We’re Having an Intervention: Selector Spread Wixoss

wixoss-spread-lrigs

Combining the fun of an anime about card games with the classic idea of “be careful what you wish for,” I genuinely enjoyed Selector Infected Wixoss. It explores the lives of various girls sucked into a zero sum occult game, with a protagonist who defies the rules in the sense that she plays for the love of the game, which has its own consequences. Selector Spread Wixoss is an immediate sequel that follows up on the cliffhanger from the first series, and it tries to take all of the disparate information strewn throughout the series and thread it together into a coherent story. The results are mixed.

At the end of the first series, protagonist Kominato Ruuko has a climactic battle with the fashion model/fellow “Selector” Urazoe Iona, but in spite of Ruuko winning it is Iona’s wish that triggers. Iona, wishing to battle alongside the strongest, becomes Ruuko’s Lrig—her main card. Along the way, Ruuko and her friends have also learned the terrible truths of the Wixoss TCG: those who lose three times have their wishes reversed (someone who wishes for friends can never make friends again), and even those who win have their minds swapped with their own Lrigs. Selector Spread Wixoss explores the origins and reasons behind the Selector battles as well as the truth of a mysterious “white room” and the girl that resides there.

wixoss-spread-ruuko

As elaborate as the story can get, plot was never really the strength of Wixoss and it shows in this second series as there a number of huge inconsistencies. While sometimes narrative consistency can be set aside for dramatic flair and strengthening characters, with Wixoss those plot holes are really impossible to ignore. I won’t go into detail about them, but there are certain explanations, connections, and reveals that just don’t quite make sense if you think about it for a few seconds, and more often than not it’s to instill a major change in a character. The story resolves well enough, and Ruuko’s stance is ultimately an interesting one, but it could have happened without all of the attempts at intricacy.

Even so, I still hold Selector Spread Wixoss in high regard. While the “conspiracy” behind the Selector battles kind of falls flat, this second series still maintains and even amplifies the strengths of the original, namely the exploration of various characters’ psychologies and the idea of wishes and desires born out of suffering, ambition, and various other emotions. For example, after Ruuko learned the truth about Wixoss in the previous series, she and her friends become dedicated to never battling again. They’ve lost too much, and are too conscious of the dangers. However, Ruuko loves Wixoss, and along with prodding from Lrig Iona she comes across as a recovering addict. “One more card battle, just one more, no biggie,” Ruuko says, as her friends try to pull her away from he deck, which she actually keeps in her pocket the whole time. At the same time, while she eventually finds a reason to battle and a noble wish to grant that is very fitting for her character, it is a bit disappointing to lose her Ryu-like status from the previous series.

I had previously compared Wixoss to Puella Magi Madoka Magica because their similarities make it almost impossible to ignore. In looking at these two works again, I realize that they essentially have opposite strengths. Whereas Madoka Magica thrives on its twists and manages to bring it all together in the end at the expense of characterization (which often feels stiff and unnatural), Wixoss as a whole manages its characters’ stories, feelings, and humanity much more deftly with the overall plot holding together like a game of Jenga. In the end, I find Wixoss to be a fascinating series that doesn’t deliver on all of its promises, but the ones it manages to fulfill are satisfying and thought-provoking.

To Her, the Fight is Everything: Selector Infected Wixoss

Selector Infected Wixoss (pronounced “Wicross, not “Weak Sauce”) is Highlander meets Yu-Gi-Oh! meets Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Girls are chosen to become special battlers in a card game, with the goal of becoming the mugen shoujo, or “eternal girl,” and having their wishes granted. However, if a girl loses three times, she loses that opportunity. Of course, as one might expect given the constantly foreboding atmosphere of the show and even its opening, there’s a twist or three.

It’s actually really hard to avoid the comparison with Madoka Magica, not simply because it makes for a convenient point of reference, but because the strengths of Wixoss—its exploration of its characters’ wishes, and the way it incorporates the “Wixoss” card game into its narrativeare best explained relative to the popular magical girl anime. The main character Kominato Ruuko is, like Kaname Madoka, an innocent and cheerful girl with no particular wish of her own despite being thrown into this scenario where one’s heart’s desire is the most important thing, but as the series explores Ruuko’s character and her lack of “motivation,” she also reveals herself to be clearly different from Madoka.

Whereas Madoka’s hesitation is more because she keeps seeing the horrors and consequences of being a magical girl, Ruuko realizes that deep down she needs no reason to play the cruel game that is Wixoss other than that she simply enjoys it. Ruuko thus ends up exhibiting shades of Ryu from the Street Fighter video games, someone who lives for the thrill of the fight. However, because people potentially sacrifice their happiness when playing “Wixoss” as a means to an end, Ruuko feels immense guilt from the fact that she derives such pleasure from the game itself. Just the fact that the pure joy of playing is put into question, albeit not in an especially deep manner, gives Wixoss an interesting platform to think about this whole wishing business. Additionally, the show is a bit less concerned with the aftermath of wishes gone wrong and looks more at the pain of trying to fulfill one’s wishes.

The scriptwriter Okada Mari (Aquarion Evol, The Woman Called Mine Fujiko) can often be a divisive figure as her tendency to challenge social and sexual taboos in her work (in this case incest) while showing a penchant for the melodramatic can come across as heavy-handed. In this respect there’s a clear similarity to Madoka Magica, where writer Urobuchi Gen regularly has his characters announce their feelings and the despair associated with them. One noticeable difference between the two, however, is that Okada clearly has a better understanding of how girls behave and interact with each other. I’m not a girl so I can’t speak from firsthand experience, but in talking to girls about their experiences, the sort of underhanded and subtle tactics of exclusion are closer to how girl bullies operate. This alone gives Wixoss a sense that it treats its characters less as vessels for ideas or specific personality types as Madoka Magica does (which is not to say that the characters in Madoka are bad, just that they serve different purposes), and more as different manifestations of worries.

I believe this is the first show to specifically mix the TCG anime genre with a primarily female cast, and what I find especially surprising is the fact that “Wixoss” is actually a real card game, which makes me wonder if its marketing is successful or not. Most accompanying media for collectible card games in Japan present their TCGs into the most exciting and wonderful experiences ever, something that will help you make friends and cherish competition, and while Wixoss does this to an extent, the decidedly dark bent of the anime highlights the fact that players tend to suffer tragically when playing. It’s clear that the actual mechanics of the card game play second fiddle to the characters and their narratives, especially because the show doesn’t do much to explain how the game works, but in the end the actual real-life game is still there, and while it would be unreasonable to call players of the official TCG masochistic or anything like that, I’m sure the concept of the show is something quite a few keep in mind as they play.

There’s a strong sense of a yin-yang relationship in Selector Infected Wixoss between pleasure and pain, joy and tragedy, gain and loss. Strangely enough, however, though the anime definitely pushes itself as a “dark” series, I find that enjoyment of it doesn’t necessarily require a fondness for heavy works or an interest in deconstruction or subversion. The experience of watching Wixoss is not so much about horror as it is introspection, and the light that exists within the series is worth paying attention to as well.