Hello, and welcome back to Riffing the Riff-Raff! I’m your host, SC, and I’M WATCHING ANIMAYS!
Oh shut the hell up, it’s a fun pastime.
Yesterday I was browsing through Netflix and found, to my surprise, that this random Magical Girl anime was trending, called Glitter Force. What caught my attention was that it had the voice talent of Laura Bailey in the lineup – you know, the same Laura Bailey responsible for Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist, and Princess Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Jaina Proudmoore from World of Warcraft? Yeah, her. She does a lot of super-serious roles in media that are actually kind of dark from time to time, so I wondered if Glitter Force would be worth it. I posted a picture of it on Facebook to see what people thought of my idea to watch it and see how bad it was.
Not a lot of people replied – no surprise, I have a relatively small friends list and they all have stuff to do and some have families to look after – but the ones who did gave me a resounding “noooOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
So, obviously, that meant I was going to watch it.
Below are the notes I wrote in real time while watching the episode. And yes, I do write notes like I write riffs. It’s really not hard to do when riffing is the reason I even care about something.
Not even two seconds into the intro, I’m laughing my ass off. The themesong is SO reminiscent of franchises like Bratz and Monster High that if I didn’t know I was actually watching an English-dubbed anime, I’d have sworn that I accidentally turned on a Barbie-meets-Power-Rangers ripoff.
Then the first two minutes of the actual episode are dedicated to the main character (whose name I didn’t quite catch) having a wacky-prophetic dream about her and a bunch of nameless faces that I presume are part of the heroine lineup later turning into their Magical Girl selves, a lá Power Rangers (like I suspected) – via MAGICAL MAKEUP COMPACTS.
Please, sit down, we still have twenty more minutes of episode one.
Cut forward to later in the day, and we’ve hit one of the most common anime tropes ever: schoolgirl is late to her first day at a new campus and is sprinting in a frenzy down the cherry blossom tree-lined street towards a Very Pristine School Building, fretting about the matter. The only thing missing is the obligatory slice of toast hanging from her mouth. Guess we don’t want to be TOO anime, we might scare off the audience.
All of a sudden, a Mysterious Voice hearkens to her, and what should appear from the sky, but a… flying… book?
Hey Booky, you missing any levitation tomes, by chance?
[I’d better fucking not be! -Book Specs]
Anyhow, and from out of the flying book pops a… frilly, pink-and-yellow What The Fuck. Thing’s about a foot, foot-and-a-half tall. Head the size of a baseball, body the size of a beanbag. Eyes the size of dinner plates. Stubby little limbs. You know, the standard anime biology of things that are supposed to be cute. I suppose it was meant to be the Standard Animal Companion you tend to find in Magical Girl animes, but honestly that little shit will forever haunt my nightmares. Oh, and it’s a none-to-graceful sort, as the very first thing it does is screw up its dramatic entry and nail the lead protagonist right in the face.
Yowza. Goose egg on your first day at school. Your luck is just not in today, missy.
And for no good reason, suddenly dramatic camera-panning whilst the lead girl is internally awe-struck by the What The Fuck.
…Followed immediately by the thing speaking, and then shenanigans as the lead girl gushes over how cute it is.
We’re three minutes in, people. This is gonna take a while.
So the little What The Fuck introduces itself as Candy, a pixie from Jubiland, the Kingdom of Happy Endings (I feel my arteries hardening from all this diabetes I’m getting), but then gets scared off by something, which bums out the lead girl. She makes a fish face, which in anime is code for pouty-lips, if you happen to be using it for comedic effect and not sexual imagery. The pouty lips, I mean, not the fish face. But hey, Candy left the book behind! Let’s check out what’s inside, right?
Lolnope, we’re still late for school. That means we’ll inevitably be cracking it open later, perhaps during the climax of the episode when shits starts to hit the fan.
But for now, DRAMATIC PAN UP TO THE SKYYYYY~!
…My phone wanted to autocorrect that to “sky tutu.” Uh, okay, I guess.
Now, we are in the school proper, in classroom 2-2 (yeah, that’s not an obvious visual pun in a show about MAGICAL GIRLS), and the teacher is announcing the new student to the class. Guess who the new student is!
Yep, the main protagonist!
“But SC! Her name isn’t something like Sakura Momozaki, is it?”
Not in the English dub, no. Her name, hilariously, is EMILY. Either she’s an American transfer student to Tokyo, or…
And we’ve hit another anime trope, one which I’m actually kind of familiar with: stage fright in front of the class, which gives the animators an excuse to pan around the classroom and shoehorn in the four other protagonists, who stick out like wacky, colorful sore thumbs amidst the sea of properly-starched uniforms and neatly-kept hairdos.
…Actually, I think this might be the only Japanese school setting that doesn’t adhere to an ultra-strict uniform code. There are kids wearing argyle sweater vests and light violet long-sleeved dress coats over their uniform shirts instead of the navy blue cardigans one usually sees in shows like this. I guess we’re in Not Japan, then.
Yep, Emily got all flustered and started saying the American Pledge of Allegiance. This is definitely Totally Not Japan Town of *Mumble Mutter*, USA.
You know what other franchise is guilty of doing that? Phoenix Wright. Except they tried to claim it was Los Angeles, California. I’m a California native, just FYI – primarily Nor Cal, in the Sacramento Valley area, but I spent three years in Modesto, too, down in the Central Valley area. I may not know the entire landscape of the state, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have cherry blossoms lining the streets of Beverly Hills, Yōkai prowling the cliffs of Mount Whitney, or Shinto shrines tucked away in bamboo forests along the I-5, thank you kindly. (We do have sushi, though. That I’ll admit to.)
Anyhow, after that clusterfuck of an introduction, the only redhead in the entire class pipes up all like, “That intro sucked, I’ma do it for you and make it better this time!”
Nobody asked your opinion, bitch, sit down.
Turns out, to the surprise of none who recall the first two minutes of the episode, Red here is from Emily’s dream. This anime is bad at foreshadowing, guys. And as Red bullies her way into introducing Emily for her, shenanigans ensue, and the class laughs at Emily’s expense. Just like an American school! WHICH THIS TOTALLY IS, WE’RE NOT IN JAPAN GUYS I SWEAR.
The class laughing gives the animators an excuse to pull out to a top-down shot of the room, where you can better see the Inevitable Female Protagonist Lineup in all their painfully obvious glory – and with anime hair colors, to boot. Red and blonde hair, I see all the time, so I’m not fazed by it, but I haven’t seen green or blue hair used seriously in anime in a while, tell you what. The purple/pink hair, I’m a bit more familiar with. Thanks, Naruto and Ghost in the Shell.
Green speaks up and calls out Red, whose name is Kelsey, don’t question it, and Emily again realizes, to nobody’s shock, that she, and Blue sitting next to her, are also from her dream.
I should like to point out here that every time Emily has a flashback to the dream, the girl she triggers on is in Glitter Form and has a really stupid name – Kelsey is Glitter Sunny, Green (April) is Glitter Spring, Blue (Chloe) is Glitter Breeze, and Blonde (Lily) is Glitter Peace. Yep, that was my blood pressure exploding. Room’s getting all fuzzy on me. I may be about to go into cardiac arrest soon. Someone call an ambulance.
All the girls have the typical lineup of personalities: you’ve got April as your sporty tomboy, Kelsey’s the class clown, Lily’s the shy little buttercup, Chloe’s the popular girl, and Emily’s the quirky new kid on the block. And, if I might diverge a bit here, Emily pops off with, of all things, “this is freaky-deaky,” as if I’m somehow not going to notice. Nobody says that anymore, of course I’m gonna catch it!
Emily finally shakes off her jitterbugs and introduces herself like a proper anime protagonist, and then things get sappy as hell for a brief second. Holy hell, my heart stopped for a moment. After that, Emily gets seated right behind Kelsey, and school ends in the very next scene. Emily trots happily off to the Library to find a book about fairy tales, which we all saw coming because that’s what she’s been on about this whole episode so far, and discovers an Ominously Glowing Tome entitled, “The Library of Legends.”
Okay, are you sure you’re not missing any of your books, Booky?
[…SHIT. -Book Specs]
Going against all logical response, i.e., getting the hell out of there and letting the librarian know that shit be weird in the fantasy section (and really, when is it not?), Emily decides to take the book out. Three guesses what happens next.
So after getting sucked through a rainbow portal, Emily ends up in a fantasy world. Which, again, fantasy section, you kind of expect that. This fantasy world has her in a gigantic, vine-entangled library which may or may not actually be a forest with a heavenly glow, which is pretty popular in fantasy stories. Bewildered, Emily sets to exploring her new surroundings, but then remembers the book Candy the What The Fuck left behind, and puts it on a random shelf according to a hunch. Turns out, the hunch is well founded, and the book starts speaking to her. And wouldn’t you know it, THE END IS NIGH, THE BOOK HASN’T MUCH TIME!
As it would happen, the book is the Queen of Jubiland, the Kingdom of Happy Endings, and shit done fucked up bad for the home team. They got attacked by The Empire (*cue Star Wars music here*), and acting in desperation, the Queen dispatched Candy the What The Fuck to find the five who would become the Glitter Force, of which Emily is obviously one, and you have no idea how hard it is for me to write this all with a straight face. Naturally, you can’t just BECOME a Magical Girl, broheim. You gotta go through some contrived fetch quest to get the stuff needed to do the deed first. Then you gotta get the posse together, and convince them to go be heroes and stuff, and blah blah blah blah blah…
See, in my NaNoWriMo story Mercalad, all it took to shanghai Ádreo into the rebellion was tricking him into thinking that he was carrying out a last wish from a dearly departed family member. None of this “magical gems” and “awakening of true destiny” bullshit, yo.
The Queen informs Emily that she is the only hope for Jubiland (the Kingdom of Happy Endings), and Emily responds how I probably would: “Well, shit.” About that time, a vision of Candy searching in vain for the Glitter Force appears, and SUDDENLY VILLAIN.
It’s a flying wolfbro. In a really bitchin’ jacket.
…So, I might be rooting for the villains now.
Emily somehow manages to dupe herself into getting sucked through another rainbow portal, because apparently, she’s not very good at pattern recognition. Landing back in her own world with all the grace of a baby eagle that got kicked out of the nest, Emily first makes a fool of herself in public, and then frantically scurries off to save Candy from teh evulz. And, you know, for having had the weight of an entire kingdom’s very survival dropped squarely on her shoulders, Emily is waaay too happy about the whole situation. Thankfully, she manages to get to Candy in time, and Candy reveals that Wolfbro is, I shit you not, The Big, Bad Wolf.
So I take it this anime has something to do with fairy tales?
Big Bad turns out to be some kind of mix between Punk and Wizard and turns the whole world (or at least the city) to night, and this in turn makes everybody emo as hell, which is step one to reviving The Emperor (*more Star Wars music*). Well, can’t have that, so now comes the part of the episode where we power up and take the fight to him, right?
No, we’re gonna get sappy as fuck first. Aaand that’s a stroke- hurk!
~TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, PLEASE WAIT~
Well, Doctor Book Specs says I’ll pull through, so that’s my cue to keep going!
After much villainous posturing by the wolf, we FINALLY get to the action. Of course, it’s initially just running away in terror, but then we power up and go Magical Girl mode like we’re supposed to, with only nine minutes left so it’s probably gonna be a short fight. They usually are in the pilot episode, I’m not surprised.
Emily, now christened “Glitter Lucky” (and you can call me Glitter Kill Me), receives a quick rundown of how contrived the process to activate her powers is, and then suits up by way of You’re Doing It Wrong with her magical makeup compact- sit your ass down, we still have eight minutes – and the fight is on! After some more shenanigans. I guess my annoyance filtered through the screen to the wolf, because he finally gets fed up with this bullshit and takes the first swing. Emily- sorry, Glitter Lucky hides behind a brick wall, under the very, VERY flawed logic that wolves can’t get through brick because the Three Little Pigs said so – even though, in this instance, the wolf could just fucking walk around it – and then, going against all my expectations, the wolf turns an entire house into an evil clown. Uh. Okay, I guess. Seems a bit overkill to me, but hell, you do you, boo-boo, I won’t judge.
Emily tries to run away, but because nobody told her the exact extent of her powers, she accidentally breaks every Olympic high-jump record that has been, and ever foreseeably will be set. Candy, the little shithead, then decides to bring up that Lucky can fly. THANKS, YOU’RE A REAL HELP ASSHOLE.
Oh yeah, and evil clown houses can fly too. Not as well, though, and this one got bitch-slapped right back to earth, but hey, it’s a thing.
In the midst of yet more shenanigans (I wish I were making this up, but this anime seriously finds an excuse to shove them in every other scene), Candy informs Lucky about her ultimate attack, Sparkle Storm. It’s as good an idea as any, compared to running in terror until your legs give out, so that’s what Lucky decides to do that… or, tries to. She fucks up hard, let’s just say that. But, one dramatic moment later, her Glitter Spirit is powered up for realsies – what, you thought you could just bust out finishing moves without any base requirements? Fuck off with that noise – and picks up a dunk off the rebound, Kamehameha-ing the shit out of the clown house. Hilariously, the attack was animated so brightly that my TV screen actually had to ADJUST DOWN so that it could properly show it.
With Clown House defeated, Lucky drops like a sack of potatoes, and Captain Obvious Candy informs her that it’s rough work saving the world. (No shit, Sherlock, talk to Master Chief sometime, he’ll tell you all about it.) And from the disintegrated remains of Clown House, a Glitter Charm appears – one of five needed to unite the Glitter Force. The wolf gets away, because we need at least one recurring villain, obviously, and the world returns to normal again.
And, on one last sappy note, the episode finally comes to an end. Emily’s destiny now realized, she agrees to help Candy find the rest of the Glitter Force, which probably isn’t hard to do because I spotted them pretty easily myself just watching this episode.
And then we get some weird end credits that I’m pretty sure we’re animated using MMD.
So… Uh. Hmm.
This… this is trending on Netflix, huh? And there’s currently nineteen more episodes? And it’s got a four star rating?
And Laura Bailey threw her hat in for the voice acting?
In all honesty, I guess I can’t really call it the worst thing ever. It definitely doesn’t compare to a lot of other anime in the Magical Girl genre (definitely not Madoka or Nanoha, let’s be clear about that right now), but at the same time, if you’re a younger tyke who doesn’t mind a wacky cartoon over-saturated with tryhard and sap, then I can’t really say that you shouldn’t watch it. Hell, you might enjoy it.
I might keep watching, just so I can keep riffing on it. If nothing else, it provided some good material.