*please note, there are six episodes on this DVD, but they are numbered 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 4 and 5
As anime and manga gets more popular in the west we are starting to see the kinds of titles that just wouldn't have been released here a couple of years ago. Like ADV's recent Cosplay Complex and Comic Party Revolution, Nurse Witch Komugi is a release that uses anime and manga fandom as a backdrop for its story. Unlike the other shows though, this one is a comedy spin-off from the serious and violent series Soul Taker. Sometimes you have to wonder how these things came into being.
The story (such as it is) follows the cosplay idol Komugi, a
teen model whose job is to dress up for photo opportunities and promotion at
events and conventions. However, she leads a double life as the titular
Nurse Witch - a magical girl who dresses as a nurse with bunny ears and flies on
a giant syringe. I am not making this up. In her Nurse Witch guise
Komugi has to battle against malicious diseases sent by Magical Maid Koyori, a rival magical
girl who flies on giant ice-cream sundaes. Again, I'm not making this up.
Koyori also leads a double life, she is normally Komugi's quiet and kind friend,
but when her alter-ego takes over she becomes her main rival. However,
Komugi doesn't know this and when Koyori returns to normal she remembers
nothing! However, Koyori's diseases are not just common colds, she can
harness the power of chaotic events to, erm, turn buildings into giant robots
and people into anything from angry mobs to internet avatars. Yes, really.
Luckily Komugi's powers of healing can return everything to how it was before,
but that's if she has enough time to use them! Koyori will do everything
to stop her, and she also has to deal with her day job - including angry
managers who aren't happy when their employee keeps suddenly disappearing on
them, and co-workers who don't like her...
ADV Films have a good pedigree when it comes to anime comedies, so the news that they have released a new one usually makes us at Animetion sit up and take notice. As with Excel Saga (another ADV title and one of our favourite anime comedies), Nurse Witch Komugi is a parody-laden romp laced with sight gags, slapstick and sheer randomness. And like Excel Saga it works pretty well. References to other anime are frequent and often hilarious, and Komugi makes an over-excitable but likeable lead character. The
series is pretty much made up of stand-alone stories, with Komugi having to face a different problem in each episode, which usually start with her doing a job for her modelling agency before everything goes wrong and she has to change into Nurse Witch Komugi. It may be a bit formulaic if it was done over a long series but over the six episodes on this double disc set (kudos to ADV for putting the whole 6 episode series on a single 2-disc set, it's two separate volumes in the US) it stays entertaining without becoming too predictable.
Although in places it does slip into anime
comedy convention, with the usual jibes from the buxom supporting
cast at Komugi's flat chest and limited job opportunities, it keeps
things fun with a hefty dose of sheer randomness. Making
everyone go crazy at the Tokyo Comic Market expo isn't enough for
the creators of this anime, they'll also turn the iconic Tokyo Big
Sight building it's held in into a giant robot called Big Sightron!
The gags come thick and fast, from the bitching between the models
at the agency to the weird and wonderful schemes of Magical Maid
Koyori, but it's generally Komugi's over-the-top attempts to beat
them that provide the most laughs. During the space of just
six episodes Komugi faces buildings, mobs, bikers, death and the
alien Magical Teacher Komachi (who owes more than a small debt to
Ranma 1/2's Miss Hanako), whilst a climactic battle sees many of
Earth's monuments turn into weapons. It's bizarre but
laugh-out-loud funny, and it's also all rather harmless - especially
considering Komugi can reset everything to how it was before once
the mayhem is over.
The only real problem, and it's one that faces many series like this, is that it makes a hell of a lot of reference to both anime and various aspects of Japanese anime fandom and culture. Buildings like the Tokyo Big Sight won't be well known to many UK fans, and the irony of it becoming an anime character when it hosts the world's biggest manga event - the Comic Market (aka. Comiket) - will be lost. It doesn't make a huge difference, a building turning into a big robot is funny anyway, but many people may miss part of the joke. The
same is true of the parodies of Battle of the Planets (famous, but a pretty old series now) and references to Japanese Bosozoku biker gangs. Although it doesn't detract too much from the series as a whole, you may wonder what the hell is going on in places. It's also a shame that some of the non-comedic plotlines - such as Komugi's crush on the singer Kyousuke Date and Komugi's agency manager Ms. Yui's rivalry with the man who dumped her when she was an idol - are only touched on. There could have been more to this series than just comedy, but thankfully the comedy alone is enough to sustain it.
Nurse Witch Komugi is great fun and very well animated and acted. The gags come thick and fast and are frequently hilarious, although some references may be a bit too Japan-centric for a lot of viewers. ADV Films have done a great job by releasing the entire series as a double disc set , £14.99 for six episodes is great value for money, and the host of extras on offer only add to that. It may not reach the heights of Excel Saga, but it is imaginative, enjoyable and extremely random. Who could ask for more in a comedy?
A great selection, the usual trailers and clean opening and closing sequences are joined by galleries, a Japanese making-of documentary and commentaries from the English-language cast and directors. It's a shame that the AD Vid Notes used to such great effect in Excel Saga are not used here as they would have helped explain some of the references. However, this is still a far better selection of extras than most anime DVDs.