Ultra Maniac: Magical Stone (Volume 3) (DVD)

Every romantic comedy should have killer voodoo dolls and rampaging buffalos.

Straight-A student and tennis star Ayu Tateishi and her witch-in-training best friend Nina Sakura continue their misadventures, overcoming various troubles such as evil witches, insane butlers, and their nervousness around cute boys.

Time to brew our top-secret “episode list” potion:

• “Item”
Rival witch Maya teams up with magical mischief-maker Yuta to find the first of five Holy Stones before Nina does. It’s an all-out battle of the witches to see who can get their hands on it first.

• “Jack Straw”
Fed up with Nina, Maya creates a sinister-yet-cute voodoo doll in the hopes of frightening Nina to death. But thanks to a series of mishaps, Ayu is the one on the receiving end of the doll’s spooky antics.

• “Knight Spirit”
Sebastian, Maya’s borderline-insane butler arrives for a visit, bringing with him a heap of trouble. He just has to interfere in every aspect of Maya’s life, complicating things for both her and for Nina and Ayu. This sets in motion a chain of events that could only end with a giant buffalo trashing the school library.

• “Lovesick Night”
It’s a dream come true for Ayu when school heartthrob Kaji invites her to a local carnival to see the fireworks. Nina uses her magic to whip up a new outfit for Ayu to wear on this special occasion. That couldn’t possibly lead to trouble, could it?

Clearly, Ultra Maniac is getting better as it goes along. The only thing the girls did in the first volume was obsess over boys. By this volume, though, the series has received a huge injection of plot into its veins. Ayu and Nina are still hopelessly boy-crazy, but an ongoing story arc about them searching for the five missing “holy stones” gives them a lot more to do. The addition of Maya as a villain also provides some much needed conflict. The nerdy “Chairman” character who filled the antagonist role in the first volume is nowhere to be seen in this one. I didn’t miss him.

Despite the additions to the plot, the tone remains light and inoffensive, and almost every scene drips with pure sugary, syrupy sweetness. Some of the humor works, such as when the mass destruction-causing buffalo shows up out of nowhere. At other times, though, the comedy goes overboard with its craziness, especially during some of Sebastian’s hysterical rants.

Like before, the creators insist on constantly reusing a CGI-rich transformation sequence whenever Nina is about to use her magic powers. It looks pretty enough, but it grossly interrupts the momentum of any given scene. Take, for example, the above-mentioned buffalo. While destroying the school library, it spots Nina and her friends, and prepares to charge. That’s when Nina goes through her minute-long transformation. Are we to believe a ticked-off buffalo is just standing there while this is happening?

The full screen image here is pristine, with bright, vivid colors. The sound is also good, although it might be a little too much for your ears to take when the girls’ over-excited shouting gets out of hand. The only extras are trailers for other Geneon releases.

For a giggly girl cartoon overflowing with cuteness and adorableness, Ultra Maniac is actually pretty entertaining.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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