It's very rare for a series centred around magic to be any good - in recent years, we've had a magic school with particular boring storylines in the form of Happiness!; the abysmal Saint October; the yawnworthy Gift Eternal Rainbow that pretended to be a drama; and the just plain nonsensical Majokko Tsukune-chan. Unfortunately, Strait Jacket can be added to this list, and the reason I say unfortunately, is because this set of OVAs does actually start out with a lot of potential.
The initial premise is that magic exists as a science in the Strait Jacket universe and it seems to be used for medical and military purposes, but also, in industrial environments too. This I can cope with, as it explores magic as a specific entity, following regular scientific rules (which aren't explained but don't really need to be). I can even cope with the heavily armoured soldiers known as Tactical Sorcerists who seem to have spawned from Pumpkin Scissors. Again, the magic weaponry follows a set pattern and doesn't stray into the usual RPG ground of bringing in magical swords and whatnot.
However, after that, everything starts getting a little more tired. The magically deformed creatures that have to be fought every episode are no more than an annoyance, with too much time spent on their rampages (which is fine the first time, but when every episode is the same, it gets repetitive). Their metamorphoses are very reminiscent of scenes from Akira and one particular event in Claymore, except those two series are far superior. And I think that's the crux of what dissatisfies me about Strait Jacket: it is nowhere near as good as the series it draws inspiration from. All the events in the miniseries are replications of better scenes found in other anime series.
Even the political intrigue that arises towards the end is squandered, with an over-the-top vigilante quashing a terrorist organisation with one frenzied killing spree. When you consider how well similar circumstances were portrayed in Pumpkin Scissors, this just seems a complete waste of potential.
There are a few stand-out moments in the animation quality - usually during the fight sequences, when the Sorcerists let off huge waves of magic - but I don't consider these frequent enough, nor stylish enough to save the animation score. The character designs are bland, with only Kapel Theta standing out as being vaguely original, and the art quality is inconsistent to say the least. Monster design is also a negative point, as the designs are usually either too bizarrely complex or just replicas of the monster in Akira. While I'd expect a longer series to experience these type of difficulties, I find it inexcusable that a miniseries as short as this can't overcome these issues.
Mediocre at best, but I quite enjoyed the opening theme. While all action themes seem to be going for edgy, metal guitar-powered songs these days, it's not a trend I'm adverse to. Having said that, the in-episode music was less than inspiring and the voice actors barely provoked any reaction in me - in fact, Rachel's repeated "Onii-chan" in her super whiny voice made me want to stab her, which I don't think is the reaction the creators were going for, somehow...
Cue stereotypes! Okay, that's a little harsh. Rayott, while being your usual moody monosyllabic antihero, is actually a fairly interesting character. We're always reminded that he has a "past" and that in this past, dreadful things happened. So, add that to nearly every anime character ever created, right?
However, at the same time, his relationship with Kapel Theta is an interesting one, and I think if the overall series had been better realised, then this would have become the crux of the series. As it is, I had some vague interest in Kapel Theta's feelings for Rayott and whether these would develop in an interesting and meaningful way, but I think the length of the series was too limiting for such development.
The other characters may as well not be in the series. We're introduced to several minor characters, the most interesting being Isaac who becomes the focal point of the third episode, but even he is crushed by the weight of the drudging plot and his later reactions don't feel realistic when you take his rank within the military into consideration.
Another OVA that wastes its potential and yet another series focussing on magic that seems too interested in using magic as a weapon rather than as a useful social inclusion to a fantasy series. This score would have been several notches higher if it explored all the threads and questions it opens, but sadly it follows the same formula as all series of its kind, and heads straight to a predictable ending made even more stagnant by the fact that we haven't had enough time to truly care about the characters fighting.
Don't get me wrong, there are some nice philosophies on life and death, and in particular, the idea of a death wish (explored better, again, in Code Geass and other series). The action is also somewhat spectacular in parts, but if you're looking for a coherent plotline and a fulfilling ending, then this set of OVAs isn't for you.