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  Nurse Witch Komugi Idol Life
Year: 2002
Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto, Matsugo Arakawa
Stars: Haiko Momoi, Ikui Otani, Yuji Ueda, Ai Shimizu, Akiko Hiramatsu, Atsuko Enomoto, Ikue Otani, Masaya Onosaka, Michiko Neya, Mitsuki Saiga, Yukari Tamura
Genre: Comedy, Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Scatterbrained seventeen year old Komugi Nakahara (voiced by Haiko Momoi) is a cosplay idol. Which is basically a pretty girl who wears racy fetish outfits at comic conventions and promotional events. It is a big business in Japan and Komugi has legions of fans. Working for a beleaguered cosplay agency run by fiery Yui Kirihara (Akiko Hiramatsu), Komugi is hustled from gig to gig by her long-suffering manager, Shiro Mibu (Masaya Onosaka) alongside rival cosplay idols voluptuous Megumi Akiba (Atsuko Enomoto), intimidating child star Runa Tokisaka (Michiko Neya) and Asuka Sakurai (Yukari Tamura), a serious actress fallen on hard times. Somehow Komugi always manages to botch her latest job, whether fluffing her lines on the set of an action movie, geeking out over her boy crush male idol Kyosuke Date (Mitsuki Saiga) or endless screaming matches with Megumi. Komugi also hides a pretty substantial secret. She leads a double-life as a magical super-heroine called Nurse Witch Komugi, dedicated to protecting the Earth from Ungrar, an evil entity whose plans for world domination somehow always involve threatening the anime and manga fan community...

More than ten years on from its original release the deceptively innocuous Nurse Witch Komugi now stands as a reminder of a rather embarrassing period in the history of anime. Early into the millennium the Japanese animation industry was engulfed by “moe” (pronounced mo-eh), a sub-genre catering to young men obsessed with sappy teen idols dressed in frilly fetish outfits. On the surface the genre does not sound any different from the maho shojo or magical girl anime that have been a genre staple for more than forty years. But whereas those were super-heroines with feisty, peppy personalities the average moe protagonist was a sappy, subservient sort. The perfect non-threatening girlfriend for socially awkward geeks. Moreover, moe sub-culture drew the focus away from compelling protagonists and challenging storylines and onto the art of cosplay wherein fans either dress up as favourite characters or cultivate a fan-base of their own via outrageous costumes. The actual anime serials spawned by the movement were almost entirely irrelevant, focused on squeaky-voiced idols caught in self-consciously silly stories often involving parodic references to genuine anime classics.

A bizarre spin-off OAV series from the altogether more serious adventure serial The Soul Taker (2001), wherein Komugi was a supporting character and Kyosuke the principal protagonist, Nurse Witch Komugi is a textbook example of moe. Despite fluid animation, vibrant chara designs and a hyper-manic pace there is not a whole lot of positives one can list about this tooth-rottingly sugary confection of cutesy characters, up-skirt shots, rampant silliness and relentlessly perky J-pop. The one interesting twist is that the principal villain happens to inhabit the unwitting body of Komugi's bosomy best friend and fellow cosplay idol Koyori (Ikue Otani) who periodically morphs into Magical Maid Koyori although the heroine remains so dumb she can't figure out they are the same person. However, the serial proves primarily interested in poking fun at the target audience whilst catering to their prurient desires as in the admittedly amusing sequence where Komugi greets a crowd of sweaty, geeky fans who bombard her with love songs, fan fiction and boring questions about anime. The serial is laden with gag references to other anime and even industry figures that will likely go over the heads of all but the most hardcore otaku. These include a parody of vintage tokusatsu shows wherein the building housing a comic book convention briefly transforms into a giant robot and a hilarious sequence styled after the classic Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972) – released in English as Battle of the Planets – with Komugi as all five heroes complete with vehicles. By and large though this is a vacuous reminder of a vacuous sub-genre that happily gave way to a more rewarding era in anime.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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