Reviewby Theron Martin,
Selector Spread WIXOSS
Tama has disappeared, and Iona is now Ruko's LRIG. This troubling development throws Ruko, Hitoe, and the LRIG version of Kazuki for a loop. Renewed contact with Chiyo brings to their attention a book that seems to chronicle the experiences of LRIGs with startling accuracy, and investigation along that line turns up some unsettling details about the Selector process. Meanwhile Urith is up to her own scheming, involving the now mentally-unbalanced Akira and further confrontations with Ruko and friends. Eventually, the girls conclude that Maya is the key to the whole Selector process, so they decide to actively seek her out in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter – and perhaps find Tama and put an end to the Selector process once and for all.
Despite its partial name change, this 12 episode series from the Fall 2014 season is a direct follow-up to Selector Infected Wixoss. It assumes and requires full familiarity with Infected for it to make sense, so this is not a feasible jumping-on point for newcomers.
The late stages of Infected laid out most of the particulars of the Selector system, including the savage twist about how successful Selectors, when they turn into Eternal Girls, instead become LRIGs while their former LRIGs take over their body and carry out their wish. Spread expands on this by showing how it can become a looping cycle in some cases. Infected ended with the shocker that Iona specifically wanted to become an LRIG for the strongest Selector she encountered – in other words, Ruko. But there's a whole lot more to Iona's story than that, and she may not really be who she appears to be. In other words, this series satisfyingly builds on what the first series established – for the most part, anyway.
While Infected was more involved with revealing and detailing the cruel Selector system, Spread focuses much more on the questions underlying the process. Why is Tama special? Why does the Selector system exist in the first place, and why does it work the way it does? Who created it, and what was her motive for doing so? These are all explored in great detail. In fact, the biggest flaw of Spread is that it concentrates so much on these reveals that it sacrifices the smooth storytelling flow of the first series. This is especially evident in episode 8, which is the Big Reveal episode about Mayu's background and the creation of this evil system. Unsurprisingly, it has to do with Mayu's negative emotions, but the way the series goes about relating her story is tedious.
Tedium is not the only problem, either. The explanation is also so full of holes that the story has to stretch beyond its limit to pull it off. Exactly why Mayu was in the situation that led to the Selector system, or how she was able to generate it, is left maddeningly unclear, along with any connection between those factors. Without some explanation, we're forced to just accept it for the sake of convenience, which is a major disappointment given how carefully the first series set up the game. The explanation also implies that the Selector system has been going on for years, a time frame that doesn't feel right. In fact, the storytelling as a whole takes a decided dip upon that explanation that it never fully recovers from, as the last third of the series is weaker than what comes before.
The series is far from being all problems, though. The character dynamics built in Infected work well through the first seven episodes, with Ruko, Kazuki, and Hitoe making a convincing trio of friends. Other characters come and go from the action, including the entertainingly spirited Chiyori and her LRIG, who appeared in Infected but have a larger role here. Iona also proves to be interesting as an LRIG, though the way she gets softened later in the series is not quite satisfying. The progression that the unstable Akira goes through is more interesting. While the drama is not quite as strong as it was in Infected, the tension remains high, and the card battle scenes can still be intense affairs.
The artistic and musical merits remain largely unchanged from Infected. The musical score, with its synth-heavy sound occasionally supplemented by stringed instruments, is still the series' strongest production aspect. Both the new opener and the new closer fit in well with that style, providing appropriate but unremarkable bookends to each episode. Designs for new characters retain the same pattern: mostly attractive-looking and well-defined for humans, more artificial and caricatured for the LRIGs and Mayu, though some (especially Iona) do get elaborate new looks as they experience upgrades. Background art is still fairly drab, and the animation effort remains unimpressive but not bad. Graphic content is almost nonexistent this time around, so presumably the TV-14 rating is based on intensity level and the ongoing incestuous relationship.
The English dub for Infected was one of Funimation's best in 2015, and the same could be said for Spread in 2016. All new roles are very well-cast, with not a single voice (even in bit parts) sounding inappropriate, and performance quality is consistently high. The star performances this time are Lara Woodhull as the bubbly Chiyori and Mariela Ortiz as her LRIG Eldora, but Jamie Marchi is also particularly impressive with some challenging voice work as Akira.
Unlike with Infected, Funimation does not seem to be offering a Limited Edition version for Spread. The only option is the standard DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. Extras include bonus interior art on the case, clean opener and closer, various promo videos, and English audio commentaries for episodes 1 and 12 on the disks. Probably the most interesting revelation from them is that Tia Ballard (who voices Hitoe) got her first directing experience as an Assistant ADR Director for the series. The commentaries also bring up an interesting discussion point: since Wixoss is largely portrayed as a diabolical experience, is it really that good an advertisement for the actual game?
Despite a weaker final third, Spread nonetheless definitively wraps up the franchise storyline. A couple of loose ends are left dangling at the end – what actually happens to Tama and whatever was behind Mayu's fate in flashbacks – but everything else gets resolved. This resolution seems a little too neat and oversimplified, but at least the series is not left open-ended. The animated side of the franchise is not done, however. The Selector Destructed Wixoss movie came out in Japanese theaters earlier this year, apparently an alternate retelling of both TV series with some expanded background info on Ruko and Ulith mixed in and one new character introduced. A new TV series called Lostorage incited WIXOSS is also due out in Fall 2016, but no details are available yet on what it might involve. Regardless, fans of the franchise still have more to look forward to.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Core cast relationships, juicy additional twists, English voice work
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