Card Idol Project: Wixoss DIVA(A)LIVE

Wixoss DIVA(A)LIVE is the latest anime based on the Wixoss card game, and it combines three popular fandoms in one: trading card games, MMOs, and idols. The resulting show is one that has the potential to go in some interesting directions, but ultimately decides to play it safe in virtually every way possible.

Much like the series Gundam Build Divers, the main action of Wixoss DIVA(A)LIVE takes place in an online world where players can form teams of 3 and compete against other trios in online rankings through the Wixoss TCG. One of the keys to succeeding is that you not only have to be good at the game itself, but you have to get support from the audience, who can give players boosts through cheering. The protagonist is Asu Hirana, an energetic high school girl who dreams of being just like her heroes, the legendary team “Eternal Girl.” In order to pursue her goal Hirana brings along a reluctant friend, Onko Akino, and also ends up teaming with a girl known as “Absolute Rei” due to her cold reputation for discarding weaker allies. 

The first thought that popped into my mind when seeing Hirana, Akino, and Rei is that they’re practically dead ringers for the main trio from the original Love Live! in both appearance and personality. Hirana’s positivity is very Honoka-esque, Akino’s nervousness resembles Kotori, and Rei’s serious demeanor is just like Umi’s. I don’t know if it’s coincidence, a standard contrast in characters ideal for idol characters, or something else entirely, but the specific Japanese idol visual aesthetic of their online avatars is hard to ignore. While other teams are premised around different musical genres (hip hop, rock, EDM, etc.), in the case of the core cast, it’s like watching the second-years of Love Live! play Yu-GI-Oh!

Wixoss DIVA(A)LIVE doesn’t necessarily need to be dark and cynical, and I like the generally uplifting direction, but at the same time, I loved that the first franchise tie-in anime, Selector Infected Wixoss, was so wild and unpredictable. That one arguably wasn’t extremely original either, being a sort of TCG-themed Madoka Magica, yet the intensity of its characters and world made it feel more special.

In contrast, DIVA(A)LIVE is fairly fun to watch, but there’s never a sense of any real stakes. There are rankings, win/loss records, and all sorts of ideas introduced about how one succeeds in the game, but it all kind of feels arbitrary. Sometimes there’s a bit of tension, but all issues are resolved fairly quickly. In fact, there are a few episodes that introduce some real human drama, and it seems as if the DIVA(A)LIVE is about to take the gloves off, but even that is wrapped up neatly. The concept of fandom gatekeeping also shows up towards the end, but is never really explored.

Nijisanji VTubers cameoing

One interesting thing worth noting is that every episode has cameos from the Virtual YouTubers of Nijisanji— a perfect tie-in for a series about virtual avatars. Nijisanji girls have also made guest appearances in the actual card game.

Wixoss DIVA(A)LIVE ultimately ends up being average as a TCG anime, an MMO anime, as well as an idol anime. It’s entertaining enough, but it probably could have used some more teeth, though without necessarily needing to be dark and suspenseful like its predecessors. If it does get a sequel, I’d like to have a better sense of what they’re fighting for.

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