Manaria Friends

May 11, 2019

I never expected this series would see the day of light that it would get released. You see, a few years ago when Manaria Friends was scheduled to be released, it was then hit with some sort of unexplained problem that caused it to be postponed indefinitely. So instead, we got the very amazing and awesome sequel of Shingeki No Bahamut. So I suppose whatever technical issues they faced then were solved now since it finally got its airtime. Although it is set in the same world, it is entirely a different storyline and not related to that fantastic action adventure. The daily lives of 2 best friends from 2 different races studying and spending time together in this exclusive academy.

Episode 1
Princesses of their respective races, Anne and Grea are having breakfast together. Anne asks why Grea studies here at Manaria Academy and it is because Grea’s mom was an alma mater. Suddenly Lou comes crashing in. It seems there is an emergency at the library. The phoenix guardian is mad after Lou accidentally stepped on it. With the librarians having a hard time dousing the fire, Anne steps in and unleashes her frozen magic. In the aftermath, Hanna beats herself up over her uselessness to contain the emergency and believes she isn’t fit to be the class rep. Anne then returns to Grea and is shocked to find her still waiting at the same place just for her. I guess it’s too long the wait that it’s time to go get something to eat. Owen narrates he is one of the greatest paladins of the kingdom. But one day he is tasked to be in the service of the princess. He notes Anne is blessed with great magic and has long studied how to be an effective ruler while striving to improve herself, thus making her popular at school. However he noticed a hint loneliness in her smile. Owen keeps watch over her but he looks like a suspicious stalker…

Episode 2
Grea is in great pain that no magic or medicine can help. When Lou brings in forbidden books thinking it might help, Anne gets an idea and darts off. So she’s like rushing to every place and completing some sort of tasks to get the whatever? Man, why does this arduous journey feel like a method to get the ultimate video game cheat code or equipment?! Even when Anne makes it back, she still needs to analyse it?! You mean it’s not ready?! Can she make it?! Because now something is happening to Grea… Uhm… Just shedding her scales? But since she is fine, this brings a great relief to everyone. Yeah, Grea didn’t remember all that and didn’t realize how big that incident was. Grea gets embarrassed when Anne keeps some of her shed scales. Later Grea thinks her tail has grown bigger is a sign of getting fat. She tries to diet and hide it from Anne. But Anne eventually sees a tail and finds it splendid. Unfortunately Grea didn’t take that as a compliment as she walks away depressed. Was it something Anne said?

Episode 3
Anne and Grea head out to town. Anne thinks her incognito will work but everybody soon recognizes her. In town, they discover a secret alley that leads them to a shop filled with various (cosplay) clothes. Turns out this shop is owned by their teacher, Miranda and this is her big hobby. But since school prohibits a side job, Miranda agrees to let them take whatever they want just to keep quiet. And so Anne tries her hands trying different outfits, much to Miranda’s glee. Grea wants to stay out but the cosplay maniacs force it upon her. She looks beautiful in that dress to say the least. Later when the duo go boating, Grea can tell Anne is afraid since she is holding onto her tail. Anne lets out a secret that she cannot naturally swim although she can use magic to float, etc. Grea thanks her for letting her come along today. Anne so happy that she rocks the boat. Thankfully it did not capsize but has them in an ambiguous yuri position. The mood is right for Anne to ask if she can stay in her room for a sleepover. Sorry, Grea rejects. Anne sounds so surprised… The reason being Grea’s bad habit to sleep cuddling her tail. So embarrassing she doesn’t want Anne to see. After Miranda finishes class, instantly she pops up her atelier and let her passion run wild. Once done, all she needs is somebody to try them. Anne and Grea return to retrieve something they forgot. Welcome, my guinea pigs…

Episode 4
The test is coming so you can see everyone studying and putting their focus into that. But why does Anne feel so sad? Why does she look forlorn? Does she feel left out because she is smarter than the rest? So we see some flashback of her waltzing into some place whereby she saw and heard Grea playing piano underneath some giant beanstalk tree for the first time. The test come and go. I know Anne is so smart that she handed in her paper first and probably got full marks. But does she have to walk away like as though she’s still so sad about something? I mean, what’s eating her? Thankfully, Grea notices this. So she finds her sitting at the piano. So it turns out that she was lonely all the while. Yeah, I guess that happens when you’re a genius. So with the test over, this means she can continue to do friendship thinks with Grea. On a side note, why do I have a feeling this episode feels like promoting this particularly calming piano piece that is permeating throughout the episode?

Episode 5
Finally we get to see some action? The academy is under attack by waves of monsters. Hanna as the student council president is in charge however with buildings collapsing, the monsters advancing their invasion and those getting injured increasing, she is under immense pressure. Will she flip? She wonders what Anne would do in such situation. Anne and some of the other students and teaching staffs are located safely in the other half of the school. Anne wants to help but is reminded of her duty and stay put. With the situation worsening, Hanna makes the decision to abandon their base and evacuate. When they are at a final stretch, a golem pops out from the ground. Grea tackles it but is no match. But thankfully here comes Anne to help out. With Owen guarding her back, she summons a giant knight to stab through the golem. It crashes into a building before crumble. That is when the teacher calls this drill off! Looks like they’re going to take a while to fix this building. Anne is an observer and shouldn’t have intervened. Now look at the damage done. As a teacher tells Hanna the flaws in her leadership, another building goes down. School is going to be closed for a while. Flashback sees the student council planning this drill. Anne was really excited to participate but is told to only be an observer since this drill will help student think for themselves instead on relying on Anne’s powerful magic. Complain this, complain that. Promise this, promise that. What to do? The answer is still the same. Life is so unfair when Anne learns Grea will be part of the intercepting group.

Episode 6
Beach episode! Sexy girls in swimsuit! Oh yeah. While we see a furious beach volleyball game (Hanna using her super flaming spikes while Liz defends by bending her voodoo doll and use Lou to block them all!), we see Grea take Anne through some dark cave. Anne is reluctant to go but Grea insists it was her idea. After all, she wanted to practice without anyone looking and Grea promised to see it through with her. At the end of the cave, a beautiful scenery of ruins by the sea. Anne is still reluctant but after constant pestering by Grea to get into her swimsuit and to not even use any magic, we see Anne being very afraid of the deep waters as she clings on tightly to Grea. Cool Grea guides her on how to float. Anne struggles at first but once she gets the hang of it, it is the best and most beautiful experience ever. Yeah, she’s doing it naturally now. Thank goodness she learns quickly. Thanks Grea. Not sure what happened to the volleyball match but I guess everything got destroyed. You thought Hanna and Liz’s handshake meant something sportsmanship but their grip is so tight… At night, all play sparklers and fireworks. It’s Anne’s turn to pester Grea for a sleepover. Look who’s turning all nervous now.

Episode 7
It must be a slow day as Grea helps Anne with her library job. So bored that Anne reads a book on how to snag a man. It even comes with a love potion. She wonders if it will work on a girl. I guess they’re really bored and no one is visiting the library on a rainy day so Anne suggests playing hide and seek. Anne counts to 100 as Grea hides. Anne is confident to know where Grea is hiding but she’s not there. Slowly as she looks around, the enthusiasm turn into worries. Where are you Grea? Has she really vanished? I guess Anne regrets this game and calls out to her this instant. Then she floats down. Miss me? Instantly teary Anne hugs her. Found you anyway. Later as Grea is invited to drink tea with Anne, she is suspicious if she laced it with the love potion. It doesn’t help with Anne sounding pushy and suspicious. Uh huh. She made it extra special today… As they talk about the books they read, Anne says she reads the kind that would bring them closer. Much closer. Grea freaks out and spills her tea. Is Anne trolling or Grea just overthinking?

Episode 8
Today is a big day. It’s the school play. Miranda just finished putting on Grea’s costume and she looks stunning. Gorgeously stunning. However she is nervous and naturally her stomach feels pain. But Anne interprets that to an extreme point. She thinks it is really big trouble and will use her magic to cure her! Luckily Grea convinces her it isn’t such a big deal. To help calm her down, Anne starts reciting her lines from the play and Grea also follows suit. The play begins with Hanna belting out a spectacular opera-like hymn. With Anne realizing it would be their turn next, now it’s her turn for her stomach to feel pain. Nervous, aren’t we? Flashback to earlier in the morning, we see Hanna up early practising her lines, Grea also up early but still feels nervous and Anne… She just went back to sleep. Pretty confident, eh?

Episode 9
Tension between Anne and Grea?! Really?! It all started because Anne saw Hanna coming out from Grea’s room. Anne was upset that she wanted and begged to go to her room but was always refused. They’re not on talking terms and this awkward silence is causing those around them to fear! It gets worse when Hanna calls Grea for some help. Anne then avoids Grea like a plague. As Grea spends time alone, she remembers all the moments spent together with Anne. I guess that’s when the power of friendship says it is enough. Grea rushes to find Anne and finds her sitting at that piano. The power of friendship weaves its magic. Grea sits next to her, touches her hand and invites her to tea. Okay. There. Back to friends again. We see Hanna giving a brave speech to her fellow student council members. What’s this? Something about some chaos will destroy the world and that this crisis will threaten the peace? Grief and despair? War between nations? She’s going to protect everything? Is she talking about Grea and Anne? Wow. So touching and moving that her friends want to support and help her! As she and her team make their way to Anne and Grea, looks like they’ve already made up and are back to being best friends. Hanna looks like a fool now. Deep in shock, she screams to return all the time and effort she spent to solve this!

Episode 10
With the seniors graduating, Grea ponders how much time they have left together. So Anne gives her a letter and they’ll talk about this when she returns from her trip back home to do some official duties. Now it’s Grea’s turn to be melancholy. She wanders around the campus and not even the library is her best friend. She goes to Anne’s room but it’s empty! Except for the bed. Probably it’s too big to move. Grea feels sad and starts crying. However Owen is here to get her as Anne was looking for her but couldn’t find her. Grea asks about her empty room. You mean she hasn’t read the letter yet? It states her application to share a room with Grea. Remember what she said earlier about how much time they have left together? Perhaps the best excuse to get yuri with her every morning. Oops! With that, Grea signs and acknowledges the slip and makes it official. We see Anne returning to her homeland to do her duties. Once she is done, she wants to leave immediately but her father the king wants to chat. She is not thrilled about it because yesterday’s quick chat lasted till sundown! Hence she makes her sneaky escape through all the secret corridors in her castle until she meets Owen outside for her getaway carriage. She says studying and experience at the school are her important priorities right now. But I can think of the other greater importance… Yeah Grea, Anne’s coming home soon…

Serenade Of The Bahamut: Madonna Friends
After all that mind blowing fantastical action in the first two Shingeki No Bahamut series, is this considered a let-down? Not quite. Even if the pacing here is slow and there is nothing much that basically happens, it is still able to weave a decently beautiful tale between 2 friends. But that is basically so much about it and if you really want a lot more than this, you’re definitely going to be disappointed. This slice of life series is meant to go at a slow and relaxing pace without any sort of convoluted plot and twists that would have ironically undermined the beauty of this series. Sure, there might have been some trolling moments (like the ‘attack’ on the academy) and ‘suspenseful’ moments (Grea being sick as well as Anne and Grea having a fight that turned Hanna into a worrywart, overthinking it to be the end of the world), but eventually it all boils down to the wonderful nature of their friendship. So those who are into fast moving plots, you’ll have to look somewhere else.

Some of the stories are really exaggerated and trolling like that attack on the campus. Even when Grea was sick and Anne and Owen went to great lengths and journeyed across the universe just to get some sort of solution that eventually didn’t amount to anything. Is this their brand of humour? It feels weird but, okay. Whatever. Some just feel like a long draggy drama like that hide and seek episode. You expected some sort of punch line or twist (or maybe jump scare in this instance) but in the end, perhaps we did a Hanna and overthink, thus nothing really happened.

At times I was contemplating with myself if because of the slow and relaxing pacing of the series, with nothing much that happens, are the characters a bore too? Well, there are always 2 sides to a coin. The problem when you are trying to expect something from characters and then they don’t turn out to those expectations, it is surely disappointing. Therefore this series just showcasing their friendship might simply be nothing much. Some might go, “So what?”. But if you stop being impatient to want to see their character development go somewhere, you would realize that being slow and steady is what builds this development. Like they say, it is the journey and not the destination that matters. Therefore watching Anne and Grea’s friendship unravel at a snail pace over the 10 episodes might not seem to amount to anything much but that is where the beauty of this series lies. You don’t come into this anime with any sort of expectations. You just go with the flow and accept all that has to offer. If you do basically just much that, the characters and series are very much enjoyable in this aspect. So sorry folks, don’t expect this to turn into some hentai flick with a hot dragon chick banging a cute human girl.

It would have been a lot better if the series fleshed out more of Anne and Grea’s back story but in some ways, perhaps it is a good thing that we just know them as best friends forever. Anne being seemingly the perfect princess who could do almost everything but she also harbours a few insecurities of her own (like swimming and fear of losing Grea as her friend) that makes her less than perfect as others may seem to think of her. She as after all a princess. At least for the human side. Grea is on the polar end with her character being meek and reserved despite being from the dragon race whom we all have stereotypic views that dragons are fierce and majestic. It makes you wonder if she is of the same dragon tribe that Nina of the original series is from. But I suppose the series do not want to delve too deeply on their character background and instead continued to focus on their friendship. Hence that’s why the English title of this series, Mysteria Friends. Maybe there is a certain charm when you don’t know much about the characters. Because if you do, you’ll look more like some sort of obsessed fan-cum-stalker!

Not much to comment on the other characters with Lou looking a lot like a comic relief character. Due to lack of screen time, she is almost as forgettable as the rest. Including Owen whose role is just hiding from the shadows and guard his princess. Probably the most wasted role ever since there is hardly anything threatening and even if there was, Anne probably could have handled it herself.

If the story and characters do not interest you, perhaps you would be a little more impressed with the animation and artwork. To say the least, the sceneries and backgrounds around the academy are picturesque and quite breath-taking. They are quite nice to look at if you are feeling a bit bored from the slow pace and this eye candy makes it worthwhile to sit through the 15 minutes. Though, the character designs are just normal and average, nothing really that spectacular. Just want to comment how Anne suspiciously looks like Princess Principal’s Princess. And Anne’s a princess too. Hmm… Suspicious… This series is done by CygamesPictures, a subsidiary of Cygames who developed the Shingeki No Bahamut series.

Voice acting is also okay with me recognizing Nana Mizuki as Hanna and Kikuko Inoue as Miranda. But I was stumped to learn Anne is played by Youko Hikasa and going back to listen to her lines again, I still couldn’t really imagine it was her. Maybe I have come to stereotyped her to sound something like Rias from High School DxD so making this slightly squeaky voice made her unrecognizable. The other casts are Ayaka Fukuhara as Grea (Kasumi in Dies Irae), Wataru Hatano as Owen (Gajeel in Fairy Tail) and Kimiko Koyama as Lou (Komoe in To Aru Majutsu No Index). The other spectacular thing about this series is the background music and I believe the piano themes are the one that take the cake. It is slow and easy, definitely relaxing. So once again, if the story and characters are too slow for you, the visuals and the music balance it out to make it enjoyable.

Overall, this series might not be for everyone and personally I was initially on the fence to call it boring or interesting. Seeing the hectic pace that I am watching animes these days, it soon dawned to me that perhaps sometimes this kind of slow and relaxing anime is what I need to relax my mind. So yeah, I personally rate this series to be a little bit more than average towards the interesting side. Perhaps the reason why our main characters’ friendship could blossom so peacefully because the other casts of the original Shingeki No Bahamut were on the other side trying to deal with all the chaos. And then one day, maybe, just maybe when things are so boring and slow, that we’ll get to see some hentai flick of a hot dragon chick banging a cute human girl.