Review/discussion about: Selector Infected WIXOSS
Have you ever played a trading-card game like the one in Selector Infected WIXOSS?
I used to play the Pokemon TCG, and by “play” I mean I liked collecting the cards and putting them in binders. I did not understand the rules (and I never took the time to learn them), so I simply collected. Dark Charizard, Ancient Mew (the one from the first movie), and the various Gym cards were my calling.
I also played Yu-Gi-Oh, but, again, “played” is just another word for “whining to our parents to buy my brother and me cards for collecting.” I remember during one Christmas (and I kid you not that this is a true story) when my brother got an extra, random pack of cards from my parents that they had bought on a whim. Inside was a card called the “Thousand Eyes Restrict,” the rarest card in existence at that time. I was so upset (and immature) that I started crying. I ran downstairs to wail in torment – not the proudest moment of my life.
Selector Infected WIXOSS is certainly about ultra-rare cards that make one cry. But the crying comes about for an entirely different reason.
WIXOSS is not just the title of the series but also the name of the trading-card game within the anime. Meaning, one would think there is some importance to the cards and the game itself. And, to a certain extent, one would not be wrong. General rules are provided, the settings are established, and the outcomes are influenced.
Yet the mood is awry; something feels off. Strangely, full games are hardly shown, and, in some instances, certain duels are never shown at all. It quickly becomes apparent that WIXOSS, the card game, is just the backdrop. What truly matters is the in-between details. Two of the girls conversing in a library. The feelings one character has for another. An expression of emotion during the games themselves.
That awry feeling turns to reality when WIXOSS reveals the cruelty that lay hidden behind the cuteness after its first plot twist. And the twist is cruel: it is about as opposite as one can get from a fairy-tale adventure. But the show does not stop its cruelty there. Instead, WIXOSS unveils another plot twist later on – a “reversal of fortune,” so to speak. Taking both twists together turns the narrative into a horrible, vile, and cruel offering.
Do not misunderstand; this cruelness is wonderful. It is wonderful because, despite the twists being slightly predictable, tainting an idea that is almost always painted as angelic invites the audience to view said idea from a different perspective.
This new perception challenges the audience to consider what drives people: friendship, love, and jealousy just to name a few. Yet WIXOSS does not stop there. It also challenges the audience to consider what one would be willing to do to make their dreams come true. Maybe it is having the courage to talk with strangers. Maybe it is admitting one’s actual feelings. Maybe it is selfishly trampling over others.
Perhaps the cruelest part of WIXOSS, though, is how these motivations and this willingness mean nothing. Characters that try and fail are punished, and characters that try and succeed are punished, too. It does not matter who is involved; misfortune befalls everybody. The notion that thinking and doing nothing is the best option – especially considering Ruuko’s disposition – is an enticing one. Not just because the narrative makes this notion clear but also because that lifestyle is the only way to never get hurt.
Nowhere is this hurtful sentiment stronger than with the ending. The conclusion to the first season is harsh. It is frustrating. But it is necessary. Yes, the conclusion aligns with the overall mood of the anime, but, more than simply fitting the mood, the conclusion drives home the cruelty. Someone may have the purest of intentions imaginable, but this mindset does not exempt him or her from tragedy.
Tragically, WIXOSS is not without its faults. Hitoe essentially getting cured is contrived to the point of unfairness, ruining the effect the choices and rules that the anime itself established. Also, in episode four, Ruuko getting chased around the school (where a random student insults the teacher when she says, “Shut it! Scrub-face!”) is a bit too silly.
Still, WIXOSS executes a lot within its first season, setting up the continuation nicely enough.
One of the more obvious artistic choices that WIXOSS makes is the lighting. More specifically, low lighting, cloudy days, and an emphasis on the evening and the night keeps everything dreary in a natural manner. The color choices do this, too. Lots of grays, blacks, and browns subconsciously keep the mood dreary, matching the anime’s own tone.
There is a subtler artistic choice that is even stronger than the lighting or the coloring. Many of the locations visited are very constrained. Alleyways, warehouses, and apartments are nicely detailed and somewhat rough in appearance. Better yet, they are claustrophobic in feeling. This is purposefully and expertly done: It is not until the WIXOSS battles where the claustrophobia is dropped since the playing field opens up entirely. The purpose is to show that the characters, and by extension the audience, do not feel at ease unless WIXOSS is being played.
And then there is a peculiarity of the art. Throughout WIXOSS, the show places emphasis on the tram system. This includes showing the fast-moving tram from the outside, the characters riding the tram on the inside, and the entrance and exit to the underground where the tram is located.
Why does WIXOSS do this? Trams symbolize moving forward from one spot to another. But the interesting (and relevant) part is that the movement is not controlled by the rider; the movement is controlled by an outside source. And thus the purpose for highlighting trams is revealed: Ruuko and the others play WIXOSS, believing that they are moving towards their dreams on their own, when in reality their moves are controlled by a force larger than themselves.
As for the actual animation and the character designs, both are fine for what is provided. The animation does not do anything too fancy except for during the WIXOSS battles, but, even then, the fights are not that intricate since it mostly comes down to lots of explosions.
The character designs are nice in that they are not overt in their details. Ruuko’s side ponytail adds cuteness so the audience feels sympathy for her. Hitoe’s glasses, drab clothing, and tidy hair reflect her mature disposition. And Yuzuki’s hoodie gives her a metaphorical way to hide from the looks of disgust that people throw at her.
The only glaring issue with the character designs are their noses. They are often malformed in appearance, giving the characters some strange looks. But given everything else the art offers, this is a minute grievance.
Symbolism is almost always wonderful to include. WIXOSS realizes this, so the anime includes it with its characters.
Each of the (main) characters has a specific color that their WIXOSS decks revolve around. Ruuko’s is white, symbolizing purity – in this case, “purity” means “not having a wish of her own.” Yuzuki’s is red, symbolizing love, passion, and anger. These are emotions she goes through throughout the season. Hitoe’s is green, symbolizing friendliness and peace; a perfect color for the friend-finding and calm girl. Akira’s is blue, symbolizing her cold, icy behavior. And Iona’s is black, symbolizing her wicked ways.
The symbolism is nice because it adds depth to the characters without explicitly stating anything – showing rather than telling. But there is more to the cast besides symbolism. In regards to the narrative, the anime has a character representative of each side of the conflict. Hitoe is the character that plays the game, discovers she no longer has to, and then loses, falling into disrepair to show how horrible losing actually is. Yuzuki is the character that wins, demonstrating what “winning” actually entails. Akira is the character that constantly wins but never has her final condition met. Iona is more or less the main antagonist of the season. And Ruuko is the character who the audience uses to observe all of the different sides at once. In other words, WIXOSS is exhaustive in the possibilities that its story can generate.
On symbolic and narrative levels, WIXOSS performs well. The anime, however, starts to falter slightly when characters are looked at individually. Some of the weaker members of the cast are Iona and Akira. Iona does not have enough screen time to really be considered a worthwhile antagonist let alone the final boss of the season. Akira has troubles of her own, and she even gets to a pretty low point in her life. Yet the anime mistakenly does not conclude her conflict. Presumably it will be taken care of in the sequel, but leaving her character and her actions up in the air only hurts her character development.
Hitoe is not a subpar character, but Hitoe is not a strong character, either. She starts off in a dire spot herself. Having moved to a new place and unable to socialize with others, she finds herself alone. Or, more contextually, she has no friends to call her own. So she plays WIXOSS. In time, Ruuko and Yuzuki befriend her, so she no longer needs the game. But when Iona forces her third loss, the audience sees what becomes of someone in her predicament.
She undergoes massive trauma, but she does not undergo development. She continually seeks companionship, even when she is in her broken state. She just does not know it then. At the minimum, she pushes herself, trying to figure out what it is she is missing and fighting in the tournament to get what she wants. And, to be fair, her main purpose is to demonstrate the dark side of losing at WIXOSS which she did without a doubt.
Yuzuki continues to show the darkness of WIXOSS, and she is also the strongest character. Her love is one that is unrequited but also taboo. She understands this, but she continues to fight anyway. She fights and she loses. She fights and she wins. And all the while, she is ridiculed and reminded of the love she has that should not be.
Regardless, she does not let it get to her, and, when she finally succeeds, she ultimately fails. Her wish was granted, but not in the way she hoped. Her outcome demands thought on perseverance versus getting what one wants unfairly – could she have gotten the love she sought through normal means, or was crushing others dreams the only solution?
Her aftermath finally has her thinking about people other than herself, especially Hanayo. She comes to understand Hanayo’s situation, she decides to help her old friend Hitoe, and she believes in Ruuko. While she still has to contend with where she is at, her character arc over the course of the season did everything it needed to and more.
This leaves the last two important characters: Tama and Ruuko. Tama is mostly used for comic relief. Her perky personality and unending need to battle is designed to be a light amidst all of the surrounding darkness. She is also an anomaly. She obviously has a special role in the plot that has yet to be revealed. So, for now, her character is right where she needs to be.
As for Ruuko, she is likewise an anomaly. She is the main protagonist, but she is quite bland. She is technically the strongest WIXOSS player, but she plays for fun. She is the cutest character, but she is the scariest among all of them.
This last detail may seem strange, but it is true. And it is the most important one about her. The other characters find her lack of desire troubling and terrifying because where they are motivated by their separate sins – greed, lust, and pride – Ruuko is motivated by nothing. She is pure. (Said purity calling back to her white, “pure” deck.) Ruuko herself knows it is weird – she often recollects scenes from her past where her mother, like the other characters, was unable to understand her.
She is the only character without a want. At least, that is what she believes. What she truly vies for is fighting and battling and winning. But she rejects her twisted, sinful self; she does not, cannot see herself as thinking so cruelly.
Instead she finds a different want, one that is as selfless a gesture as possible. Yet her desire backfires. Not of her own volition (Tama takes the blame for that), but she fails nonetheless. Meaning, when she does nothing she is ostracized, and when she does everything she loses.
Ruuko, therefore, represents the idea that frivolity and purity are traits that a person cannot have. People have reasons that push them forward (calling back to the trams), and people have sins that they constantly carry (calling back to the other characters). And as Ruuko and the rest of the cast shows, it is these reasons and these sins that define who they (i.e., people) are.
The opening track begins as melancholic as possible but quickly diverts into a more hopeful composition. Admittedly, this contrasting tone is strange, considering the dark contents of WIXOSS. But it works in making the audience feel as if everything will be all right, so when everything really turns sour it hurts that much more. The vocalist’s ability to carry notes, softly sing, and belt out quick lyrics – the best sections are where the singer moves fast through the track – turn the song into a welcome addition for the anime.
The ending track seems like it will go down the melancholy route, too, but it as well decides to come off as hopeful instead. Already having the hopefulness in the OP makes the appearance of hope in the ED somewhat useless. Combined with the lack of any standout parts for the vocalist and the beat itself being a bit too boring, the ED is a fine track but nothing more.
As for the rest of the original soundtrack, the tunes are heavily geared towards constructing an atmosphere that maintains that awry feeling. Haunting, music-box tracks that are unsettling to hear. Carried and rough ambient effects that grate the mind. And high-pitched piano keys backed by a high-pitched choir create creepiness by the crateful. While it is not necessarily an OST that is listened to outside of the anime, the OST manages to play its part well.
Finally, voice acting performances are generally above average. Misaki Kuno as Tama gives the battle-hungry LRIG a crazily contrasting cute voice. Chinatsu Akasaki as Akira had to demonstrate a wide range of emotions – happiness, anger, and sadness among others. And Ayane Sakura as Yuzuki deserves a mention for all of the crying and the screaming she had to go through. Also, a shout-out to the producers for the episode previews: Combining the voices to make everything feel more hectic and ominous almost always upped the overall suspense.
It had been a long time since I had watched a non-airing anime – approximately one year to be a bit more precise. And it had been even longer since I sat down and watched an anime in its entirety in one sitting. This anime got me to reset my timer and to make me sit down for about four hours straight.
The romance was nice to see – albeit some pretty weird romance but romance nonetheless. Tama was hilarious in how gung-ho she was about battling and beating all of the “scaries.” Knowing that Akira got her just desserts was wonderful. All of the plot twists were sickening but interesting. And the ending made me want to immediately go into the next season.
But one of my favorite parts – if I am permitted to be demented for a second – was Hitoe’s original outcome. I consider everyone I meet my friend, so when Hitoe was pushed towards her unfair fate I became audibly upset. I recall using expletives when using the phrase “messed up” to describe her situation. Forced to be alone for the rest of one’s days? It was honestly one of the cruelest, scariest, and harshest moments I have seen from anime.
I was actually a bit mad that I had to write about this one first before moving on to the next season because I just had to know what was coming next. Thankfully, having written this fully, I now get to do just that.
Selector Infected WIXOSS is not a show for the faint of heart. The story is cruel, the characters are sinful, and the music is haunting. The visuals make one feel claustrophobic and the events themselves make one aware of how messed up life can get. This anime has made sure that those trading-cards in the binders will stay there indefinitely.
Story: Good, small plot contrivances aside, the cruelty, themes, and ending form a solid narrative and a strong foundation for the continuation
Animation: Good, various artistic choices follow the tone and the purpose of the show, with about average actual animation and okay character designs
Characters: Good, while Iona, Akira, and to some extent Hitoe could have been handled better, the symbolism, the exhaustive sides, and Yuzuki’s strong character arc, as well as Ruuko’s representation of reasoning and sin, are executed well
Sound: Good, good OP, okay ED, nice atmospheric OST, and above average VA performances
Enjoyment: Great, gripping the whole way through
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3
I was about to say, aren’t you a bit late with this one, but you only just watched it.
I thought the first season of this show way okay, nothing special. The second season felt a lot more interesting to me, because more happens (duh). I agree on most parts except that I quite often don’t find those comic relief characters like Tama any fun. They just annoy me (Looking at you, Ruru from Phantom World). Besides that it was a very interesting show and since I went into it knowing nothing it definitely surprised me.
Strap in Banjo, the second season is a hell of ride!
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> I was about to say, aren’t you a bit late with this one, but you only just watched it.
This was my first (relative to me) non-airing anime in over a WHOLE year. One year! I was pretty happy for the change of pace and being able to go at the anime at my own pace — that pacing turned out to be one sitting, but I relished every second of it. 😀
> The second season felt a lot more interesting to me, because more happens (duh).
You would be surprised how many anime forget the “duh” part and make their continuations not as strong as their first ones. 😛
> They just annoy me (Looking at you, Ruru from Phantom World).
Ruru is one of the best parts of Phantom Word. Behind Mai, of course.
But yea, I liked Tama a lot. Just the way she said “battle” always got me smiling. 🙂
> Strap in Banjo, the second season is a hell of ride!
I cannot wait to watch it; hopefully it does not take me a whole year to do so!!!
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