Still thinking about Episode 7 of Gushing over Magical Girls


Ach ja, it is so Mahou Shoujover. Gushing over Magical Girls was one of my favorite anime of the winter season and despite a lot of great anime coming out, it was this anime I always kept looking most forward to. Depending on how much you know me and what your opinion on me is, this might come as a surprise. After all, I love magical girls as a concept, am a huge fan of the Precure franchise and low-key hold a grudge on all the “dark and edgy” magical girl anime coming off the heels of Madoka Magica, so what am I seeing in an anime in which young teens get sexually molested on a weekly basis to the point it puts some actual hentai to shame? Honestly, while I still have to grapple with that last part myself, Gushing over Magical Girls has a surprisingly honest understanding on how it feels to spectate the magical girls one looks up to from afar, which culminated in an absolutely fantastic episode, which not only perfectly encapsulates the main idea of the series, but also kept me thinking about it long after the anime concluded. Alas, prepare yourself for some wild takes.

Utena Hiiragi adores magical girls. This isn’t just limited to the metric ton of merchandise decorating her room, but also the way she looks up to her idols. For her, magical girls are paragons of justice, heros helping the ones that can’t help themselves and making the world a better place with a firm smile on their face. In short, they are everything she doesn’t consider herself to be. As such, it is even more a slap in the face when the speaking mascot offers her to transform just like them, only to turn her into one of the “evil guys” and blackmail her into fighting the Tres Magia, the local trio of magical girls. As it turns out, Venalita’s recruiting process is simply kidnapping the first unsupervised minor they can get their hands on.

What makes Utena so interesting is that, while obviously against the idea of fighting or even just injuring the Tres Magia, she essentially gets high on pleasure doing so. And that is the point of Gushing over Magical Girls: Utena doesn’t want to hurt the people she loves, knows that she is doing something wrong and is fully aware that she shouldn’t feel the least bit good about it. And yet, not only does she continue to go against her beloved magical girls, but she literally blooms doing so. It is one huge introspection on taboos and how the characters relate to them. The fights are also basically just SM play without the consent, so you can guess in what direction things tend to go.

After some back and forth and Utena forming her own trio of magical fighters, we eventually come to episode 7. Sayo, one of the Tres Magia, is, simply put, caught slacking. While still putting up a fight, both her fellow team mates and Utena begin to notice that she tends to be caught way too easy in the attacks and doesn’t resist as much as she used to. Sayo doesn’t necessarily want to be in this situation, after all, they are still the magical girls protecting the town and being embarrassed and put on display every time they fight Enormeeta, only to win on a technicality, doesn’t really inspire confidence in her. She also has to acknowledge that, if the situation were different, she would actually be very into being at the receiving end of Magia Baiser’s riding crop.

In her own mind, Sayo is a failure as a magical girl. She neither possesses the unwavering spirit of Haruka, nor Kaoruko’s physical strength to stand against the forces of evil on her own and has seemingly lost her way from when she initially became a magical girl herself. This gets further exemplified when following Utena into the magical girl exhibition and being confronted all around her with what should be the ideal image of a magical girl: Being resolute, pure and powerful. She can barely stand watching some of the fan favorite episodes of the in-universe magical girl shows, because at the end, while acknowledging the differences between the fiction in front of her and the less entrancing reality, she wants to be the image being projected on the screen and inspire hope in everyone.

With this frustration turned determination, she faces off against Utena on her own. While it might look like an evenly matched fight in the beginning, Utena eventually gains the upper hand and Sayo finds herself gagged and strapped on a wooden horse panda. There is also this perverse and twisted parallel of younger Utena enthusiastically cheering for the magical girl to defeat the monster in front of her while watching TV and the current Utena essentially doing the same thing, now being the monster herself, and to encourage Sayo to keep fighting, despite all hope being lost. And while Utena absolutely revels in this situation, Sayo simply, for the lack of a better word, breaks.

With all the will to fight back and any hesitancy left, to let herself completely go, gone, as well as being able to acknowledge that she hasn’t just lost, but was utterly dominated, Sayo, tears rolling down her flushed cheeks, is fully committed to finally submit and practically awaits the command to start licking the boots of her new mistress and to receive punishment. However, while Sayo seems content with this outcome, Utena is somewhere between furious and disgusted by this turn of events. Practically breaking character, instead of celebrating the victory, she just grabs Sayo and starts berating her: On how she should wipe off that look on her face, on how all the little girls look up to her, yet was willing to let herself go evil and how failing to keep up the righteous image and dignity of magical girls in this way isn’t even subverting expectations, but simply despicable. After everything is said and done, Utena withdraws, leaving behind a Sayo that doesn’t know what to do with herself.

Fundamentally, Utena doesn’t want to win and more so doesn’t want the magical girls to loose. Again, while see enjoys playing the villain, as much as she tends to go overboard with it, it is not actually about hurting the magical girls. It is, however, about them falling down to the ground and getting up time and time again, never giving up. Utena can do the first part just fine, but it is the latter she has to rely on the magical girls. So, when one decides to stay down, then what are you supposed to do, but be disappointed and angry? Obviously, there is some huge irony going on with the pot seemingly calling the kettle black and all, but it is this awareness of Utena and the lack of Sayo thereof, which really makes that scene for me. Hero-Villain dynamics are interesting and in this case, there were no winners.

The end of the episode essentially kick-starts Sayo’s character arc, which comes to fruition in the final episode with her revealing her La Verità form, achieved by her desire to be able to “receive Utena’s love”, but still being able to fight back. So, after symbiosis was effectively achieved, even the other characters simply acknowledge that this fight is just two perverts duking it out in public and everything is good in the world.

And those are my thoughts about the episode. Will this convince anyone to check out Gushing over Magical Girls? God, I better hope not! At the end of the day, it is still a morally questionable anime with a lot of other issues, but it are episodes like these ones that not only make me feel a bit better about enjoying such anime, but also make the whole experience actually worthwhile and more than just a simple excursion to pleasure some deeply hidden desires.

Gushing over Magical Girls is available on ADN.

folder Anime
calendar_today 2024