Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou is the kind of show I would have ordinarily dropped before I probably would have even finished the first episode, and while I can’t say I regret watching the first 5 episodes, I also can’t exactly give you an inspirational reason to do the same. YokuWaka does a couple of things to try and set itself apart, but it’s inherent average-ness just makes those minute uniquenesses….. confounding.
My decision to give YokuWaka a bigger chance than most of it’s kind was not random. I recently read the highly excellent light novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, who turns out is also the author of the YokuWaka light novels. It takes all of one glance and 2 seconds to realize that these two are absolutely nothing alike. AYNIK is a sci-fi war novel full of grit, ‘fuck,’ and deep art by Yoshitoshi ABe. YokuWaka is immediately identifiable moe action trash. However, my interest in the connection as well as the rumor going around that YokuWaka was a yuri anime roped me in.
First things first, production, production. YokuWaka is produced by Nomad, one of those studios that practically defines ‘average’ time and time again. A few of their shows have made a name for themselves (the popular Rozen Maiden series) and some are watchable (Chokotto Sister and Kyouran Kazoku Nikki) but otherwise it’s primarily generic fluff whose progressions you can mostly guess from a quick glance (Yozakura Quartet, Sola, though some people like that one, I guess.) Some of their shows are directed by Matsuo Kou who is amazing when he’s NOT working with them, and every other time they go for Yasuhiro Kuroda, as is the case for YokuWaka.
The animation for the series is by no means poor, but by no means great, either. The action scenes have enough effort to not be laughable, and the character designs always look really nice (which is something that’s a huge problem in some other Nomad shows.) There have been one or two moments of ‘lolwut’ in the show (first or second episode, someone was running from this monster and it was a 2-frame animation wherein the camera was moving excitedly to convey running, and yet the background was not moving. It was….. perplexedly bad.) During the fifth episode, they decided to have a metric assload of exposition, and tried to make up for the lack of general movement by having a lot of random diagonal and sideways shots. It didn’t really help at all, though at least it was handled better than that kind of shot in a Bee Train show.
The first really notable thing about YokuWaka, even if it doesn’t become apparent until the second episode, is that the episodes are not in chronological order. Not quite in the Haruhi or Baccano kind of way, but in the ‘really confusing plot element involving time travel’ kind of way. I want to say that this is probably a feature of the original novel, seeing as All You Need is Kill had a lot of playing with time in it’s plot, but I cannot be sure without reading it. Said plot traveling has lead to what, for now, appears to be a massive plot hole wherein the future version of one character doesn’t remember the one who went to meet her in the past. However, this is Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and in All You Need is Kill, painstaking care was taken to make sure that the story was totally air-tight and no plot holes were left unfilled. The way that the plot is portrayed in YokuWaka leads me to believe that this may be the case here as well, assuming they are conforming strictly to the novel’s plot, but only time will tell.
Because of all this time-traveling fiasco, the show seems to have absolutely no idea what the fuck crazy-ass direction it is going in at any given time. The first episode is in the past, where next to nothing significant happens before a cliffhanger into the next episode, which switches to the future in a ‘here’s the real beginning’ sort of scenario. There are then essentially 2 episodes worth of set-up in this future world where a plot starts to make sense, even if the past thing has completely gone unmentioned or resolved.
Then there was a water park episode. Once again, I have no way of knowing if this was filler or anything, not having read the novel, but it really didn’t do anything to further the story. It was, however, my favorite episode of the show so far, because it had plenty of the show’s greatest asset – the character designs. Then episode five comes around, and we finally have the whole past thing explained to us, and the cliffhanger Ended by Bullshit. I should say, we have the reason that the past thing was possible explained, and how it happened explained, but there is no fucking explanation as to why! Why the fuck did she go into the past?! It ended up being super-convenient, of course, when she showed up as all of the major plot things from the past were happening, but it didn’t make any damn sense! And neither did any of the background expository dialog. All of it was just words going in different directions and alluding to things that may or may not have any meaning whatsoever. It’s one of those ‘it’ll all make sense later, we promise’ kind of things.
Koyomi Morishita is the main character. She is a dojikko, and she has a very nice design which I like more than anyone else’s, possibly because she’s the high schooler who everyone mistakes for being a little kid. Her personality isn’t terribly deep, but she’s good enough. I’d say ‘I like her’ but I think I could more effectively say ‘she’s not a bad main character.’ She has a very magical girl vibe to her – probably less because she does magic (I will say I love her magic, which is canceling spells and turning them into washbuckets) and more because she’s voiced by Ai Nonaka (Nanoha, Fuuko – Clannad, Mikan – Manabi Straight, Kafuka – Zetsubou Sensei). I want to say I don’t like Ai Nonaka, but I think it’s more that she takes getting used to. It took me a long time in Nanoha, and it took me about three episodes to stop detesting her in this role, though I can’t really complain about the others I mentioned.
And she’s the only character or voice actress I’m going to mention because I frankly don’t care about the others. Alright, that’s unfair, the best friend character is one of those Rei-likes with the perfect voice for it (Minako Kotobuki, oddly known for playing Tsumugi in K-On), and the other main character girl is okay, if just because she’s kind of a bitch. Oh, and I guess everyone is a lesbian. The only basis for this statement is that the fanservice moments always happen with Koyomi spotting the panties and falling into the breasts and getting mouth-to-mouth rather than some guy. It only feels like the relationship will go as far as NanoFate, only with fanservice.
So I don’t really know what to make of YokuWaka. It’s totally average, but not unworth watching. I don’t think? It’s probably actually unworth watching. I think this is actually the real reason that shows only air once a week. Whatever. I can’t make any kind of promises about finishing this one. Oh, but I do really enjoy those little after-chows with the plushie puppets explaining details of things in the show. Make sure you get the version with those.
I did a post on the first episode of Yozakura Quartet and you can literally hear me reassuring myself that something Kou directed can’t possibly such THAT bad…. can it?
In case you missed it above, my post on All You Need is Kill.