Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 12 (Fin)

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We were a bit weary that this last episode would be another nightmare of poor animation and cut corners, but thankfully there was enough gas in the tank for a respectable-looking finale. We even get a shot of Cecil talking next to a reflective sculpture; a nice effect. Ironically, while this was a far better episode in terms of production values, we thought the previous episode had a better story.

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That’s because the resolution to the Makusu trial left us a bit cold. We will say that it hardly made sense for him to suddenly cooperate with Cecil after carefully planning the ritual only to fail to summon Lucifer, so it makes sense that come trial time, he double-crosses his counsel and even accuses her of murdering Shizumu. It’s the word of the former Chief Justice against an excitable teenager with a history of getting into magical trouble, and he spins a good yarn for the court.

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While his betrayal made sense and we were on the whole glad to see the last episode return to its legal procedural roots, we found the trial itself a bit clumsy and random. Part of that was the fact the prosecution seems more on Makusu’s side than his defense. But Cecil suddenly pulling Grimoire 365 out of the talisman Shizumu returned to her, combined with the surprise trump witness (why didn’t Makusu make sure he was dead?); those were were plot conveniences that gave Cecil victory without actually having to do any sleuthing, hence the leaving us cold.

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We will say, however, that on the whole, the series didn’t leave us cold. We really enjoyed watching Cecil befriend her colorful colleagues, defend lots of people who tried to kill her. She didn’t so much uncover the conspiracy as Makusu made numerous tactical errors, most important the fact that Tento Moyo was already Lucifer’s vessel…we think. So while the show stumbled with its ending, placing it just below Witch Craft Works on the Big Board, it was still a refreshing dark horse we’re not sorry we looked into.

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Cumulative Average Rating: 6.917
MAL Score: 6.45

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 11

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The whole purpose of anime and most other audiovisual media, is to show as well as tell what is going on. This episode told us quite a bit, much of which could have been very interesting, but unfortunately it also happened to be one of the single worst-animated episodes of anime we have ever reviewed. It doesn’t even seem accurate to call it badly-animated, since a very large portion wasn’t animated at all. This episode simply felt unfinished, which made it extremely difficult to get invested in what was ostensibly going on. It was like trying to read this review…without vowels.

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Mind you, we haven’t been insensitive to the fact that WizBar in general is not a show that has ever prided itself on flawless presentation. But it could also be that a lot of the production budget was spent both on the first episode and on CGI effects such as the metamoloids. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it, and we would have preferred more balance in the visuals. But the show had always managed to muddle through, with the story pulling enough weight to forgive the shortcomings.

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But this…was something else; the shark was officially jumped. There were far too many close ups, establishing shots, lines of dialogue and actions by people we never see, and agonizingly long still shots. Some potentially powerful and/or poignant moments were thoroughly ruined by all of this nonsense. On many occasions throughout the fiasco, we felt pretty bad for the people involved in the show who weren’t responsible for bungling the budget, for they were let down as much as we were, if not more so.

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All that aside (and it’s pretty damn hard to move it aside!) a lot happened this week: Shimuzu raided Butterfly and eventually captured Cecil, Makusu had his little ritual, and we find out that Lucifer had already awakened and taken human form, that of Tento Moyo. She merges with Cecil, who grows fangs and a tail (first instance of a tail bursting through panties…yeah, they animated that), but Shimuzu Does The Right Thing (as we hoped) in the eleventh hour and dies protecting Cecil.

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Cecil and Makusu have one big confusing Metamoloid battle that ends in the upper atmosphere, but when their mechas dissolve Cecil sprouts wings and saves Makusu’s life, only for him to request he defend him at his impending trial, which is actually a nice twist that brings everything back to Magic Law, which we always found more interesting than Magic Conspiracies. So yeah, a lot happened! We kinda wish we could have, you know, seen all of it, instead of just parts of it…

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 10

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Cecil always knew there was something fishy about her mom’s trial and conviction, but she didn’t know there was something fishy about still being alive after the altercation. Nor did she know of the ongoing war between the Labone and Macal, two Wud factions for and against coexistence with muggles normal humans, respectively.

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This week Cecil continues to be swept up in a torrent of new information, and while she and her fellow Butterfly barristers haven’t quite processed everything and remain in the dark about who is behind all of this and why, they are at least aware and on altert. So naturally, Cecil goes off on her own again.

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Frankly we would have been fine with a relatively undramatic run of “trial-of-the-week” episodes, provided there was enough variety to them, but it’s clear from the get-go that the balance of WizBar was going to be All About Cecil and the conspiracy closing in on her. It was also a clever to turn the previously-foreboding Shark Knight into Cecil’s allies, while Shizumu was the bad guy all along, despite their rapport.

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Even better, Shizumu is not 100% sure he’s doing the right thing (because duh, he isn’t). Makusu, on the other hand, is kinda dull and getting increasingly confident and thus sloppy in his methods to “procure the catalyst.” We’re hoping that inner conflict results in Shizumu turning against Makusu, but with Makusu’s power and an increasingly-sketchy Moyo stalking around, it might not be enough to save Cecil from turning into a tool of Lucifer.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 09

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Cecil resumes her investigation of the incident six years ago that led to her mother being sentenced to death (we’ll set aside the fact she wasn’t instantly put to death, as we’ve seen done to other condemned). Seseri warns everyone not to act alone, so Cecil acts alone, rushing bull-headed into all the people involved in the case, and getting stonewalled by all of them.

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After the judge in the trial throws her out of his office, Cecil turns to Shizumu for aid. They have a very interesting, pseudo-romantic scene together in a paddleboat, which is hit by another boat forcing Shizumu to grab Cecil into a compromising position to save her from falling overboard. Throughout this episode we see Shizumu struggling with his conscience. On the one hand, he feels obligated to obey his father, and probably shares a bit of his dad’s hatred for the humans who have oppressed Wuds.

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But his inability to throw away the protective charm Cecil gave him, his confrontation with Quinn, and the look on his face when he’s about to kidnap Cecil using the investigation files as bait all suggest he’s taking no pleasure in deceiving her. But blood proves thicker than water, and if it wasn’t for Sameoka Kiba of Shark Knight (who also spotted Tento Moyo in Canada), Shizumu would have done what his father asked of him: continue preparing “the catalyst” for whatever dread ritual being cooking up.

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We can understand Cecil going to a cop she trusts for help, but we don’t understand why she keeps the rest of the firm in the dark, and doesn’t even enlist Natsuna’s help, even though Natsuna offered it last week. Natsuna’s tsundere defense of Cecil when Seseri chews her out for tardiness (and the other barristers’ shock) was an awesome little scene, but it didn’t result in any collaboration.

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Even when Ageha takes Cecil aside and tells her everyone at Butterfly are her friends whom she can count on, Cecil still goes to Shizumu alone. To uncover the truth about her mom’s case, and more to the point, to stay alive and free, she’s going to have to rely on them more, which means being more open. Of course, depending on Tento Moyo’s true loyalties, even that could backfire.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 08

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Well, it isn’t as if the show’s been coy about this, but damn, Cecil really is beset on all sides by foes! Thanks to the progress made between them in these last couple episodes, Natsuna isn’t one of them. She even offers to help out with research on Cecil’s mom’s case, albeit in a tsundere kind of way. And Cecil’s wise-seeming father looks past the surface tension to perceive Natsuna as a valuable friend and ally. And it looks like Cecil is going to need as many of those as she can get.

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What looked ostensibly like a “girl’s road trip”-turned-“coming home” story turned out to be much more, as the other members of the Butterfly delegation are led into a trap by their Boston counterpart, Diana who turns out to be very evil. At the same time, Cecil and Natsuna’s lovely little log cabin/maple/syrup/boat retreat is crashed by the hitchhiker Kaede, whom Cecil’s familiar Nanajiinyi felt a faint murderous intent from earlier. In addition to the correct tarot readings by both Sasori and Cecil’s dad, it’s clear that on this show, you take people’s intuitions seriously!

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Kaede challenges Cecil to a metamoloid duel, and when Cecil’s childhood home is destroyed in an instant, it’s enough to force her to summon metal from distant cities to build her own, overpowering and defeating Kaede in the process. But both Kaede and Diana’s Sudden But Inevitable Betrayals are soon cut short by a combination of Cecil and the other Barristers fighting back (respectively) and by their sudden and quite horrific deaths by unknown magical powers. Back in Tokyo, Shizumu reports to his dad that they bowed out of their “missions.” Things are definitely afoot.

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Even more intriguing is the fact that a couple weeks after saving Cecil’s life, Tento appears in Canada—and not by plane—apparently annoyed that Diana and Kaese “jumped the gun.” Obviously Tento is more than just a flirty, ketchup and whipped cream-loving paralegal, and she’s far more powerful than anyone around her is aware. We’re not even sure she’s actually on Cecil’s (or anyone’s) side. All we know is, we fully agree with Cecil that it’s time to get back to researching the incident with her mom…and this time she’s got Natsuna to help out!

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 07

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Kudos for this episode for choosing to send its cast to Boston, out of all of the places to visit in America. It’s a very odd choice, but for all we know, the majority of Japanese are aware of the city’s existence. It had us wondering if it was some kind of shout-out to ABC’s departed dramady Boston Legal (one of the last network TV shows we watched with any regularity). We even got a look at Boston’s “T” subway (actually one of the better systems on the Eastern seaboard) but it looked a bit dingy and shabby. Moreover, the highly-stylized Butterfly delegation sticks out like a sore Pocky.

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But ultimately it seems Boston was chosen due to its relative proximity to the Canadian border. Seseri gives Cecil leave to visit her dad there, which means we’re in for a road trip. We’ve been waiting for the show to put its two most at-odds characters—Cecil and Hotaru Natsuna—in a situation where they must deal with each other for an extended period of time. Thanks to Natsuna’s international driver’s license (which she mentions on the flight to Boston, not knowing it would doom her), that happens this week. The results are delightful.

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In another odd but inspired choice, rather than drive a reliable but dull rental car (like a Chrysler 200), Natsuna and Cecil are lent/saddled with an aqua 1966 Ford Thunderbird by the Boston law firm (they also pick them up from the airport in a VW Microbus, so we assume the partners are car buffs). As a kind of modest protest to her lot, Natsuna initially bans conversation, lest she get distracted. But it’s going to be a long, long drive, and we know they’ll talk eventually. After all, if not on this trip, then when?

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We’ve come to like and appreciate Natsuna more and more as the show has progressed, and have been eager to find out more about her as a person, not just as the only character consistently disapproving of Cecil. We learn she’s traveled around Europe. When the old car breaks down, we learn she knows her way around an engine (even a vintage foreign one!). And after they pick up a hitchhiker (also a Japanese girl who wants to be a wizard barrister) we also learn about her one-sided love of her former professor. All of this really rounds out her character, both for us and for Cecil. But this isn’t a one-way thing: Natsuna’s hostility towards Cecil was always based on her outward impression of her. This week she learns why Cecil is in such a hurry.

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When Natsuna hears about the injustice Cecil’s mom received, and how Cecil gave up tv, movies, music, and friends to study for the bar, her stance softens considerably, as it should, as Natsuna is a reasonable person with a bigger heart than she lets on. Unlike last week, this was an episode that didn’t feel like it was lacking anything. If anything, it had too much: we could have done without the hasty Boston montage, or the scene at the end where the Shark lawyers just happen to show up in the diner (what the hell?). But all the Cecil-Natsuna bonding, facilitated by a run-down Thunderbird, a hitchhiker, and the long road to Canada, was very good stuff indeed.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 06

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This episode begins rather appropriately with Cecil getting chewed out for using magic in practically every single situation she’s found herself in so far, causing collateral damage and inducing fines for the firm. So naturally, she ends up in yet another situation where she’s forced to use magic to protect others. It makes sense to us because there are shadowy types—including Asst. Inspector Shizumu, who’s a closet Wud—creating these situations so she’ll awaken to more and more powers.

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While it makes sense to us that trouble will always follow her around, it hasn’t yet occured to anyone else that it might mean anything other than the fact she’s unlucky. This was also the first episode with no case and no trial, just a terrorist hostage situation with some heroine costumes thrown in for fanservice, and very weird little details like the teacher promising to protect the kids, then shoving them out of his way when things get hot, getting shot in the back for his betrayal.

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That’s pretty dark stuff in an episode where we were still thinking these terrorists may just be messing around for a hero show (especially after their leader’s speech about world domination). But this scenario underlined the fact that as powerful as Cecil is with her diaboloids and elemental magic, she lacks any kind of restraint. You’d think someone that could mine metal from her surroundings could make a smaller weapon, but no: just a giant robot, which is kind of overkill.

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It also sure looks like a few cops get killed and maimed in the melee, resulting in a pretty hefty butcher’s bill. One Wizard Barrister who has a very useful skill indeed is Tento Moyo, who literally saves Cecil’s life by stopping time and redirecting what would have been a fatal bullet. Interestingly, neither Cecil nor anyone else perceived Moyo’s presence, suggesting she prefers to work stealthily. We also liked the observation that kids aren’t prejudiced against Wuds like most adults. But while this episode had some nice details, it also felt thin and padded at times.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 05

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As is usually the case with these kinds of shows, WizBar chronicles the daily lives and trials of magical people who are really just people if you take away their magical abilities, but parallel to that, and somewhere either up in the stratosphere of those daily lives (or down in the subterra), Big Bad People Planning Big Bad Plots With Their Big Bad Organization. It should come as no suprise that with WizBar, as with the various Index/Railgun series, we prefer the former to the latter.

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So far, we’ve only gotten bits and pieces of the “background plot”, but they seem to be steadily gaining momentum, as well as Cecil’s awareness of them. But this week the spotlight is thankfully on the daily lives part. One of the great things about a series that takes place in a law firm is that, unlike a police department where you have more-or-less long-term partners, there’s a lot more mixing and matching of barristers as the case dictates.

That brings us to the first matching up of 17-year-old go-getter Cecil with the 86-year-old Kamakiri Tobirou, and it’s an inspired pairing. He’s as comfortable standing still as Cecil is uncomfortable standing still. But the case, in which a member of the rival law firm Shark has been indicted for murdering a bowling alley manager with a knife, is something of a mystery, and diligent observation and investigation are required to prove his innocence.

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Predictably, in thefirst couple days of her pairing Cecil is convinced Kamakiri isn’t taking the case seriously and is actually hampering her progress, to the point she asks her boss for a new partner. Witnessing this, Hotaru, who is a very interesting character in that she’s the only one still not entirely sold by Cecil’s prowess, tells the lilac-haired upstart get over herself. And as we thought he would, Kamakiri turns out to be doing a lot more than Cecil thought, and essentially ends up cracking the case while she’s sleeping.

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The old man is a great “process disrupter” to Cecil, showing that her way isn’t always the best way, and that she still has a lot to learn about solving crimes, defending clients, and court theatricality. Regarding that last aspect of the job, Kamakiri fakes a stroke at the trial when asked if he used magic to acquire evidence. Even better, he didn’t tell Cecil about it, so her reaction would be genuine. The show will be hard-pressed in improving on the dynamic between these two barristers, but we look forward to the attempt to do so. A pairing of Cecil and Hotaru, for instance, could be interesting.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 04

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This week Cecil wrestles with her entirely understandable and justified reservations with defending a Wud serial killer who not only murdered fifteen wizards, but by all accounts thoroughly enjoyed doing so. Thus the show brings up the concept of universal versus personal justice: regardless of a wizard’s crime, it’s the duty of a Wizard Barrister to defend them to the fullest extent of the law, countering the prosecution’s efforts.

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Chouno Ageha can understand Cecil’s reticence, but has no intention of sugar coating the profession they’re in, no matter how young and inexperienced she is, Cecil has to understand that some clients are monsters, and even monsters have rights. That’s the law, and as long as it is, Ageha will always defend the accursed, even when their threats and crimes become personal. In this case, they win life imprisonment and remanding to a psych facility due to the accused’s dissociation personality disorder, which his twin brother attests to. Of course, the moment we saw the accused’s twin brother, we just knew he’d turn out to be another bad guy.

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We’re a little disappointed that Cecil lets herself get lured into a giant dark chamber where there’s no metal to form Diaboloids; one would hope such a talented wizard would know the limitations of her powers and mind her surroundings accordingly. Not to mention she went off on her own once she learned the truth, which was just plain dumb. This episode underlined that no matter how bright and driven and talented Cecil is, without the last-minute intervention of her colleagues, she’d have been killed at least five times in four episodes already.

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Mind you, we kinda enjoy the fact that even when she finds out the bad guys’ evil scheme, her fallibility is exposed in how she acts in response to the knowledge. There’s also the distinct feeling that confrontations with her are being set up in an effort to awaken more of her powers (this week she gets sand magic), which, combined with the twin’s knowledge of her condemned mom, suggests Cecil is being targeted for some dread purpose she (and we) know not what. We for one hope Cecil tries to learn more about her “admirers” and perhaps plan the appropriate countermeasures.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 03

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WizBar’s appeal for us isn’t merely the fact that they spice up the otherwise relatively dry arena of law with wizards and magic, but the fact that those wizards aren’t wholly accepted members of society. We learn that wizards (or rather “Wuds”) are born human but “awaken” to their power, typically around puberty. In other words, they don’t have a say in the matter, and it could happen to anyone.

Despite this, due to their frightening powers, much of society is heavily prejudiced towards them. Wuds aren’t even allowed to have certain jobs, which is why after Hachiya Mitsuhisa awakened, he was discharged as a prosecutor and took up barristering. Every indication is that the community of Wuds needs all the help they can get to avoid getting a raw deal in the very draconian magic justice system.

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Cecil became a barrister primarily to save her mom from unjustice, but in this outing she learns just how difficult that task will be. Even if the prejudice of non-magical people didn’t lead to trumped-up charges and excessive sentences, there are Wuds who are so sick and tired of how shittily they’re treated that they resort to becoming the very monsters their detractors fear.

Lacking solid evidence that Mayu, the Wud in question, killed her victim to avenge her framed boyfriend (whom Hachiya prosecuted two years ago, before he became a Wud), she is spared the death penalty. Rather than celebrate, she uses the verdict to put the court itself on trial for hypocrisy and incompetence, and racked with guilt, Hachi releases her bindings so she can carry out her sentence on him.

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Only she wants to kill everyone there. What’s so tragic is that she not so consumed with grief and hatred towards her enemies, she might’ve lived long enough to reveal to Cecil the secret conspiracy she’s caught wind of, one that’s been hanging out on the fringes of this show all along, and further hinted at when Cecil is approached by two skeezy headhunters from a rival firm.

Cecil continues to have quite an eventful time as a new barrister, to the point that just her second trial results in her awakening to an all-new form of magic. There’s Something Going On; there’s a prophecy involving Cecil, and parties in the shadows that are interested in her. It’s another layer of what’s shaping up to be a rich and satisfying tapestry.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 02

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As big and bold as the first episode was, Cecil’s job was only half-done: she had to save her client from wrongful prosecution and execution, which meant proving he wasn’t a member of the robbery gang and acted in self-defense. And while Cecil is a very capable, driven young lady, even she can’t acquire that proof on her own.

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It’s a team effort, with a sizable assist by Ageha, who seems quite comfortable bending or breaking a couple laws to get the location of the gang’s hideout. And while she seems troubled by such misconduct, with a life in her hands, Cecil isn’t going to sweat the little things. We also learn that her mom is also on death row, and her ultimate goal is to successfully defend her in a retrial.

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The first episode gave us a brief glimpse of her metal-harvesting diaboloid powers, but this week, with the entire Tokyo waterfront as her battlefield, Cecil conjures a massive mecha that she pilots. You might say: what the heck does a lawyer need with a mecha? Well, breaking it out means the gang responds in kind, and once they have a witness in custody, he is the proof that sets her client free in the eleventh hour.

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Collateral damage and ethical shortcuts aside, Cecil gets the job done, but we like how she has yet to win everyone over in the firm, while also attracting the gaze of shadowy figures in her line of work she’s sure to cross paths with in the future. But for now we’ll bask in her first victory, making her 1-0—undefeated so far!—delivered with a plucky blend of giant-robot fighting and courtroom drama.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 01

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It’s too early to tell (Witch Craft Works was also immensely promising in its first two eps) but we may have chosen to watch the wrong magic-themed show this Winter! Wizard Barristers (which we’ll refer to as WizBar for the rest of this review) storms out of the gate with a bold and bodacious opening episode with a little bit of everything. It’s high on style, accompanied by enough substance to hold our interest and leave us eager to watch episode two.

First of all, we must explain why we’re approximately three months late with this review: we weren’t aware of its existence—or at least in its existence as a show we’d want to watch—until it was recently recommended by a friend. We also dove in knowing that Umetsu Tasuomi is an immensely capable director (even when he has to insert hentai in his works) and that scriptwriter Itou Michiko is responsible for a lot of stuff we’ve liked (Working!!, Moretsu Pirates).

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This show also gives us a sneak-peek of Tanabe Rui, who will be voicing a main character in an upcoming Spring series. She attains a nice balance of cuteness, confidence, idealism and intensity as half-Canadian rookie wizard barrister Cecil Sudou. Her introductions at the Butterfly Law Firm serve as our introductions to the eclectic legal staff, whose opinions on Cecil range from admiration to haughtiness.

But as she’s already brought in a client before setting foot in the office (snagging him at the crime scene where he’s arrested), senior partner Ageha Chouno forgives her tardiness and lets her take the case. We’ll admit to being fans of law procedurals from Law & Order to Boston Legal, so it’s great to see the genre represented in anime form, and with a magical twist.

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An important part of enjoying a show is liking the characters it throws at you, and our initial impressions of Cecil are very positive. She’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; an immensely talented legal prodigy still getting accustomed to life as an adult that we can’t help but root for. We also appreciated the show pulling out all the stops from the get-go, featuring a Die Hard film’s worth of action and ‘splosions.

But we’re not under any illusions things will be that intense every episode. Despite that, we’re definitely going to continue watching. While both shows are heavy on the oddly-dressed people, the world of WizBar has a decidedly more mature and serious feel to it than the more Candy Landish-Witch Craft Works, and even minor criminals have a dangerous edge to them. We figure by about the fourth episode, we’ll know if in fact, we watched the wrong magic show.

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