priestess, much to the turtle’s surprise given her “evil aura.”
Let’s begin with an examination of the problems with the series. The big one is the romantic subplot, which bears a striking resemblance to the main romantic subplot in Mai-Hime. Both feature a guy with no personality, a romantic rival with no personality aside from her aggressive pursuit of the bland guy, and a developed female lead who easily has a thousand times more chemistry with her female “friend” than with her supposed love interest. For more accurate results add 1 to the zero chemistry she has with the guy and then multiply. It’s a tedious side element that does nothing for the major story except providing something for Kanon to throw away and they could have had her throw away something related to the family business since there is a far more interesting side plot about her not wanting to be a part of that. In all fairness, it isn’t a huge element in the series but it does come up often enough to qualify as a minor plot tumour. There are also some things that really aren’t explained well. The big example being a mysterious woman who hangs out in the background and seems to know what’s going on, but her identity, her reason for being there and what she’s doing are never explained. Can we lose the tedious romance and learn what her deal is instead? I am one hundred percent certain that it would be more compelling.
There are a lot of positives too. The main story itself has some interesting turns, particularly when it comes to revelations about Sedna, and makes really spectacular use of tension, especially considering the short length. There’s a lot of creativity in the series and its approach to the genre. It also has a really good sense of humour with a lot of scenes that are simply hilarious and work well.
The two leads are very interesting characters and the dynamic between them is really spectacularly done. The side characters are mixed. On one hand, you have characters like Blandy Genericson and Aggressive Rival who don’t have much, if anything, in terms of personality. On the other hand, you get some really compelling characters like Urin or fun, but also fleshed out characters like Kanon’s mother. Most of the side characters are, at least somewhat, interesting and serve their purpose well.
The backgrounds in this are stunning and nicely detailed. The transformation sequences are nice and short but they also look really good. The action sequences are well handled. The character designs, however, are a bit lackluster. Take the mermaids. They’re like humans but with pointed ears and wearing swimsuits. Sure, you could say that at least Umi Monogatari doesn’t succumb to the usual cliché of giving them fish tails and seashell brassieres, but at the same time they don’t replace it with anything really creative or interesting. There are also several characters, including Blandy, who just look like other character designs we’ve seen dozens of times with nothing to set them apart. I will give the series that some of the monster designs are nice and creative, but overall the character designs just don’t stand out. They also get a bit fan-servicey at times, like having Aggressive Rival compare her breasts to Marin’s after Marin’s run forward in slow motion and bounced in a physics-defying fashion.
They did get some really skilled actresses for this. Kotobuki Minako (Rikka and Mugi), Horie Yui (Sarara and Manabi), & Asumi Kana (Strength) all give great performances as Kanon, Urin and Marin respectively. The big weaknesses are Sawashiro Miyuki and Toyosaki Aki, who aren’t bad actresses. Sawashiro was Ginko in Mushi-shi. Toyosaki was Yui in K-on. I know that they can act really well. They just don’t have anything to work with in this series since they’re stuck as the two characters who have less personality than your average Raisinet, and that’s combined. The music is pretty nice. It’s not the best I’ve heard, but it’s well composed and suits the scenes well.
I’ve already touched on the fact that Kanon has far more chemistry with Marin than she has with that guy who could easily be replaced by a Labrador, and it would only improve the series if he was, but how does that translate to actual chemistry between the two? After all, characters like that have about as much of a reaction with other characters as noble gases have with other elements. Well, the two do have their moments where they seem closer than just regular friends. There’s also a mermaid named Warin who seems to have a thing for Marin. Still, these scenes are fairly infrequent and they don’t actually do anything with them. So, the ho-yay factor is going to be a 4/10.
Umi Monogatari certainly has its problems. The romance is tedious and the two characters who are there exclusively for it have no personalities. The art also suffers a bit from standard character designs. Still, it is a solid series with some creative ideas, nicely executed tension a compelling story, a nice sense of humour and main characters who play off of each other very well. It is worth a watch for all of that. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Next week we’ll end magical girl month by delving into another installment of the Precure franchise.