Otaku USA Magazine
Magical Circle Guru Guru [Review]

A blast from the past!

After 300 years, the evil Demon King Giri has broken free from his imprisonment, ready to threaten the peaceful land of magic with all of his power. The King calls forth the land’s greatest heroes to fight this menace. What he gets, however, is Nike, a sneaky village boy who never wanted the job, and Kukuri, wielder of the mysterious magic called “Guru Guru” and the last of the spell-casting Migu Migu clan. Together, they depart their home village to fulfill the quest to defeat Giri and save the world from his dark powers.

If this plot sounds familiar in any way, that’s because it is familiar. It comes from Magical Circle Guru Guru, a classic 90s manga written as a light-hearted parody of RPG games. The manga was previously adapted into two shows, one airing in the 90s, and the other airing in 2000. This summer 2017 anime, airing during the manga’s 25th anniversary, is a whole new reboot of the series, with animation being done by Production I.G. And what a reboot it is.

Bringing video games to TV isn’t a new trend. But what other shows can you say have lampooned RPG elements that games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy have easily codified? One of Guru Guru’s greatest strengths lies in its comedy, taking every chance it can to poke fun at everything RPG-related in a barrage of rapid-fire jabs. One minute, there’s a joke about a character’s hit points, and right after that, a joke about avoiding monsters in a dungeon hits you right where it hurts. In many of these instances, the show almost feels like a comedy instead of a fantasy adventure, and the RPG-esque plot is merely a setting designed to fuel these jokes.

I have to make note of the fact that this show loves weaving 8-bit-style graphics into its antics. They don’t appear that often, but when they do, it’s flat-out cool, and it always emphasizes the humor built within the series. If this were the 90s, these kinds of gags would be impossible, and kids would have no idea what to make of these moments. We can thank today’s advancement in animation technology for putting us in the mind-set of the journey that we’re on, and also making it flat-out funny.

There are also RPG-styled text boxes making fun of all of these wacky events; they pop up and leave just as quickly. This quirk alone is a neat economic trick that enhances the comedic timing of many things, rather than just have a character speak this sort of thing out loud. In addition, scenes with long monologues that are meant to waste time are either reduced to background noise or simply told to get out of the way. It mimics how a child might respond to stuff like this; speed past the dialogue and let me fight monsters, please.

The whole show itself acts like someone’s hitting the fast-forward button one too many times. It’s my understanding that the original anime adaptations, while remaining faithful to the manga, included a lot of original filler. This latest rendition, on the other hand, seems to preserve the major parts of the story while cutting away most of the fat, much like one attempting to chisel a block of marble into a fine sculpture. This also helps to make the core cast consistent in their characterizations. You know who the heroes are, and this show doesn’t set time aside for any jokes that would make you not want to root for any of them.

It’s these fun touches that make Magical Circle Guru Guru such an energetic good time. It doesn’t try to do anything groundbreaking. It doesn’t try to pull off any dark twists or set up gritty plotlines. In fact, it doesn’t even look like it wants to. If anything, it just wants to be a funny show about RPG gimmicks, and it’s far more rewarding for it. If you’re looking for something that’ll remind you of the Saturday morning cartoons of old, look no further. Recommended.

studio/company: Crunchyroll
available: Now
rating: Not Rated

This story appears in the February 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.