Y’all know I was looking forward to selector spread WIXOSS after the first cour ended solidly in the at the end of the spring season. Episode 1 gets us started back up in what seems to be chronologically only a few weeks or so after the events of last season’s finale, and I was happy to see that we got good end-of-season WIXOSS instead of episodes 2-5 WIXOSS.
The stage is set. Open!
One of WIXOSS‘s greatest strengths last season was unfailingly excellent control of atmosphere, and this episode was a pretty cool exercise in tension manipulation through sound and direction. We got started with Ruko, Hitoe, and Yuzuki’s moe girl adventures out together, but it’s pretty obvious that the scars from last season are still around. I’m not sure if it’s indicative of my prior investment in the series or of the skill with which director Takuya Sato plays the contrast between the the lighthearted girl time and the shadow of the world of WIXOSS, but this episode pivoted between light and dark in single instants with huge success. The switches were quick, but they worked and the speed at which they changed emphasized the immediacy of the two worlds to each other.
I really liked that they kept switching into Ruko’s daydreams about her friends all together, because (aside from the fact that Tama is absent) Hitoe, Yuzuki, and she are very nearly at that place. It’s subtly sad; even without the constant modulations between darkness and light, the facts that Tama is gone and Yuzuki is in a card hang over their time together. And, of course, Iona is just close enough to constantly remind Ruko of what she’s lost.
The re-introduction of Chiyori and Eldora (the hyper-genki Selector-LRIG pair) is a really nice element to bring into Hitoe and Ruko’s bleak world. They’re a bit redundant, as the role of girl-wanting-to-be-LRIG role has already somewhat been covered by Iona, but it’s their attitude that really clashes with the existing paradigm of WIXOSS. Everyone we’ve met so far in the WIXOSS world has been dead serious about actualizing their wishes to affect the real world. For Chiyori, WIXOSS is like a fantasy adventure or a game—she’s playing the game like it’s actually a game. How long has it been since Ruko and co. have treated WIXOSS like anything other than a parallel, dark-hearted reality?
It looks like Chiyori will be a bigger player this season than she was lost, and I look forward to seeing the tension she will inevitably cause through her contrary worldview.
In terms of our protagonist, it looks to me like Ruko is exactly in the same place she was at the end of last season: same wish, same desire for connection, same crippling habit to do things on her own. And still, she’s caught in the WIXOSS trap—sucked in by the temptation of an easy answer. The irony is that she has an example standing right next to her in Hitoe. Hitoe is literally living proof that WIXOSS is not the magic bullet; in fact, it was in the very act of going outside of WIXOSS that she was able to achieve her wish.
I don’t think the answer to Ruko’s problem is so simple, but Hitoe ought to be at least a mild impetus to think outside the WIXOSS box. But Ruko has Iona always with her, unable to give up on WIXOSS because, to her, that would be to give up on Tama. I was a little bummed that Okada decided to have Ruko say flat out, “She’s my clue to finding Tama,” as she had effectively implied that point already, but whatever. Ruko needing Iona highlights a couple of the compelling contradictions that I see in this show.
1) The WIXOSS wish game is an inherently selfish system. You strive for your wish and your wish alone, while simultaneously destroying the wishes of others. Yet, you can’t do it alone. You have to have a LRIG to sanction your wish, and they are operating on their own agenda. In other words, you need two people either way to actualize one person’s wish.
2) For Ruko specifically, WIXOSS is a system that has personally hurt her and has hurt people she cares about. At that level, she doesn’t want to be involved. Yet, she is constantly struggling against her own desire to battle and against her perceived reliance on WIXOSS to achieve her goals. WIXOSS is tempting because if you can forget about others, it appears as if you can have anything you want.
For me, these tensions are WIXOSS is really about. This isn’t a show about gratuitous suffering—it’s about “hope, greed, and desire” (that’s the show’s original tagline). It’s about Ruko struggling with herself, what she wants, what she hopes can be, and what she knows. That’s what makes the show interesting to me. It’s a batoru against self, system, and others. I don’t think WIXOSS is hopeless, just hard.