If you mention the role of magic within fiction to the average person, they'll most likely conjure up images of dusty old spell books and ancient incantations, far removed from the modern world of today. However, magic doesn't have to be like that - At least, it doesn't if you're watching streaming anime Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou on Crunchyroll. In fact the name of this series, which translates broadly as "Comprehensible Modern-day Magic", says it all really - This isn't so much a magical world of ancient runes and archaic spells as a modern one where creating magic is more akin to writing a computer programme and any electronic device is fair game for amplifying the power of your spell-casting.
We stumble into this world through the eyes of clumsy schoolgirl Koyomi Morishita, who wants to change her fortunes despite not being the sharpest tool in the shed by learning magic for herself - Something which she appears to have no natural aptitude for, unless you count a neat side-line in turning things into wash basins counts. This is in stark contrast to another girl who we are introduced to early on - Yumiko Cristina Ichinose, a natural-born mage who can memorise any "code" (or spell, in more common magical parlance) after seeing it only one time.
Eventually, both of these characters come under the tutelage of Misa Anehara, a powerful magic user with a burgeoning reputation and a master at using any modern technology at her disposal to make full use of her powers. As the founder of the Anehara Cross School of Magic, she looks to teach her own brand of magic, but needless to say her abilities end up attracting lots of trouble for both herself and her charges throughout the series to provide the required storylines to make things interesting within this series.
While this fun mix of magic and technology actually makes for a genuinely fresh break from the norms of the magical anime genre and can be entertaining at times, it has to be said that Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou frequently seems to struggle to know what to do with it, to the extent of frequently bringing forth borderline nonsensical plots from panty thief monsters (an early but thankfully rare moment of fan service pandering from the series) through to time travel. It may seem a little odd to criticise a series based around magic for being nonsensical, but the problem is frequently in the execution rather than the concepts themselves, leaving plenty of moments where you can't help but pick away at the gaping plot holes or scratch your head about some bizarre twist or decision made by one of the characters. Equally, the series also frequently suffers from a lack of ambition - Despite the potential breadth of its subject matter, we regularly see the same single "code" used over and over again ad infinitum in battle, while even Koyomi's wash basin magic which is genuinely funny early in the series soon gets tiring once it's been rolled out for the umpteenth time.
Away from the plot holes and repetitive plot devices, Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou can actually be quite a slice of undemanding fun at times, while its rather unique take on its genre does serve to hold your interest in places where other similar series might have fallen flat. The trouble is, the "modern magic" concept is so rich in potential that it's almost criminal how little of it has been utilised by this series - I'm not sure whether it's the fault of the source material (the show is adapted from a series of light novels) or simply the anime production itself, but there just isn't enough on show here to lift this series from the realms of mediocrity in which it resides. For all its reasonably polished animation and soundtrack, when push comes to shove there's nothing to suggest that Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou is anything other than just another run-of-the-mill anime.
At the time of writing, Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou can be viewed in streaming format from Crunchyroll - The entire series is now available to be viewed on the site by all members.