Ah, another one of those dark mahou shoujo that try to cash in from the fad Madoka Magica created with its hype and financial success. Although it does a fine job at having polarized imagery of happy moeblobs on one hand and creepy murderous monsters on the other, it still fails to accomplish the thing that actually made Madoka Magica such a hit. Which one is that you may wonder? Could it be the deep characterization? The elaborate storytelling? The amazing analysis of its various themes? HELL NO, that show sucked in all that.
… It was the production values, ok?
AIC is no SHAFT. They can’t throw a mountain of money at it, nor do they have overrated anime creators in their disposal to hype the damn thing six months before it even begins to air. And this is why despite all the good efforts the artwork of Gen’ei doesn’t look very good and the soundtrack is just ok at best. The character designs are practically laughable and the motions during battles are very crude. The action bits that SHOULD feel epic for the build-up they get, end up being nothing but a random line of magic attacks with no real strategy and an excuse for the heroine to use the power of friendship.
Anyways, as a stand-alone show it is not bad but sure becomes sort of repetitive in its plot very soon. Some person is lured to the dark side, turns to monster, does bad things, and the girls are sent to kill it. The theme of how you are willing to do murder in order to fulfill your deepest desires can be interesting but not when it is done in an episodic manner. Every episode is essentially 15 minutes of fuzzy slice of life, followed by 5 minutes of photo-epileptic battles full of gore and death around people we will never see again. It is hard to get attached to any of the characters since every conflict is resolved in the very episode it is created. Also, they resort to that stupid amnesia gimmick where the monsters and the victims of the monsters are erased from everybody’s memories. Their deaths are treated as accidents, which is a cheap way to maintain the status quo but also removes the drama from the setting. And sure, the main characters, the mahou shoujo themselves, remember everything but even they seem to get over it by the next episode.
Once again the main heroine ends up being the most basic and dull of them all, constantly trying to reason with the monsters and save everybody with the power of love and all that crap. It doesn’t work to the most part (thank God) but it still makes you wonder why they even have her in the demon busting team. She constantly refuses to fight, which results to many lives being endangered, hers included. I mean I would understand if they kept her in the sidelines until she gains experience; but moving her from JUST GOT SUPERPOWERS straight to FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is overkill and helps nobody in the longrun.
I am also not fond of themes that are rubbed in your face, something which all dark mahou shojo do. They end up having depressing stuff along with cute moeblobs in order to manipulate emotions in the most obvious and lazy of methods. In case you have watched Blood C, Black Rock Shooter, or Symphogear, you will recognize that unsettling feeling of the uncanny valley. Now it’s cute. WHAM. Now it’s gory. WHAM. Now it’s loli fan service. And yes, that is too an issue in case you don’t take pleasure in watching naked moeblobs with squirrel voices for a few minutes before blood starts splattering all over the screen.
What I do like a lot though is the attention they gave to slowly explain what is going on. The monsters have motivations, and the magic comes from an explained source, something which beats having no real reason than being evil and having magic. It is also not trolling you to think it is a fluffy show for 3 episodes before it throws in someone important dying. In those departments, it blows Madoka Magica out of the water. The problem still remains though; the drama and conflicts are piss poor and rushed, always resolved with brute force and mind control. Nothing matters past the episode it takes place in.
The show is not bad in overall but lacks tremendously in tension. Despite being dark and violent, you just can’t get into it when they throw lolicon fan service amongst silly drawn characters and expect you to gasp at the tragedies they face before they forget them in 5 minutes. So in the long run it fails to be something actually memorable and poignant. Hell, I can even throw in the fact that Madoka also worked because most had never seen a deconstruction of the genre before, so they were taken by surprise. The same trick will never work with any show that tries to pull the same rabbit out of the same hat so soon. And boy, does this hat look ugly by now.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (rather low on budget)
Character Figures 0/2 (laughable)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (squirrel voices)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (episodic and repetitive)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (cheesy)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama)
Memorability 2/4 (visuals and themes are cool but they are handled poorly)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 1/2 (nice songs, bad voice acting)
Story 1/3 (good concept handled poorly)
Characters 1/4 (sexualized and badly drawn lolis, yuck)