I love card battle animes and when it is presented in a cutesie Moe Moe way as an all girl cast series, I simply could not resist. When I started watching this show for the first time in early 2015 (a little after the second season concluded) I was expecting a Kawaii Yu-Gi-Oh series with a hint of maybe Digimon due to the talking cards. One episode in I felt I was right about that assumption. Back than I had never watched a certain magical girl anime yet so I could not tell the signs yet, but Selector WIXOSS would completely bamboozle me. I was actually shocked at the story this anime really tells. This review of (mostly) spoiler free, save for the basic premiss.
A girl and her LRIG
Ruuko Kominato is the protagonist of the first two seasons of Selector Wixoss, Season one is titled Infected and Season 2 is called Spread, a fourteen year old girl, living in the big city alongside her grandma and brother. She is a simple girl who doesn’t have any deep desires for love, acknowledgment , good grades, beauty or whatever like most of her peers. She comes of a bit as a loner, but isn’t exactly unhappy about it. Her brother however also noticed and gift her a card deck for a game called WIXOSS, the popular card game all the girls play, at her school. Not having any idea how to play Ruuko isn’t really sure about what to do with it at first, but one night when she actually looks at her desk she finds a very special card that looks like it holds a living girl. This girl can speak to her, albeit somewhat brokenly, and tells Ruuko she has amnesia,, or at the very least her head is very foggy. She has no name so Ruuko decides to name her Tama.
Tama is an LRIG a living card that can be used in WIXOSS battles against other card users who have been granted a living card. Ruuko has become a selector she finds out, and winning three battles will grant her her deepest wish. There is one problem however. Ruuko doesn’t have one. When the series starts we see Ruuko befriend Tama..almost like a TAMAgotchi, she shows her stuff in the real world, they talk, go to sleep as if having sleepovers and so on. Yet Ruuko notices Tama is missing something, so she dips her feet in the world of WIXOSS which leads to her making new friends and growing into a stronger person. If you have seen any card battle anime, or even anime before.. you pretty much know how it goes.. except you don’t .
Dark , Darker, WiXOSS
This series is a bit of a slow burner, while season one carefully builds a world and gives our main character plenty of growth we as the viewer could at times feel this series isn’t doing anything special and you would be very wrong. Competitive events that grant your wish are nothing new, we have seen it in Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh heck even Oban Star Racer has it. On first glance this looks like another generic series following that trope. Yet this series takes a LOT of inspiration from Madoka and assuming you’ve all seen or at least heard about Puella Magi Madoka Magica, you all know that isn’t a very happy show. That show is pretty dark. WIXOSS even goes a step beyond in terms of narrative darkness. While not as threatening or vicious as Madoka, this anime very much knows what it is and thinks very much about the penalties and the rewards of the “wish” system and uses it to create the darkest and most claustrophobic situation players can be in I’ve ever seen in the genre. If you think a Duel Monsters shadow game , where you risk your life …or risk going to the shadow realm if you prefer the dub, is badass, Selector will show you an entire new level of badass. The penalty for losing three times in a row I’d say might be even worse than dying like legitimately , I’d see the “shadow realm” as a vacation after losing after what awaits these girls.
As the show closer towards the second season, we find out this show goes even further than that. Winning three times in a row..arguably is EVEN worse than losing. Which already is worse than death. I am pretty sure the writers of this series will go to hell after they die, not because they were bad people in real life, because Satan wants to hire people who can think up more evil stuff than himself. Several times throughout the series I have actually felt anxious and queasy by realising what was going on. I watched Madoka shortly after this and when I found out how evil Kyuubi was I kinda asked to myself.. is this it? Not as evil as WiXOSS. So this is a legitimate warning, if you do not like dark stories..this one certainly isn’t for you.
While despair and darkness certainly are themes in this show, it is certainly brought to you in a colourful way. The character designs look good, the LRIGS are mostly cute and colourful and their worlds look super pretty. I think the show keeps a very good balance in keeping the visuals humble, as well as their designs yet still succeed into making those elements that need to be special, actually feel special. Tama for example , who turns out to be a bit of an odd LRIG also feels that way in design and voice and those kind of things. While she wears a very simple white dress and there are no traces of over design you instinctively know she is unique. Card Battle anime tend to be overly designed, Just look at the later seasons of Yu-Gi-Oh or Cardfight Vanguard for example, Monsters appearing on stream are so extremely detailed, with almost World-of-Warcraft-Like armor on them it is almost distracting. Wixoss uses a much more minimal approach which I really liked.
While there is magic and solid combat, never does it detract from the characters. They still feel real. This low key battling style allows you to relate to Tama more, you feel her pain more easily as it’s more “real” When Yu-gi characters take real damage, they still only take scratches from screen filling beams, cards shatter and duelists get their hair messed up by the wind that’s it. This show relies more on tiny projectiles and actual punches with a much more correlating effect. We see them scream and cry out in pain, which feeds that anxious feeling but also makes battles more investing as their is a much more direct correlation between what is actually happening and what we see. While some can perceive it as dull compared to it’s bigger brothers and sisters I’d say for what this show is, their looks and style is chosen flawlessly. It’s never really mind blowing , but the series doesn’t want you to lose your mind over their style.. it wants you to explode your brain with their story.
In this day and age, anime tends to be very heavy on exposure, characters will figure out stuff for you , and loudly state their thoughts even if there is no one around but the viewer to hear it. It makes it so that most anime are easy to watch lying down on the couch with a glass of wine or tea of whatever you prefer. Wixoss is NOT that type of anime. If you take it as is, the plot can feel quite convoluted, especially in the second season. While we do get answers to what is going on, rarely ever does Ruuko do that finger snap and go like “ooh so this is why that is happening!?’ In fact stuff that is discovered by Ruuko’s friends might not be magically transferred to Ruuko. Investigation into the story happens on seperate level, for example on the LRIG level and the reality level. Characters making discoveries on the reality level might not have the answers of the LRIG level, so never does one character really have all the answers. Only the viewer does have all the information and even then at times we are asked to fill in some blanks ourselves. This series doesn’t hold your hand, you HAVE to get invested in it to properly enjoy it.You are going to have to put your brain to work to make some links yourself or the story doesn’t make sense. When you do get it though, everything can click, you’ll be the one that goes like ‘ooooh, now I get it’. In a way the show isn’t the full story itself. The show is the crutch that allows you to see the whole story.
While I do really like this concept I would actually say this is a weakness to the show as it seriously hinders when you can watch this show. Normally watching with friends makes any anime show better. This one I recommend strongly to watch alone. With friends you pay less attention making the story harder..though figuring it out together could still be fun. Yet with friends I’d say you’d feel less of the anxiety and the despair these girls feel, because strangely enough there is to much love in the room. This show is enjoyed best if you can relate to negative emotions. Like if you could wonder how it would be to be absolutely lonely, or how it would feel to see what these characters see. Weirdly enough this is best endured alone. So in a way this show banks on you relating to negative emotions to be as powerful as it can be. You best enjoy it when watching it alone, when you are a bit vulnerable, but positive enough to bounce back and enjoy it. Great but there is a certain amount of RNG involved in how much you will enjoy it depending on your viewing situation. So how do we flavor this?
Selector Wixoss is one of the most underestimated anime I ever watched. It left a lasting impression on me which I am sure will also remain there. Some people can not see it other than a Madoka clone, while others swear by it and praise what it does with it’s own tropes. If you look at it like a Madoka clone, that is exactly what you will get and what you will see. If you see it as a dark Yu-gi-oh and Madoka hybrid you will get way more out of it as it completely does it’s own thing with the card battle genre while still managing to hit the right tropes to feel as a part of it.
The story is compelling and invites you to play an active role in it and investigate alongside the characters. Which works wonderfully well with the flavor of a card battle show. You do try to strategise along, you do try to find out what that face down card could be.I loved how dark this show got and how it made me feel even if that was negative at times. I’d compare it to visiting a scary haunted house where we are going in to feel a negative emotion in a controlled environment where you can feel them without actually getting harmed and still get the positive side effect. This show is a bit like that, the negative being the anxiety and the despair the main characters feel, and the positive of working it out alongside with them and finding hope and strength within it. Like with the main cast, this will not end well for everyone.. so just for this time. I will make you the Selectors! and it’s up to you to select your own flavor. As this show’s rating really needs you as a part of the equasion. The show has more seasons, but to me these two stand strong enough as their own.