A key point of writing about taboo subjects is the possibility that readers might get the wrong idea. I’m not immune to this myself—just last week I compared the staff of Gushing Over Magical Girls and their clear proclivities for depicting the underage female form to similar alleged aesthetic appreciations of Lewis Carrol. This was admittedly me grabbing some low-hanging fruit, since newcomer NeroAlice’s Wonderland-inspired style made it too easy not to use that opportunity to crack a crossover joke. But I do want to make clear that I’m not accusing the staff of the Gushing show (to say nothing of original manga author Akihiro Ononaka) of being legit sex offenders. I genuinely believe that compelling art can gush out of all sorts of weird places thanks to authors indulging in the outlandish. I think I’ve made that apparent before.
Of course, Gushing Over Magical Girls is no Made in Abyss. Hell, it’s hardly an Onimai (Onimai is actually funny and nicely animated, for its part). It is, however…something, I’m just not entirely sure what yet. Because while mixing up its big bowl of fetish-ini alfredo, the show continues the directions of de-escalating the one-trick-pony-show it’s been prodding at for the past few episodes. The result is arguably the anime’s mixed-est bag of an episode yet.
For one thing, it barely has anything to do with Utena. Instead, the series continues its introductory feature of Korisu, this time as a vector for focus on Haruka, leader of Tres Magia. In this episode, I finally started to cotton to what Haruka’s joke really is: her being the only one in this soaking showcase who’s still trying to act like she’s in a cartoon aimed at five-year-olds. The first episode shattered Utena’s innocence (if she even had any), but Haruka held onto her naive expectations of decency through it all. It’s compelling as a character concept and a decent comedy fuel, to say nothing of being necessary to make her good and embarrassed whenever the time comes to cater to that corner of the viewership.
However, Haruka’s hardly a “straight woman,” with her own share of quirks. One remark by Kaoruko about her being the “Team Mom” of Tres Magia goes right to her head, leading her to overindulge in responsible leadership and inspiration. Like Utena’s arguably ever-present predilections, a formative flashback from Kaoruko indicates that Haruka might always have been Like This. It’s a tough enough job, least of all when you’re thrown into massively inappropriate battles against villainesses gushing some clothes-melting, uh, white stuff all over you. But Haruka has to take things even further.
As a responsible magical girl heroine, Haruka seems to genuinely care about catering to kids’ feelings. She plays with the neighborhood children, including little Korisu, in her spare time. As far as Haruka’s character, the writing appears to play this all as heartfelt and genuine, as Haruka’s earnest engagement with Korisu contrasts with the latter’s until-recently lonesome isolation. It’s bizarrely endearing until the calculated whiplash of that sticky white fluid attack or later in the episode when Haruka and Korisu’s transformed identities come into conflict.
Sure, I could call out Gushing for doing age play two episodes in a row, indicating this is something the author most likely personally prefers. But that’s part and parcel of the experience of the show by this point. You see one magical girl get put into a diaper and piss herself, you’ve seen them all. What’s wild in this instance is that the story also seems to be attempting characteristic explorations in the middle of all this. Haruka’s entrapment in the infantilization scheme is at least partially down to her inability to ignore the whims of a child. Korisu’s acts, meanwhile, lean into the “healing” potential of her powers and provoke the question of whether her motives towards someone like Haruka might be grateful, as well as how aware she is of that.
Even the depiction of Haruka engaging in the age play and eventually acquiescing to it accompanies an acknowledgment of her using the activity to escape from the pressures of her day-to-day d, which is…like…an honest-to-god attempt at exploring fetish play and people’s interest in it in good faith—a far cry from the crass, exploitative punch-lines it’s been used for previously. If only the show could consider Utena’s sadistic indulgences with so much dignity.
As said, this is all interspersed into Gushing Over Magical Girls‘s trademark awkwardly structured, messily rendered delivery. But after the show had me more distinctly recoiling last week, this was an entry that reminded me there might be something here. Honestly, if it could do more stuff like this, integrating its eroticism in intriguing ways for both plot and character, it might make the way it jams its gushing crotches in the audience’s face more tolerable for those only ambivalent about the horny stuff.
In case any of you doubt my commitment to evaluating this series with the seriousness and respect it deserves, please view this week’s bonus expanded review image, wherein I’ve drawn parallels with only the most artful, academy-award-nominated animation around.
Gushing Over Magical Girls is currently streaming on
Chris is hoping that following this series at the same time he’s keeping up with Precure won’t result in him being put on a special list. Please direct any call-out posts to his increasingly decaying Twitter, or whip him into writing more quality material for his blog.