Selector Spread WIXOSS

When I saw, way back in Spring 2014, that Mari Okada (writer for Lupin III: Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and, alternatively, Black Rock Shooter) was going to be writing the script for a trading card game anime, I knew to be excited. The show would either be a clever look at these kind of genre anime, or a complete and total trainwreck of cardfight ambition gone wrong. What I never quiet expected was that it would be both. Spring's Selector Infected Wixoss was kind of a melodramatic redo of Puella Magi Madoka Magic and its Faustian wish-granting system. It even got to the point of having the show's heroine, Ruko Kominato, wish to free all of the girls ensnared in the devious card game, only to be told that no, things wouldn't be quite so simple!

So, refusing to follow in the final steps of Madoka left the sequel series, Selector Spread Wixoss, without a clear road map to follow. As the series ends, Tama, Ruko's LRIG, has refused to grant Ruko's wish to free all of the LRIGs, because she refuses to see Ruko turn into an LRIG herself. Because of this, the evil Iona and her LRIG, Ulith, win by default. The series ends with Tama disappearing from Ruko's card, and being replaced by the new LRIG form of Iona, whose wish was to become LRIG to the greatest selector of them all.

So, where does the show go from here? At first, it's almost as if Okada herself doesn't know where to take things. The existential horror of the first series is all but abandoned, as the full extent of the WIXOSS selector system rules have been laid out. Ruko no longer feels the drive to battle, and is directionless without Tama to cheer her on. Even Yuzuki, trapped in a card, seems well-adjusted to her predicament enough to cheerfully accompany Ruko and Hitoe to a Girl Meets Girl card battle fair at a nearby park. The suggestive yuri nature of the event is par for the course in Selector Spread Wixoss, as the lesbian subtext of the first series is first made text, then supertext, and then so completely obviously hamfisted that it's clear the writers are doing this on purpose. It's a ridiculous start to a sequel, and the show's momentum is hurt by it. After a few episodes, though, threads of character development begin to form. It's soon learned that Ulith, now in possession of Iona's body, is also in possession of Tama's card, and Ulith has no desire to retire from battling any time soon. Clueless, energetic Chiyori, full of enthusiasm and empty of skill, throws herself back into the fray to become the super magical girl of her dreams. And Akira, scarred and bitter, finds herself caught up in Ulith's seductions and manipulations, ultimately forcing Ruko back into the Selector battles she had sworn to leave behind.

It's a chaotic mess of plots, counterplots, and sexual come ons, with many ideas from the first series apparently abandoned and replaced by new ones. Why was Ruko's mother so afraid of her child? Why is Tama seen as a grotesque monster in Ruko's initial vision? What significance does Iona's family's tower have in the grand scheme of things? We never learn, as soon we're caught up in the chase to find mysterious light novel author Futase Fumio, who wrote the WIXOSS books Chiyori is so enamored with, and whom Ruko and company seek to find to illuminate the mysteries underlying the bizarre card came at the center of all of the suffering.

But this dry description of LRIGs, and selectors and wishes leaves out how massively entertaining the series is to watch. If Madoka Magica was a well-oiled machine of rules and restrictions, WIXOSS is an overgrown plant that is bursting out of its pot. Spread's characters threaten to overwhelm any worldbuilding the series has accomplished with their hypnotic personalities. Ulith becomes a scene-stealing villain above and beyond even Infected's Aki-lucky, a nihilistic manipulator who exists only to see others suffer. Akira becomes a maniacal enforcer under her spell, torn between manic declarations of love and devotion and frantic, panicked cries of perceived worthlessness and abandonment. On the other side of the emotional spectrum is the irrepressible Chiyori, who apparently has no fear of death or imprisonment, and comments freely on the cliched and predictable elements of the series' own script. Despite her apparent disregard for the fourth wall, Chiyori's character arc is nonetheless genuinely affecting, as is much of the overwrought melodrama and lesbian angst that Spread WIXOSS presents us with.

Despite all of the emotional pyrotechnics and logical inconsistencies, WIXOSS remains powerful because it does something that Madoka Magica does not: It continues to look at the girls who remain in a system of exploitation even when they know it exploits them. Some are dumb, some are paranoid, and some are cruel, but all of them are arguably damaged in some way. WIXOSS has something to say about how what we wish for is a crucial part of our identity, and it's hurtful and distressing when our very desires are taken from us and handed to another to fulfill. Whether it's a statement about art, or societal expectations, there's meaning to the raw emotions WIXOSS draws upon, even if it's not communicated in the most direct and effective way.

Special credit has to be given also to the show's production. While there aren't really any spectacular animation sequences, JC Staff turns in a show that's nonetheless consistently attractive. The gorgeous backgrounds are courtesy of Studio Pablo, who really bring the Tokyo of WIXOSS to life. Kanon Wakeshima contributes another stellar opening theme in "world's end, girl's rondo". The biggest stars, however, may be the voice actresses who bring this material to powerful life. Rie Kugimiya is a wonderful scenery chewing villain as Ulith, and Chinatsu Akasaki is electric as Akira. Mako Morino as Chiyori and Satomi Arai as Eldora are adorable and deserve their own spinoff series. But it's the passionate screams of Ayane Sakura as Yuzuki who gave me goosebumps. Her screams to Hitoe not to look away from a brutal battle are heartfelt and powerful. It's amazing how much she put into dialogue that many would dismiss as ridiculous.

So in the end, what are we left with? A ridiculously entertaining, nonsensical series that plays almost like a yuri version of Samurai Flamenco. Episode to episode, we have no real idea what will happen next. Some of the dialogue is laughably ridiculous, and Ulith sneering about how Ruko no longer wants to "do it with her" will have you in stitches. The next episode, we learn the tragic past of an LRIG and you find yourself genuinely touched. In spite of the insane logical leaps expected of me, the final episode of Selector Spread WIXOSS left me in tears. It's hard to explain the unique appeal of WIXOSS in words, other than perhaps that it's a series that is so incredibly bad that it becomes genuinely good.


  1. I had entirely forgotten about the whole "Ruko's mother is scared of her child" thread. One more mystery to keep us eternally returning to WIXOSS.

    Ayane Sakura as Yuzuki really was stellar—easily my favorite character in the show, and in no small part due to her voice actress' great work.

    If there's one thing you missed on the production side, it's the sound direction, which, while admittedly hamstrung in purposefulness due to the script's scattershot nature, was incredibly effective through both seasons at convey emotional and atmospheric effects. Despite the ill-fated attempt to add sound effect in the OP, the sound work in WIXOSS as a whole ranks up there among the best I've ever had the pleasure to listen to.


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