Three episodes in: Hello, darkness, my old friend.
So there’s a bit of an uproar surrounding this anime, particularly with its first episode, which has got some people crying foul (You know who you are). It’s sickening, disturbing, and lingers within the realm of the abject by constantly presenting these horrifying and sickening displays of human cruelty. If there were any effective use of the Anti-bullying Campaign, the first episode of this anime could be its spokesperson.
I think there’s a little more to it than simply the themes presented, though. It is the manner in which it is presented, the sort of “finesse” or subtlety that many people would prefer for the sake of their immersive anxiety or interpretation of reality. I could absolutely relate the experience of watching the first episode specifically—and to a lesser degree the following two—to an overdramatic soap opera that tries far too hard to appear edgy to stand out. I could, but the reality is that I don’t find anything particularly noteworthy about its manner of presentation other than “It’s trying to be blunt.” Should people wish to make an uproar about a
likely possible exaggeration of an incredibly poor girl’s life, that’s their prerogative. I might recommend Fairly OddParents, where the more horrific things that Timmy Turner faces are only heavily implied.
Admittedly, I did cringe quite a bit while watching the first episode. Not because I thought it was detestable in quality but detestable in general. The focal girl in the story faces such a bleak and hopeless situation that you’d have to be either incredibly cynical or self-removing to not feel some empathy towards her. Whether facing verbal and physical abuse from the girls at her school and her brother, or knowing that most adults completely ignore her suffering (Teacher of the year award nominees everywhere), it’s amazing she hadn’t killed herself by that point. This first episode absolutely sets the tone for the rest of the series, one I, in my horrific mind, was curious to see how far they would take it.
In some fashion, what feels more like a betrayal is not the bluntness of the first episode, but how the next two episodes don’t even compare to how horrific they are. I’d argue that the first episode was some sort of game to see just how much they could get away with, only to normalize it (relative phrase) for the sake of keeping viewers. Or, perhaps, they produced the first episode, received horrid backlash, then decided “Whoops. Let’s tone it down, guys.” It’s not so much a noticeable shift, but to go from an almost-rape, constant physical abuse, a girl getting her throat slit, et cetera, to crazy people with wacky faces and bloodshot eyes coo-coo talking is a little off. Its first episode, from the tone it wished to originally set, feels the most raw and, in some regard, “real” than what came after.
So I spend this much time talking about the audience reaction to this show and the different perspectives (notably mine) that come with it. I note this only because I don’t feel there’s anything much to really comment about the show, which, in hindsight, is a little troubling. Episodes two and three are little more than serviceable in terms of enjoyment or any aspect of common critique, to the point where they’re almost bland. While Mahou Shoujo Site isn’t by any means a bad show, it’s hard to think of reasons as to why it’s a good show. Thus, with a conclusion as predictable as Bob Ross’s subject of painting, I’m taking the middle road. While it has some notoriety attached to it for having a horrific-themed first episode, I don’t think there’s much else to say about it either positively or negatively. It’s about as unremarkable as a magical girl story goes, though that may be both good and bad. It’s not at any risk of being dropped from my weekly schedule—the most complimentary statement I can muster.