Breakin' the Law.
The only thing worse than wizardly crimes are anime crimes, and who better to be your advocate in these arcane matters than “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”? Each week we peruse our ancient tomes of eldritch knowledge to provide additional info and cultural context for a title in Crunchyroll's library to help would-be mages decide whether or not they'd like to add it to their spellbook.
What's Wizard Barristers?
Wizard Barristers is an original TV anime from 2014 with direction by Yasuomi Umetsu (Kite Liberator, “Presence” in Robot Carnival) and animation production by Arms (Maoyu). Crunchyroll describes the story of Wizard Barristers as follows:
Wizard Barristers takes place in the near future of 2018, where wizards and humans live side-by-side in Tokyo. While police continue to protect the rest of society, wizards are tried according to magical laws in special courts defended by wizard barristers. Cecile Sudo has just become the youngest wizard barrister at age 17, and begins work at the Butterfly Law Offices. However, unbeknownst to her, she has tremendous magical potential…
The elevator pitch for Wizard Barristers is that it's basically Law & Order meets Harry Potter, with a liberal dose of tremendous, magically-induced explosions and some giant alchemical robot fights thrown in for good measure. There's also a bit of police procedural in there as well, but the bulk of the series is a courtroom drama that focuses on the exploits of Cecile Sudo and the titular "wizard barristers" of Butterfly Law Offices, who defend people accused of magic-related crimes.
Toil and Trouble.
Although the series is set in Japan, the magic in Wizard Barristers hews closer to the Hermetic traditions of the Western world. Wizards (commonly known as “Wuds”) reshape reality by drawing magical pentangles and summoning circles, and by channeling forces reminiscent of the Aristotelian elements (fire, water, earth, air, etc.).
There's also an evil conspiracy that dabbles in the sort of demonology and blood sacrifice evocative of Satanic black magic. Within the setting of Wizard Barristers, the use of any magic is viewed as disruptive at best and potentially illegal at worst.
An Imperfect Allegory.
As a result of the prohibitions on magic, Wizard Barristers serves as a socio-political allegory with wizards substituting as historically marginalized people. Wuds must register with the government upon awakening to their powers, and they cannot hold public office. Furthermore, it's clear that the Court of Magic that administers criminal justice for wizards is both riddled with corruption and way too eager to dish out the death penalty.
It's not a perfect metaphor. Like other pop culture works that tackle heavy issues like racism and structural inequality, Wizard Barristers doesn't do the best job pleading its case that the laws singling out the wizards are intrinsically dehumanizing and unfair, mostly because the series can't pass up an opportunity to have high-octane wizard fights in the middle of heavily populated urban areas.
Many of the mages in Wizard Barristers have familiars – guardian spirits resembling animals that act as assistants to their wizard masters – and one such familiar is a bit problematic. Voiced by the incomparable Norio Wakamoto in the original Japanese, Cecile's familiar, Nana Genie, is an inexplicably perverted frog familiar who tends to grope, tease, and sexually harass Cecile at every opportunity. This kind of material played for comedy isn't everyone's cup of tea, so viewer discretion is advised.
Putting On Your Robe and Wizard Hat.
Crunchyroll currently streams Wizard Barristers in 29 territories around the world, including the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The series is available in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English, Spanish, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. Wizard Barristers is also released on Bluray and DVD in North America by Sentai Filmworks.
Part crime drama, part magical adventure, part shadowy apocalyptic conspiracy, Wizard Barristers borrows liberally from several genres to create a unique viewing experience. If you're in the mood for a show that focuses as much on magic as it does on the minutiae of criminal and civil code, and if the series is available in your area, then please consider giving Wizard Barristers a try.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.