Not all yuri is of the fluffy variety. Sometimes, the yuri you’ll find in anime is of the dark and gloomy variety, which is exactly what we have in Mahou Shoujo Site. Madoka★Magica and other anime have made it work, but this is no Madoka★Magica. Not in the slightest…
Synopsis: Aya Asagiri is a middle school girl who has problems both at school with bullying and at home from physical abuse by her brother. While browsing online, a website pops up on her computer featuring a creepy looking person. This person appears to take pity on her, and announces that she has granted Asagiri magical powers.
I mentioned it way back during our First Impressions post, but the first episode made a REALLY bad first impression on me, so let’s not talk too much about that again. Bullying, abuse, rape, suicide, it’s unpleasant, to say the least. After that disastrous debut, things settle down a bit, and Mahou Shoujo Site reverts to being another typical dark magical girl anime similar to Madoka★Magica or WIXOSS. Obviously, the story is nowhere near the quality of the former, and even the latter seems a tier above what we find in this anime.
The idea of a website that grants magical powers to misfortunate girls is a slightly different and 21st century take on a pretty familar concept, and instead of using nuanced writing and fresh ideas to separate themselves from the pack, Mahou Shoujo Site does everything it can to come off as edgy, but instead, it just seems trite.
In the immediate aftermath of episode one, the Magical Hunter subplot was perhaps my favorite part of the story. Had this lasted the entire season, I think I still would’ve found it to be an improvement over the other subplots of the story. After the story shifts away from the Magical Hunter, we learn more of “The Tempest”, a forthcoming apocalypse that’ll erase all feelings of malice from the entire human race. This is where I think the story really took a nosedive.
The magical girls vs. site admins battle then begins in earnest, with a detour that sees one of the main characters die. I do like that a story so dark does feature the death of a main character. It would’ve been a major cop out for everyone to live happily ever after, although we later see another death of a main character become undone, so disregard what I just said. Pulling something out of your ass at the last minute isn’t cool, and neither is “the power of friendship”, which also makes an appearance in Mahou Shoujo Site. One step forward, two steps back…
Adding insult to injury is one of the final scenes. It shows the most hated character in the series (who I refuse to mention further) being held captive and strongly alludes to him being on the verge of being raped by another character whose true identity we never really learn. While it did reveal a tiny bit more of this other character, was that situation really necessary? And you can probably say the same thing about some other scenes in this anime.
Oh, and there’s no real resolution. The anime ends before the arrival of The Tempest that we heard so much about during the season, though, the situation does lend itself to another season. With mediocre review scores and poor DVD/BD sales in Japan, I doubt another season will actually happen, but even if it does, I’m still not all that interested.
So I believe the story is an unmitigated disaster, but how do the characters shape up? Answer: slightly better than the story, but that’s not saying very much.
Things start with Aya, who I never really took a liking to. Perhaps a major reason for that was how she was extremely good-natured in the face of some comically evil characters, making them seem even more like caricatures. Whether it was Tsuyuno, Sarina, Rina, or others, many of the other magical girls have no qualms with using their powers to kill. Not Aya. Even when she’s on the verge of being killed, she’s still hesitant to use her magical stick in order to save her own life, and for most of the season, she just comes across as so powerless and naive. She recognizes this and wants to change into a stronger person, and by the end of the anime, her efforts do begin to finally bear fruit, but I think it takes way to long for that to happen.
Then there’s Tsuyuno. As the complete opposite of Aya (though her misfortune is even greater), she often finds herself protecting Aya from other magical girls, thus the two form a bond that provides us with what we were looking for all along, some yuri. Since this anime has very little in the way of comedy, this is the only break from all the doom and gloom of this anime, which makes it all the sweeter. At about the halfway mark, the two seem to get closer, and the rest of the way has plenty of yuri moments including several scenes where Aya and Tsuyuno hold hands and even share a love confession near the end. At Tsuyuno’s request, Aya strives to become a stronger person, and her desire to try and prevent Tsuyuno and others from falling into harm are what drive her. With how dark this anime is, the occasional sweet moment involving those two almost feel like small rewards, but it would have been more rewarding had some parts of the manga been adapted, such as a kiss between the two. Way to leave meat on the bone, guys! 😛
Tsuyuno makes a really strong case, but out of all the characters, I’d say that my favorite was Nijimin, the pop idol who’s determined to kill the magical girl that murdered her best friend. Going from bubbly and cute to a psychopath that’s hellbent on revenge is quite a 180, and that easily made her stand out more than most of the other girls. Rina was another character that I kind of liked, and she too was of the crazy variety. Being the Magical Hunter depicts her early on as the villain, but in another dramatic shift, she ends up being an ally to Aya and Tsuyuno. And in yet another twist, it turns out that she’s the one who killed Nijimin’s best friend. Yeah, that’s a recipe for disaster. And Sarina was Aya’s biggest bully, so basically all of these magical girls (with the exception of Aya) are either a killer or use their magical sticks for nefarious purposes. With heroes like these, who needs villains?
As for the real villains, the site admins are interesting yet underdeveloped, and we never learn much of anything about “The King”, other than the fact that she’s the most unfortunate girl in the world. It would’ve been nice had one or two of the characters been written out entirely and that time used to better flesh out the villains and The Tempest, but it doesn’t happen, and they largely remain mysteries.
In the second half of the season, a new set of magical girls from yet another magical girl site are introduced, but they’re simply not as interesting as the main group of girls. The lone exception may be Kosame, whose magical stick is a utility knife that she uses to cut herself and feed her blood to a person that she wishes to heal. I thought that she had enough presence and personality that she could hold her own amongst the main girls, yet that’s more than I can say for the other new magical girls.
All in all, if Aya had been a more charismatic lead character, my score might have jumped to a seven or seven-and-a-half, but I just found her to be so lacking that the other girls are unable to make up that difference. Like I often say about some of these shows that aren’t that great, the yuri was ultimately the biggest reason to watch, however, since it’s surrounded by so many horrible things, the payoff may not justify the price of watching.
Visually, I think Mahou Shoujo Site has some good-looking moments that really catch your eye, but then there are moments where you spot some reused animation or art that lacks much detail. The only other anime production that production doA has on their resume is the GochiUsa movie, so perhaps it was just some inexperience at play. And talk about going from one extreme to another. Yikes…
As for the sound, I ended up watching this anime twice, and neither time did the music really stand out to me. At this point, I think it was simply underutilized and reserved for only the most important scenes. Even then, I’m left questioning its very existence, so obviously this could have been better. Still, no music is better than bad music, so things could’ve been worse. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
One thing I did notice was a live-action ED in episode three that was sung by Nijimin’s voice actress. Seeing live-action video in anime never ceases to amuse me, so this was the lone highlight for me, from a musical perspective.
While I definitely wouldn’t call Mahou Shoujo Site good, I will say that it is somewhat entertaining. For me, the show was almost like a dumpster fire that I watched with sadistic glee, wondering if it could possibly get worse. In some aspects, this anime did manage to improve itself and provide some genuine entertainment… then it finds ways to shoot itself in the foot and undo all that progress.
Despite my low score, if you’re into dark magical girl anime, I think there’s a chance that you may actually like this. For example, I think WIXOSS (any of the seasons) is a better magical girl anime, but I found Mahou Shoujo Site to be more entertaining to watch. Even if it was sometimes for the wrong reasons, I found this anime to be more watchable than some other shows that I found to be much better. I’m sure not everyone will feel that way, but there is an audience out there for something like this, and perhaps they’re more forgiving than I was.