Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil

Title:Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil
Keywords: , , , ,
Notables: Animation - ARMS
UMETSU Yasuomi
In 2018, humans and wizards live together in Tokyo. Police continue to protect order in society, but wizards are tried according to magical law, in special courts defended by wizard barristers. At age seventeen, Cecile has just become the youngest wizard barrister, and begins work at the Butterfly Law Offices. While she hasn't realized it yet, she has tremendous magical potential.
(Summary Courtesy of Anime News Network)

[TV series, 2014, 12? episodes, 24 min; original story; Animated by Studio ARMS]

Benmashi Cecil's family name contains the kanji "魔" ("ma") for "witch, demon" and "士" ("shi") for "gentleman, samurai".
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Watch 9 9 8 6 5 6 Ggultra2764 [series:2850#1552]
Well, this was wasted potential. On paper, Wizard Barristers had a potentially interesting premise with its law office perspective on a world where wizards face discrimination and get wrongly prosecuted for crimes due to a flawed and sometimes prejudiced judicial system. The show starts off as an episodic look at cases such as this where the Butterfly Law Office try to defend their clients on cases and the series exploring a number of the flaws that the judicial system in Wizard Barristers has when it comes to defending wizards, a major aspect of this shown through Cecil's efforts to try proving her mother's innocence for a crime she was framed for. The second half of the series hints to a secret wizard cult desiring Cecil for mysterious reasons and the Butterfly Law Office getting entangled in things as they come to realize that events with Cecil and her family are connected to the cult's activities.

It is the second half of the series that leads to much of the show's downfall. While it does allow Cecil's character to be more fleshed out with her connections to the mentioned cult, this comes at the cost of the world exploration that the first half had with exploring human and wizard tensions through the judicial system of Wizard Barristers. The reasons that the cult have for needing Cecil are rather cliched (world domination for wizards -yawn-) and build up to a rather underwhelming and rushed conclusion that felt like somewhat of a cop-out when it looks like things are about to get worst for the good guys, yet conveniences in plot prevent things from getting too dire.

The second half developments aren't the only things that cripple Wizard Barristers. Beyond Cecil, most of the other characters get limited to no fleshing out of their characters that leave you little reason to care for any connection they have to Cecil. Also for a show that is supposed to seem serious with its premise, the comedy and random ecchi bits peppered in at points within the show felt really out of place for this series, notably scenes where Nanagenie attempts perverted acts on Cecil and a hostage episode where Cecil and one of her pals dress up in corny sentai hero costumes. Then again considering Studio Arms and Yasuomi Umetsu are involved in making this series, I should have expected these bits to be included with the series in some form.

About the only genuine praise I can give this series is for its visual presentation. It's easily among the best animated titles this season with highly detailed scenery shots and character designs, plus having plenty of fluid movement and nicely-rendered CG animation for the show's elaborate action sequences with wizards squaring off against one another with their magic, especially when they create giant robots (this I'm not kidding about) for a clash. Only sore point with visuals was the rather limited animation seen in a decent chunk of the televised airing of episode 11, though I imagine this will be improved on for the title's video release.

Praises aside for visuals though, Wizards Barristers had wasted potential as a series thanks to its focus shift in later episodes, out-of-place ecchi and comedy bits, underdeveloped characters and a sloppy resolution when everything is settled. This is certainly among one of the year's underwhelming titles that I've seen thus far.

Last updated Sunday, March 30 2014. Created Sunday, March 30 2014.
Unevaluated Stretch [series:2850#628]
(Eight episodes watched):

About the first thing that struck me about Wizard Barristers was the character designs--I bet these are from the same person as Kite and several other anime. Anyway, this seems to be a strange twist on the all-too-popular magic genre—this time, magical lawyers. Well, better to add a new twist to a tired genre than to churn out yet another generic magical combat show (though the OP sequence suggested that there would be more than enough destruction and mayhem to satisfy any viewer). The action is pretty cool, by the way. But this show seemed to hold itself to a higher standard, and the plot seemed to be going somewhere besides the next fight scene. However, I got nervous here and there as trite, stereotypical touches showed up--like mysterious and surely evil men watching the heroine Cecil from a distance. Cecil seemed like a nice girl who I could root for. In general, Barrister turned out to be better than I had expected and I was curious to see where the story would go. Would the series take off in a fresh and fun manner or not?

Episode two, however, suggested that this would by no means be a brilliant, envelope stretching show. The events were pretty predictable: 'Hey, since we are magicians ourselves, let's go catch the bad guys on our own!'. If they are going to keep doing that throughout the series, and both the magical battles and the courtroom scenes are going to be as unexceptional as these were, the future did not look bright for Wizard Barrister. Despite the modestly original spin, this seemed like a pretty average show. Apparently we're supposed to feel sorry for wizards because they are treated so harshly in this society, but it's hard to pity people who have awesome power at their disposal while the rest of us don't. After four episodes I couldn't help feeling that while this show was modestly interesting, it wasn't living up to it's potential. It seemed like a car stuck in low gear and unable to accelerate.

While the wizard/lawyer angle is unusual, and gives the show much of it's potential, here neither angle is particularly outstanding. I'd rather watch an excellent show about either lawyers or wizards than what is essentially a meld of average ones about each. That is, a show with an ordinary premise but which handles it well rather than one which has an odd premise but is otherwise unexceptional. I've said it before and I'll say it again: magic, in and of itself, is not all that mind-blowing a subject, and it won't work well without the usual virtues of good characters and good writing. Magic is basically an excuse to ignore the laws of physics whenever the writers wish, which many anime makers seem to think means it is an easy shortcut around the inconvenient need for what happens in a story to make sense. But impossible things becoming possible can easily be confusing, which means some extra explanation is often needed to keep things intelligible--in other words, magic demands more storytelling skill, not less.

The long term plot seems to be that Cecil is being repeatedly tested by some secret organization to see what level her magical powers have reached. No doubt she has some incredible latent abilities which will surface later on. But since I don't find magic in and of itself to be all that interesting, I have a hard time really caring. How do these guys know that she has such potential? Magic, no doubt! Episode six seemed rather tired and nonsensical, and in the end was just another of these spooky tests of Cecil's skills--but I was getting impatient for something interesting to happen. The moment Cecil, while visiting the US, is warned that a vicious criminal is on the run somewhere, the first thought that crosses your mind is 'Oh, Cecil will run into this person'. And you'll be right. It just goes to show how predictable and unsurprising this show is. So little everyday detail is included that whenever a bit of it shows up, it has to be an important part of the plot and thus brazenly stands out. That's another reason why this show frustrates me--because so little skill is devoted to telling an interesting and unpredictable story.

I once read the clever observation that when a storyteller withholds just the right amount of information from the audience, and feeds the missing parts of the story to them at just the right rate, the result is a sense of mystery, intrigue, and a desire to know more. But when too much information is withheld, the result is liable to be frustration and apathy. That, unfortunately, is exactly what effect Cecil has had on me. A major mecha/magic battle took place in episode eight, but I found that I hardly cared how it would wind up. Instead, I was annoyed that this series was trying to thrill me yet again but hadn't given me a ounce of the stuff I really wanted--namely, an explanation of why Cecil's 'latent powers' are so important, and why I should care. The two-parter story in episodes seven and eight was so inexplicably uninteresting and unexciting that I realized that I might as well abandon this show altogether. I was tired and angry at being strung along by a story which, when it came to the main plotline, never managed to deliver much of anything. Whatever the evolving story behind the series as a whole is, it has been so dull so far that I can no longer believe that it will ever amount to anything. The only conclusion I can draw about this show is that it was a tremendous waste of potential, all glitz and no substance. This is all the more exasperating because in so many ways, it seemed to have so many things going for it. Somebody must have been determined to make it fail, and found a way to do so.

Last updated Friday, March 28 2014. Created Thursday, January 16 2014.

Other Sites
Official Japanese Series Web Site http://wizardbarristers.com/

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