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by Rebecca Silverman,

Waccha PriMagi!

Episodes 27-39

Waccha PriMagi! Episodes 27-39
Auru's starting to fit in with the other girls, but there's clearly more going on behind the scenes with the Omega Corporation run by her father Achihiko. In an attempt to mix things up – and maybe derail Achihiko's plans – Hughie and Touma put on a duet PriMagi, and that gets the girls all excited to try it for themselves. But can the disparate pairs that take shape really pull off a flawless duet? And will this actually affect Achihiko's plans and whatever's going on with Jennifer?

There are plenty of things that make Waccha PriMagi! stand out among other titles in the Pretty series and magical girl idol shows in general. This third cour is full of episodes that showcase that; it leans harder into coding and imagery that suggest that Amane is a lesbian, brings singing/dancing boys into the mix, and starts to really let us know that the Omega Corporation that's been sponsoring the whole thing is definitely up to some shady business. It's also continuing its earlier trend of treating its characters like actual human beings with all of the complex problems that entails, and more than anything, that's really become the underlying theme of this series: that even if you have magical powers or stardom, at the end of the day that can't stop you from being human.

One of the most interesting areas where we see this is with Amane. Previously her sexuality has been potentially hinted at in her Takarazuka-style performances and relationship with Midoriko, but in this cour we see that being driven home in a much more concrete way. In the episodes leading up to her duet with Hina, Amane is shown as being trapped by her feelings for Midoriko to the point where she's nearly drowning in them. She can't move on without actually acknowledging her feelings for and about Midoriko, and it's only when she's able to plumb the depths of her own heart that she's able to fully embrace the idea of performing a duet with Hina. Essentially, episode thirty-two shows her coming to an understanding about herself and her love for Midoriko, and while nothing is explicitly stated, the imagery is very clear that she felt something beyond friendship for the other girl. Once she can allow herself to understand that, she can move forward, and that she is able to accept herself and her emotions sends a powerful message: it's only when we don't embrace who we are that we stagnate. It's perhaps more subtle than other similar moments in magical girl shows, but if Amane can do what Haruka and Michiru did for Sailor Moon viewers in the 90s, I'd call that a good thing.

It also ties interestingly into Hina's arc in this storyline, which revolves around her unresolved feelings about Jennifer. Hina has based her entire PriMagi performance around her drive to compete with the older girl, and she's taken it for granted that Jennifer feels the same competitive need. When she learns that this isn't the case, Hina's lost; she's seen herself as Jennifer's primary rival from the moment she first took the stage, so to learn that the other performer doesn't share that is something of an existential blow to her. Hina always takes as her base assumption that everyone is basically like her: highly competitive and willing to do anything to win, and interactions with Myamu, Miruki, and Matsuri haven't really done anything to change that viewpoint. She can't fathom that Jennifer may have something going on in her life that's more important to her than the PriMagi because competing is everything to Hina; her arc this time, therefore, is her having to learn that it's okay to feel differently about something multiple people are involved in and to compete with herself rather than others. Amane's general calmness is a major boon here, helping to balance Hina's mania out, and their duet is a major factor in Hina being able to move on from her intense need to beat Jennifer.

That Jennifer has a lot going on and that Achihiko Omega has his sticky fingers all over it forms the through plot. Episode thirty-nine, which masquerades as a recap, is actually about how utterly hypocritical and slimy he is. The episode takes the form of an interview with the man behind Omega Corp. (which, it must be said, sounds like an evil organization if ever there was one), and it offers Achihiko a national platform to say all the right things about how he's not exploiting the dreams of starstruck children, how he loves entertainment so wholesomely much, and a bunch of other things that we, who have been watching him, know to be so much hot air. Interestingly enough, of the characters who are also watching him, only Auru, Myamu's grandfather, and Hughie seem to see through his act, and that's because they've been privy to both sides of him, public and private. Auru is the only person who this seems to be a revelation to; it's basically solidifying what she's started to notice now that she's an active performer and Matsuri's duo partner. The other two have known all along that things aren't as nice as Achihiko is pretending, and in fact that very concern is what led Hughie to enlist Touma for the duet that kicked off the entire story arc in the first place: he's trying to shake Omega's plans up by not only performing as a magical helper, but also as a boy and with another boy. Achihiko is able to roll with it by turning things into a duet competition, but it's a good start on Hughie's end, or rather, a good second step after the training camp of the previous cour.

The duet conceit is overall a successful one, although it's a shame that we don't get to see most of them more than once. (The boys are an exception; they get their full song in two episodes.) The duets force the characters to learn how to work together in a different way than the exhibition quintet did, and in the case of Miruki and Lemon, they have to realize that there's more to each other than what's on the surface, something particularly difficult since Miruki tries very hard not to let anyone in. Of the four we see, Hina and Yayoi's is the most visually striking and Lemon's and Miruki's the least, although we're meant to think otherwise. The boys' choreography relies a bit much on slightly awkward hand placement, but it's still nicely different from the style of dance we've been seeing. The duos also allow for new elemental outfits to be unlocked as the characters up their game via cooperation, and that also works quite well without feeling too much like a game mechanic ported to its anime counterpart.

Jennifer's solo status (in a few senses of the term) has been emphasized by the duets of the third cour. Now that Achihiko's basically admitted that he's got plans for her, things are clearly heading towards revealing his endgame. Fortunately, the rest of the characters are much more bonded and have a better understanding of themselves now, and that may be what ultimately brings Achihiko down and saves Jennifer. If Waccha PriMagi! can keep things at this level, that's a showdown that should really be something worth watching.

Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B

+ Continues tradition of solid character development, duets are interesting both plot-wise and visually.
Miruki and Lemon's duet is a bit lackluster and musically off, we only see most duets once. Touma and Hughie are generally underused after their duo.

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Production Info:
Chief Director: Chi Man Park
Director: Kōsuke Kobayashi
Series Composition: Aya Tsubota
Music: Hiromi Mizutani
Original Character Design: Yumi Nashimoto
Character Design: Sayaka Toda
Sound Director: Yukio Nagasaki

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