Sometimes, I feel like selector infected WIXOSS is deliberately trying to be a deconstruction of Madoka Magica. I think Madoka is a good show, but I don’t really like it. I haven’t seen the movies, but I always felt like the show itself was just a little bit too…easy. Everything fell together too perfectly, the ending was too convenient and the characters served their purposes a little bit too well. Weird complaints, I know, but seeing as WIXOSS currently feels like a more engaging, more interesting and more substantial version of Madoka, those little differences mean a lot.
And this is the last time I’m going to compare the two shows, because WIXOSS has obviously diverged from the path Madoka took. Essentially, episode 12 reached the end of Madoka and showed what happens when you have all the right pieces (enough wins, a grand battle, even a special power), but everyone isn’t on the same page. And now heading into selector spread WIXOSS (sweet name) in the fall, WIXOSS is firmly out of Madoka territory.
Before I really dive into the episode, I do want to give J.C. Staff another shout out for the visual and sound design of this show. They are working with less than a top-tier budget, but director Takuya Sato has been pulling out all the stops using color design, shot composition, sound and any other tools he has at his disposal to make WIXOSS feel like a top quality production. It’s a nice bit of evidence towards the theory (fact?) that you don’t need a gigantic animation budget to make a show that is visually and sonically compelling.
And that’s all without even touching on the story and characters of WIXOSS, which have truly graduated into quality elements of the anime. Tama was riveting this episode, as she’s developed into a character with her own motivations (simple though they may be) who acts on those motivations. “Action is character; character is action,” or so the saying goes. And Tama is making choices. I don’t know that she really needed an intervention from Mayu to get to the point where she would sabotage Ruko’s wish—she seemed well on her way to that point already. But what Mayu’s scenes did reveal is that there’s still more backstory behind the WIXOSS ecosystem…and maybe Tama herself was the one to set it up.
And Tama got a ton of great visual moments, too. In the selection of images below these paragraphs, I’ve assembled a few shots of Tama from her conversation with Ruko near the beginning of the episode, as they are battling Hitoe and Yuzuki. The top left shot comes as Ruko is telling Tama about her wish, and Tama’s face goes through a series of expression, all pointing to feelings of fear, distress and anxiety. Tama no longer wants to battle. She just wants to be friends with Ruko, and as she tries to convince herself that her own desire will be met by helping Ruko, her mood improves in the top right shot. But then Tama turns around (bottom left) and as she says, “Tama needs to battle!” her shoulders tense up. I’ve cut out the intervening shot of Ruko, but before the battle starts again, we get the bottom right shot, a close up on Tama’s shoulders—still drawn up. These are tiny bits of animation, with very little movement, but the information included within is valuable.
I’m not saying this is the epitome of cinematic excellence, but it’s again proof that you can do a lot with a little, and that an image can convey information more effectively and more convincingly than only lines of dialogue can. And when combined with dialogue, it’s all the more effective.
Anyways, about the episode. The real heft came in Ruko’s battle against Iona, and my worst fears regarding Ruko’s mental state were pretty much confirmed. I said last week that I thought Ruko was being somewhat delusional and overly optimistic (I mean, come on, people lives are falling apart all around you and you somehow convince yourself that you can avoid that fate?)—this week she just seemed stubborn and unwilling to think about anything besides “battoru!” and “wish!” Ultimately, though, I think she’s just confused about what she actually wants: does she want to battle? does she want to save all her friends? does she simply want to have a wish? Each of these motivations seems to come into play at some point during the episode, and they aren’t as united as they might seem on the surface, especially considering the fact that Ruko has more or less shut out all her friends from the decision.
It’s darkly humorous that Ruko essentially death-flagged herself, not caring if she would be trapped in a LRIG forever, and then got foiled by someone seeking what was the mere side-effect of her wish. I’ve been saying all along that WIXOSS is an inherently selfish structure, and Iona’s victory reinforces this observation. Ruko, who is trying to help others, can’t make WIXOSS work the way she wants; Iona, who is doing everything for her own desires, succeeds.
It’s also ironic that when Ruko seems most connected to Tama (“I can even hear Tama breathing”), she’s actually more distant than she’s ever been before. It’s somewhat reflective of Ruko’s condition with everyone around her—she sees nothing but the wish. And the disconnect there is obvious. How can you claim to be helping your friends when you are, in reality, not acting like a friend at all?
Heading into the next season, Hitoe’s back, which was a surprise. I had thought LRIGs perished when their Selector lost three times, but apparently you don’t get released from the system that easily. Iona’s now Ruko’s LIRG—i.e. the one person who will want Ruko’s wish to come true even less than Tama—Akira’s still floating around, and Hanayo is still connected to the world of WIXOSS. This is perhaps my favorite thing about WIXOSS: the recontextualization of characters in different roles in the narrative. It’s fascinating dynamic to watch their relationships shift as they all struggle with or accept this world.
All in all, I really liked selector infected WIXOSS (7/10 for this season on its own). My pre-airing hype turned out to be justified, even with the early struggles. I’ll be eagerly awaiting selector spread WIXOSS in the fall.