Animenewsnetwork - Series/volume Review

If there’s one thing Waccha PriMagi! isn’t afraid to do, it’s to have a variety of characters who don’t just embody a single trope or stereotype. Matsuri, our main heroine, may actually be the least interesting and nuanced of the bunch with her perky attitude and overwhelming enthusiasm for all things PriMagi, and this second set of episodes does a very nice job of using her as a sort of blank slate to offset the other girls. But even Matsuri has her moments, such as when she cries after losing to Hina, making this show impressive in the range of emotions and motivations that it allows its characters.

In the previous set of episodes, we got a better handle on Myamu, and why she is the abrasive person she is based on her upbringing. This time we see the same courtesy granted to Amane and Miruki, although the term “abrasive” only counts for the latter. Miruki is the epitome of the stereotypical social media star: her entire personality seems to be crafted solely for the purpose of raking in the views and accolades, and in many cases she deems them enough to establish who she is as a character. Fortunately for us, that’s not true of this series; like Myamu, Miruki’s present persona is one that she’s developed in reaction to things that happened in her earlier life. Ignored by her classmates and hurt by that, Miruki set out to create a personality that no one could overlook, dying her black hair pink, putting in blue-colored contacts, and completely reinventing herself as the super sweet and cute model of female perfection. If this sounds like a cynical move on her part, it absolutely is framed that way, but with the added information about her hurt at being a social nonentity, we can see why being noticed is such a big deal for her. The disconnect between Miruki’s public persona and her inner thoughts is indicative of her own dissatisfaction with herself, and her desire to use the PriMagi to overcome her past is the equivalent of Lemon dissociating when overwhelmed – a coping mechanism. Miruki is constantly looking for perfection because she thinks that’s the only way to win approbation, and if that makes her come off as grating and self-centered, it’s also understandable.

Amane, on the other hand, is an interesting character because the whole PriMagi thing seems less important to her than it is to the hyper-competitive Hina, the enthusiastic Matsuri, and the trying-to-cope Lemon and Miruki. Introduced to the event by another girl, Amane’s entire reason for continuing seems to have been Midoriko. There is at least some indication that Amane may have had romantic feelings for the other girl: Midoriko’s departure to study abroad prompted Amane to nearly retire from Primagi, but the entire “secret flower garden” metaphor that pervades their storyline, as well as the Takarazuka elements to Amane’s costuming and prince persona, also seem to support that possibility. Amane does ultimately decide to continue to perform, but again this feels more like a tribute to an important person than anything else, and assuming that she is intentionally coded as a lesbian, that’s a nice bit of representation for the show’s intended audience.

The primary narrative thrust of this cour is the preparation for a major PriMagi competition, initially just between the five girls we follow for most of it. That Auru Omega is an episode twenty-five addition to the competitors feels significant of the darker story that may be lurking just beneath the perky magical idol girl performances – Auru is the daughter of the bearded man we’ve seen running the show from the start, and she herself has been lurking in the background mostly covered up. Her late entry into the contest practically screams nepotism (she hasn’t even officially debuted when she announces that she’s competing) and it should make us wonder what Omega’s real goal is in sponsoring the PriMagi. It’s certainly worth remembering that the point of the Treasured/Earthly team-ups is to collect power, which, if you think about it, isn’t exactly a good guy kind of goal, especially when the energy farming seems to be mostly targeting young girls. (This could be a very interesting post-Puella Magi Madoka Magica use of the classic magical girl and bears keeping an eye on from an academic perspective.) When Auru states that her entire act is based on analyzing data from popular PriMagi performances and incorporating the most successful elements, we get a major hint even before her father flat-out says that he’d like to eliminate the Treasureds from the entire operation, although why that’s a goal remains to be seen.

This entire brewing debacle goes a long way to giving Hughie more of a purpose for being in the story. Hughie (who goes between teen boy and blue wolf forms) is in charge of the training camp where most of these episodes take place, and that seems to be a deliberate attempt to remove the girls from Omega’s control. Hughie makes a good show of following Omega’s directives, but he’s also plainly doing his own thing, which may have been in service of stopping Omega’s plans. (His bonding with/crush on Touma is just an added bonus.) In episodes twenty-five and twenty-six, we see Hughie much more toned down from his previous appearances both in looks and attitude, and he seems very concerned about what’s going to happen now that he can no longer run as much interference – and possibly because Auru and her calculated performance have messed with his plans. Add in that the entire PriMagi scene hasn’t done superstar Jennifer any favors and the massive amounts of tension simmering just beneath the surface, and it looks like we’re gearing up for something major to happen before too much longer.

Waccha PriMagi! in its second cour continues to be more than the sum of its parts. Despite Touma still feeling like dead weight, the plot is getting more ominous under its candy coating, and the characters are all impressively well-drawn – Auru could even be read as ASD representation should you be so inclined. The songs are a bit repetitive and the CG dancing remains awkward at times (although it’s easy to see and hear the bits and pieces Auru is taking from everyone else), but this is a solid magical idol girl story that’s building its story and characters impressively well. It’s going to be a long haul, but if you like the genre, this is worth giving a chance.

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August 2022
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