At some point in history, the magical girl genre existed as the pinnacle of wholesomeness. Yet, Madoka Magica became a staple as the deconstruction of it. At this time, it is fair to say that only a few pieces of media have reached the same level of quality and fan devotion. However, does that means that all other works that explore similar topics with less depth are not worth reading at all?
That is the question that came to me when I started to read Kentaro Sato’s Magical Girl Site. Am I wasting my time reading this alleged “Madoka rip-off”? Is there something wrong with me if I am actually enjoying it? The answer is: “that depends”.
People tend to measure the value of something by comparing it with its greatest parallel, even if they were never intended to be in the same league at all. Magic Girl Site took Madoka as an inspiration, but never expected to be on the same level. It is precisely what saves this manga from becoming mediocre, and turns it enjoyable- in a guilty pleasure sort of way.
Magical Girl Site tells us the story of Asagiri, a 14-year-old with the suckiest life you can imagine. She is mentally and emotionally bullied both by her classmates at school and her older brother at home. This girl can’t catch a break! After a particularly awful day, a Magical Girl Site representative appears in front of her and informs her that, thanks to her suffering, she has been selected to become a magical girl. A magical stick, in the form of a heart-shaped gun, appears in her locker the next day and things continue to become weirder from there.
Asagiri is not the only magical girl in town. Some just want to take revenge on the ones who caused their misery in the first place, and others want to collect more magic sticks for reasons that will be revealed later. Through many bizarre and life-threatening occurrences, our main character slowly starts to grow a backbone. With the help of various other magical girls, each one with a different ability granted by their sticks, Asagiri will struggle to achieve happiness and possibly save the world from its impending doom.
What Worked Well
Magical Girl Site obviously wasn’t written with the intention of becoming a masterpiece. It is gory, bizarre, and interlaces fan service and fan disservice in a disconcerting manner. It is precisely this aspect that makes it enjoyable. It does not take itself too seriously. Its prime intention is to titillate its audience through its excesses.
Nevertheless, when the author dares to inject some honest poignancy into the story, it works quite well. Once he decides to forget the cheap, edgy drama, you start to feel really sorry for these girls. The kinship they develop through their trauma shines on the pages. It is a shame this happens so late in the story, though. I loved to see these characters bond and work together, even if they are not always good or likable people.
What Didn’t Work
My only complaint is that the drama reaches ridiculous levels of edginess. As mentioned before, it was never meant to be a tasteful exploration of human tragedy. Be that as it may, at times Asagiri’s bad luck feels more like a series of Diabolus ex Machina contrivances than anything else.
Since the manga proves that it can be high caliber despite its self-imposed limitations, this particular level of cheapness does not suit the rest of the story. MGS does not lose its whimsical, plot-convenient situations entirely, but they decrease as time goes by. Since this problem is mostly present in the first arc, it may discourage some readers. The beginning is not a great example of what Magical Girl Site is later on.
One common mistake we make when we criticize media is to think that, in order for something to be enjoyable, it always needs to be high quality. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we find manga that checks both boxes like Berserk or Monster. However, that does not always happen and that is okay. Once in a while, we need to turn off our brains and have a good time watching magical girls killing each other in gruesome ways just because.
Magical Girl Site never tries to be anything inauthentic and, in its own humility, surprises us when it dares to explore the characters’ interpersonal relationships. It is unexpected, but never feels out of place because it happens organically. It is due to its standout features that this otherwise alright manga has not fallen into absolute oblivion, as have many others that tried to emulate Madoka‘s greatness.
Hi everyone! I am Javi from the distant land of Santiago, Chile. I grew up watching horror movies on VHS tapes and cable reruns thanks to my cousins. While they kinda moved on from the genre, I am here writing about it almost daily. When I am not doing that, I enjoy reading, drawing, and collecting cute plushies and figures (you have to balance things out. Right?)