A review of Wizard Barristers

I’m just going to go ahead and spoil all of Wizard Barristers for you on the off chance that I can spare you from watching it: Sudou Cecil was killed and brought back to life with forbidden magic in order to summon Lucifer who ends up as the chronically chirpy Moyo; Makusu (judge) is, like his son Shimizu (police officer), hiding his identity as a wizard but ends up killing him and is the one trying to summon the Lord of Darkness. There should now be no reason for you to investigate the series further because combined with screenshots, you’re saving time and oxygen and getting a better experience than watching it.

Characters burst into the courtroom like it’s a celebrity wedding that must be stopped

It’s difficult to fully appreciate how terrible Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil is without slipping into hyperbole and making it sound “so bad it’s good”. Make no mistake, this is just bad. To understand disappointment is to follow Yasuomi Umetsu’s directing career because although his character designs are bold, colourful and unique, his directing leaves a trail of disenchantment. It started so well with Kite if you ignore the rape (statutory or otherwise), then got freaky with Mezzo Forte and the lamentable Mezzo DSA, lackluster with Kite Liberator and topped off by Galilei Donna and now Wizard Barristers. Why people keep giving him directing positions is still a mystery.

Unlike Mezzo, though not quite as much as Galilei, Wizard Barristers has a clutch of decent ideas that are not so much poorly implemented but handled in the same way as an enraged orangutan would a tomato. All the pieces are there: an oppressed wizard underclass disliked by the masses and persecuted by police, a daughter fighting for her wrongly imprisoned mother and a psychopath blindly seeking more power. The former is most keenly felt with the two police officers whose mistrust of wizards is worn on their sleeves and though you would expect by the climax for at least one of them (the living one) to see their prejudice was misplaced, you can kind of sympathise with them.

Wizards are shown to be gung-ho, magic flinging nutters who kidnap, maim, murder and generally disrupt the peace in every way possible. Even Sudou who has the best of intentions often ends up laying waste to all the metal in a fifty kilometer radius just to build her poorly CG animated “metalmoloid”. The magical court that supposedly sentences wizards comes off as impotent and is attacked on no less than three occasions - posing the question of why someone doesn’t just install safety glass around the accused - and Sudou herself is kidnapped enough to give her a complex. It’s easy to understand why she is though: not only does the overarching plot demand it (however tenuous the reasoning), her personality falls the wrong side of the earnest/annoying divide meaning she is infuriatingly passive to the absurd events happening around her.

Those events start as episodic cases revolving around the misuse of magic by criminals. Had the series stuck with this format it would have likely been immensely more enjoyable because it evokes the same kind of off-beat police procedural format that was rejuvenated in Japan with the 1999 live action series Keizoku (Unsolved Cases). Unfortunately Wizard Barristers misses the point with those types of series by diverting attention away from the people involved and focusing on the misadventures of Cecil and her frankly aggravating colleagues, with special attention give to the pompous and caustic Hotaru whose grating nature doesn’t subside until well into the final third.

By that point of course the budget has run completely dry thanks to complex character designs and a visually stunning but utterly superfluous opening scene from the first episode that no doubt burned through as many animators as it did money. Somewhat perversely, the penultimate episode dredges new levels through either a lack of time or functioning artists resulting in vast swathes of the episode comprised of conspicuously static frames with unconnected dialogue happening over the top; it was bad enough to make people believe their internet stream was throwing a hissy fit.

You’d be expected to do the same though if you tried to apply logic to any of the magic court sessions that takes the imbecilic legal tussle at the end of Galilei Donna and goes full bore by ignoring any semblance of due process, chain of custody or any kind of believable legal framework. Characters burst into the courtroom like it’s a celebrity wedding that must be stopped, handing in previously unheard of evidence and clinching the case. It essentially takes the fantasy theatre of Phoenix Wright and its ilk and strips away all the fun to leave you with counsellors that are consistently shocked that the villains they’re representing don’t tell the truth! That’s over and above all of the entrapment, one way hearsay arguments and anything a five year old could successfully argue against.

The litany of issues that Wizard Barristers has goes on and on until you get to the bottom when you’re levelling scorn on the pig familiar in makeup and the owl with boots on. From top to bottom this is a sad waste of animation that deserves its place on Umetsu’s increasingly woeful CV. Perhaps this series would have been better how I first imagined it: Wizard Baristas, kind of like Bartender crossed with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It’s no more outlandish than magical legal “professionals” but perhaps with the same team behind it would have ended up just as dreadful. To those who soldiered through expecting redemption, you have my condolences, to everyone else: do not be fooled by screenshots, GIFs or trailers, your life is better having not watched this series.

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