Munto centers around two characters--the king Munto, who rules the Magical Kingdom that floats in the sky above our world, and Yumemi, a typical junior high student, except for the fact she can see islands floating in the air that no one else can. Yumemi's in junior high and knows that this makes her a little different from everyone else, and like most people that age, she doesn't want to be different, going as far as carrying an umbrella when it's sunny so she won't see the islands at all. Since the ability to see these floating islands isn't useful to her in any way, and people (understandably) would probably cart her off in a straightjacket if she talked about them all the time, she learned at an early age to just stop talking about them completely. Yumemi has two good friends, Ichiko, who's the protective type and believes her story completely even though she can't see the islands for herself, and Suzume, who's more a dojiko, happy-go-lucky character. There are a number of other characters as well, such as Gass, the badass who has power maybe even beyond Munto's (and steals some of the limelight in the first OVA), and the requisite Bad Guy, who looks sufficiently dour if not all that menacing. Overall, it's a decent cast of characters, although due to the fact in two OVAs you get to spend less time with them than you wound in five normal-length anime episodes, some of them don't get very well developed. Munto in particular you get very little background on in the first OVA, although the second does a better job fleshing out his character with some flashbacks to when he was younger. Yumemi gets the most screentime and comes across as a sincere person and a good friend to Suzume and Ichiko, and her initial hesitance to enter the magical world's affairs was well done, I thought, being close to how I'd imagine a real person would react to that situation.
Munto may have mad magic skillz, but he needs to eat more...and is that Lum's cousin with the lightsaber?
The plot of Munto you could say is its weakest point--the first OVA in particular very little gets explained. There are people attacking the pillars of Munto's world, and if it falls to Earth both it and the people like Yumemi and the rest of us living on the surface will be destroyed. Munto's world relies on an energy called akuto, and its supply is waning--which is where Yumemi comes in, because although she lives in the "underworld" she has an ability to create new akuto. The first OVA Munto tries to reach her to get her power to save his world, although understandably frightened by the random person appearing out of thin air in front of her, she's hesitant at first. The first OVA ends with the resolution of the storyline, but it felt kind of like I was watching a 13-episode anime series that had gotten cut down to 40 minutes. If they'd been a little less ambitious with the plot I think it could have been much better.
The plot of the second OVA picks up a year after the first, and the new source of akuto is causing new problems, with the countries of the Magical World at war, and Munto again involved in the fighting. To control the akuto he needs Yumemi's help again, but he's hesitant to seek her out, either out of pride or fear for her safety. The second OVA is definitely not a self-contained story, ending on a cliffhanger that makes me have to believe another OVA or two is coming to finish the story. While it's fast-paced, with lots of mid-air battles, the second OVA's plot makes more sense than the first--there's more time to explain what's happening and while Munto and Yumemi have very little actual screentime together (which was the case in the first OVA as well), there's the potential for a lot more interaction between them in the next OVA. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, but with more OVAs coming, I can at least hope they'll get answered down the line. The relationship between Yumemi, Ichiko, and Suzume gets fleshed out a lot more too--it's hard not to like Ichiko, who wants to protect her friend Yumemi no matter what, although she knows what Yumemi is getting into is taking her where Ichiko can't follow her.
The animation quality, as you'd expect from an OVA from Kyoto Animation, is really good--the fight scenes, of which there are plenty, are very well done, enough to make you cringe when you next watch a normal anime series fight scene. The character designs are good too, definitely looking similar to Haruhi and Air, although Munto's almost thin enough to be in Tsubasa Chronicle. The setting in the Magical Kingdom reminds me of El Hazard, with a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to the costumes, and the floating islands in the sky back for a breathtaking backdrop for the action. The only complaint I'd have is CG--no, it's not quite as bad as the space station in Soul Link, but CG just bothers me in anime. When everything else is 2-D and then there's a 3-D battleship floating in midair it just looks WRONG. I strongly believe CG fails if you can look at a scene and go "that's CG"--in contrast, the Negima manga uses CG for buildings and backgrounds, but it doesn't stand out, and looks like it could have been hand-drawn (by someone with a LOT of time to draw it). That's not the case with the CG in Munto, where you look at it and it's obvious someone plunked a 3-D model into a 2-D world. But that's not at all uncommon these days, and it really only appears in a few scenes briefly, for things like battleships. Overall, you won't be disappointed by the animation, it's definitely something Kyoani put a lot of effort into.
I'm off to Hawaii all next week, so no blogging from me for a while...until then, aloha... (aloha roughly translates to "Hello", "Goodbye", and "damn, I can't wait for the Pani Poni Dash crew's version of Negima.")