Matoi The Sacred Slayer Collection (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 299 minutes approx.
Where would we be without magical girls in anime? Left with tawdry harem comedies, mecha shows and people trapped in MMO games presumably. But if you are someone who would miss this well-worn staple of anime then rejoice a MVM is on hand to satiate your cravings.
All 14 year-old Matoi Sumeragi wants is to live an ordinary life. Her mother went missing ten years ago and her police officer father Shingo is overworked and barely home, leaving Matoi to spend time with her best friend Yuma Kusanagi at her family’s shrine. Claiming to be from a family of exorcists, Yuma wants to be a shrine maiden and calls upon the gods to give her the requisite powers, which they don’t.
But when evil spirits from another dimension called Nights possess humans and attack the shrine, Yuma’s attempts to call on the gods again backfire, instead suffusing Matoi with the magical powers, her own god spirit appearing and achieving “Divine Union”, turning Matoi into a fully fledged magical girl. While Yuma is jealous, she supports Matoi as she navigates a world of secret organisations and malevolent spirit beings.
Matoi The Sacred Slayer is a frustrating show on many levels, the least being it shouldn’t be as much fun as it is. Yes, it is generic as hell, the animation is often lacking and it spends more time on frivolous clichéd nonsense than the main storyline but there are also some interesting ideas behind it. It is as if these smart concepts were considered a distraction from the tacky conventions the audience was expecting.
This is a shame because it is clear a huge effort was made by writer Yōsuke Kuroda and the other creators at White Fox, in their first anime only TV series, to build a solid foundation upon which the story of Matoi’s journey as a magical girl unfolds. It’s quite high concept stuff you’d expect from a serious sci-fi/fantasy show and not one that visually and tonally is a comedy heavy piece of colourful confection.
In this instance, the world is made up of 24 different dimensions, where a crack in the boundaries has resulted in the Nights breaching the gateways, invading the other dimensions, and wreaking havoc. Our world is the third dimension and Nights carry out their attacks by possessing humans and turning them into zombified killing machines until they are either killed or have achieved their goal and find another vessel.
Ahead of her inexplicable transformation, Matoi is not the only one capable of combating the Nights – there are other organisations with their own magical protectors such as IATO and Anti-Creed. The latter is represented by the Vatican’s Anti-Creed division called Fatima, their top fighter being a 15 year-old Clarus Tonitrus, a stoic but handy fighter, flanked by her watcher Cariot.
Less active of the fighting front is Haruka Luciela, an agent investigating the Nights on behalf of IATO, using her knowledge and connections to make things happen. Her contribution to the show is mostly her big boobs, tight skirts and goofy hairstyle but with the rest of the cast being so young, the fan service in the obligatory beach trip/hot springs episodes has to come from somewhere.
It is this reliance on such hackneyed conventions that makes this show so frustrating, seeing its potential to be something really good being sprayed up the wall with each passing episode. Admittedly the first episode is drawn out and doesn’t do a particularly good job of enticing the viewer to stay with it but thankfully this is rectified over the course of the next few chapters.
Slowly but surely a familiar but intriguing plot emerges revolving around how the otherwise unremarkable Matoi was chosen by the gods and able to achieve Divine Union when Yuma couldn’t. This, as you might suspect, ties in with her mother’s disappearance but don’t write it off as another cliché just yet – it turns out a bit differently to how you might expect it to, even if the journey is riddled with predictability.
Along the way and amidst the mire of conventional mediocrity, Matoi is herself in awe of her own abilities and relies of Yuma and other to guide her in understanding her newly adopted powers, a refreshing change from the usual scenario of someone adapting almost immediately. One thing Matoi definitely does not get used to is the disappearance of her clothes after transforming back from Divine Union, often making a public dash whilst trying to cover her modesty from prying mobile phone cameras.
Really though, the star of this show is Yuma, an energetic, boisterous, loud but earnest slip of a girl, maybe a little dim-witted but has a good heart. Yuma’s zest and vitality provides a huge energy boost to the proceedings whilst the OVA in which she recaps the story from her own revisionist perspective is indicative of her character’s likeable magnetic pull. And if that wasn’t enough in the other OVA she forms a Ghostbusters like exorcism group called Nightbusters.
Studio White Fox are fairly new to the anime game, forming in 2007 but already have a few top titles to their credit including Steins;Gate, Jormungand and Akame ga Kill! in which their animation style is demonstrably varied. Here the artwork and animation is loose and scrappy but works well in tandem with the pervasive lighthearted goofy attitude of this show, making an effort for the psychedelic tinged final showdown.
It is ironic that a show about an extraordinary girl wanting to be ordinary is rather ordinary terms of offering something new to an already overcrowded genre, yet the flickers of something more substantial peak through enough to hold our interest. There is little point lamenting how Matoi the Sacred Slayer wastes the opportunity to capitalise on the interesting ideas that would have elevated it above other similar shows, but we can at least relish in the fact it is harmless and enjoyable time wasting fun.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 (DVD):
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Disc 2 (DVD):
Clean Opening Animation
Disc 3 (DVD):
Rating – ***
Man In Black