If you are uncomfortable with sensitive topics, or spoilers, please do not read this article.
First of all, I would like to say, thank you to the first 5 followers I got. It really made me happy that you followed my blog ❤
I’ll work hard and do my best to bring more content slowly!
Back on topic. A recent anime adapted from the manga of similar name, Mahou Shoujo Site has been making rounds in the anime community lately. Personally, like it, if not love it. But for the rest of the anime community, reception seems to be mixed judging from the ratings in BakaUpdates, MyAnimeList and YouTube, and I couldn’t blame them for it. For one thing, it is undeniable that the first episode of the anime does, bring a lot of so-called shock factor into the table. This is especially amplified by the transitions the directors used when switching scenes. This eventually leads majority of the opposition to say that the anime is merely shock value, and offers no substance whatsoever.
Another thing is that some people in the community accuse the show of being a blatant shot at a “Madoka ripoff,” and I couldn’t blame them for it because there are some things that are similar to Madoka in many ways. The most obvious being the fact that the show is dark and has magical girls in it, as well as death and despair.
But probably, the one thing that stood out among all of the other factors that contributed to this anime’s rise to its currently (in)famous status is how the anime tackles very sensitive topics such as child abuse and rape. In the first episode alone, I could see why the anime gained the title “the edgiest anime of the season.” We have bullies making poor Aya’s life miserable in school (even attempted to rape her towards the end). We have a brother whose pressure from his father forces him to turn his sister Aya into a punching bag. It’s really, as the anime’s tagline says, unfortunate (不幸だね）.
However, I personally will admit that I could handle such edge and I continued on to watch the anime. I even started to read the manga, and I am planning to buy Volume 10 of it soon. Since the anime isn’t finished yet, I decided to go and read the manga so I know what will happen next. By doing that, I realized two things:
- I love this manga
- The edginess in Episode 1 is important and necessary
What do I mean by Number 2? I personally think the Mahou Shoujo Site’s appearance to Aya wouldn’t have made much of an effect had the “edginess” been toned down. If we take a look at the mechanics behind when does the site appear to a girl, it’s obvious that the site is approaching unfortunate young girls. For the site, the meaning of unfortunate seems to be that a person really has to have a sort-of living hell in their lives. And this lines up with the fact that the purpose of the sticks is apparently to collect negative energy from daily interactions with the world. Obviously, living a living hell, which causes despair, is chock full of negative energy.
Let’s take a look at the backstories behind some of our main characters before they became magical girls:
Asagiri Aya: Abusive brother who uses her as a punching bag, bullies that almost got her raped, but cause her physical harm everyday. “Everyday, all [she] thinks about is dying.”
Yatsumura Tsuyuno: Her entire family was murdered by a burglar, and has since lived alone in a state of panic and fear for her life
Nijimin: Her father committed suicide due to debt from loan sharks. Her mother, and she was (from what I understood) almost was forced by these loan sharks to become a prostitute.
There is another Mahou Shoujo who I forgot the name of had her family killed off by a murderer in a stabbing spree.
We can see obviously that these are very, very unfortunate situations unimaginable to happen in our daily lives, living hells if you will. Had these been toned down to just being lonely, then I think it defeats the purpose of the site catering to “unfortunate” young girls. If it was toned down, the Mahou Shoujo Site wouldn’t even approach Aya in the first place. These things do happen in real life, and possibly this was the best way the author could have made the girl’s lives really unfortunate while still being realistic and unfortunate. I know the themes being tackled by this series are very sensitive and serious issues in society, but honestly, I would rather the author use these instead of some unrealistic way to make the character’s lives utterly miserable.
Had Aya’s situation been just relegated to bullying without the physical harm and attempted rape, or domestic abuse from her brother, or really anyone in the story, then the story would deviate from the dark nature the Mahou Shoujo Site possesses. Again, going back to the sticks and harvesting negative energy, it only makes sense that the most surefire way of harvesting negative energy is to get it from girls who are living a living hell.
Furthermore, I personally think that the accusation that the anime is all shock value is unfair. While it is true that the anime does bring a lot of shock value to the table, advancing a few episodes or reading the manga would reveal that the series isn’t really all shock value. There were plenty of opportunities for character development down the road, and honestly, one episode of an anime isn’t enough to label the entire series most of the time. We could argue every day about the flaws of the writing, and I’ll admit it isn’t the best, but to say that the series brings nothing but shock is unfair and is a weak argument in my opinion.
On the subject of the anime/manga being a Madoka rip off, I beg to disagree. Sure, the series is similar to Madoka in many fronts, other than the fact that both are about magical girls in despair, with magical tools from “magical beings” with ulterior motives. However, the one big difference in Madoka and this series is the way the “magical beings” represented by Kyubey in Madoka and the site administrators in Mahou Shoujo Site approach their targets.
In Madoka, Kyubey esssentially approaches young girls, and doesn’t seem to have a criteria for them. Kyubey judges based on the potential magic ability, and grants young girls a wish in exchange for being a magical girl, which may or may not cause despair when the wish takes a turn for the worse. In Mahou Shoujo Site, despair is a pre-requisite for one to become qualified to be a mahou shoujo. The site administrators do not grant wishes, they simply give a stick with a random power to the girl in despair.
The mechanics of the mahou shoujo also differ a lot from Madoka Magica. Unlike Mahou Shoujo Site’s girls, in Madoka, the use of magic ability does not adversely affect biological lifespan. Madoka’s system is that with every use, the girl’s soul gem gets darker and needs to be purified by a grief seed to become clean again. In Mahou Shoujo Site, every minute equates to loss of life and physically affects the health of the user. It should be noted as well that the nature of the soul gem is different than that of the sticks, in a sense that if the stick is lost, you simply lose the thing as evidenced in the events after the incident with Sarina and Yatsumura’s apartment, rather than being a lifeless corpse after a certain distance has been travelled as demonstrated by Sayaka’s gem being thrown by Madoka into a truck.
With all that said, in the end, whether or not the anime is to your liking is up to you. However, I highly suggest following the three episode rule and give it another chance. That is assuming, you’re alright with seeing a lot of blood because if there’s one thing that the anime doesn’t hold back about, it’s blood. I love the anime and manga and obviously I’d love it if people loved it too, but what you prefer is out of my control. I could sit here all day, and try to counter the arguments posed by those who do not like the show, but really, only you have the power to decide what is good for you. Please remember that. I simply wrote this article just to bring my opinions to the table, and to possibly give you a different perspective when it comes to this really edgy anime that I, personally, came to love.
How about you? Please let me know with a comment how you feel about this series? If you dropped it, would you consider rewatching it? Or at least read the manga?
I think that’s all for now, please have a great day
and a happy mahou shoujo life.
If you want to watch the anime legally, it’s available on Prime Video. If you want to buy the manga, I recommend heading over to eBookJapan for the cheapest digital copy (based on what I could find). Just a quick note however, based on what I noticed, the anime differs a bit from the events in the manga, especially with Sarina.