The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide selector infected WIXOSS
Review: About five minutes into Selector Infected WIXOSS, I realized that I was in for a fairly dark show. It wasn't just the intro teaser, featuring silhouettes of girls (whether real or not) getting vanquished via hurled tridents, or tears rolling down a girl's face. It was also an uncomfortably dark conversation where a grandmother makes a Tetris joke, saying that the erection of skyscraper would make a city disappear. It was also a scene later in the episode, where the cutesy card game avatar Tama fights another avatar, her normally serene face gnarling into a sinister grin, with bloodlust visible in her eyes.
And yet because of this, I was completely jarred when we were introduced to the premise of the show. Main character Ruuko gets a deck of cards from her brother, who tells her that all the girls are playing this newfangled trading card game called WIXOSS. She opens the packet, only to be surprised when the avatar on her card starts moving and making meowing noises. The next day at school, she's approached by a girl, who excitedly tells her that they're both Selectors, people who have been chosen to compete in some overarching WIXOSS battle where the last one standing gets any wish granted.
The thing is, for a show that's already introduced tears, impaling, and the totally-joking-but-probably-foreshadowing premonition of cities getting leveled, the introduction of WIXOSS (and its implications! Any wish you want!) is remarkably nonchalant. Here is a card game that can grant special wishes, that has talking avatars, that activates magical battle fields (and somehow people aren't rushing to the store to buy hundreds of these booster decks), all couched in a presentation that makes me feel like they're trying to sell me cards. It's like two genres slammed together, and I can't tell if I should be intrigued or wary. My natural instinct is to stray towards the latter, because even though I'll give any girls-fighting-each-other-and-stabbing-each-other-under-the-auspice-of-magic show a shot, I tend to dislike shows where it feels like they're trying to get me to buy or download any kind of card game. The WIXOSS card game, by the way, goes on sale in Japan starting April 26, from Takara Tomy.
So even while I'm intrigued by the potential of this show—I knew I was going to watch the second episode the very instance Tama turned super-killer—the cynical part of me can't help but feel like the rest of the story elements, with the Selectors, and the wish-fulfillment (literally) is all just a desperate attempt to grab onto previous money-makers to make people buy cards.
It doesn't help that fellow Selector Yuzuki's wish alludes to her having a giant crush on her fraternal twin brother. It just feels like a randomly selected anime stereotype picked from a bin of things.
I'll watch the second episode, but I wasn't too impressed with my first exposure to the show. I can't tell if it's because Selector Infected WIXOSS feels like a sinister-magical-girls show trying to make itself different via card battles, or if it feels like a collectible-card-game show trying to make itself different via sinister magic. Either way, whatever they're going for, it's not quite there yet.
Review: Apparently the mavens of Japanese card gaming see girls as the great untapped market for their collectible scraps of cardboard. I say this in total ignorance of the collectible card market, based only on the slight stink of desperation that tends to lurk around the edges of series like this.
If you happened to watch Fantasista Doll, you've pretty much got Wixoss’s plot down: lonely grade-school girl (Ruko) accidentally comes into possession of powerful card-shaped tech, gets mixed up in a mysterious world of mysteries, and develops a special relationship with her anthropomorphized cards while gaining confidence and making friends through her gaming.
Like Fantasista, which had Goro Taniguchi attached, Wixoss has a surprisingly good creative pedigree. Takuya Satō is a vet whose series are almost invariably lessons in the directorial art. Screenwriter Mari Okada was the pen behind series like Wandering Son and Toradora. Together they create something that's darker and richer than it has any right to be. Ruko's world is hauntingly lonely, a metropolitan wilderness that somehow feels empty and doomed. Her home life is fleshed out with beautifully effective minimalism. A couple of stunner sequences—an expressionistic opening fight and a truly nightmarish midpoint nightmare—hint at bad things to come, while Yuzuki, Ruko's first card-gaming friend, has an, er, issue that promises heavy-duty drama later.
So far, so good. The problem is that corporate stink. You can almost hear the memos: “The show needs to mention that collectible cards aren't just for boys.” “You should imply that viewers will gain friends and popularity by playing.” “Make sure our cards aren't merchandise; they're friends.” “Remember to explain the rules, and no I don't give a sh** if it increases your viewers’ suicide rate.” Whenever you're about to lose yourself in the pair's vision, some clunky bit of corporate messaging will butt in and shatter the spell. Which shatters the show too.
Selector Infected Wixoss is available streaming at Funimation.com
Review: Let's not bury the lede here: selector infected WIXOSS is biting Madoka so hard its gums are bleeding. And it wants you to look at the blood, to look at the horrible blood! The influence is inescapable from the opening scene which features a blue-violet hued city with suspiciously familiar postmodern skyscrapers being demolished by the superpowers of silhouetted magical girl figures. These sad little girls are wallowing in blood-soaked angst and animated in a very, very, very specific way, as if to remind you of something you loved once, something many people loved that they poured a lot of money into, and won't you share some of that money with Wixoss as well?
As the episode progresses, we are introduced to the magical card battle game Wixoss, played only by young girls in the pursuit of having their wishes granted, then to an adorable white cat-themed helper creature with a veneer of evil foreshadowed only by suspicious dream sequences, and finally our blank, sweet protagonist's new best friend, who is involved in the Wixoss games to become a whole new girl and win the heart of a boy she likes. However, this boy is her own twin brother, what shock and scandal!
Frankly, it's impossible to ignore the heavy Madoka influence and tempting to write this new Wixoss IP off as a bland imitation, and one made to market yet another TCG, for that matter. To be fair, if you've never seen Madoka, Wixoss comes, er, "across" as a competently written and animated, albeit dull and transparently commercial, show that makes sense on its own merits, and may interest a subset of viewers with a high tolerance for card battles that can ignore its lame success-mimicry.
It's a fairly nice-looking show, but the production values will have to be consistently impressive to compensate for such a predictable storyline, (at least in Madoka the harbinger-dreams didn't directly spoil the plot this hard,) and such cheap attempts to shock. (Twincest! Did you hear us, we said twincest! Also, did you see our blood-waterfall?) There are no new ideas here, and I definitely don't remember watching Madoka and thinking "This needs more card game mechanics!" Disappointing.
selector infected Wixoss is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Wixoss (pronounced “we-cross”) is the new card battle game taking schoolgirls by storm, even if a few are concerned that it's a guy thing. Our loner heroine, Ruko, really has no interest in it, but since she also has no interest in making friends, her brother buys her a starter deck to help her meet people. Imagine her surprise when it turns out that the LRIG, or avatar card, of Ruko's deck is sentient...but that only certain people can hear its chirps and mews. Ruko, it would seem, is a “selector,” a special player in a high stakes version of Wixoss who has the potential to become “the eternal girl” and have her wishes granted. Most heroines would be pretty happy about this, but Ruko's pretty much just confused. In a way, this is a plus for the show; thus far Ruko's just a loner rather than someone pining for crowds of friends. She seems willing to make an attempt for her grandmother and brother, but one doesn't get the feeling that she's all that into either the game or a friend search. Not that she isn't happy when she realizes that she has a special relationship with her little battle pixie, but generally she just seems confused by her interactions with other people.
While most of this episode feels fairly cookie cutter in terms of card battle shows – find card, find power, kick butt – it has a darker undertone that is intriguing. Early comments by Grandma about new construction making the city disappear (it seems she creates Tetris-like puzzle games) are ominous, and Yuzuki, the girl who sweeps Ruko into the word of Wixoss, clearly has some motivations she would rather keep under wraps but is just as clearly devoted to. (I suspect they may involve her twin brother in non-sisterly ways.) Add to that the fact that cute little Tama, Ruko's avatar, is a bloodthirsty little sucker with an apparently insatiable appetite for battle, and you've certainly got enough ingredients for a much darker show, and one that could be more interesting than it at first appears. The dark color palette certainly helps with this, and also makes Tama's bright white scheme stand out a lot. She's definitely one of the visual highlights, and the sway of her hair and clothing look good. Her chipper voice contrasts well with her battle fever, giving her the air of an adorable rabid chipmunk.
On the whole, selector infected WIXOSS' first epsiode by itself isn't particularly great, but it sets the show up for some interesting possibilities. If it does in fact take a less perky or basic route than its brethren, this could turn out to be worth keeping an eye on.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Review: For as-yet-unexplained reasons, Ruko Kominato lives in an apartment with her grandmother and older brother. She has only recently transferred to here new school and has yet to make friends – and while she claims she doesn't need them, she doesn't want to distress her grandmother. Hence she decides to take up her brother's offer and investigate a card game called WIXOSS, which has become popular amongst teen girls. Strangely, though, her avatar card (called an LRIG) seems to be alive, though most around her don't seem to notice. One girl who does, Yuzuki, tells her that it marks her as a Selector, one of the chosen few who battle it out with special cards for the right to become an Eternal Girl, which essentially implies wish-granting capability. Lose three times, though, and you're done being a Selector. Ruko is unsure about all of this, and does not have a strong wish in mind anyway, but her card is eager to fight so she tries it out. Their aborted first battle shows that her LRIG – a cute girl she calls Tama – is plenty strong and capable – scarily so, in fact. She and Yuzuki edge towards becoming friends afterwards, but more conflicts with other girls are sure to arise.
Selector infected WIXOSS is an original animation project headed by Tatsuya Sato, the director of Steins;Gate, though an actual card game is supposedly in the works. While it smacks of card game-playing mechanics, this one distinguishes itself early on with its creepy – even outright sinister – overtones. Despite her innocent cuteness, something is off about Tama, something which suggests obsessiveness and battle lust and gives Ruko frighteningly disturbing dreams of apocalyptic imagery. Implicit in all of this is that the stakes of the card game are far beyond the basic rules that Yuzuki and her fraternal twin Kazuki explain to Ruko, though whether or not Yuzuki knows that herself at this point is unclear.
What is clear is that Sato has a deft touch for infusing just the right amount of creepiness without being heavy-handed. It even shows subtly in the use of shadows in the artistry, which are somehow just a bit more obtrusive and concealing than they should be. Characters introduced so far are handled well and musical support is spot-on. While it still has a lot of typical elements, the dark edge helps this one stand out from its kin and show more potential than the norm.
Selector infected WIXOSS is currently streaming on Funimation.com.
Sullen friendless Ruko lives at home with her grandmother and is occasionally visited by her spunky brother, who hands her a starter deck for the hit card game WIXOSS (pronounced 'wi-cross') that's just now becoming popular with girls. Her brother gives it to her as a means to maybe make some friends at school, but it turns out the game is MAGIC! Or ALIVE! Maybe a little EVIL or something, because once Ruko picks up her LRIG card (the card that represents her in the game) it's a cute girl in a sundress and pigtails who comes to life that only Ruko can see. Naturally she starts having apocalyptic nightmares where the city is destroyed and disappearing under a rain of WIXOSS cards, and then she meets another girl with a talking LRIG who lets her know she's a "Selector".
In a torrent of exposition, we find out that Selectors are female WIXOSS players who are battling to become 'The Eternal Girl', which is a girl who can "make the wildest dreams and wishes come true". Soon she's locked in battle in a strange dark dimension and of course, she's unnaturally powerful for a rookie player.
So this is "cute girls play magical collectible card game to determine who becomes a superpowered wish-getting magical girl" and it's chock-a-block with dark dripping broody apocalypse imagery right out of Madoka Magica (a series it seems to be aping thematically and a little aesthetically right out of the gate, although it's less of an atrocious direct rip-off than others that have come before). It really, really wants you to take it seriously, and even opens with a glimpse of what is probably the endgame - two glowy magical girl avatars locked in battle in a neon hellscape, and one of them cries a single tear wishing the other would smile. Even Ruko's super-genki mewling childlike card avatar that she names after her dead cat turns out to be vicious in battle and shows up in a weird scary monster form in Ruko's crazy DARK BROODING NIGHTMARES.
Typically I don't really fall for this stuff, especially when the DARK DARK DARK stuff is really pushing as hard as it is here. We get it, apparently it's subversive and creepy and weird to have cute little (in this instance, card-playing) anime girls combined with all this crazy nightmare imagery, foreboding dread and apocalyptic scenes of future destruction and sadness, but at this point it's been done too many times to have merit on its own without exceptional execution or maybe one new idea. The animation's fine and there isn't anything particularly offensive or bad about this show, it just seems like a mashup we didn't really need and doesn't bring anything new or interesting to the table. Even the "dark" imagery seems like uninspired rehashes of visual ideas we've all seen a dozen times before. I'll pass.
selector infected WIXOSS is available streaming at Funimation.com.
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