Rental Magica

April 28, 2024 · 1 comment

By Andrew Osmond.

Rental Magica begins like a gentler, less assertive, but actually more professional Ghostbusters. The setting is modern Japan, where many different groups of magic users exist to deal with paranormal imbalances, or as the characters put it, spell wave contamination. In one episode, it’s mentioned such contaminations have caused everything from the Marie Celeste mystery to the Tunguska cataclysm in Siberia in 1908, showing how wide-ranging and spectacular such phenomena are.

The anime focuses on a particular magic-user group called Astral, an underdog team. Its more gifted members include a girl witch called Honami who’s first seen jetting on her broomstick along a rainy highway in pursuit of a black hound of hell, hurling pins which explode like missiles. In comparison, the team’s “leader,” a boy called Itsui, seems hopelessly out of his depth, as he’s yanked along on a Shinto shimenawa rope by the angry canine. It’s not surprising when the creature is dispatched by a rival magic-user, the girl Adelecia of the Goetia society.

However, it’s soon apparent Astral isn’t quite the bunch of no-hopers that they first appear. Honami is seemingly overpowered for such a low-level outfit, but she stays with Astral because of a terrifying childhood experience that left her with a debt to Itsui. Itsui himself may seem entirely the wrong guy for the job, which he’s only in because his dad (missing) was Astral’s former president. As the inheritor, Istsui seems to have no special magic skills or knowledge – we see him frantically cramming like any other overloaded student. But he wears an eyepatch, and when it’s removed we see his right eye has an unearthly glow and it gives the boy a second personality that’s far more commanding… though in his “normal” state, Itsui seems barely aware of it.

The early episodes focus especially on Honami, Itsui and their rival Adelecia. They’re all teens who go to the same school in their non-magic lives. Honami and Adelecia are former friends, both hailing from England; while Adelecia is supposedly the enemy now, their relationship gets complicated soon enough. We also meet Astral’s other members, including the petite but very plucky junior Shinto practitioner Mikan. There’s also the hyper-elegant Nekoyashiki, who’s as enigmatic as the cats he commands, while more Astral team members join in time.

In fact, some turn up in episodes before they’re actually introduced, as the episodes aren’t in chronological order. The second episode takes place before the first, for example. You might think of Haruhi Suzumiya, which came out the year before Rental Magica, but it feels more like a precursor to another team series, the steampunk Princess Principal.

As noted, Mikan works in Shinto, whereas Honami is a specialist in Celtic magic from parts of Britain and Europe. (This is hardly anime’s only representation of Celtic culture; it suffuses much of Ancient Magus’ Bride, while the headless bike-riding heroine in Durarara!! is a “dullahan” from Irish lore who’s actually called Celty.) In one episode, the Astral characters are asked to placate a god which resides in a Shinto shrine, and its priestess apologetically tells Honami that, as a foreign witch, she’s barred from the shrine’s inner sanctum. A consummate professional, Honami accepts the rule with grace.

In Rental Magica, other magic systems are in play – for instance, Adelecia is a practitioner of European sorcery, as suggested by her society’s name, Goetia.  The show’s tone is light, but not irreverent – the forces the characters are handling are profound and dangerous. One early episode has a formless soul-eating monster that prowls a hospital at night, using urban legends as its sustenance, like something from Boogiepop Phantom.

The series was based on a light novel series by Makoto Sanda; somewhat unusually, he was also one of the lead writers on the anime version. Animation production was by the ZEXCS studio, which mostly did below-the-line work in anime. The pastel-coloured series looks like a proficient but unassuming product of its time – it was broadcast in Japan in 2007-8. However, ZEXCS would go on to make one of the most unusual TV anime ever made, the rotoscoped Flowers of Evil.

Familiar Japanese voices in the cast include Jun Fukuyama, Lelouch in Code Geass, as Itsuki, and Rie Kugimya, who voiced Al in both anime versions of Fullmetal Alchemist, as Mikan.

Andrew Osmond is the author of 100 Animated Feature Films. Rental Magica is released in the UK by Anime Limited.


  • Avatar for Anime4Life


    May 8, 2024 11:58 pm

    Incredible! Long overdue review!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The latest news, articles, and resources, sent to your inbox weekly.

© 2020 Anime Ltd. All rights reserved.