The Fall 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Lostorage incited WIXOSS
How would you rate episode 1 of
Lostorage incited WIXOSS ?
What is this?
Before she moved away from her hometown, Suzuko Homura promised her friend Chinatsu that they'd be together forever. Now she's moved back, but Chinatsu is nowhere to be found. Everyone at Suzuko's new school seems to be playing the WIXOSS card game, so she buys a deck in the hopes of making new friends. To her surprise, one of the cards comes to life and informs her that she is a Selector, a special chosen player who must defeat other Selectors in the game or risk disappearing forever. Lostorage incited WIXOSS is based on the WIXOSS card game, and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 1:35 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
I'm not really sure how the WIXOSS anime franchise is supposed to sell the WIXOSS card game. In both this and the original series, buying WIXOSS cards ends up being the gateway to a battle royale hell-world, where girls must fight other WIXOSS selectors in order to maintain their very identity. The original series was a display of Mari Okada at her most whimsically sadistic, and this season's writing doesn't seem to be particularly kinder. “Buy WIXOSS cards, your precious daily life will soon be a wasteland of suffering and ruin” seems like a questionable sales pitch.
Advertisement value aside, this newWIXOSS is unfortunately a major step down from the original series. A great deal of that comes down to the artwork - though both of these series come from JC Staff, the backgrounds for the original were handled by the peerless Studio Pablo. In contrast, Lostorage's backgrounds are faceless and bland; plenty of shots here strive for drama or beauty, but their geometric plainness and the show's generic character designs mean they fail to truly sell the world of this show. Occasional inspired choices like the train noises that herald the entrance to battle, or the landscape of the battle realm itself, are let down by the show's generally lukewarm execution.
The storytelling isn't much better. Lostorage introduces us to Suzuko Homura, who's moved back to the city after years in the sticks, and now finds herself without a friend in the world. Individual moments here do an excellent job of selling Homura's loneliness - in fact, the show's articulation of her mental state is almost certainly its best quality. Even the fact that she initially buys WIXOSS cards to fit in at school is a natural bit of storytelling. But overall, the episode takes far too long to introduce its arbitrary yet simple battle royale concept, and the lack of any aesthetic appeal means much of this episode simply felt like waiting for something to happen.
It's likely things will speed up going forward, but nothing about Lostorage's narrative or execution really convinces me it's worth keeping with. Even the original WIXOSS was a very messy show, and that still had a lot more going for it than this one. Lostorage feels like an easy skip.
I enjoy playing the occasional card game, but it's never been the sort of thing I'd take seriously. I've only ever treated Magic: The Gathering and its contemporaries as an excuse to get together with friends, make lame jokes about the heart of the cards,and gripe about never getting the right card at the right time. That might be why I've never been able to completely get on terms with shows like the WIXOSS franchise, which try to use those game mechanics as the core of a serious, dramatic storyline. That being, said, Lostorage incited WIXOSS has its share of good points regardless of whether or not it's my cup of tea.
For one, it's a reasonably good-looking show. The characters and backgrounds are nicely detailed, and their ordinary styling actually helps the show's alternate-reality battles look more dramatic. The Selector card battle we're presented with in this episode features some neat visuals as energy blasts fly in every direction and magical card girls chase one another around floating cube things. The presentation is impressive enough to suppress even my “it's just a game” instinct, and that's definitely saying something. This episode also moves along at a good pace, getting the necessary setup out of the way with plenty of time left for Suzuko to have her first big battle.
My problems with this episode ended up not being with the premise so much as the characters. Things clearly aren't going well for Suzuko when we meet her, but she doesn't seem to have much of a personality either way. Sure, she's lonely without her friend and stressed out by the whole Selector situation, but some hint of a personal goal or an occasional witty remark would go a long way towards endearing her to the audience. Everyone else, be it her deadly serious ally Riru or her long-lost friend Chinatsu, has a similarly unhappy vibe going on. The show as a whole could use just a little bit of joy, even if it's eventually going to be crushed by moral dilemmas and unfortunate circumstances.
As long as you don't mind the relentlessly dark tone, Lostorage incited WIXOSS has some potential as a genre piece. The stakes of the game are well defined, and the story has a clear path forward as Suzuko battles other Selectors and presumably runs into Chinatsu somewhere down the line. Some character development would certainly help, and there should be plenty of room for it now that the initial premise has been laid out. I wouldn't go in expecting greatness, but it has room to grow into a compelling piece of entertainment.
Haven't seen the earlier Selector Infected WIXOSS or Selector Spread WIXOSS? Doesn't matter. This series is a total reboot of the franchise, one which uses entirely different characters, a markedly different direction, and even some different game mechanics. It also explains what you need to know up front in the first episode. Hence not a speck of familiarity with the franchise is required to fully appreciate this one.
For newcomers, the original series was one which eventually turned the whole Selector scenario into a sadistic endeavor, like something borne of a monkey's paw, as the story progressed and the core cast members learned more about the truths underlying the game. This series, though, doesn't waste any time going for the jugular. Its sadistic nature is up front, with the heroine imperiled right from the beginning. That's not all that's changed, either. Rather than trying to achieve a wish, it's a battle for survival of one's identity, with memories at stake. Rather than being a separate individual, the LRIG is supposedly shaped by the Selector's memories. Rather than being something that only girls get drawn into, guys can apparently be Selectors now, too. The lead protagonist also has a personality almost totally opposite of Ruko from the original series. All of that puts a wholly new dynamic on the concept, so we definitely won't be seeing just a retread of what's been done before. A potentially very juicy plot line is also already developing: with Suzuko's former friend Chinatsu also becoming a Selector at the end of the episode, we're apparently headed towards a situation where Suzuko's LRIG is based on her memories of Chinatsu and Chinatsu's is going to be based on her memories of Suzuko. That's going to make things really awkward when they finally meet, especially if circumstances contrive that they have to battle each other. (Gee, the writers wouldn't do that, would they?)
The original series ended up being pretty good, and this one also shows a lot of promise. This is one of J.C. Staff's sharper-looking recent efforts in the animation and visuals, and the musical score by Maiko Iuchi (who also did the two earlier series in the franchise) presses Suzuko's sense of discomfort, isolation, and panic mercilessly. The writing and shot selections also does an effective job of showing that isolation, though I do wish that they had come up with something at least a little different than her mother having apparently recently died. Still, the series pulls it off without going overboard in making her pitiable.
Don't let the card game aspect fool you: this is a darkly-shaded and satisfyingly intense work so far.
Although you technically don't need to have seen the previous two seasons based on the Wixoss card game, I feel like it might help. Otherwise this first episode feels unappealingly mean. Poor Suzuko is clearly suffering from a major series of upheavals in her life – after her initial move away from her hometown and her best friend Chinatsu in elementary school, she and her dad have moved back in high school, but her mother is absent and I suspect dead, Chinatsu is missing (and has been for the past three years since she didn't leave a forwarding address), and Suzuko's dad has become one of those conveniently absentee parents anime is full of, leaving money on the table before Suzuko wakes up in the morning. Not only that, but Suzuko's efforts to make friends at school aren't going well – it's too late in the year and cliques have already solidified. While with a little time she'll be able to break through – as we see later in the episode – she needs friends now.
With all of this you'd think that picking up one of the rare decks of Wixoss cards to come with a special Selector card would be a godsend, and in another show it might be. But for Suzuko, it's just the icing on her crap cake, because now she has to fight to keep her memories, which are basically all she has at this point. A piece of me does think that maybe she'd be better off without them, but naturally the stakes are higher than that. In any event, the cruelty of literally forcing her to fight in order to keep on existing, giving her exactly zero choice in the matter, feels unnecessarily mean. Yes, there is a metaphor for her life in here – if she doesn't stand up for herself, she'll continue to slide into the background, never making friends or getting her father to actually pay attention to her. She has to take charge of her own life, and becoming a Selector is a symbolic way of showing this. It will pit her against Chinatsu because friends grow apart. The fact that her LRIG (the sentient card) looks like the charm Chinatsu gave her and is infused with her memories of her friend attest to her own hidden strengths.
All of this is in interesting and important, but it still has a sharp, cruel edge that doesn't sit well with me. No one should be forced into the game like Suzuko is; overcoming anxiety and depression doesn't quite work that way, at least not for everyone. It's also a singularly unappealing way to sell a card game – I sure wouldn't buy it if there was a risk that some talking playing card would tell me that I now had to battle for my memories or be erased. It does look like it will do a better job with the “dark” girl wielding powers story than Magical Girl Raising Project, but it could also be grim for grimness' sake. It needs to tread carefully in how it handles what comes next.
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