The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Magical Girl Ore
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magical Girl Ore ?
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How was the first episode?
The inherent risk that comes with producing a one-joke comedy is that the whole show will fall apart if that joke ends up being lame. Magical Girl Ore's premise makes sense for a magical girl parody, but I must confess that I don't find the sight of a burly man in a cute pink dress to be inherently hysterical. Even in Magical Girl Ore's first episode, where Saki's transformation is withheld for the final moments of the final scene, much of the show's loud and abrasive humor just didn't click with me. The on-the-nose meta gags of the opening scene felt tired, and the show's drab visuals couldn't sell the zaniness that ran throughout the rest of the episode. The over-the-top Yakuza caricature recruiting Saki into the magical girl business is kind of funny on paper, but Magical Girl Ore didn't make the execution of the bit into anything noteworthy. I was prepared to give up entirely on the show, but thankfully things turned around in the second episode, where Saki's life as a magical girl really got started.
I still think the way MGO executes the “Saki, but a man!” bit is mostly dull, and any time the show went back to showcasing the bulge protruding from Saki's strawberry panties, I immediately rolled my eyes. (Don't even get me started on the tentacle jokes). However, as Saki's exploits got more absurd, I found myself beginning to enjoy Magical Girl Ore, even laughing out loud a couple times. Seeing Kokoro turn into a literal tiny mascot character was amusingly bizarre, and I busted up at the bit where Saki had to brutally murder her enemies by bludgeoning them with her cute staff. Even the dimwitted love interest was good for a chuckle, especially when it became apparent that he was absolutely smitten with Saki's masculine alter-ego. This is by no means an Intelligent Comedy™, but the show's dumb sense of humor is kind of charming when it isn't reveling in its lamest jokes.
As far as the non-comedic writing goes, things do pick up at the end of the second episode, where it's revealed that Saki's best friend Sayuko is able to use her own Love Power to transform into a magical girl, and that Sayuko has been in love with Saki all along. I'm not predicting that this will be a nuanced take on same-sex romance or anything, but the “Saki x Sayuko x Mohiro” love triangle is just interesting enough to make me want to see more. It's good that there's some kind of narrative hook beyond the gags, because nothing else about the show's production is going to draw a crowd. Magical Girl Ore isn't hideous, but its rough edges are just visible enough to be distracting, and the flat visuals occasionally hamper an otherwise decent visual gag in addition to making the action scenes less than compelling. Given that this is primarily a comedy, that shouldn't pose too much of a problem, but parody often works best when it can go all out in mimicking and lampooning the aesthetic of its targets, so Magical Girl Ore hits as much as it misses in that regard.
Given that this season is delivering an absolute deluge of new series, I can't guarantee that I'll return to Magical Girl Ore, but I have higher hopes for the show than I expected. It's a little ugly and a whole lot stupid, but there are some great gags buried underneath all of the dumbness, so it might be worth checking out.
Magical Girl Ore isn't shy about what it is: a less-than-gorgeous low-comedy spoof of magical girl shows. And it definitely hits all the notes. Ambiguously gay couple? Saki's crush and his bandmate. Cutie Honey reference? The terrible song Saki and Sakuyo sing. Idols? Two sets of 'em. Creepy mascot character with verbal tic? Kokoro, who looks like a yakuza and ends his sentences with “dammit.” Throw in a tentacle monster from the more adult magical girl series and some gender-swapping, and you've basically got Magical Girl Ore's first two episodes.
All of that actually does make for a fun time, although I'm not sure how well it's going to hold up in the long run, especially since the pseudo-preview during the end credits make it look like there are going to be some questionable jokes about the fact that Sakuyo's crush is Saki and she also transforms into a male magical girl in episode two. The show's strongest factor right now is that it has such a clear sense of what it's lampooning, not just in terms of genre, but looking at specific shows. Apart from the explicit Cutie Honey reference in the insert song, Saki and Sakuyo's manager is a Tomoyo-style magical girl fan, and he can't help himself from snapping pictures of Saki's exploits in her new guise. (We could also read Hyoe and Mohiro's relationship as being a specific reference to Yukito and Toya in Cardcaptor Sakura.) Mohiro could be almost any blank-slate hot guy the heroine's crushing on in a very basic magical girl story, and the first episode also draws a lot of parallels between idols and magical girls, with the mascot character filling in for the idol's manager, down to a contract that Saki (but not Sakuyo) has to sign before she's able to transform. All of this makes it feel like someone really put a lot of thought into how they wanted to joke about their subject matter.
Where Magical Girl Ore falters is in both visuals (it doesn't matter how often you lampshade the bad animation if it doesn't look good) and the joke pacing. Fast-talking scenes give way to slow build-ups (or just a dragging pace), with no real sense of how long to extend any given scene. The off-key song could have been half the length and still landed the jokes, as could Saki fussing over her new transformation, while the build-up to Sakuyo's transformation and crush reveal could have been drawn out a bit longer. Given that this is a persistent problem across both episodes, it could be a series-wide issue.
When it works, however, Magical Girl Ore is pretty funny. From burly "magical girls" to truly creepy muscular monsters and Mohiro's total lack of affect, this could be a guilty pleasure of the season. It's definitely worth another episode or two, especially if you know your magical girl shows and are ready to see them trampled under Saki's manly feet.
After taking a couple of seasons off from the Preview Guide, I come back to Magical Girl Ore of all things. Never change, anime. You're perfect just the way you are.
In case it's not obvious from the premise alone, this show is completely and totally bonkers. It's so committed to its particular brand of insanity that I had a remarkably easy time throwing logic out the door and just accepting each new plot point at face value. Whether it was out of genuine amusement or total shock, I ended up laughing quite a lot. It helps that pretty much the entire cast is on board with what's going on; Saki is fairly quick to accept her unusual transformation (albeit under constant protest), and everyone she encounters has a surprisingly positive reaction to her alternate form. While I raised a brief eyebrow at the explanation that a guy's body is more naturally suited to fighting, I'm willing to write it off as the rationale of a magical world that thinks to employ yakuza members as mascots. The gender swap gets things rolling, but the series seems to prioritize the ensuing chaos over mocking the change for its own sake.
Underneath all the “beat the enemy to death with a pink heart wand” madness, Magical Girl Ore does appear to have a solid awareness of the genre it's lampooning. I love the increasingly elaborate meals that Saki manages to eat on the run in place of a standard slice of toast, and the “magical” contract she signs is amusingly mundane. Admittedly, the show has mostly gone after low-hanging fruit thus far, picking out obvious genre tropes and cranking them up to eleven. That's fine for these opening episodes where impact takes priority over nuance, but I'm hoping that the writing will dig a little deeper over the course of the season. This isn't the first time a magical girl parody has gone loud and bloody (the previous decade brought us Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan and Magical Witch Punie-chan), so an original insight or two could help this series distinguish itself from its predecessors. Or, hey, just keep pounding creepy-cute demons to a pulp. You do you, Magical Girl Ore.
There are a few things I'm not crazy about, especially in the visual department. The series is clever enough to joke about its so-so production values, and its comedic face game is pretty strong, but using mediocre animation as a punchline doesn't actually make the animation look any better. I'm also worried that the script is setting itself for trouble down the line by creating a need to make each episode more ludicrous than the last. For now, I'm cautiously optimistic about what I've seen, and I'll stick around long enough to figure out if Magical Girl Ore is a smart show playing dumb or merely a dumb show with an amusing gimmick. Either way, these first two episodes are worth watching just for the sheer experience of it.
I guess we're opening the season with an easy one to critique this time. Magical Girl Ore feels like such a predictable articulation of its conceit that simply explaining that conceit should give you a pretty solid idea of whether this show is for you or not. Does a crass, self-aware parody of magical girl shows sound like a fun time to you? If so, check out Magical Girl Ore. If not, this one's a skip.
I should clarify that by “predictable” I don't mean “bad” - it's just that these are pretty much the jokes that come to mind when visualizing this. There's an absurd riff on the “running with toast in your mouth” cliche. There's a dash of sharpness adding some bite to its default genre conceits, like when heroine Saki's idol manager tells her “no surprise pregnancies, please!” There are absurd-looking demons and unlikely mascots, and it all ends with the reveal that transforming into a magical girl actually means turning into a hulking, muscular man.
Personally, most of Magical Girl Ore's gags fell flat for me; its satire felt a little obvious, its banter felt a little slow, and I'm also just not that interested in cheeky takedowns of magical girl tropes. I'm perfectly aware the assumptions of magical girl shows are kinda silly - seeing a show send them up doesn't give me any sort of transgressive thrill, and Ore's riffs on the genre were only occasionally unique or sold well enough to get me smiling. That said, this episode had to waste a great deal of time setting up its premise, meaning future episodes will likely have more room to stand out.
Production-wise, Ore falls on the weaker end of the spectrum. Its opening sequence is reasonably animated and features some pretty lavish post-processing, but after that's revealed as a fakeout, the show proper has a relatively flat aesthetic, with generic backgrounds and not much movement. I'm generally a big fan of absurd reaction faces, so I was a little surprised to find myself actively put off by this show's very simplified reaction designs - they're clearly going for a charmingly scrappy look, but the reactions were so simplified that they basically just felt like generic smiley faces. This episode also suffers some awkward pacing issues, in large part because it chooses to include two separate extended and entirely superfluous idol performance sequences.
All in all, Magical Girl Ore falls squarely into “passable show, but not for me.” If you're in the mood for magical girl parody, it's got enough charm and just enough reasonable gags to earn a look - if not, it's an easy skip.
One of the earliest debuts of the season is easily one of the most devious in concept. A male magical girl is hardly unheard-of in anime (see Is This a Zombie?), and gender-swapping as part of a power-up isn't new either (Kampfer, Birdy the Mighty, Gonna be the Twin-Tail!!), but it's almost always a boy turning into a girl. Dramatic transformations may be a staple of magical girl series, but I can't recall a case where a girl gender-swaps as part of the transformation, much less turning into a man so muscle-bound he could put an Olympic weightlifter to shame.
That's not the only thing fun about this twisted parody of common anime clichés, and the humor isn't limited just to magical girl series. The first episode gets a good joke in early by having Saki run to school eating a whopping plate of sweets rather than just the standard piece of toast, with plenty of cheeky gags to follow. Between the first two episodes, all signs also point to romantic complications worthy of Rumiko Takahashi's works: Saki clearly loves the oblivious Mohiro, but her partner Sakuyo is apparently in love with her, and it doesn't seem to matter to Sakuyo if they're both girls or both beefcake guys. Meanwhile there's at least some hint already that Mohiro may be more interested in Saki's male form, so her head's definitely going to explode when she figures that out. The show even pokes fun at fanservice by giving us panty shots of Saki in male form.
The bulk of the attention is spent on playing with hoary old magical girl tropes, though. The “mascot” is initially a full-sized stereotypical yakuza who later shrinks down into a weird chibi form. The mother was a magical girl up until hurting her back just a month ago, hence the need for Saki. (Pictures of her as an adult magical girl are pixelated as if it's something improper, which is a great joke.) The classic magical girl staff doesn't produce magical attacks but is instead used merely as a blunt weapon, while magical grenades and guns are also available. Bad guys have cutesy heads attached to muscular bodies. All of it delightfully skewers genre norms, down to exactly how overboard-spacey Mohiro is as the love interest or Saki's series-opening dream about being a more authentic magical girl and how much anime circumstances contrast with reality.
Its production merits aren't anything spectacular, this series has its gags down right in these first two episodes. This could be a parody worth watching.
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