Case Number 05281

NURSE WITCH KOMUGI: A VACCINE FOR HUMANITY (VOLUME 1)

ADV Films // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // September 30th, 2004

The Charge

A magical nurse is born.

Opening Statement

Earth is threatened by rampaging viruses. Our only hope for survival rests on the shoulders of Komugi, a carefree teenage girl, and Mugimara, her alien rabbit sidekick. Will they be able to defeat the forces of evil before the school bell rings? More importantly, will Komugi be able to survive the constant jibes regarding her flat chest?

Facts of the Case

Escaping from his prison on Vaccine World, the virus lord Ungara flees to Earth. Maya, goddess of Vaccine World, dispatches her servant Mugimara to capture Ungara; Mugimara, armed with a syringe-shaped magic wand, will not be able to accomplish this on his own, as anyone from Vaccine World performing magic on Earth will be driven insane. Upon his arrival on Earth Mugimara meets Komugi Nakahara, a young wannabe cosplay idol and actress; Komugi agrees to help him, unaware she'll soon be in over her head.

The Evidence

Spun off from the Soultaker series, this jiggle fest is little more than an excuse to place cute high school age girls wearing skimpy outfits in a variety of absurd situations -- or is it? The more familiar you are with the conventions of anime, the more you're likely to enjoy this series, as it satirizes and sends up said conventions. Then again, I could be completely off-base; I've always viewed Starship Troopers as Paul Verhoeven's way of satirizing the gung-ho World War II movies of the '40s, and plenty of people have told me I'm wrong about that. Maybe what we have here is nothing more than a cartoon for people with subscriptions to Barely Legal magazine, but I don't think so.

The episodes of this series unfold in a standard pattern: Komugi is seen screwing up her job as either a cosplay idol or amateur actress (she's not very good at either), then a virus-related threat appears and she transforms into her Magical Nurse Witch alter ego in order to combat the threat. (In case you're wondering, yes, she does lose her clothes during the transformation.) Before all the trouble begins there's usually a cat fight between Komugi and her well-endowed rival Megu, a scene of Komugi taking a bath, and Komugi wishing she were more like her friend Koyori, a highly successful cosplay idol (whose fame is due in large part to her large parts). There are a few exceptions to this formula, as in the third episode when Komugi and Koyori share a bath, or the same episode's three annoying pop song interludes, but that's about it.

Oh, yeah -- Koyori has been tapped by Ungara to be his instrument of destruction, Magical Maid Koyori, although both she and Komugi seem to be unaware of this; unlike her friend, Koyori has no control over her other persona, nor does she seem to remember any of the acts she commits during this time. Don't ask me how no one is able to recognize Komugi or Koyori after they've transformed; you think they'd at least be able to recognize each other, especially considering how much time Komugi spends ogling her friend's chest, but this could be part of the joke.

Okay, now back to the point I was trying to make about this being satire. (I recognize that up until now I haven't really made my case; in fact, I've probably just been shooting myself in the foot.) There are numerous times during these three episodes when the plot arrives at a standard anime situation only to have the situation undermined and ridiculed. Characters will point out the absurdity of the situation, or the fact that the bit has already been beaten to death elsewhere. I think my favorite examples appear in the first two episodes. Episode One features a runaway computer virus that turns its victims into ASCII characters; the virus manifests itself in the form of a giant cat (don't ask), and it assaults its female targets with large, probing tentacles. Episode Two features a battle between the Nurse Witch and the Magical Maid in which Koyori uses a convention hall and various forms of public transportation in order to construct a combat mecha; Koyori interfaces with the mecha through a series of large, probing tentacles, which I guess qualifies it as a running gag. Komugi responds by calling in the characters from Gatchaman (which, because it's the original series, means no stupid 7-Zark-7), and we're treated to a sequence which so perfectly mimics that show that the talent behind Nurse Witch Komugi would be perfect choices for a Gatchaman revival.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, and maybe Starship Troopers isn't the best analogy (at least everybody here seems to be in the joke); a better example might be the works of Mel Brooks (not Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles level Brooks, but before he lost it totally, so maybe History of the World Part One level Brooks). I think the creators of this series have an obvious fondness for anime and all its trademarks, good and bad. Like Brooks, however, they aren't above (or below) gently guying that which they love. It's not great (or subtle), but it is fast and funny enough to be entertaining.

This disc is a technical homerun. The only thing standing in the way of its being a grand slam is the appearance of some artifacts during a pan in one shot; colors are bright, vivid, and pop off the screen. The original Japanese stereo track is quite pleasing, with good channel separation, especially during the action scenes and musical numbers. I'd avoid the English dub; most of the characters here are teenagers, and it sounds as if the voiceover actors tried to get into character by taking hits of helium before entering the recording booth. There's a sizable list of extras here, with the quantity exceeding the quality. You get previews for other ADV titles, textless credits sequences, a pseudo-documentary in which we're privileged enough to see the animators sleeping, production sketches, character intros, a nonsensical (and seemingly endless) series of Japanese television spots, and a commentary featuring the director and star of the English version.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Sorry, they're in the judge's chambers watching the bathtub sequences in slow motion. Come to think of it, they've been back there an awfully long time. We should probably go check on them.

Closing Statement

Nurse Witch Komugi is a nice bit of relief from the gloomy, pretentious tenants of much of the anime imported to our shores. You can try to rationalize it like I have here, or you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. After all the thought I've put into defending it, though, I still don't think I'll be able to look at myself too closely in the mirror.

The Verdict

All charges against ADV Films, the team at Mugi Migi Missions and the Soultaker Production Committee are hereby dropped, with the understanding they won't tell my mother what I've been watching. Court is adjourned, mugi!

Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 97
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Clean Opening/Closing
* Character Introductions
* Documentary
* Production Sketches
* Japanese TV Spots
* Director/Cast Commentary

Accomplices
* Official Site
http://www.advfilms.com/titles/komugi/