The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magical Destroyers ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
2008—With the emergence of a mysterious force, all kinds of otaku culture such as anime, games, manga, music, trains, and cosplay have been eliminated in Japan. Collectibles are stored away and otaku are oppressed in the name of protection. Society doesn't give it a second thought. Overrun by the SSC, an organization charged with maintaining order, the otaku seemed to have perished. However, a group of people appears who take back the blockaded Akiba and rise up in revolt. A young revolutionary, "Otaku Hero" and three magical girls who adore him - "Anarchy," "Blue," and "Pink." Set in Japan in 2011, otaku gather under the banner of freedom. The Akiba Revolutionary Army challenges the SSC leader "SHOBON" to an epic battle. They are determined to create a world where people can say what they want and do what they want as much as they want. Gathered under the banner of freedom, to reclaim the culture that has been stolen from them, let the OTAKU COUNTER CULTURE begin.
Magical Destroyers is an original anime and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.
How was the first episode?
Based solely on the synopsis, you'd think this show would be insufferable. There have been a few similar “supernatural event threatens otaku-dom/Akihabara” shows, and most of those have turned out to be the kind of self-fellating series that make me, a lifelong anime nerd, want to shove some anime nerds in lockers. There's just something inherently embarrassing about creating stories where an evil empire is targeting people for liking anime, manga, or horny dating sims. My biggest worry was that Magical Destroyers would follow that pattern.
Thankfully, this premiere never has that problem, mostly thanks to the sheer style and energy displayed throughout the experience. It's loud, brash, absurd, and has enough artistic ambition and skill to make all that work. Where the image of caged otaku left to rot in the sun while their prized anime merchandise is burned in the streets could be hilariously overwrought, here it's tempered by the bad guys being emoji-faced robot soldiers that are impossible to take seriously.
That effectively defanged any potential persecution fantasy and allowed the total absurdity of it all to work together and construct something spiritually similar to Dead Leaves-era Hiroyuki Imaishi. A clear disrespect for authority defined that particular time and place in the industry, and seeing it here was genuinely refreshing. I don't expect anything revolutionary from the show, despite Magical Girl Anarchy's whole theme, but there's an infectious energy to seeing somebody shoot spitballs at the powers that be, and the premiere had a ton of that.
Whether that will be a compliment or an indictment is a little harder to say, but I can at least say with confidence that I enjoyed the hell out of it. Watching a punk rock magical girl plow through robots with a giant, flaming Anarchy symbol on her staff was ridiculously fun. I knew I needed to watch more of this weird, brash mess when she capped it off by destroying the boss with a flaming booger. Then the OP had a bizarre digital hardcore breakdown at the end, and I knew I was sold for the whole season. This will be a mess, on purpose, and I'm down to see it either go down in flames or explode in a blaze of glory. Either way, it'll be flipping me the bird.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love over-the-top crazy anime. I am completely down with the idea of a team of three magical girls and their handler running a rebellion against the Japanese government, which has determined that otaku are a cultural resource that needs to be protected (read: 'imprisoned in internment camps'). But part of me feels that we just had way too much thrown at us in this episode about its world and setting, which might have been okay if there were a compelling story at the center of all the madness. However, there wasn't. Instead, we have a cliché melodramatic plot about a tired leader who needs someone to reignite the fire in his heart so he can fight on. The problem is—the story doesn't really hold water.
Much of the drama is completely artificial—they are in no danger whatsoever. Anarchy is a literal superhuman; with her magical girl powers, she could easily annihilate the army trying to invade Akihabara. I mean, she almost single-handedly frees every imprisoned otaku in a massive impromptu jailbreak and defeats a giant robot by literally flicking a booger at it. Sure, Otaku Hero may be a bit tired of fighting, but he and his allies are hardly on the ropes here.
The other problem is that we don't know much, or care, about these characters. Showing us their lowest point means nothing if we don't know how they usually are. Is Otaku Hero typically a strong, charismatic leader? Is Anarchy usually trying to tear him down a peg, or replace him? What kind of relationship does Otaku Hero have with Blue, and is abandoning her something he would normally do? The “tired leader” story isn't something you do in the first episode. You need some sort of baseline for it to work. Without that, it becomes a mess, as you can see in this episode.
All in all, this is an episode that I want to like more than I actually do. It feels like Kill la Kill or Gurren Lagann with all the visual craziness and over-the-top ideas. But it lacks the tight scriptwriting and thematic sense of Kazuki Nakashima to keep everything together. I am probably going to give this show another episode or two to find its footing, but I am well aware that I may just be wasting my time.
To quote an underrated cut from My Chemical Romance, the unimpeachable emo-punk gods of the mid-2000s: “More, give me more, give me more!” I had a sneaking suspicion that Magical Destroyers would be one-hundred-and-one percent My Jam™ when I first laid eyes on its trailer, and I'm happy to report that this premiere didn't let me down. This season has been great for cute rom-coms and solid sequels, but I've felt a little bit like I'm trapped in a cozy restaurant that's been stuck on Top 40 pop hits and Taylor Swift singles for a few days straight. There's a certain undeniable joy that comes from an original anime chock full of Looney Tunes violence and knowingly dumbass humor showing up to kick the jukebox and put on some music with a little more oomph in it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to pretend that Magical Destroyers is reinventing the wheel or burning down the system with its anarchic ambition. So far, it just seems happy to revel in its little corner of The Land of Really Dumb (But Hella Fun) Cartoon Bullshit, and it's all animated with such an infectious sense of play that I can't help but be roped into the game. I'm pretty sure I won't ever be able to resist laughing at the mere existence of the swirly-glasses-wearing Otaku Hero that Makoto Furukawa voices with pitch-perfect gruff seriousness, and his partnership with Anarchy, the Punk Rock Magical Girl, is fun.
Of course, the real danger of buying into the hype of shows like these is that they could easily sputter out before they've crossed the finish line, both in terms of narrative momentum and the quality of the artistry on display. The show is also not embarrassed to indulge in its more juvenile instincts when it comes to the jokes, and I can imagine a lot of folks getting turned off by stuff like Magical Girl Blue's crippling nymphomania (not to mention her penchant for masochism, if her reaction to Anarchy's punch is anything to go by).
Given how sickly sweet a lot of the other shows this season have felt, I'm happy to spend at least 20 minutes a week mentally regressing to the Summer of 2010, when I was just a teensy bit obsessed with Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. We've been spoiled rotten by some killer anime originals lately too. If we live in a world that is good enough to grace us with Akiba Maid War and Buddy Daddies, then I will have faith that Magical Destroyers will continue to melt faces and raise the devil horns high as the spring season continues.
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