|Overall||Art||Animation||Character Design||Music||Series Story||Episode Story||Reviewer|
Mahou Shoujo Site
(Nine episodes watched):|
The term 'magical girls' summons forth images of plucky, idealized girls taking on stereotypical villains and defeating them--although, obviously, nobody actually gets hurt. Well, Mahou Shoujo Site is definitely not your usual magical girl anime. Before I watched episode one, I was very tired and almost went to bed without watching it. Afterwards, I was so on edge as a result of the rampant brutality and sadism that I couldn't go to sleep until I had watched another innocuous anime to calm myself down. At one point Aya nearly gets raped, and the tone of the show had been so disturbing up to that point that I really believed that it might happen. And yet, this turned out to be one of the most gripping and intriguing shows I have yet seen this season (and this season seems to have more good shows than usual). It's extremely cathartic when Aya first makes use of her magical power and turns the tables on an attacker. She has been hurt so much that it feels good when she finds a way to fight back. Also intriguing is her discovery that she's not the only girl who has been granted magical powers. But at what cost? One cannot help having misgivings about a website that has a cadaver-like avatar, and whose 'magic' causes blood to drip from your eyes. So, I have little idea where this show will go from here, but am confident that it will be fascinating--and that I will have to endure a good deal of highly realistic brutality as well. The cruelty of ordinary humans to one another is more horrifying than anything ghosts or zombies might do could possibly be.
I steeled myself for a second episode which I assumed would be just as disturbing as the first, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't nearly as harsh. It was more about learning the basics of how the Magical Girl Site works, what the costs of employing magical devices, called 'sticks' are, and that other magical girls are not necessarily your friends. We meet Tsuyuno Yatsumura, another magical girl who hopes to team up with Aya for the sake of their mutual self-defense. Tsuyuno is a gruff, cynical girl, but she has reasons to be that way. I wish we had gotten to know her a little better (perhaps we still will), because as of yet she seems distant and hard to sympathize with. The two girls are told that an apocalyptic event, the 'Tempest' is coming, but at the moment they have little idea what that might portend. So, it is looking like this show will be less about Aya's fight against bullying and more about a much bigger problem. A sort of dark parody of conventional magical girl shows; the girls who are usually paragons of virtue may be depicted as struggling with one another in a kill-or-be-killed situation. Whether that is good news or not, I do not know. Perhaps the purpose of episode one was to make it clear that this story is not taking place in some idealized alternate reality where the good guys always win in the end.
In some ways episode three excited and intrigued me, and in others made me worry. I'm uncomfortable with Aya's brother discovering the MS website and with one of the bully girls running into the creepy person who (presumably) operates it. It suggests that she'll become a magical girl herself, and I'd rather have clever writing than an indestructable force versus immovable object type battle. But all-in-all, this is still one of my favorite shows of the season and I look forward to additional episodes.
Just as I had feared, I really hated a particular scene in episode five. Basically, a magical girl has a Stick so powerful that it ultimately causes a building to collapse, and uses it to attack Aya at point-blank range--and she can't do anything more than give her a minor scratch. Come on! Suspension of disbelief isn't unlimited; you have to make certain that each bizarre event is semi-plausible, not just the first few. Perhaps the problem is that when each girl has a weapon that is virtually as powerful as an atomic bomb, how do you keep them from wiping out everything when they use them, and keep the story believable as well? Aya seems to be the only magical girl who hasn't gone insane to one degree or another, and even she isn't untouched by all the trauma she has endured (which is revealed in one very good moment in an otherwise deeply disappointing episode). But this show is getting to the point where I feel so dismayed by what I'm seeing that the thought occurs to me "why didn't they ask me to fix these problems?! I could have done a better job than they did!'.
I had feared that the whole show might fall to pieces after that lackluster episode, but episode six was a good deal better. We learn something important about the Tempest and the MS Site, and as a result the alliances between friends and enemies is reshuffled somewhat. It wasn't brilliant--Tsuyuno makes an unlikely change that largely annuls the dark secret we had just learned about her, others are also happy to make 180 degree turns in their attitudes, and things become somewhat confusing: (spoiler)If the site(s) have been tricking the girls all along, can we trust the claims they have made about an impending apocalypse? But it was better than what I had been expecting. You might say that this is the second time the show has shifted into a new direction from what I was expecting; the first was when it became a good magical girls versus bad ones series rather than a grim story of Aya's persecution in episode two. Aya's almost comically sadistic brother has yet to make his move, and I pray that when it comes it will make some sense.
I'm not sure the plan the girls come up with to abduct a site custodian and force her to tell them the truth about the Tempest makes a whole lot of sense; these are the people who hand out Sticks after all, so will they be subject to them just like anybody else would? They don't exactly seem to be human, for one thing. But what else would they do? And if the world is liable to come to an end soon, the life-threatening properties of Sticks aren't all that big of a deal.
In general, there are shows in which you have a vague but pleasing feeling of where the story is going. It makes sense, there's enough unpredictability for it to be novel and intriguing, and as a result you enjoy it. Basically, such shows tell you no more and no less than you need to remain interested without becoming either bored at what seems a predictable plot or frustrated with what seems an incomprehensible one. With MS Site I find that the show is verging on being too confusing and irrational for me to fully keep track of what's going on. Stuff which doesn't seem to make sense is discarded by my memory. But I am still watching it, after all. Characters have been developed for episodes without playing a major part until now, which is a sure sign of discipline and pre-planning in the storytelling. The question is whether the story as a whole will make sense when it reaches a climax.
Episode nine, in which Aya's brother finally makes his move was very intense, though not entirely in a good way. The images and lines brother speaks definitely made me hate his guts and want him to die an agonizing death. His Stick seemed to be all-powerful and the girls seemed helpless, which was (what's the word?) exasperating. Don't give up and let this mother ----ing bastard win, girls! Watching this episode was sort of like listening to fingernails screeching on a chalkboard. I wish the trick the girls used to beat him had made a little more sense and been a little more original, though. This episode and the one before make it clear that well established characters sometimes die in this show. I definitely want to see how this story ends, but getting to the climax can sometimes be discordant and unpleasant.
Last updated Friday, June 22 2018. Created Tuesday, April 17 2018.