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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Kotoura-san – 09

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Kotoura recovers after passing out after having read the mind of a criminal who is killing high school girls, including one who attended their school. She’s scared and lets Manabe spend the night, but Moritani intervenes. The detectives on the case question the ESP society, but they know they wouldn’t believe Kotoura if she said she was psychic. Rumors spread around school that she knows who the killer is but is withholding the information to save her own skin. Her grandfather invites the society to a fancy dinner where they cross paths with Kotoura’s mother. She tells her she’s made friends and is doing well. Moritani is in an alley with a dead student, with blood on her hands.

This was a dense and nicely-layered episode, blending comedy and serious drama like a harmonious marble pound cake (that’s good). There’s a lot going on, and a lot to like, starting with Kotoura feeling she can trust and rely on Manabe at a time when she doesn’t want to be alone (and more to the point, shouldn’t be); unfortunately, a meddling Moritani foils their plans to stay together for the night. No matter how unlikely, if the serial killer is telepathic like Kotoura, she’s in just as much danger as his/her random victims. We were a little shocked at the cavalier-ness with which the rumors about the murders spread; everyone seems a bit to giddy about all this, but then we remember, these are high schoolers, many of whom are horrible, half-formed human beings who feed off the pain and misery of others.

It was also nice to show the pressure Kotoura is under while rumors about her spread (again, thanks to Moritani). But in both this situation and later when she bumps into her mother and freezes, she realizes that she’s not alone; her friends, in particular Manabe, have her back; literally, in the case of the restaurant encounter. It’s a nicely-choreographed scene in which she retreats backwards at her mother’s harsh words, but is “caught” by Manabe and Yuriko. We also continue to like how while her mother is still a total bitch, she’s not totally inhuman, and even steps up to defend her daughter when Manabe gets a bit too rowdy. As for the post-credits scene with Moritani in that alley with a body…well, frankly we knew she was no good the moment she ordered a hit on Manabe.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. A hasty Yuriko believing Kotoura’s gramps will take them out to a fancy restaurant leads to a pretty awesomely hilarious visual when gramps initially them to a hole-in-the-wall, when she Manabe and Muroto are dressed for the prom. (she also rocks twin tails, a definite highlight of the episode XD).