It's time to delve into yet another new series for the summer season of anime, and under the microscope this time around is Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto - Natsu no Sora, which looks set to win the 'longest anime title of the year' award at the moment if nothing else. In case you're wondering, the title roughly translates into "Important Things to a Mage - Sora of the Summer". Indeed, Sora Shizuku is the focus of the series, as a young girl from a small farming area who has been invited to study magic in Tokyo.
Aside from that incredibly brief synopsis, there's probably not a great deal to discuss with this opening episode, as there really isn't much covered that seems like to affect the plot as a whole. We get to see Sora deal in a little magic in an attempt to help her friend Michiru with her love life, see that she has a very close relationship with her mother, get some hints that her father has passed away, and generally witness that Sora is the kind of cute and lovable girl that we'd all like to be able to take home to show our parents.
If there's one thing that can definitely be said about this series from it's opening episode, it's with regard to the show's backdrops and scenery. They are simply drop-dead stunning, and well worth watching this episode for on their own. On closer inspection they appear to be photographers that have either been cel shaded or otherwise Rotoscoped in some fashion, or possibly even given the CG treatment in some places, but I haven't seen something so beautiful from any anime series in a long time regardless of whether you might wish to count it as 'cheating'.
Sadly, the downside of all these beautiful landscapes is that they actually detract from the characters themselves - Even more dialogue heavy scenes seem to prefer to focus visually on the background prettiness rather than the characters themselves, and it actually starts to get a little distracting at times. On top of that, the character animations do on occasion get short shrift, which makes them look out of place against those near-perfect backdrops.
Despite that, I have found myself losing a little piece of my heart to this series already - It's sweet, it's sedate, and it has an instantly likeable lead character. I can only imagine that at least some of this might change once Sora reaches Tokyo as the plot goes into full swing, but for now I have to say I'm mightily impressed. Then again, I always have been a sucker for a beautiful landscape.