I’m never going to skip the premiere of an Okada Mari series, because the curiosity factor if nothing else is enough to draw me in. And in truth, for all her flaws as a writer her shows are rarely boring. We’ve just finished a long, trying ride with Nagi no Asukara which displayed all that makes her so exasperating (and enticing) when she’s in her comfort zone. But history tells us that when she leaves her usual template, the potential for disaster is enormous. And Selector Infected WIXOSS is a departure from that template.
What do we have in this series? Well, the Okada show it most obviously calls to mind is Black Rock Shooter, and the premiere also has echoes of Madoka Magica. What those shows have in common is that they both fall under the banner of the messianic teenage girl – anime as glorification of their noble suffering, sort of the logical extension of its long-standing worship of a non-existent template for idealized teen girls. As I said in my post on BRS, the central tenet is that no one is as noble and pure as a cute girl, and therefore their suffering makes for great entertainment in fantasy and sci-fi scenarios.
Now, that’s not a model I find especially appealing – in fact I find it broadly detestable and disturbing. But there’s a big difference between Madoka Magica and BRS, which sort of represent the extremes of quality within this sub-genre. It seems self-apparent that Urobuchi Gen is much better-suited to this type of exploitation horror than Okada, and self-evident from the synopsis of SIW (and hints in the premiere) that that’s the direction this series is taking. And in fact, I find my reactions to the premiere here quite similar to that of BRS – I enjoy the stylishness of the piece (that series had Imaishi Hiroyuki as Director for the first four episodes) and the true fetishistic nature of the series wasn’t yet excessive. When it became so, I was forced to check out.
Will that happen here? We’ll see. I didn’t find the premiere great or anything, but it did indeed have a nice look and an interesting feel to it. There are standout names all over the staff list and that shows through in the style and flair SIW brings to the table, but I’m weary of arbitrary premises (playing cards which only talk for “selectors”, part of a game to choose the “ultimate girl” who gets her wish granted) designed to get cute girls in ridiculous situations at any cost. I also found the performance of Kakuma Ai as female lead Kuminato Ruuko and Kuno Misaki as her hyper-cute avatar Tama extremely grating.
It’s easy to see all this is heading to a bad place – and that may apply on both sides of the screen for me. Card games that lure in little girls with the promise of wishes? Subtle this isn’t. I’m also less than optimistic that it’s going to work for me over the long term – Madoka Magica is pretty much the only series of this type that really has, and I honestly don’t believe Okada is capable of writing this sort of material with anything like that dexterity. As expected the first episode wasn’t boring, and it was actually pretty distinctive, so I’ll give Selector Infected WIXOSS at least one more week to surprise me in a good way.