Welcome to another exciting Guest Review Wednesday! Today’s special treat is a review by Jennifer L. Once more I say this, with feeling, Okazu readers are the best. You make this blog better in a million ways. Thanks to Jenny and thank you all for reading. ^_^
Aniplex USA recently launched a new partnership with Hulu (subject to region limitations, of course), which has led to numerous new anime series being released through that streaming service. One of these is Vividred Operation, a magical girl / sentai anime with heavily-implied Yuri elements. The series centers around second year junior high school student Akane Isshiki, a papergirl with a flying bicycle, a little sister who acts as the adult in their family, and a mad scientist grandfather. In the first episode, we learn that the grandfather, Kenjiro Isshiki, developed a zero-point energy reactor known as the “Manifest Engine,” which now supplies 95% of the world’s energy needs.
All is not sunny, however, because seven years ago, the reactor (built on an artificial island off the coast of Tokyo which clearly owes design inspiration to Shimizu’s “green float” paper study) overloaded, killing Akane’s father, and seriously wounding her mother, who is still in the hospital throughout the series. The incident admitted an extradimensional alien force, the “Alone,” to the world. The powers that be, however, refused to believe in the Alone, and blamed Dr. Isshiki for the incident. Isshiki, we learn, has been preparing ever since then to fight the Alone when they inevitably return to try and destroy the Manifest Engine again… which they do in the first episode. How has he been preparing? By creating “pallet suits” keyed to his granddaughter Akane, which run on the “Vivid System” to make her (and eventually, her friends) into superheroines, of course!
There is plenty to dislike in this series. The characters are relatively two-dimensional, with the initial emotional problems they have quickly erased by the power of friendship. Fan-service abounds: virtually every shot in which we look past a character is a butt /crotch shot… many of them lined up so that we’re looking between a character’s thighs at whatever she’s looking at. There’s at least one Magical Girl transformation in each episode, which features lingerie-clad early-teen girls looking awfully happy to be getting suited up in their pallet suits. In addition, however, there’s a secondary transformation which occurs, in which two of the girls “dock,” combining into a single, more powerful version which has large, bare, bouncing breasts as she gets suited up.
There’s also a lot of “but never mind that,” going on. The alone came through seven years ago, but waited for our heroines to get old enough to fight them before they attacked? Well, never mind that. Dr. Isshiki is in disgrace and making no money, so his granddaughter has to work multiple part-time jobs to support the family, but somehow the mad genius has the money to create the pallet suits? Well, never mind that. Dr. Isshiki’s work on the pallet suits comes to fruition in an explosion which “somehow” transfers his conciousness into a stuffed animal? Well, never mind that. Dr. Isshiki, now in a stuffed-animal body, can somehow move, talk, and needs to eat and drink? Well, never mind that.
In spite of these drawbacks, I find myself very much enjoying the series. Interestingly, other than Dr. Isshiki himself, males essentially don’t exist within the series. They appear on screen from time to time, have a line or two, and then disappear, never to be seen again. This series is all about the Girl Power. The executive director of the Manifest Engine is a woman; her secretary / assistant is a woman. The Japanese Defense Forces pilot who becomes the heroine’s contact with the Establishment is a woman. And, of course, the heroines and the anti-hero are all junior high school girls.
There are strongly implied Yuri elements. When the Mad Doctor tells Akane and her best friend Aoi that they can / have to “dock” to become stronger to fight the Alone, and that the docking is accomplished with a kiss, Akane is puckered up and ready to go… with Aoi being initially hesitant, but then falling into the plan when Akane talks about how Aoi’s friendship makes her “tingly all over.” The two friends embrace in their underwear, and become one.
There is some interesting word play going on with the character names. Akane means “madder” in Japanese, and madder is a root used to create red dye. Aoi, her best friend, has blue eyes and blue hair, and Aoi of course means “blue.” The third girl to get a pallet suit, Wakaba, has a name meaning “young leaf,” and as you might guess, is the green member of the team. Fourth comes Himawari, “sunflower,” who becomes the yellow heroine. Each of these girls in turn “docks” with Akane to become an older, more powerful version of herself to defeat an Alone. Later in the series, Wakaba and Himawari develop a secondary intense relationship between themselves as well.
The series hits all the tropes of the Magical Girl series, almost as if checking them off on a list. I can’t decide if it’s deconstruction, pastiche, or just laziness on the part of the creators, but if you like that kind of thing, this is just the kind of thing you like.
Art – 7
Story – 3
Characters – 3
Yuri – 3
Service – 9
Overall – 5
Bottom line on this series: I’m enjoying watching it, but if Final Fantasy XIV wasn’t constantly overloaded to the point I can’t log on, I probably wouldn’t have watched the whole thing.
Jennifer Linsky is a nurse in North Carolina. More of her writing can be found on Jenny’s Blog Thing of Doom.
E here: Fantastic review, Jenny! Thank so much. To your point about it seeming like they used a checklist…you’re not imagining it. There are a number of fandoms that really, actually do checklist. (If the tsundere character isn’t twin-tails and a rehead, the series is no good. Or if the series doesn’t have a dashing blond, a brooding dark-haired guy and shota character, it’s no good.) They do it so they hit most of the main fetishes of the intended audience, of course.
One last note: the series is also streaming on Crunchyroll, and will be ad-free if you have an account.. Thank you again!