Fans of Puella Magi Madoka Magica really ought to watch Uta-Kata. (Of course, being fans of Madoka, they will likely feel obliged to feel that Madoka is superior, but that’s a different issue. ^_^) For what Madoka is attemtping now, Uta-Kata did some years ago.
Uta-Kata is, like Madoka, a dark look at the the concept of magical girls. It begins with the words “Sorry, Ichika,” and the phrase “season of trials,” so if we’re paying even a little attention, we know that we’re not in for a happy ride. And, although our “magic sidekick” is human-shaped, Manatsu says, “Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to sell me your soul or anything,” with the same wide–eyed smiling-without-smiling face Kyubei lies with.
Uta-Kata is the story of a girl, Ichika, dragged randomly into a series of tests in which she gains great power…but loses everything else she likes about herself in the process.
As I watched Disk 1, I pondered why, exactly, this anime left me feeling yucky more than anything else. I’ve come up with a few reasons:
1) The service is a major hurdle. It’s scuzzy. It’s gratuitous. It’s pointless and whole episodes are constructed to create situations to specifically highlight crotch, breast and ass shots. And the underwear. Good heavens, the unending obsession with underwear.
2) The second hurdle is the always awkward, occasionally ridiculous twists of the plots. In the second episode, a male acquaintance becomes physically violent for no real reason, the third episode is a pile of grim and creepy wrapped around “Ichika loses Dad’s watch.” The feeling of grim and creepy continues, but we are also forced to deal with…
3) “I know something you don’t know.” There are 5 main characters in this story and of them four know exactly what’s going on. Guess which one of the five is the only one who doesn’t? If you guessed Ichika, you’d be right.
4) Everyone has *issues* but nothing actually happens. The tagline used for the third episode, “And that’s how everything was resolved. But I was left with a bitter feeling,” is a good tagline for every episode.
5) There is no grand scheme. That is to say, there is a *scheme* but it is given very little context and there does not seem to be a greater plan. In Madoka, we learn why magical girls exist, and what their relationship to witches are. Here, Saya wanders around torturing young people “because.” We just have to accept that some perfectly nice young people will have to be tested…because they do.
6) I’ve saved the biggest hurdle for last. The service is a salacious glance at female characters – undressing them repeatedly for the titillation of the audience. More problematic than this (and let me express that it is quite problematic for me) is the salacious undressing of the girls’ subconscious for the audience’s titillation. This actually creeps me out more than the seriously creepy service. Why is watching Ichika suffering fun? Ick, ick and double ick.
All of this combines for a very unsatisfying first half to this anime. I know it will improve, but I can’t forget what I wrote about it the first time, “the first seven episodes just suck.” And so they do. But, if you can stick with it, as the grim/creepy ratchets up into full-blown dark and gothic, this series becomes something your can – and should – watch.
Ratings withheld until review of Disk 2