Magical Girl Ore
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magical Girl Ore ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Magical Girl Ore ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Magical Girl Ore ?
Magical Girl Ore is an early '00s anime gag situated firmly in 2018. A combination of gratuitous violence, over-the-top characters, excellent reaction faces, and meta gags (“nice boat” from School Days, anyone?) makes this show feel like a throwback. I'm getting just a hint of Excel Saga from the show's self-awareness and tendency toward tangents. However, protagonist Saki is no Excel, and the show's potential to become a similar classic ends there. At least our lackluster protagonist is the weakest part of a show with an otherwise lively ensemble cast and a healthy dollop of tongue-in-cheek humor about the magical girl genre.
Saki's shtick is that she's an ordinary girl in a ridiculous world, reacting in shock to everything that the rest of the cast seems to take in stride. She's the straight man in a world full of bizarre situations that everyone else brushes off, and at the rate that odd stuff happens to her, her “sole normal person” act is bound to get tired quickly. Reinforcing her sheer normalcy are her crush on her childhood friend turned pop idol Mohiro and her surprisingly (and I'd argue refreshingly) off-key singing voice. But after discovering that her mom was a magical girl, Saki isn't so ordinary anymore. She's a warrior of love in a man's body, a joke that her shocked narration elbows the audience over repeatedly. It's as if the show doesn't have confidence in its jokes landing without Saki emphasizing every one of them.
From meeting her tough customer familiar Kokoro-chan-san to battling jacked-but-adorable demons in a fighting style more befitting to organized crime, Saki comes to learn “there's nothing magical about any of this!” And as the show progresses, even this bizarre premise starts to fade into the background of a more typical love triangle plot. Saki loves her best friend Sakuyo's brother, Mohiro. But Sakuyo loves Saki (and there's nothing ambiguous about it)! Kudos to the show for refusing to skirt around lesbian attraction, but I'm still nervous about its current portrayal of shy and sweet Sakuyo as suddenly predatory when her desires for Saki are revealed. I'm hoping the show realizes that there's no difference between Saki or Sakuyo's respective crushes, and even if Saki's not interested, that doesn't make Sakuyo somehow deviant. Beyond that, I'm excited for this show's potential to play with gender in other ways. How will Saki's pursuit of idol stardom differ in a male body? Is Mohiro's awestruck reaction to being rescued the beginning of a gay subplot between him and male Saki? It'll be interesting to see if the show continues to pursue easy jokes about dick sizes or whether it moves beyond that to more complicated levels of gender humor.
Sakuyo's attraction to Saki is revealed in a 12-minute flashback in the third episode, filled with more of the off-key singing I'm starting to expect. The sheer length of this flashback, coupled with all the songs inserted into the show so far, makes me feel as if Magical Girl Ore is already struggling to fill space with such little content. I don't hate musicals (and it's a huge bonus that Crunchyroll is translating the insert songs), and I also find it charming that Saki is so darn bad at her dream. And while Saki herself is a bit cookie-cutter, she's surrounded by characters I want to see more of, from her magical girl geek manager to Mohiro's irritating co-idol, Ryou. Sakuyo's also stepping out of her initial role as the more capable half of the idol duo into someone more unpredictable and self-motivated. I'd like to see other characters evolve past their initial character beats, especially Saki herself.
If Magical Girl Ore is going to remain entertaining, it needs to show that it's capable of moving past its initial jokes, especially Saki's quickly fading shock over a situation that only ever spirals more deeply into weirdness. The jokes about the magical girl biz being ultra-violent, and especially the jokes about Sakuyo being predatory, are going to lose their luster fast. My hope is that the show doubles down on its commitment to meta humor and shows us something entirely new, stretching the boundaries of how strange something can get while still remaining under the magical girl umbrella.
Magical Girl Ore is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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