It’s Chu2Koi, but for real, baby. In a nutshell, that’s Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or InoBato for short, AKA When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. We have a group of mostly girls and a guy, only here the guy is the Chuuni, Andou Jurai, who is messing around one day when he suddenly produces a real ball of magical flame from his palm, and nothing is the same.
But six months later, aside from a monthly “supernatural checkup” the club undergoes, everything is the same. Everything, except that now Himeki Chifuyu can conjure matter and teleport, Kishikwa Hatoko can control the elements, Kanzaki Tomoyo can manipulate time, and Takanashi Sayumi can restore things to a previous state. Ironically, the true Chuuni just has his little dark flame, which is pretty, but otherwise totally useless; apparently a sore subject.
The strength of this show, and something that elevates it from being merely another Chu2Koi or Haruhi knockoff, is that Studio Trigger is behind it, which means most of the time, it looks totally badass, but in a more boisterous aesthetic than the more quiet realism of KyoAni. It excels both at rendering the ordinary lives of the students, as well as the awesome magic they periodically break out, because, well, they can.
The show also moves briskly and confidently, from the way things were before (the only magic was in Jurai’s head) to the way things are (everyone using powers like it ain’t no thang) to their first interaction with someone outside the club, Student Council President Kudou Mirei (who has the Lancet ability), and by the end raises a key question moving forward: why did they receive these powers? What, if anything, are they supposed to do with them?
That mystery looms over the otherwise playful and fun proceedings, giving the show a measure of gravitas. But I’m not under any illusions that this is a moe showcase of epic proportions, with a diverse sampling of very meticulously-rendered, adorable characters. The show also benefits from Okamoto Nobuhiko’s spirited, sometimes manic voice anchoring the cast of ladies, which includes the warm Hayami Saori (Hatoko) and delicately strict Taneda Risa (Sayumi).
It’s bold, sharp-witted, pretty, and well-executed. Most of all, it’s just plain fun. You can glimpse that Trigger goodness and infectious joie de vivre that made Kill la Kill along with greats like Gurren Lagann...just way less insane and more moe. And along with the completely different Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, I am proud to add it to my Fall 2014 watchlist.