startle stars

registered at: Sep 24, 2021
Thumbs up Level 1

Sep 24, 2021

This was certainly an interesting story, and went places I did not expect from the initial premise. The first parts of the story felt like it would cover the difficulties of merging the life of a Magical Girl with the life of an Adult with Adult responsibilities, but we soon find that Kari has already practically abdicated herself from normal responsibilities. She then fits almost too well into her role as a magical girl, and casts aside her prior adulthood to do so.

If there's a strength to this story, it's Karin's character. In many ways she reminds me of Hibiki from Senki Zesshou Symphogear. Fighting style, anger, focus on trying to solve everything by brute force instead of thinking about it first. Desire to please everyone, and despair when she cannot. The way she transforms into a monster after being mortally wounded? That also reminds a lot of Hibiki. The biggest way she differs, however, is that she can be overwhelmingly judgemental of others in a way that the standard Magical Girl protagonist would not. She's quite happy to condemn people to her **** list at the slightest provocation or irritation at their actions. This is perhaps a more coherent take on what it would be like to be powered by anger, whereas other magical girls that represent anger as a combat strategy often drop that part of their personality the second a fight finishes. Indeed, it's this quick to condemn slow to forgive attitude that gets the story rolling, and it was something I was hoping to see Karin reconcile over the course of the plot.

Xi'er and Calice were also reasonably interesting characters. Calice had just the right level of impishness to not be too annoying, whereas Xi'er certainly deserves the role as voice of reason in the team. However, by comparison, Roxy seemed to lack much character. She was present, sure, but I can't speak of much to distinguish her from the group as a whole. This is going to sound awful because of how much effort it takes to put together a major character like this, but I suspect a revision that editors would suggest would be to entirely cut her from the story, at least in her present form.

Unfortunately, where it falls apart is the general plot arc. To summarise the issues:
1. The circumstance that causes Karin to return to being a magical girl is all too mundane. She just does it coz she feels like it one day, rather than the calling of the main plot triggering her to rely on her long-abandoned magic once more. Especially unusual since she seems to encounter multiple people a day that she wants to beat up, but we're supposed to believe this is the first time in seven years that she resorted to magic to do it.
2. The entire plot arc with the prison gets left with a particularly unsatisfactory conclusion, and the way it lead into reforming the magical girl team was really unusual pacing. We're half way through the story at this point and it feels like it's only just dragged itself out of the beginning.
3. The exact capabilities of Magical Girls in this setting constantly felt ill-defined. There are times where they seem almost apocalyptically strong (literally entire galaxies are getting blown up here), and then other times where they seem to be only one or two steps above mundane opponents.
4. A lot of the flashbacks are terribly placed, paced, and often do not advance any understanding of the plot.
5. The reason for the team reforming is rather pointless. There's no conflict for them to resolve, at least not in the context of a viable story. At least, I don't think "Karin implements incremental reform to the education system" or "Karin hands out Malaria nets" is a viable story. And so immediately a villain shows up without any foreshadowing just to keep the story rolling.
6. The remainder of the story is rushed. Very, very rushed. Karin should be able to power through the monster in her as a consequence of some character growth that she did. In practice, it just kind of works out... A victory that felt undeserved.
7. The story feels constantly in conflict over whether Karin has self-hatred, or instead has an over-strong ego and sense of superiority. Arguably she has good cause for the latter, as even her own team tend to insult her capabilities. Regardless, these themes do not mix together well.

I suspect this is all a consequence of the plot being written in piecemeal, rather than having a coherent intent ahead of time. This would also explain the very slow-paced first arc with the prison, followed by the lightning-fast second and third arc as the team reforms and the story reaches it's conclusion. Then again, there is some indication of planning (the flashbacks do eventually go somewhere).

Overall the impression ends up being that every plot development feels undeserved, and does not naturally flow from what happened earlier in the story. Big revelations and sudden reversals in fortune need build-up to be a worthwhile payoff. Without that build-up, they just feel like a sequence of rapid-fire random events happening without any rhyme of reason. It's possible I'll see more of the foreshadowing with a more careful reread, but at the moment, that's my impression of the plot.

In terms of more technical issues, the entire story seems to blitz at a lightning pace, with barely any room for setting scenes before it moves on to the next. This is not helped by many scenes not being plot relevant enough to justify their inclusion when the story is trying to move along quickly. An additional symptom of this is that paragraph breaks are poorly spaced - that they're so short is sign that there needs to be more meat on the bones.

Otomaho: Who Said an Adult Can No Longer Be a Magical Girl?!