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Favorite Episode
I like one of the last episodes, entitled "Untangle" ^_^ It was apparent that Ultra Maniac's ending and they had to do something about Kaji and Ayu :D Nina found out that Kaji's not the nice guy that he led everyone to believe. It bothered her a lot, because Ayu seemed to have this impression that Kaji's Mr. Perfect. Nina started hanging around with Kaji more in her attempts to understand him. Soon, the school was buzzing about how Kaji and Nina might be dating. This didn't escape Ayu ^_^ Nina, on the other hand, determined that Kaji's just being Mr. Perfect because that's how Ayu viewed him to be, which means he has feelings for Ayu :D Nina convinced him to confront Ayu and confess his feelings. Yay! After so many episodes of watching the two of them dance around each other (and me hoping Ayu would go for Tsujiai instead), this episode was a refreshing change :D It also shows that there's not a single deceitful bone in Nina's body ^_^

Ultra Maniac
Synopsis | Review

Until now, I still have no idea why this anime is called Ultra Maniac. It sounds like some hentai flick. Or a sporty shounen anime. I never really thought it would be a very shoujo, very mahou schoolgirl show, which is what it is.

Now that I think of it, I have no idea how I actually got around to checking it out in greater detail, which led me to watch it. But I'm glad I did. Ultra Maniac is by Yoshizumi Wataru, the same mangaka who created Marmalade Boy, yet another anime that has a weird title ;) And the seiyuu lineup is pretty good. Ayu's voice is by Horie Yui, the same seiyuu who did Honda Tohru in Fruits Basket. Nina's voice is by Kanda Akemi, who did Mawata in Pretear. Kaji's voice is by Kamiya Hiroshi, the same seiyuu who did Gatta in Final Fantasy: Spirits Within movie. Lastly, and also my favorite, Tsujiai's voice is by Chiba Susumi, who did Chiaki in Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. They were involved in other well-known titles also, but I indicated the ones I'm most familiar with :D So yeah, since I'm kind of familiar with the people behind Ultra Maniac, I was more motivated to watch it ^_~

Ultra Maniac has 26 episodes and is based on a manga (surprise, surprise). I went through 23 episodes in one day only to find out that I didn't have the last three. It was a terrible experience. Those events should be on some Cruel and Unusual Torture for Rabid Anime Fans list >_< Aside from the TV shows, Ultra Maniac also has an OAV, which was released first. If you're watching the TV shows, you're really not missing anything if you pass up on the OAV. It doesn't have the same storyline as the TV show, and the anime people pretty much incorporated most of the OAV storyline into some of the early episodes. The OAV tells the story of how Ayu and Nina first met the way the manga tells it. The TV show tells it differently. I haven't read the manga yet, so the synopsis and review are all about the anime :D

Synopsis
Tateishi Ayu is known around school for her cool good looks and everybody looks up to her. Her life has been quiet and uneventful until one night, when she was going to a corner store. Suddenly, a girl on a flying scooter came out of nowhere and pretty much crashed into her. The girl's name is Sakureal Nina and she's a witch in training. That evening, she got lost while looking for her host mother and father. Oh yeah, and she has a small, gray, kitten named Rio, who talks.

At first, Ayu refused to believe that she just met somebody capable of executing magic because that would probably mean she's going nuts. But for some reason, she kept running into Nina for the rest of the evening. In the end, she let Nina stay at her place just because it was so late and Nina still couldn't locate her host parents :D

Then the following schoolday, Ayu finds out that Nina registered at her school as a transfer student. Reportedly, Nina's grades at her magic school was so bad that she had to go to a human school for a while and improve her magic skills :D And so the madness begins. Nina's an irrepressibly cheerful girl who loves to help people using her magic computer. The thing is, she's still not good at magic, and her spells often backfire. She mostly tries to help Ayu get together with Kaji, the cute star of the baseball team. Some of their fiascos include a magic chocolate ball to make any guy confess his love to Ayu (which ended up taking effect on Kaji's best friend, Tsujiai), another magic chocolate balll to make anybody say what's on his or her mind (which ended up taking effect on Ayu while she's with Kaji), and a magic necktie that would make the wearer dodge any girl except for Ayu (supposedly for Kaji, but Nina decided Ayu wouldn't like it :P). And Ayu, who used to be well-known for being calm and unruffled, soon found herself running around and freaking out over various magical schemes.

Before long, Ayu and Nina had to deal with more pressing matters. Nina's childhood friend and rival, Mayu, also transferred to their school. Mayu practises black magic and unlike Nina, she's less concerned with helping people and more concerned pursuing her own interests, even if it meant hurting others. Visitors from Nina's hometown, the Magic Kingdom, also drop in every now and then to check things out. They include her grandfather, magic children who used to play with Nina, and another one of her childhood friends, a magical prodigy named Yuta. Last, but not the least, everybody in the Magic Kingdom appears to be scrambling after five holy stones, which hold great importance for Nina and Mayu. Along the way, Nina never stopped rallying for Ayu and Kaji, and she also found herself growing closer to Tsujiai.

Gradually, the story surrounding Nina's presence in the human world began to unravel. It turns out her reasons for leaving the Magic Kingdom is more than what meets the eye. The storyline becomes darker as Nina had to deal with the possibility that her friends in the human world would have to forget all memories of her at some point after she finishes her quest.

Review
This is a nice anime that'll make you smile. This is actually the first anime I watched that has two main characters...well, two heroines, to be exact. At one point, I found myself rooting for Ayu and Tsujiai, just because he's more mysterious and he always gets in the way between her and Kaji. But once I got it through my head that Ayu and Tsujiai won't happen, I quickly set my sights on him and Nina :D Oh yeah, and Ultra Maniac has this twist in the end that essentially gave everybody a happy ending. Great for those who couldn't stand watching important characters shrivel up and die in the end :D

Among all characters, I probably like Ayu the best, just because Nina comes off as a ditz most of the time. However, Ayu's role became less and less significant as the anime continued, because the focus is always on Nina. It might be fair to say that Nina's the main character in Ultra Maniac and Ayu's her beautiful best friend. In the same vein, Kaji's just the bishounen. He has less substance compared to Tsujiai. Really. If there's more Ayu and she ended up with Tsujiai, I probably would be raving about this anime :D It was kind of disorienting when I realized the spotlight's all on Nina because of the way the storyline's going. Oh yeah, and it sure is weird to think of Ultra Maniac as coming from the same creator who did Marmalade Boy.

The opening and ending sequences are okay. There's really no variation throughout the series, but considering you have to watch them 26 times (okay, you don't need to watch them. You can fast-forward), they're pretty good. The opening music is pretty girlish, while the ending music has a J-pop feel to it.

For 26 episodes, Ultra Maniac's not bad. Each episode contributes to the overarching storyline, but there appeared to be several nonsignificant elements thrown into the show, which kind of diluted things. Am I making sense here? Probably not. Ultra Maniac's worth checking out if you're into mahou schoolgirl shoujo anime. Just watch it as it is and don't go fantasizing about possibilities (like Tsujiai and Ayu) ;) Oh yeah, and make sure you got all episodes on hand, lest you get so hooked on it and couldn't wait what happens next ^_^

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