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.

Absolute Destiny Cardpocalypse: Lostorage Incited Wixoss

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Combining the trappings of Yu-Gi-Oh! with the zero-sum world of Madoka Magica, the Wixoss franchise is an oddity among card game anime. Although based on an actual existing TCG, its narratives tend to be less “buy our things” and more melodramatic human relationships with an occult twist. The latest series—the bizarrely named Lostorage Incited Wixoss—continues this trend, but trades in the “be careful what you wish for” theme of its predecessors for a new challenge.

Overview

Clumsy Homura Suzuko and capable Morikawa Chinatsu are the best of friends, but when Chinatsu moves away the two lose contact with each other. Fast forward to when the two are teenagers, and both girls get involved with Wixoss, a collectible card game that appears innocent on the surface but has mystical origins. A handful of players are chosen as “Selectors,” pitting them against each other in a battle for their own memories. Players are given special cards with sentient girls called “Lrigs,” and whoever wins enough earn the chance to restore or change one of their memories. However, every loss destroys one of their memories. As a result of both becoming Selectors, Suzuko and Chinatsu end up on a course for a difficult and painful reunion.

Oh!! That’s a Card Game

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One of the key differences between Lostorage Incited Wixoss and the older Wixoss anime is that the latter were made before the shows’ creators had any idea as to how the actual game’s mechanics work. Much of it was therefore just used purely for dramatic effect. With this newer series, there appears to be much more of a coherent portrayal as to how the game is supposed to work. Where Selector Infected Wixoss and Selector Spread Wixoss used the TCG aesthetics as a vehicle for characterization and character development, Lostorage strikes more of a balance between the thrill of seeing two people face each other in a competitive environment, and highlighting the players’ stories. The key example of this is the “coin bet” system, where characters can wager special coins—essentially their “star chips” in the parlance of Yu-Gi-Oh!—to activate unique special abilities, with the caveat that this is literally putting their memories on the line.

Even as the show presents the game in a better light, however, one of the curious aspects of Lostorage Incited Wixoss that it shares with the other Wixoss anime is that they don’t exactly inspire a strong desire to play the TCG. It’s one thing when Yu-Gi-Oh! has its heroes fight against the forces of darkness, but when the game of Wixoss is portrayed as a source of endless anguish I’m not sure what feelings it’s supposed to conjure up in its potential player base.

Intimacy and Hatred

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The highlight of Lostorage is the complex relationship between Suzuko and Chinatsu, a corrupted twist on the concept of childhood friendship (with mild yuri elements) that offers vague glimmers of hope throughout. As kids, Suzuko looked up to Chinatsu as everything Suzuko wished she could be. When she gets her Lrig, she bases the card’s appearance and personality on her image of Chinatsu as someone to aspire. To Chinatsu, however, Suzuko is a reminder of the false facade of strength that she’s had to keep up since childhood Thus, much of the series is about Chinatsu trying to erase her own memories of Suzuko in order to destroy their friendship, while Suzuko attempts to save it.

This conflict is very different from anything in the previous Wixoss anime, and the fate of their friendship does drive the story along effectively. And yet a part of me also misses how unique Ruuko from Selector Infected Wixoss was as a protagonist. The strange joy she feels from matching wits against other opponents despite knowing about the horrors of the game was an interesting source of conflict, but I also understand that doing this again would’ve just been treading old ground.

Given this strange love-hate relationship between Suzuko and Chinatsu, Lostorage Incited Wixoss resembles elements of Madoka Magica even more than Selector Infected/Selector Spread Wixoss, with the two of them possessing a kind of Madoka-Homura dynamic. When I think about it further, though, it’s actually closer to an Utena-Anthy relationship from Revolutionary Girl Utena: a girl who wants to be the light of hope for another girl who falls further and further into corruption.

Overall

Much like the previous two Wixoss series, Lostorage Incited Wixoss provides a mostly dark, cynical twist on the typical “TCG anime” formula. What sets Lostorage apart is that the stories of the characters comes across as much more personal and interconnected due to the use of “memory gain/loss” as an overarching premise. It lacks some of the surprising punches of the old Wixoss, but is a much more stable and coherent narrative overall.

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